Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, has been investigating how much food, and therefore money, both households and supermarkets are wasting. Here, he tells us about his 'Wastenot' campaign. Views don't necessarily reflect those of MoneySavingExpert.
Imagine this: you're just leaving a supermarket after the weekly shop, your trolley piled high with delicious food, all bought and paid for. Now picture yourself stopping outside the store at a row of wheelie bins. You reach into your shopping bags, pull out a loaf of fresh bread and throw a big chunk of it into one of the bins.
You do the same with a few potatoes, half a bag of salad and a couple of eggs. A good glassful from a carton of milk you've just bought goes into the bin too, along with some breakfast cereal, a couple of bananas and half a pack of biscuits. Then you go home and enjoy what's left of your shopping.
Sounds crazy doesn't it? But this is exactly what we are doing with the food we buy. According to WRAP (the Waste Resources Action Programme), UK families throw away a shocking £700 of perfectly good grub every year – something like a day's worth of food each week.
Of course, we don't bin it as soon as we've bought it. We let it sit in our fridges, wilting, until it no longer looks good enough to eat, then we chuck it. Or, even worse, we chuck it even though it does still look good enough to eat – because it's tipped over its use-by date.
There's no doubt that supermarkets themselves also have a huge waste footprint. They deliberately order more than they can sell so their shelves are always temptingly full (and of course the consumer ultimately foots the bill for this). But if we're to demand that retailers change their lavishly wasteful ways, we have to do our bit too.
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Roughly half the food wastage in the UK occurs at a domestic level, and it's costing us an absolute fortune. Here are a few ways to whittle down that waste:
- The most-wasted fresh foods in the UK include bread and potatoes, bagged salad, fresh fruit and milk. Shop carefully for these and check out wastenotuk.com for ways to keep them at their best.
- Be wary of the BOGOF (buy one get one free) – these seemingly irresistible offers often lure us into buying more fresh produce than we can eat.
- Internet shopping is the friend of the thrifty cook, allowing you to select just what you need without subjecting yourself to the temptations of the supermarket.
- Use your freezer as the first resort, not the last. Bread freezes brilliantly (slice it first) – so does fish and meat (including bacon), cheese and butter, prepared veg, sliced banana, soups and sauces, egg whites. So whack them in the freezer before they can go off.
- Think before you throw things out. We've all become slaves to the 'use-by' date. But do we really think milk that tastes fine is undrinkable because the use-by date was yesterday? These dates are a good guide, but employ your eyes, nose and common sense too – and remember that thorough cooking makes almost everything safe.
- Lap up those leftovers. Amazing meals can be thrown together from bits and pieces found in the fridge. Spicy fried rice, cold pork with star anise dressing, leftover stew enchiladas, frozen berry yoghurt and mashed potato and lemon cake are just a few of the leftovers-based dishes I've enjoyed lately. You'll find more on my Food Tube channel.
For more wily waste-busting tips, and to sign my pledge to help reduce supermarket waste, visit wastenotuk.com. You'll also find a link to the Wastenot Facebook page, and from there to local Wastenot groups, where you can share your thrifty tips.