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Staying at home to use leftovers can save average family thousands, new report says

Fruit and vegetables in a fridge.
The report found most household food was wasted because it went off before it could be eaten.

Supplied: Brisbane Local Food

Food waste is costing the average Australian household more than $1,000 a year, according to a new report.

The Rabobank Food and Farming Report 2017, which surveyed 2,300 Australians, found 14 per cent of food was wasted, costing each household on average $1,050 a year.

The agribusiness financier suggested one way to deal with food waste was to stay at home once a week and finish off leftovers.

This could save the average family about $150 a week, or up to $8,000 a year.

Buying imperfect fruits and vegetables that were in season also helped to reduce food waste on farms.

Rabobank group executive Edwin Van Raalte said Australians were wasting a whopping $9.6 billion a year on food.

"Our vision is about feeding the world sustainably," he said.

Why people let food go to waste

The research showed while city residents were more aware of the food waste issue, they wasted more food.

Victorians wasted 19 per cent of food, while Tasmanians lost only 4 per cent.

In terms of why people did not eat the food in their fridge, 82 per cent said it went off before it was used, 28 per cent did not eat it by the best before date, and one in 10 would not use leftovers.

Australian chef Martin Boetz, of Longrain and Cooks Co-op in the Hawkesbury near Sydney, prepared the menu for a brunch in Martin Place to launch the report this week.

He said there was a lot of waste in the food sector.

"People aren't doing enough about green waste. What we throw out from diners, it goes straight into the bin," he said.

"It's not broken up into different things … and packaging, it all goes into the bin, and I find that dismaying."

Mr Boetz has managed to recycle up to 80 per cent of waste in his own business.

"We have a farm restaurant and everything that is left over, I give to the staff and they take it home to eat it, or we compost it," he said.

Edwin Van Raalte from RaboDirect in Martin Place, surrounded by buildings, addressing a table of journalists about food waste.
Edwin Van Raalte says the bank is researching food waste as part of its commitment to sustainable food production.

ABC Rural: David Claughton

Making progress in rescuing food

While there are still some big issues to resolve in dealing with waste from restaurants, there has been progress in other areas.

Oz Harvest is a charity with operations in Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide and Brisbane that rescues food and gives it to those in need.

Sustainability strategist Annika Stott said there had been a big increase in donations.

"In the last year alone, our food collections have increased by over a million kilos, and there are over 700 more businesses donating food nationally," she said.

Harris Farm is one of the companies that donates to Oz Harvest.

The NSW retailer is the champion of the imperfect fruit and vegetable range that has been imitated by Woolworths.

Chief executive Tristan Harris said it had grown quickly.

"We've increased the range by 20-30 per cent since we started in 2015," he said.

The retailer also has started to juice fruit that is getting near the end of its life, and is putting more into fruit salads and other products to reduce waste from the business.