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; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
fashion
News
news
News
people
Travel
Warner Bros released a mock-up of what the new Central Perk will look like
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
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

    Quantitative Risk Manager

    Up to £80000: Saxton Leigh: My client, a large commodities broker, is looking ...

    COO / Chief Operating Officer

    £80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

    Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

    £400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

    Market Risk & Control Manager

    Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments