Despite food prices rising and household budgets being squeezed, new stats suggest that the average Brit still throws away 10% of the food they buy. Why all the waste?
Are we really that frivolous when it comes to food? Apparently so, if a Sainsbury’s survey of 2,000 adults is anything to go by. The supermarket found that almost 10% of food bought during the weekly shop is chucked away rather than cooked, frozen or otherwise consumed.
Of course, not everyone is as wasteful or wealthy enough to bin this amount of food regularly – and austere times may have improved habits (a different Wrap study from 2009 said 14% of food bought was ‘avoidably’ wasted).
Our own research suggests nearly half of people in the UK are trying to waste less food – but it seems we’re not quite there yet. Here are a few possible explanations as to why we’re wasting so much food.
Disorganised – and hungry
Not shopping with a list (or at least a vague meal plan) is one reason for waste. Or perhaps, says Sainsbury’s, it’s our poor calendar-keeping that too often leads to food sitting unopened in the fridge while we’re eating out, or working late.
Shopping on an empty stomach, meanwhile, can be equally lethal. In my household, popping to get something for dinner can easily degenerate into a random buying spree of tasty-looking nibbles that you buy just because you’re peckish.
Bamboozled by food labels
As we’ve previously discussed here on Which? Convo, understanding how long we’ve got to safely use what we buy is complicated by the array of food label date stamps out there. Sainsbury’s reckons 25% of us are cautious cooks, chucking food out on, or even before, the date listed on the product.
Rules to scrap unhelpful ‘display until’ dates and new guidance for food companies on when to use ‘best buy’ and ‘use by’ will hopefully help clear this up in future. Our food expert Sue Davies explains:
‘The long and short of it is that highly perishable foods (like fish and dairy) must have a use by date, whereas store cupboard goods (like tins and crisps) can get away with a best before date. In other words, use by is for safety and best before is for quality.’
Are the shops to blame?
Unsurprisingly, Sainsbury’s didn’t mention this one – but some of you think the pre-packaged, ‘bogof’ culture championed by supermarkets perpetuates the waste problem.
Wavechange thinks ‘a lot of waste is simply due to buying more than needed. A lot of this must be down to supermarket offers such as “buy one, get one free”. In my view these should not be permitted for perishable foods.’
David F, meanwhile, believes the ‘overall quality of fresh food is declining, forcing people into wasting food. No one wants to use vegetables that are on the turn and shouldn’t have to shop every other day to avoid wastage. I don’t remember things being like this when I was younger.’
Reducing food wastage
Since my area switched to a weekly food caddy and fortnightly wheelie bin collection, using up what I’ve got has definitely become a more conscious pursuit (if for no other reason than to avoid any potential ‘unpleasantness’).
Living in a two-person household, I often cook up batches for freezing (to use up ingredients packaged up for larger families), or chuck nearly-spent veg into a soup or casserole, to put otherwise irretrievable perishables to use.
Do you have any food-saving tips? And what (or who) do you think is to blame for needless food waste?