Food waste caddy

Food waste reduces as households adapt to eating in

Survey finds people are being more careful about shopping for and storing food.
05 May 2020 , Sarah Campbell

People in the UK are managing their food better in lockdown, according to a survey by the sustainability charity Wrap.

Respondents reported a 34% drop in the waste of potatoes, bread, chicken and milk, despite buying more of these items. People’s behaviour has changed too, with almost half saying they’re checking the cupboards and the fridge more often before shopping.

The study, which took place over three days in April, shows shopping patterns in flux. The frequency of shopping is down (63% said they shopped less frequently in the past month) but the amount of food purchased is up (59% said they bought more in the last month).

As a result, it would appear that people are being more mindful of their food stocks. Other examples of improved food management are freezing items and checking use by and best before dates, with 28% of people saying they are doing one or both of these more. Perhaps simplest of all is ‘making a shopping list’, which 34% say they are doing more.

While the findings aren’t necessarily surprising given that restaurants are closed, they show that a more sustainable approach to buying food among the British public is possible. Wrap hopes to use the findings to set a ‘blueprint for future actions’, according to its CEO, Marcus Glover.

“In this sustained period of uncertainty, UK citizens have shown how resilient they can be when it comes to managing their food. These actions should mean less food goes to waste, helping take the pressure off the supply chain and reducing the number of trips we need to make to the shops – or deliveries to our homes. Our goal is to help people use these approaches to set a blueprint for their future actions, but we need support from organisations across the sector.

Kate Thompson, CIEH’s director for Wales and food spokesperson, said: “The Wrap survey has provided valuable insight into consumer behaviours in connection with food. It is encouraging to see that government messaging to stay at home is being heeded with less frequent shopping trips and more meals being prepared at home. Clearly people are spending more time thinking about their meals and planning their shopping trips. This has resulted in less food waste. It will be interesting to see whether, when restrictions are lifted, these behaviours become the new norm.”

Read the report

Key behaviours and percentage of people saying they are doing these more often:

  • Checking what is in the cupboard before shopping 47%
  • Checking what is in the fridge before shopping 45%
  • Checking what is in the freezer before shopping 30%
  • Making a shopping list 34%
  • Keeping an eye on what is in cupboards 37%
  • Keeping an eye on what is in the fridge 37%
  • Thinking about where to store food to keep it fresher for longer 32%
  • Checking Use By and Best Before dates 28%
  • Making a meal by combining ‘random’ ingredients 37%
  • Cooking creatively (trying new meals / recipes) 33%
  • Batch cooking 23%
  • Saving leftovers to use another day 30%
  • Freezing items 28%
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