How Lockdown Has Cut Household Food Waste

How Lockdown Has Cut Household Food Waste

A lesser known side effect of lockdown in the UK? Our changing attitudes to cooking and household food waste.

Charity WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme) released recent survey results to show how the way we shop and cook has been transformed during lockdown.

63% claim to be food shopping less frequently and 59% are buying in order to cook more meals at home. Visiting the supermarket less often and sometimes facing fewer choices than normal have helped us become more organised when shopping. We’ve all been guilty of finding slightly squidgy produce at the back of the fridge that we’d forgotten about. Food waste can often occur when we buy more than we need and don’t plan ahead to what meals we want to make.

WRAP’s research shows how we’ve become more ‘food smart’ during lockdown:

  • 45% of us are checking the fridge more often before food shopping
  • 47% of us are checking our cupboards more frequently before visiting the supermarket
  • 37% of us have been organising our food in the kitchen (which is likely reminding us what we already have and prompting us to bring older foods to the front of cupboards and shelves)
  • 33% of people say they are cooking more creatively during lockdown
  • 30% of respondents also say they have started saving leftovers

Aside from the benefits of cooking from scratch, including mindfulness and creativity, our changing habits have led to a 34% reduction in the amount of bread, chicken, potatoes and milk thrown away uneaten. Along with the lack of spontaneous meals out or fewer takeaways, this staggering decrease is a clear indication that with a little more organisation, we can greatly reduce household food waste.

Butternut squash in a basket

Why Food Waste Matters

87% of respondents to WRAP’s survey said food waste was an important national issue. But how much do you really know about the scale of the problem?

According to WRAP’s Food surplus and waste in the UK – key facts report, we throw away approximately 6.6 million tonnes of food waste each year. And that’s just from our homes. An area the size of Wales would be needed to produce the amount of food and drink we throw out in the UK. For the average family with kids, this is the same as throwing £60 straight in the bin every month.

But it’s not just a waste of money. It’s also a huge waste of resources, leading to unnecessary pollution. Between 2007 and 2018 the reduction in UK food waste led to savings of 5.3 million tonnes of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) a year. That’s the same as taking 2.4 million cars off the road for an entire year, WRAP says.

Surprised? Read more about food waste facts and how to reduce your impact.

Social distancing measures and lockdown have encouraged us to slow down and become more conscious of how much and what we are buying during our far less frequent shopping trips. These new habits, if we continue to uphold them, could start to pave the way for much needed change in the large quantities of food we waste in the UK.

If you’re reflecting on how to embrace conscious consumerism, you may also be interested in our guide to seasonal eating and the slow food movement.