UK consumers ‘don’t know what to cook’ as £1.2bn of food is binned a year

Almost £1.2bn worth of fruit, veg and bread is binned in the UK every year, with one in five consumers stating the reason they waste so much is they “don’t know what to cook”.

Close to 76m items – an average of nearly three a household – are thrown away every week, according to data based on research by the Censuswide, which asked consumers how much food they threw away. The scale of the waste is staggering, with 914m potatoes, 733m tomatoes and 728m carrots ending up in dustbins each year.

More than half of the 2,000 consumers polled on behalf of Sainsbury’s admitted they felt guilty about the amount of food they threw away.

A fifth, however, explained the reason they wasted so much was they did not know what to cook. A similar proportion said they could reduce their food waste if they knew more recipes.

The issue of food waste is coming to the fore as households, hit with rising shopping and energy bills, struggle to make ends meet. The habit is also terrible for the planet because of the high greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production.

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Sainsbury’s said the average UK household threw away 142 carrots, onions, tomatoes, courgettes, potatoes and loaves of bread a year. Nevertheless, the survey found Britons started 2022 with ambitions to mend their ways, with one in five resolving to cut their food waste and one in 10 aiming to bring down their carbon footprint and buy secondhand products.

To help shoppers tackle food waste the supermarket is promoting recipes for easy-to-make and affordable soups that use up vegetables that might otherwise get chucked out. The recipes include soups such as roasted tomato and pepper, and pea and leek, which it says can feed a family of four for under £5.

Mark Given, the chief marketing officer at Sainsbury’s, said there was a common misconception that making soup from scratch was difficult. “We’re determined to show our customers that this isn’t the case whilst providing them with healthier options that will help them reduce their food waste, one bowl at a time.”