People Are Losing More Money on Food Waste Than They Realize

A U.K. study showed that families toss the equivalent of 11 meals a month.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Jan 29, 2016· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

How much money do you waste a month by throwing away otherwise edible food?

I’m always amazed and saddened to find the lingering bags of carrots or lettuce hiding in the bottom of the fridge—and even if they end up in my compost pile, they arguably would have better served as a meal. Still, I wouldn’t say I’m throwing away all that much money on a monthly basis, but a new survey conducted in the U.K. suggests that I may be underestimating. Most people, the study found, are tossing twice as much food into the rubbish bin as they believe—and wasting nearly $85 in the process.

The data was collected on behalf of the supermarket chain Sainsbury's, which is working to cut back on food waste both before and after its customers pay for their groceries.

“Food waste is one of society’s biggest environmental issues at the moment and there is a genuine passion across the UK to tackle it,” Mike Coup, the supermarket chain’s CEO, told The Guardian. We hope to work with shoppers and householders to find ways of making behavioural change, which is key to long-term success.”

To make those changes to behavior, it’s important to understand how people are treating food—in terms of both how much they’re wasting and how much they believe they’re wasting. The survey found that 81 percent of households with four people are under the impression that they toss just over $40 worth of food a month; in reality, it’s about twice as much—the equivalent of 11 entire meals.

Swadlincote, population 35,000, won a competition to have Sainsbury's spend a million pounds in the town to experiment with various solutions to limit food waste and save the average family as much as $500 a year. Ideas for achieving those savings run the gamut from installing refrigerator thermometers to high-tech food labels that count down the days before a product will go bad.

The goal of the project—in which Sainsbury will spend 10 million pounds over the next decade on similar efforts—is to reduce food waste by 50 percent. That may ring a bell—both President Obama and the United Nations have set the same benchmark, which they hope to hit by 2030.