Life Eat & Drink Food waste spiked during pandemic, thanks to panic-buying and food delivery

Food waste spiked during pandemic, thanks to panic-buying and food delivery

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Australian households are wasting $1043 of food this year – a record high – thanks in large part to the pandemic.

A surge in panic-buying and an increase in the use of food delivery services meant we had more food than we knew what to do with.

Before COVID-19 turned our lives upside down, the country’s total food waste bill was $8.64 billion a year – that figure is now $10.3 billion, Rabobank’s 2020 Food Waste Report details.

“It’s to be expected that food waste has been deprioritised by Australians during this stressful year when our attention has been focused on other urgent issues,” Rabobank’s Glenn Wealands said in a statement on Monday.

Panic-buying and stockpiling food, plus an increase in ordering takeaway meant Australians wasted more than $1000 of food this year, per household. Photo: Getty

“(But) the average household is now wasting nearly 13 per cent of the groceries they buy and also spending more on food delivery and self-prepare food services.”

Funnily enough, our penchant for returning to the kitchen could have contributed to the steep rise, too.

All those failed sourdough loaves that weren’t eaten? They might have gone in the bin –almost half of the survey respondents said their food waste had increased because they had spent more time cooking, while 37 per cent said they had been experimenting with recipes.

Mature woman cooking
How many of us overestimated our skills in the kitchen this year? Photo: Getty

(‘Experimenting with recipes’ might be code for recipe failures.)

While we were cooking more at home, we were also ordering food more often – 60 per cent of survey respondents said they had used one of the delivery platforms, and a third of those said they did so at least once a week.

Rabobank also found more Aussies subscribed to self-prepping meal kits – up some 8 per cent.

Australians who used food delivery platforms or meal prep kits wasted twice the amount of food compared to people who didn’t, the survey found.

An increase in the number of people using food delivery services also drove increased waste, the report found.

More than 60 per cent of those surveyed used delivery services, with more than a third of those people admitting they ordered food at least once a week.

Australians have also increasingly turned to self-prepare meal-kit services, with patronage up eight per cent to 36 per cent.

Those most likely to use food delivery or meal kit services waste more than double the amount of food than those who don’t, the survey found.

“Be mindful that unless you’re using these services wisely it’s bad for your wallet and bad for reducing food waste,” Mr Wealands said.

Mr Wealands said Australians could reduce their waste by using excess food in their pantry and freezer, making a weekly meal plan and factoring in a night off for takeaway each week.

State by state, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania were the biggest wasters, with every other state reducing their waste compared to 2019.

NSW performed worst, with 14 per cent of food being thrown out, an increase of 2.7 per cent on early 2020.

-with AAP