UK families waste £270 a year on discarded food, say the Guardian,** cutting and pasting a press release (which it really should have opened up to comments, because generalisations, like this, are usually bollocks**).
**But see the Telegraph, below for a seriously off-the-wall figure!
By the way, did you know we had a Waste minister, Lord Taylor of Holbeach? Neither did I, and it’ll be a cold day in hell before I’ll be lectured on waste of any kind by a Tory peer, no matter how apparently humble his antecedents.
This week I’ve “wasted” half a pan of pea soup that turned out – though I tasted the stock first – to be absurdly salty. About a quarter of an Allinson’s wholemeal loaf was likewise consigned to oblivion, because 3 days after opening it was covered – and I do mean covered, the bread was barely visible – in mould. The value of the former was about 15p – the stock was free, from cooking a gammon joint, the only cost about 150g of split peas (a similar amount had been eaten). The bread, say, 35p.
Total waste this week, then, 50p, and this has been a pretty average week (my biggest waste is bread, even when I make my own, as there’s a limit to how much one person can eat (the most economical version of bread is rolls – for some reason they are less prone to mould, and a 6-pack will go in 3 – 4 days).
So that’s £26 a year. Let’s be generous, and scale that up to £35, because the “research” says we always underestimate (so not only are we so stupid we over-buy, we don’t know the value of anything either – hmm… interesting mindset these people have). That’s a bloody long way from £270 – a family of 5, large, these days, would have to waste £15 more per capita than my inflated amount per year.
Are people really so dumb that they get suckered by twofers into buying more than they actually need, then chuck a lot of it away, which is the claim being made? Even I, with my cynically jaundiced view of the great British public, find that hard to credit.
I’m up for a bargain as much as anyone else – one reason I currently shop online at Tesco, rather than my habitual Sainsbury’s (plus Tesco don’t rip me off by charging £6.75 for delivery, like Sainsbury’s do if I spend less than £40**) – but I’m not so dumb as to buy stuff I can’t eat, or freeze, just to save a few coppers on an item. My freezer is stuffed with the proceeds of twofer offers, as would be that of any sensible person (I’d guess that waste is greater at the poorer end of the market, where freezers might well be scarce).
**And how much do high delivery charges and minimum order values (Ocado has a minimum order value of £40, plus higher than most delivery charges), contribute to overbuying?
In fact, this week, I had no difficulty in getting my Tesco order above £40 (I’m conducting an experiment which, if it works, means I won’t have to shop again for at least 3 weeks). In addition to my weekly order, I also shop at online suppliers of stuff I can’t get at either Tesco or Sainsbury’s (forget Ocado, they ALWAYS screw up my order through careless picking). This week I’ve ordered some panceta, in the piece from a Spanish deli (T and S only sell it sliced, or diced, neither being what I want), three packs, which will provide enough for 9 dishes, perhaps 30 – 40 meals, so while it’s not cheap (£6.45/450g), in use it’s extremely economical. And none of it’s wasted, except for a little bone in some pieces.
My biggest source of waste, of late, has been dried pulses – specifically, chickpeas – that refused to soften and a whole casserole had to be binned as it was uneatable (er, yes, I do know how to cook pulses). So I did the sensible thing and bought a pressure cooker, and hard pulses will be consigned to history.
Over the years, I’ve found the worst source of waste to be roast meat, especially as a singleton. So now I toss it in the slow cooker, with some veggies and a stock cube, use the cooking liquid to make gravy, slice it and portion it for the freezer. Zero waste.
Thing is, though, if they insist we all underestimate out food waste, how do we know that they don’t overestimate it? Presumably they asked a bunch of families, worked out an average, and applied a multiplier. What we need to know, to assess whether their claim has any validity whatsoever, is what the multiplier was, and how it was arrived at – picking bingo numbers out of a hat, perhaps?
The Telegraph covers this in greater detail. Apparently families with children estimated their average food waste at £270 p.a. The researchers then, apparently drifting into the realms of fantasy, mysteriously decided that what they really meant was £680.
This is what it actually says:-
“In a poll of 2,116 adults, average families estimated wasting more than £270 a year (£5.20 a week) on discarded food.
The survey carried out by Birds Eye with research by Wrap (Waste & Resources Action Programme) found the figure was £680.”
Just how they “found” that £270 was really, magically, £680, almost 20 times my own inflated figure, I shall have to leave to your imagination.
I doubt it will be as vivid as WRAP’s who, of course, have a vested interest in justifying their own existence.