Mary Creagh MP states, “Britain is the seventh richest national in the world yet we face a growing epidemic of hidden hunger, particularly in children The reality of parents unable to feed their children whilst food goes to waste is one of the starkest examples of the squeeze on living standards faced by many British families.”
Britain’ shameful food-wasting habits have been all over the media lately thanks to Jamie Oliver’s latest series – Jamie’s Money Saving Meals. According to Jamie’s website, the average Brit “spends £1320 per year on fast food, eating 12 take-aways per month.” He also revealed “40% of food bought in Britain ends up in the bin.” But the last truth about first world eating habits, extended beyond Brits alone, shockingly he claims that the “US spends enough money on junk food each year to potentially end world hunger.” A report published by Stuttgart University also revealed that Germans throw away about 181lbs and £190 of food per person, each year.
The Guardian stated that the findings of a survey carried out by frozen food giant Birds Eye, uncovering that “vegetables topped the list of the most commonly wasted food group, followed by bread and fruit.” It also revealed that Brits don’t feel good about these figures, 40% of them feeling guilty about food wastage and wanting to do something about it.
Awareness is the first step to change, and with the help of media personalities like Jamie Oliver and government-run initiatives like Love Food, Hate Waste -together, we can all do our part to reduce food wastage. Will Thomas from Eccount Money believes “sensible food planning is an essential part of this strategy.” He also added that “food is a big part of the family budget, and now more than ever, people need to reduce their spending to help meet the rising cost of living. Minimising waste not only has larger, social impact, but it can also help you personally reduce your monthly spend.”
Understanding the labels
According to Love Food/Hate Waste, the UK wastes £12.5bn a year on food that we buy, only to throw away. They believe the biggest culprit is lack of understanding when it comes to ‘use by’ dates. The website advises consumers to understand that BEST BEFORE dates “refer to quality rather than food safety. Foods with a ‘best before’ date should be safe to eat after the ‘best before’ date, but they may no longer be at their best.” Where as USE BY dates refer to food safety, urging consumers to always follow the correct storage advice on the package to get the longest shelf life. DISPLAY UNTIL instructions are purely for retail staff, to help them arrange their products on the shelves.
TOP TIP: To extend the life of food beyond its date, freeze it before the use-by date. When defrosting however, be sure to use the food within 24 hrs of defrosting.
Portion and planning
Other than simply buying more than you need, another major reason cited for wasting food was “lack of meal planning prior to shopping… with one in three people admitting to not planning.” According to The Fabian Society, “to get people to be more thrifty with their food habits, big supermarkets need to take the lead.” While some of the big companies are actively do so, others fail to even comment on the situation.
While politicians and campaigners can take care of the bigger contributors, there are ways you can waste less at home. Everyone knows that planning meals and writing a shopping list can save you pounds every week. Most mums become a wiz at menu planning and grocery store thrift, but if you need a little help, Love Food/Hate Waste has a portion planning tool on their website to help you find out how much food you actually need to buy for your meals. They also have some quick tips for your shopping list;
- keep a pen and pad in the kitchen
- write a menu plan for the week, and only buy enough for those meals
- check the shelves at the shops for the longest used-by date on all perishable items
- check the freezer and store cupboards before you write your list so you don’t buy things you already have
TOP TIP: make one meal per week using only ingredients you already have in the cupboard, fridge and freezer. This will reduce the cost of your weekly shop by one meal, and ensure that you’re using up existing ingredients.
Knowledge is Power
The adage “knowledge is power” is never truer than for the issue of food wastage. So often food will go to waste because consumers simply don’t know what to do or how to use up the food that’s left. The best way to empower yourself to make change is to find recipes and start cooking. Becoming confident in the kitchen is the only way you can minimise food wastage and the best way to gain confidence is to practise. Watching shows like Jamie Oliver’s Money Saving Meals and buying cooking books like Fiona Beckett’s The Frugal Cook that not only show you how to cook but inspire you to try new things are all ways that you can help yourself become a better cook and learn how to eat to minimise waste. Websites like The Kitchen Revolution and LoveFoodHateWaste are a great place to start your online research and don’t forget the endless inspiration and resources available on food blogs and online publications.
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Based in Chester, Jessica Bourne is lifestyle writer with a focus on how to live well on less. With years of experience under her belt, Jessica can share tips with her readers about how they can eat, look and feel better on a budget that grows ever tighter. Jessica’s money-saving articles can be found on the eccount money blog.