Inflation, cost of living: Masterchef finalist Simon Toohey tips to cut food waste

Australians are wasting up to $2000 a year on uneaten groceries, with the majority saying fruit and vegetables are the main culprit.

According to new research from Australian Pears, 80 per cent of Aussies say their grocery bills have jumped by at least 25 per cent over the last year, but despite the rising costs, the majority are still throwing away up to a quarter of the groceries.

It’s costing the average household an estimated $2,080 annually.

MasterChef finalist Simon Toohey has partnered with Australian Pears to help families make their produce last longer and get more bang for their buck.

“It’s a huge loss when it comes to food waste, because that could be funds in the back pocket during a cost of living crisis,” Mr Toohey said.

Biggest mistakes costing you more

As a professional chef, Mr Toohey has made it his mission to cut down on food waste in his kitchen. Along the way he has also learnt a few hacks for making sure his grocery shop lasts as long as possible.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is buying fresh fruit and vegetables when they are already ripe.

“We like to buy food that is ripe straight away, but by the time we want to eat it, it’s overripe,” Mr Toohey said.

Understanding the way fresh produce ripens can help you avoid having to throw it out before it gets eaten.

“Pears, for example, ripen from the inside out and if we buy a bag of pears, you can use them throughout the week.” Mr Toohey said.

“There’s no wrong time to eat a pear either, it’s ripe the whole way through, so it just depends on what you prefer. Some like to eat it when it’s crunchy, and others like to wait for it to get soft and caramelised.”

Eating seasonally

Mr Toohey said he wishes everyone was better educated on how to eat fresh produce in time with the seasons.

“We have come to think everything is available all the time and sadly for us food doesn’t work like that,” he said.

“Consuming seasonally makes it last longer and taste better.”

Most pear varieties grown in Australia are picked from orchards between February and March, and are currently perfect to eat.

How to store your fresh produce to make it last

  • Buy a variety of stages of ripeness

Purchasing fruit and vegetables at different stages of ripening is a handy hack for making sure you can eat it every day. Buy some that are ready to eat straight away, and others that are hard and need some time to soften up.

Some produce contains ethylene, an enzyme that helps it ripen, and can promote the ripening of produce that doesn’t contain it. Avocados, pears and bananas all contain high levels of the enzyme. If placed inside a paper or cotton bag, they can help ripen all fruit faster. With pears, and other stemmed fruits, it can be hard to tell when they are ripe. Mr Toohey suggests pushing down on the stem and if the skin softens, it is ripened.

  • Once it starts to wilt, or ripen, put it in the fridge

Any produce with battered skin or mushy flesh can often be used for a few more days. To make sure it lasts, Mr Toohey suggests putting it in the fridge. It can be used to make a cake, bread or even sweeten a sauce.

To give fresh produce a whole new life, you can pop it in a jar, add vinegar and preserve it for months.

Find all of Mr Toohey’s recipes using Australian Pears here.

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