Reducing food waste at home
Food waste is a major issue globally. During 2020 in New Zealand, households and businesses sent more than 300,000 tonnes of food to the tip. Find out what you can do to help safely reduce waste in your home.
Minimise how much food goes to waste
You can help reduce food waste by:
- keeping track of "use by" and "best before" dates on food
- freezing food
- asking for a "doggy bag" for any food you don't eat at a restaurant
- feeding pets and animals leftover food, as long as it is safe for them to eat it
- donating surplus food.
However, also be aware there are some rules and guidance to follow to do these safely, including about feeding food waste to animals.
Know the date marks used on food
Date marks indicate how long food can be kept before it starts to deteriorate or becomes unsafe to eat.
Most packaged food with a shelf life of up to 2 years requires a date mark. The exception is for food products in small packages (like chewing gum), where there is no food safety concern.
The date marks are:
- Use by: A product after its "use by" date can make you sick, even if the food appears to look, smell, or taste fine.
- Best before: Food may still be safe to eat after the date but it may have lost some quality.
- Baked (Bkd) on or similar: Usually found on bread products with a shelf life of less than 7 days.
Foods with a shelf life over 2 years don't need to show a "best before" date.
To reduce your food waste, keep a list of food you have and their expiry dates. This will also help you with meal planning.
You may be able to freeze some types of food for later use. Check the food's packaging and label for guidance.
Getting doggy bags from restaurants
Taking leftovers home from a restaurant in a "doggy bag" (a takeaway container) is a simple way to reduce food waste.
Not all restaurants allow customers to take home food – it's up to each business. If you are allowed to take food away, you are then responsible for the safety of that food.
Our advice for storing and using leftover food
- Store food in clean, sealed containers.
- Refrigerate or freeze leftovers within 2 hours.
- Reheat leftovers until steaming hot (over 75oC) and do not reheat more than once.
- Use chilled leftovers within a couple of days.
Feeding food waste to animals
Feeding leftovers or food waste to your animals can help reduce your food wastage. But you must make sure the food you give them is safe to eat.
The Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997 requires you to ensure that food is not spoiled or contaminated before feeding it to animals – so it won't make them sick.
Some foods such as onions can make cats and dogs sick even if not spoiled or contaminated. Talk to your veterinarian to find out which specific foods are safe and which are not.
The Animal Welfare Act 1999 also requires owners to meet the physical, health, and behavioural needs of their animals.
If you are feeding food waste to pigs, there are specific requirements to meet.
Donating your surplus food
Government-funded organisations provide food rescue and food donation services across New Zealand.
Other food waste information and tips
The Ministry for the Environment website has more information about how reducing food waste has positive benefits:
The Love Food Hate Waste website has tips for New Zealand households. It's a site where you can also ask questions and share food waste tips.
Advice for food businesses
Who to contact
If you have questions about reducing food waste, email email@example.com