Kiwi households are throwing away around $2.4 billion of food waste every year.
The cost is higher than three years ago despite householders making improvements to the way they shop and reducing what they put in the bin.
The just released Rabobank-KiwiHarvest Food Waste Research, found New Zealanders waste 8.6 per cent of their weekly food shop.
That's $1259 per household in the bin annually - most of it fruit and vegetables bought with good intentions but that have spoiled before the chance to eat.
Despite a reduction in the amount each household is throwing away, the rising cost of food has seen the loss per household rise from $1121 in 2019.
Rabobank New Zealand CEO Todd Charteris said New Zealanders were making positive changes.
"In comparison to 2019, Kiwis are now more likely to be eating leftovers, considering portion size, freezing uneaten food and eating food past the 'best before' date," he said.
"We're also seeing more Kiwis using worm farms or composting, and all these changes have helped to reduce the portion of household food spend that goes to waste."
The changes were a step in the right direction, Charteris said, but the research revealed plenty of missed opportunities to turn concerns into action.
"Seventy-nine per cent of Kiwis say they care about reducing food waste, however there remains a significant disconnect between New Zealanders' attitudes towards food waste and the actions they're taking," he said.
The survey found nearly half of New Zealanders have thrown away unopened or untried food in the past 12 months, while only a third of New Zealanders planned meals in advance.
To keep food waste out of landfills, he said, New Zealanders needed to look carefully at what they are buying, how much food they are preparing and what they actually eat.
The survey of 1509 New Zealanders in April this year, conducted by independent research agency Kantar, also found fruit and vegetables were the most frequently wasted food.
Binned fruit and vegetables accounted for around two-thirds of all food waste.
This was followed by bread, which made up a quarter of all wasted food, and meat, which contributed just 6 per cent.
Most food is thrown away because it was "going off before you can finish it".
"Food going off before the use by or best before date" and "food not tasting as good as expected" were the next most significant reasons for throwing away food.
Three-quarters of the New Zealanders surveyed said the thing that bothered them most about throwing away food was "wasted money".
"Feelings of guilt that there are people around New Zealand going without" accounted for 37 per cent; and 30 per cent felt bad about people "starving around the world".
The time and effort that went into producing food that was then thrown away was also a concern for many.
Two-thirds of those surveyed identified "landfill" as that which is most impacted by wasted food.
This was followed by pollution at 37 per cent and greenhouse gas emissions at 35 per cent.
KiwiHarvest CEO Gavin Findlay said demand for KiwiHarvest's services had grown strongly over the past year.
The company collects edible food from supermarkets destined for landfills and diverts it to people who are struggling.
"The lingering impacts of Covid-19 have resulted in more and more Kiwi families facing financial hardship and the need for our services has never been greater," Findlay said.
With the support of partners such as Rabobank, KiwiHarvest had increased capacity and was now redistributing approximately 200,000kg of food per month.
For Auckland woman Clare Jennings, guilt for throwing away food each week lead to a complete shift in the way she shopped for herself and her 16-year-old son Josh Drake.
"About six years ago I decided I wanted to end the week without throwing anything away, I just felt terrible about the waste and also the money I was wasting on food," Jennings said.
"As a single mum, I was throwing away food I was struggling to pay for in the first place."
Jennings, who is a member of the Love Food, Hate Waste NZ Facebook page, started meal planning, shopping once a week, and then spending Sunday afternoon preparing meals for the week.
A big homemade Bolognese sauce loaded with veggies was the base for meals such as lasagne, chilli bowls and spaghetti.
"Josh does a lot of sport and needs a lot of protein so I work out a menu and make the meals in one day so there is no waste.
"During the week all we have to do is reheat and add a fresh salad or some more vegetables."
Jennings said by having good meals ready to go in the fridge, the temptation to get takeaways at the end of a hard day at work was gone.
"It means you eat all of the food you bought for that week, there is no chicken going off because you got takeaways instead of cooking."
Leftovers from dinner are used in tortillas for lunch the next day and Jennings made her own pizza bases and baked to reduce food and packaging waste.
"There is an amazing recipe by Nadia Lim called health loaf and it uses up old banana, leftover zucchini and carrot," Jennings said.
"It's the perfect snack for Josh after rowing training on the way home."
Jennings is the first to admit her situation, with just herself and Josh to plan for, is easier than larger households.
But she said even small changes and buying only what you needed, meant less waste and savings.
The money Jennings saved in her first year gave her and Josh spending money for a long-awaited trip to Disneyland.
Jennings said on a good week, both her fridge and rubbish bin are both near empty.
"My fridge is pretty bare by Thursday when I do the weekly shop and now there are some weeks I don't have to put a bin out."