We Asked a Sustainability Manager for Their Tips on Reducing Food Waste

reducing food waste compost bin fruit veg scraps

If you’re not equipped with the skills and know-how, committing to reducing food waste can be a daunting task. It’s not something that can be done without organisation, but once you have a plan, it can become second nature.

Suncorp Bank and OzHarvest have teamed up to create the Food Savings Challenge to show you just how easy, and hassle-free, reducing food waste can be. It’s designed to help you reduce food waste and make the most out of the food you buy.

To help you to take your food-saving game to the next level, we asked OzHarvest’s very own Sustainability Project Manager Ruby Wake for her advice on how everyday Australians can significantly cut back on their food waste, while also shedding light on the mistakes many of us are making.

use it up tape
Credit: Farley Webb

What is the food people are wasting most?

The top five most wasted foods in Australia are vegetables, bread, fruit, bagged salad (those pre-packaged green leaves), and leftovers.

The average Australian household is spending up to $2,500 per year on food that goes to waste, but luckily there are some super simple ways to cut food waste, save money and reduce your environmental impact at the same time.

When it comes to wasting food, what do you think is the most common mistake people are making (and overlooking)?

We know that over 70% of food that goes to waste is perfectly edible. So, a common mistake is thinking something needs to be chucked out when it doesn’t! That kinda-limp carrot, browning banana or dried-out cheese can be edible – and can be easily transformed into something delicious.

We know that confusion about date labels leads to unnecessary waste, especially the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’. A best-before date is about quality and tells us when food is at its ‘best’– but food can be safe to eat long after this date! A USE BY date is about food safety and refers to when it’s safest to eat the food.

OzHarvest research also shows that forgetting about food in the fridge is a leading cause of waste at home. Luckily, we’ve created ‘Use It Up’ tape which acts as a visual reminder of food that needs to be eaten first! This is great for labelling your opened food packets and leftover containers which often get pushed to the back of the fridge.

use it up tape fridge
Credit: Farley Webb

What are some unorthodox or overlooked ways (or hacks) in which people can get the most out of their fruit and veggies so they don’t go to waste?

Fruit and veg have a relatively short shelf life, so often go to waste if people forget to use them in time. To avoid this, you can create a ‘Use It Up’ shelf in the fridge with our Use It Up tape so you can easily see what needs to be used first. If you need kitchen inspo, our brilliant chefs have created lots of Use It Up recipes on OzHarvest’s website.

Storage is important in getting the most out of your veg. Keeping items airtight by popping in jars, takeaway containers or damp tea towels can help prevent that dreaded wilt. If something is looking a bit sad, just chuck it into whatever you’re cooking, it’ll still taste fine!

Some of my fave fruit + veg hacks include:

  • Ditch that fruit bowl (even though it looks gorgeous!) Most fruit lasts longer in the fridge.
  • Cut and freeze fruit, to add to a breakfast smoothie later
  • If your carrots have gone soft, pop them into a jar of water in the fridge to bring back the crunch and flavour!
  • Most recipes can have veg buried into them! Pasta sauces, curries, pies, bakes, soups, even some cakes – just chop, whizz or grate it and chuck it in!

Is produce sold at major grocery stores spoiling faster than usual? Is this a myth?

If produce is spoiling faster, it’s usually due to produce not being kept at the right temperature either during transportation or storage.

The best way to avoid being stuck with fresh produce that might not last as long as you’d hope is to only buy what you need! It might sound obvious, but planning your meals, checking what you have first and shopping with a list can help here.

Do you have any go-to recipes/tips/tricks for using food in the fridge that might be on its last leg?

use it up tape container
Credit: Farley Webb

Our favourite food waste hack is our Use It Up tape – proven to cut food waste by 40%! Use it to mark out a shelf in the fridge and pantry where you put food that needs using first. It’s a visual reminder and proven to change behaviour. It’s also free online (with a small cost to cover postage).

I also recommend:

  • Building leftovers into other things so you don’t get bored of the same flavours. Curries make great pies, and pasta sauces are perfect pizza toppers. Of course, almost anything tastes delicious in a toasted sandwich!
  • Cooking ingredients and bringing them together later – making some couscous, roasting some veg, and toasting some nuts. Keep these separate, and bring them together in various ways through the week.
  • Making your freezer your friend — milk, fresh eggs (removed from their shell), and most raw veg can be frozen.

Say someone’s New Year’s Resolution for 2024 is to cut back on food waste. What are some attainable goals that a person can set? Where should they start?

Start with the Suncorp Bank Food Savings Challenge! Take the quiz to find out where you are on the Food Savings scale and check out the tips and tricks to see where you might be able to make changes.

You should also grab our Use It Up tape! Make a Use It Up shelf to organise your fridge and pantry so that it’s easy to see what needs to be used up first. Get into the habit of cooking a weekly Use It Up meal with whatever needs using up!

Read more stories from The Latch and subscribe to our email newsletter.