Waste not, want not: The Western culture of binning food

Supermarket promotions make it easy for us to buy more than we need, but it means we end up throwing away far too much.

Share
Fact File
  • 30% The amount of food we throw away in the West.
Related Topics

Wheat supplies plummet, wheat prices to rocket: the legacy of a dismal wet summer is realised.

A little part of me, the restaurant critic that can’t help eating the entire bread basket before the starters appear, rejoices. If we get less bread in our diets, it’s good for all of us. But – of course – that’s idiotic.

Less wheat also means animal feed shortages – and so more expensive meat - and wheat doesn’t grow in isolation. We can expect shortages/price rises of many other fresh products; and if we eat too much wheat, we certainly don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables (only a quarter of UK adults eat their five-a-day). And when a savoy cabbage is more expensive than a tin of baked beans, who’s going to bother? Everywhere we turn, soon, fresh food prices will be prohibitive. As Professor Tim Lang mentioned on the BBC’s Today programme, fruit prices are already up 34 per cent from five years ago.

But if there is any good to come of this imposed frugality, it is that we may learn to change our food habits. In the West, we throw away 30 per cent of the food we buy. Almost a third. That’s a staggering amount if you stop to think about it. If a supermarket brazenly chucked out the proportionate amount of food that consumers do, there would be outrage.

So with stratospheric food price rises on the horizon, the reckoning. For me, it was already started by the arrival of a green food waste tub in the kitchen. The Sunday morning shop has always been preceded by a cull of what was left over in the fridge. An awful lot, it transpired.

Fresh beetroot, roasted more in hope than expectation, wrinkled and belligerent. Those Cumberland sausages, beaded with sweat and going grey. The cracked, dried-out heel of a packet of cheddar, hacked open in haste and put back unwrapped. All into the tub.

But it’s made too easy. We’re suckered in to price promotions that make us buy three cartons of juice when we only wanted one. Once a teenager has taken a glassful out of each and moved on, they turn nasty; down the drain. And nothing has the price on it anymore, so we’re removed from considering what we’re wasting, in money terms.

Perhaps we need to keep our supermarket receipt on the fridge door, like keeping a ‘fat’ photo there if you’re trying to lose weight – a look at the price of those chicken breasts poised over the Brabantia bin would be shaming.

For the modern consumer, the idea of planning a week’s worth of meals smacked of a post-war, thrifty-ways-with-mince mentality. But it may be an idea whose time has come again. One for your next cookbook, Jamie?

Twitter.com/lisamarkwell

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: When is a baroness not a baroness? Titles still cause confusion

Guy Keleny
 

CPAC 2015: What I learnt from the US — and what the US could learn from Ukip

Nigel Farage
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower