Half of Brits waste food - and 80% throw out good fruit and veg. Here's how to enjoy it instead

·6-min read
Don't throw it out - turn it into something else. (Getty Images)
Don't throw it out - turn it into something else. (Getty Images)

We all know that throwing out uneaten food is bad for the planet, and a huge waste of our hard-earned cash. In recent years, many have tried to do better, with some supermarkets ending wasteful BOGOF deals, and selling smaller portions.

Sadly, as the world's most crucial climate conference, COP26, is about to begin in Glasgow, it looks like we're still not doing nearly enough, for our homes or our wallets.

New research by KBK, a healthy meal plan delivery service, has found that one in two Brits waste food, because they "can’t use fresh produce fast enough," with 80% of the waste being fruit and vegetables.

Rather than looking for sustainability, many are worried, unsurprisingly, about cost, with almost 75% of women saying price is the most important factor in food shopping, while over half of men said quality was what concerned them most.

Nevertheless, half of the 2000 people surveyed admitted that sustainability had become more important to them over the past year, as evidence of climate change grows. Most say they throw food out purely because they 'don't have time' to use it all before it goes off, and blame multipacks of fruit and veg for the problem. 

Read more: Simple, zero-waste tips to help you actually eat the food in your fridge

single use plastic packaging issue. fruits and vegetables in plastic bags
Over-buying means fruit and veg doesn't get eaten. (Getty Images)

Londoners are the worst offenders, with one in three convinced they can't make a difference by shopping sustainably, and over 10% admitting they waste food 'all the time.'

However, the greenest city is Bristol, with very few respondents admitting to wasting any. Worryingly, the reasons many don't shop sustainably are twofold - 50% of women say they can't afford to, and 1 in 3 men believe it won't make any difference. At the same time, half of those surveyed thought the way to raise more awareness around food waste and recycling is through better education in schools.

Watch: Milan food waste scheme among first winners of Prince William's Earthshot Prize

Part of the problem is also revealed as impulse buying, with with half f women buying 'unhealthy foods' when shopping, and almost 50% 'struggling' to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

When it comes to cutting down on meat - considered to be better for the planet and for health - Greater London triumphed with lowest number of meat eaters: A significant 40% of those surveyed don’t eat meat. All the same, one in three Londoners said they didn't have time to cook healthy food.

Young happy sportswoman slicing fruit while making smoothie in her kitchen.
"I haven't got time for this, I was due on the treadmill an hour ago." (Getty Images)

In the South West and Scotland, however, over 75% enjoy meat, with Edinburgh topping the chart as home to 80% carnivores. 

For most, the waste is not down to bad intentions - it's simply the conviction that shopping 'sustainably' is too pricey. But checking labels for country of origin and buying loose produce when possible can make a huge difference to our carbon footrprint and the amount of waste generated.

According to the organisation Love Food Hate Waste, global food waste generates 22 million tonnes of greenhouse gases – that’s four times more than all aeroplanes put together, and UK households alone waste 6.5 million tonnes of food every year, 4.5 million of which is edible. 

Overhead view of fruit and vegetable scraps in a white enamel container, ready to go in the compost.
You could make a stew with that! Well, some of it. (Getty Images)

Every day, the equivalent of 20 million slices of bread are thrown away in UK homes. "This could have fed breakfast to 10 million people," says the website. 

"4.5 million tonnes are enough to fill 38 million wheelie bins, or 90 Royal Albert Halls. It’s a lot, but we have the power to change this."

On a more individual level, throwing less away could mean the average family saves around £720 a year.

"If global food waste were a country, it would be third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the US," says Love Food Hate Waste. 

Read more: 10 simple hacks for reducing food waste

With a third of all food produced globally going to waste, it's time for a rethink. Here's some quick anti-waste hacks to help you make the most of your leftover bits and bobs, and save money (and the planet) while you're at it.

Potato peelings

Woman peel potatoes on the wooden table horizontal
Make crisps or soup. Or both! (Getty Images)

Try potato peeling soup for a creamy and delicious solution to wasted potato. You can also oil and salt the washed skins and bake them in the oven for deliciously nutritious crisps. 

Dried up cheese

Top view with copy space.
Risotto can be improved no end with a bit of dried up cheese. (Getty Images)

3.1 million slices of cheese are thrown away every day. That's an awful lot of wasted cheesiness. Instead, throw any dried up bits in risotto to flavour it, or use in an omelette made with mushrooms and chilli. 

Cauliflower leaves

Throw the leaves in with a cauliflower cheese, or toss in oil and seasoning, sprinkle with cheese and bake in a low oven until crisp - they make very tasty snacks. 

Broccoli stems

Don't chuck out the stems, wash them, slice into discs and season, then bake or fry for crispy veggie snacks, or use like courgette in pasta and sauces. 

Old bananas

Homemade Banana Nut Bread Cut into Slices
Banana bread was the go-to during lockdown - don't give up on it now. (Getty Images)

Blend black bananas with plain or vanilla yoghurt and freeze to make a healthy treat, or whip into a banana bread, with chocolate chips for the win. 

Soft fruit

Ageing soft fruit lends itself perfectly to crumble or even a tarte tatin. Just stone and slice then add to your pud of choice. 

Stale bread

Crispy Katsu Chicken Curry with fragrant rice
Coat chicken in breadcrumbs made from a stale loaf. (Getty Images)

Never use up mouldy bread - but if it's just stale, whizz in the blender to make breadcrumbs, season with dried herbs or spices, and you'll have a perfect coating for friend chicken. Just keep in an airtight bag in the freezer. 

There's plenty more ideas at Love Food Hate Waste

Watch: 7 Easy & Creative Ways to Turn Dinner Into Breakfast

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