Lockdown love affair with food is good news – but more can be done to prevent waste

Households are learning to love their food during lockdown – but more can still be done to prevent it being needlessly wasted, says online value retailer Approved Food.

Figures released this week by the resource guidance body WRAP show people are throwing away less food than before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with a 34% reduction in the amount of bread, potatoes, chicken and milk ending up in the bin.

Families are making shopping lists, cooking at home more and managing what’s in their fridge better since the lockdown was introduced in March.

Crucially, people are less likely to throw away food just because it has gone past its best before date – something Approved Food has campaigned on for several years.

Unlike use by dates, that show when food is still safe to eat, best before is simply a guarantee of quality before a certain date. Dried, tinned and vacuum-packed items, for example, can be fine to eat for weeks, months, even years after the best before date on the label.

It’s a far cry from scenes last month when in some areas, dustbins were overflowing with food that had been stockpiled then dumped by irresponsible shoppers.

But there is still work to be done to make this the ‘new normal’, say Approved Food MD Andy Needham and Brand Ambassador Jonathan Straight.

“While it has become apparent that people are becoming more ‘food smart’ and are modifying their shopping and food storage habits,” said Jonathan, “there is more work to be done to ensure this continues beyond the current pandemic.

“We are delighted that attitudes to food waste are changing, with a 23% increase in those who strongly agree that it is an important national issue. We are especially happy to note that 83% of those surveyed know that food is fine to eat beyond the best before date.

“But significant knowledge gaps remain and as we begin to take our first tentative steps towards returning to work, more needs to be done help people continue to manage their food better in order to reduce waste.”

The report identified a gap in people’s knowledge about how best to store food to keep it fresher for longer, which is the same as before lockdown began.

For example, almost half – 49% – of those questioned wrongly thought that apples would keep longer if they were unpacked at room temperature than kept in their original packaging in the fridge. 40% believed food such as chicken breasts should be frozen on the day of purchase, when in fact these can be frozen up to the ‘use by’ date.

Approved Food tips to reduce food waste include:

  • Make a list. Write a shopping list before you head to the supermarket and stick to it.
  • Only buy what you need. Don’t be tempted by multi-buy offers that could end up in the bin.
  • Love your leftovers. Freeze what you don’t eat and label it properly.
  • Set store by good storage. Consider which foods are stored best at room temperature and which will last longer if refrigerated, such as apples.

Keep up the good work. Don’t go back to wasteful attitudes once lockdown has lifted and you have less time to cook from scratch or manage what’s in your fridge.