One of the key issues at the recent G8 summit was the global increase in the cost of food. As discussed previously, the rising price of staple foods has been linked to the increased cost of oil, which has caused land previously used for food crops to be turned over to crops for bio-fuels.
At the summit in Japan, the World Bank President Robert Zoellick highlighted the growing food shortage and urged the US and ‘rich countries’ in the EU to reform their bio-fuels policies and concentrate on food production. All well and good but it’s hard to believe all this talk is going do much to curb the rate at which your weekly shopping bill is creeping up, especially considering the frequency of missed G8 targets.
But we’re not as helpless as we imagine, the average consumer might not be able to dictate how farmers use their land but we can make sensible choices when it comes to dinner time. You’d think, with the increased prices, that people would be making an effort to make each meal count, but a recent survey estimates the average UK household throws away £8 of leftovers a week and each year in the UK as a whole wastes 4 million tonnes of food. People are spending about 9% of their income on food, with poorer households forking out up to 15% of theirs on staple foods such as milk, eggs and bread – foods that have been hit hardest by price increases in recent months.
This week Gordon Brown urged Britons to stop wasting food and to avoid making unnecessary purchases. But it’s not just the consumers who need to change their habits, the government might be more successful in reducing waste if they tackled supermarkets directly. The Liberal Democrats environment spokesman Steve Webb, blamed the governments “cosy” relationship with supermarkets for their failure to change policies which make it harder for householders to avoid food waste: “They refuse to stock small portions, which are essential for the growing number of one-person households, and offer too many buy-one-get-one-free deals on perishable goods.” Supermarkets also account for a large percentage of waste and throw away large quantities of edible food through poor stock management.
So, what can you do? Try planning your evening meals for the week and using up tins you’ve shoved to the back of the cupboard. Making extra in the evening means you take care of lunch the next day too – and this saves on energy, as you won’t be turning the cooker on again. Cooking for more people always works out more economically so offer to cook for your flatmates or friends and get them to return the favour another night. You can also try avoiding supermarkets; they might seem cheaper at first but in the long term it means smaller shops can’t survive or have to put their prices up further. If you do have to go to the supermarket write a list and stick to it – don’t be tempted by offers which will leave you with a fridge full of out of date food.