Australia's most wasted foods and how to keep them out of the bin

By Emma Lucey 23 November 2023

Food waste is a significant issue in Australia, but there are certain items that tend to be thrown out more than others. Here is a guide to help you avoid wasting them, including information on how to store, cook and reinvent with ingredients you already have in your kitchen.

Australians waste around 7.6 million tonnes of food across the food supply chain every year. That’s about 312 kilograms per person, which can cost up to $2,500 per household.  

Land used to grow the food that is wasted in Australia spans over 25 million hectares, surpassing the size of Victoria. This food waste not only contributes to approximately three per cent of Australia's annual greenhouse gas emissions but is also a waste of other resources like water. 

As a sector, households generate about 30 per cent of food waste, more than producers, retailers and other stakeholders across the supply chain.  

So, what can be done to reduce food waste at home? Earlier this year, ABC’s War on Waste program found the most commonly wasted items in Australian households were bread, fruit, vegetables, bags of salad and leftovers - so let’s have a closer look at these in particular.


When purchasing bread, make a plan before you put it all away in a cupboard or the freezer. Think about how many slices you’ll be using during the week & freeze the rest for toast or defrosting when needed. If you misjudge, just remember there are plenty of recipes to use up bread that is going a bit stale or even the ‘ends’ of the loaf. Think breadcrumbs, croutons, bread and butter pudding, garlic bread, or even recipes like panzanella (an Italian salad traditionally made using stale bread).


As every household is a bit different, take it back to basics by thinking about your family’s habits and buying only what you are most likely to use, whether that means apples and bananas or dragon fruit and papaya! Buy individual pieces of fruit for smaller households or buy in bulk for larger households.  

Another option is to look for “misshapen” or “imperfect” fruit, which tastes great and often comes at a discounted price. Coles reported that their “I’m Perfect” range of fruit and vegetables, flawed only in appearance, sold more than 20,000 tonnes last year, supporting growers to use more of their crop and helping to reduce food waste. 

Luckily, many fruits can be frozen for later use. Frozen berries have plenty of uses when it comes to baking, desserts or smoothies. Preparing ‘smoothie bombs’ with a range of different fruit and veggies can also be a clever time saver!


Eating a range of different vegetables makes meals exciting and provides a range of nutrients for your family. Studies suggest that learning new cooking skills is one of the key behaviours found to be most helpful when it comes to reducing food waste and maximising the value of groceries.     When it comes to storage, any cut veggies should be stored in the fridge, while whole produce like potatoes, onions and uncut pumpkins should be kept in a cool dark place in a cupboard.  If you peel your veggies – remember to keep the peels and ends to use in stock. These ‘scraps’ can even be frozen until you’re ready to whip up a batch. 


Storing food correctly is a common rule when it comes to food waste reduction. Surely almost all of us have witnessed the slimy state of a bag of baby spinach, right? An easy trick to keep a bag of salad from going soggy is to place a piece of paper towel in the bag to absorb moisture. Better yet, to protect them from getting squished too, transfer the leaves to an airtight container with plenty of room, sandwiched between paper towels!


Making a meal plan for the week can be a great experience for some, but tedious for others. Whether you’re a planner or a ‘what do I feel like for dinner tonight’ kind of cook, think about reserving one night of the week to eat or repurpose leftovers. By practicing only cooking what you’ll consume, you’ll soon find less and less leftovers find their way to the bin.

Minimising food waste is a responsibility we all share and by reducing what gets chucked out at your house you're participating in resource conservation, prevention of greenhouse gas emissions and saving yourself money. It’s time to continue practicing better habits beyond National Recycling Week to reduce food wasted in Australian households.   

For more tips read our article on food storage hacks. 

Emma Lucey
Emma brings experience in digital media and communications with a background in several industries such as tourism and hospitality. Prior to joining Planet Ark in 2022, Emma spent 5 years living abroad in London & Amsterdam where she developed a greater interest in the environment and sustainability. Outside of work Emma enjoys gardening, camping and crocheting.