Consuming Issues: Can frozen food save you time and money?

Shoppers are shovelling more frozen peas, ice cream and ready meals into the freezer. Frozen food sales leapt by 7 per cent in the 52 weeks to September, according to market research firm TNS.

The recession-busting rise is probably explained by people trying to squeeze some extra value out of their shopping by picking up bumper packs of pizzas. But the UK's £5bn-a-year frozen food industry wants to ensure its growth continues when the good times return. It says we should buy frozen food not just because it is cheaper and more convenient than fresh, but because it is better. Frozen is cheaper, healthier and kinder to the planet, according to the frozen food giants.

It's worth scrutinising these claims, because, if they are true, we should all be defrosting meals rather than preparing them from ingredients bought fresh from greengrocers, fishmongers and butchers.

The frozen food industry has been commissioning research from scientists to support its claims. Last month Birds Eye, which makes a frozen "traditional beef dinner", published a study from the respected Institute of Food Research in Norwich about the loss of nutrients and vitamins in fresh food. It turns out that fruit and vegetables can reach shops nine days after being picked, and stay on shelves for four days after that. The scientists found that these fading green beans could lose up to 45 per cent of nutrients, broccoli and cauliflower 25 per cent, garden peas up to 15 per cent, and carrots up to 10 per cent.

By contrast, Birds Eye's garden peas had up to 30 per cent more vitamin C because they were zapped into suspended animation within hours of being harvested.

The British Frozen Food Federation, which represents the likes of Birds Eye, Findus and Dr Oetker, continued the blitz last week by publishing some research into the practicality of frozen food. The Food Unit at Manchester Metropolitan University looked at cost, waste and taste of frozen versus fresh. Nine families ate fresh meals such as chicken curry and spaghetti bol one week and frozen the next. Diaries showed the frozen meals were 33 per cent cheaper and led to 36 per cent less waste.

The British Frozen Food Federation said the survey "reveals that cooking frozen food creates considerably less wastage, is better value for money than cooking from fresh food without compromising on taste". In fact, the families thought the frozen food was significantly less tasty: 82 per cent of fresh meals were rated in the top two of five bands for taste compared with 36 per cent of frozen meals.

Tom MacMillan, executive director of the Food Ethics Council, suspects the freezer giants' campaign is "mainly spin". At least, it is a distraction from the issue that could really made a difference to health and the environment: that British people eat too many carbohydrate, protein-rich meaty meals and too little fruit and vegetables – damaging our health, wealth and planet. Only one in four adults eats five portions of fruit and veg a day, and the recommendation should probably be for eight portions.

When it comes to getting those portions, though, frozen food can help. Frozen peas and carrots etc clearly can be just as healthy, if not more healthy than fresh produce that has hung around in supermarket food distribution chains for a week.

And it can be cheaper and easier to pull from the freezer a few portions of already-shredded spinach than wilt a fresh bunch. But there's probably little benefit from loading up with frozen pizzas or "traditional beef dinners", unless you're very short of time.

Heroes & villians

Crack open the bubbly and celebrate

Hero: Co-op bubbly

Want a decent champagne for a shade over £20? You could do worse than the Co-operative's Les Pionniers 2002, which was named in honour of the co-operative movement's founders, the Rochdale Pioneers. This week it won golds at the International Wine Challenge and the Decanter World Wine Awards. It costs £20.99.

Villain: European Union

Energy labels on household appliances such as washing machines are easy to understand. They are rated A to G, with A being the most efficient. MEPs have voted to introduce three new grades to reflect higher standards, which could be A+, A++ and A+++. How daft. They should have raised the thresholds for meeting A to G.

m.hickman@independent.co.uk

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
people
News
20. Larry Page: Net worth: $23 billion; Country: U.S; Source of wealth: Google
business
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
A collection of 30 Banksy prints at Bonhams auction house in London
art
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

    Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

    £23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

    MBDA UK Ltd: Indirect Procurement Category Manager

    Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness