Brits prevent food waste to save money, new survey finds

UK householders are changing their eating habits and preventing food waste due to financial pressures, according to a new survey by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Total household food waste is down by 21% over the last seven years, while the proportion of people who claim to always avoid throwing food away is up from 48% to 58% over four years, the FSA reported.

The FSA report is entitled ‘2014 Food and You study’. It is the third in an ongoing research exercise carried out for the agency, which questioned adults about their eating, cooking and shopping habits. The FSA’s first survey was carried out in 2010 (Wave 1) and its second survey was carried out in 2012 (Wave 2).

Weekly supermarket shop

The research suggests that the austerity period has had a long-lasting impact on the UK’s eating habits, incentivising householders to prevent food waste.

A total of 57% of households still rely on one weekly main shopping expedition, according to the survey. In addition to this, more than a quarter of adults are buying more food on special offers, while householders are wasting less food by being better organised with shopping, planning meals and storing their food safely to maximise its shelf life.

The FSA stated: “Overall, 52% of respondents said they had made at least one change in their buying or eating arrangements in the last six months for financial reasons, compared with 60% at Wave 2.”

The research also revealed that women were more likely than men to report at least one change to their eating arrangements in the last six months for financial reasons (55% of women, 48% of men), while there had been no difference between men and women when the research was carried out in 2012.

Elsewhere, a total of 8% of those with an annual household income of less than £26,000 said that they kept leftovers longer, compared with 4% of those from higher income households.

In contrast, respondents with a household income of £10,400 or more were more likely to report making more packed lunches (15%) than respondents with a lower household income (6%).

The FSA study was carried out this year, consisting of 3,453 interviews from a representative sample of adults aged 16 and over across the UK.

‘Buying little and often’

Supermarket chain Waitrose also launched a report on the UK’s food and drink habits earlier this week. The report, entitled ‘The Waitrose Food and Drink Report’ suggests that shoppers are “buying little and often”.

Waitrose managing director Mark Price said that 2014 had been a “year in which consumers have refused to let go of the shopping habits they adopted during the recession”.

He added: “Britain has become a lot thriftier, probably for the better. And that trend is here to stay. This continued caution goes hand-in-hand with the ongoing revolution in the way we shop.

“But, despite this, three things remain constant: Britons’ culinary curiosity, their love of good food and their desire to eat healthily.”

Food security in the UK

The report comes after the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s(EFRA) this week launched its inquiry into food security in the UK.

The inquiry, Food Security: demand, consumption and waste, will look at how the UK’s food can be sourced sustainably, how food waste can be reduced in the home and how the waste that is produced can be dealt with responsibly.

It will also look at food waste in the restaurant industry and the supply chain.

EFRA chair Anne McIntosh said: “One key concern is whether more can be done to tackle the staggering amount of food wasted at home, in restaurants and along the supply chain from farm to shop. While there has been some progress on this front, each household still throws away too much food.”

Liz Gyekye

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