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Five tips to slash $1000 off food bills

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Australian families waste $1000 a year throwing good food in the bin, new research shows.

More than $7.1 billion in food is wasted annually with Australian households disposing of $4.1 billion a year, with the hospitality, retail and commercial food industry making up the rest.

But the average family could save a bundle with a few simple money saving techniques that will help you cut back on how much you toss and curb the 5 o'clock "what's for dinner?" panic.

Keep the fridge closed

Two thirds of us open the fridge door about 30 times a day, which leads to spoilage, according to an LG survey of 1250 Australians.

Keeping the door open – or failing to maintain fridge door seals – can also send electricity bills soaring, because it requires more energy to maintain correct temperature.

Keep it tidy

To keep your refrigerator from becoming the graveyard where celery goes to die, keep stock of what's on the shelves. When you buy new groceries, borrow a trick from the supermarkets and rotate older items to the front; if you see them, you're more likely to use them. As items near their use-by date, move them to a "use it up" shelf, so you remember what needs to be eaten soon.

Know supermarket tricks

Ever leave the supermarket with a trolley full of goods you didn't come for? That's exactly what the supermarket layout was intended to achieve.

Many supermarkets employ techniques to encourage you to spend; from positioning impulse items near the checkout and fruit and vegetables near the entrance (where you're statistically more likely to be feeling happy and persuaded to buy healthy food), to clustering products that can be used to make an entire meal.

Financial commentator David Koch recommends planning meals in advance and sticking to a list of necessary items.

"The average Australian household spends 12 percent of its income on groceries. I bet you can cut that down by sticking to a list," he wrote in a post for The Kochie Blog.

Organise to leave the kids at home, he adds: "So much food is packaged and marketed to attract children. You don't want to be conned into buying extras like chocolate bars and chips or expensive muesli bars and cereals."

Also, take advantage of unit pricing when comparing similar goods.

Shop at a local farmers' markets

As cook and television presenter Maggie Beer says: "think local and think seasonal" when shopping. Using local farmer's markets is one of the best ways to not only ensure low food miles, but also fresher food options.

Or grow your own!

Having a vegetable patch within a few metres of the kitchen certainly leaves a very small footprint. Not only does it mean your family will be eating some of the freshest produce available, it also allows the opportunity to recycle food scraps to a worm farm in order to use their manure in compost.

Preserving in times of plenty is one of the most effective guards against waste. Knowing how to make jams, sauces, chutneys and pickles means you'll never throw out veggies again!

As hard as that loss is for your budget to handle, it's even harder on the environment; consider the water and energy required to grow food, and the fuel used to transport it. Then when food rots in landfill it gives off a greenhouse gas called methane, which is 25 times more potent than the carbon pollution that comes out of your car exhaust.

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