The cost of food is one of our biggest worries and yet despite tightening our household budgets, the food waste prevention organisation WRAP say we’re wasting up to six meals per week. Emma Marsh tells us more…
Are we really throwing away the equivalent of 86 million chickens a year in the UK – just from our homes? Unfortunately yes, and the list goes on…24 million slices of bread every single day, one in five potatoes, enough good food and drink a year to fill 88 million wheelie bins …
New research published last week by WRAP has shown that we’re making fantastic progress in the UK – the amount of good food and drink we throw away from our homes has gone down by a massive 21% – but that’s still leaving 4.2 million tonnes left going to waste. And we’re not talking about the bones, peelings or teabags either – that takes it up to a whopping seven million tonnes a year. This is almost half of all food thrown away in the UK.
Turning a blind eye to food waste
Given recent research from Which? revealed that eight in 10 of us are worried about rising food prices why are we still wasting the food we buy? Well, there are many complex and interrelated reasons for this, and it’s important to acknowledge that no one sets out to consciously waste food – I’ve certainly never met anyone who buys food and then happily throws it in the bin.
One of the main problems is that many of us still don’t recognise that we’re wasting food, and even if we do we don’t realise the full cost of it. When asked how much they think the average family throws away each month people will get quite close to the reality – up to £60 for a family – but when asked to relate that back to themselves the value shrinks dramatically!
Planning, storage and portion control
Therefore the first step to tackling this issue is to work out for ourselves just how much we end up throwing in the bin each week. I kept a food diary when I first started working on food waste back in 2007 and was shocked at just how much was going to waste! I then added up how much it had cost me to buy that food originally and that was enough reason to start changing my behaviour, let alone the environmental issues associated with throwing food away.
Once we know what we’re wasting we can start taking simple steps to tackle it, including planning (making a list and sticking to it so we only buy what we need), storage (keeping our food in the best way possible to keep it fresher for longer), portions (cooking just the right amount), understanding date labels (the use-by is the only one that really matters as that’s about safety – never eat past the use-by but you can freeze right up to it) and being creative with leftovers and forgotten foods (such as that wrinkly tomato or floppy carrot at the back of the fridge!). To help, we’ve shared our 5 top tips to help you save money on your food.
Can you relate to accidental throw-away habits? Have you ever considered keeping a food diary to see if you could be cutting back? We’re keen to hear your thoughts and tips on reducing waste.
Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Emma Marsh, head of Love Food Hate Waste . All opinions expressed here are Emma’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.