Thursday, 30 September 2010

Eat Up Britain!

Britain is in a quandary – what to do with its leftovers? A throwaway society, we are experts in our wastefulness. No item, big or small, escapes landfill mountain - food, packaging, white and electrical goods. Once considered past its best, nothing is too good to be disposed of, even people. Brand new shiny models eagerly wait in line to take the place of barely used appliances. Granted, there has been progress in recent years. Recycling has become a household word, but the statistics for food waste continue to appall. 8 million tonnes of food is wasted and thrown away each year. Like the health warnings stamped on cigarette packets, figures and percentages however mean little. Britain needs visual images on a grand scale. Could a mobile Museum of Food Waste or Bin Police provide the much-needed solution to this crime?

The biggest culprits, as reported by Financial Times magazine, are single person households. Those living alone apparently waste more than the average family by not using up food or overestimating portion sizes. You can't argue with statistics they say. Fine, but as a single person, I take issue with these findings. You may be independent and contribute to society, but live alone and you're a feckless food waster. The savvy shoppers among us are single people too. Is that really so inconceivable? Being single, I naturally think I have it better. There's no spouse or child pulling on my arm, flailing around on the floor at my feet, or creating a scene down the supermarket aisles. The only pester power I have to answer to is my own incessant mind chatter. Quietening that little voice often presents a challenge in itself. Should blame however be apportioned to any one group? Aren't we all in this together?

As consumers, we have to shoulder some of the blame for the food we throw out. Buy-One-Get-One-Free offers prove irresistible at times, but are they really worth the supposed saving? Do you really need that extra bunch of bananas or loaf of bread? More times than not the answer will be no. Kitchen cupboards and fridges have grown larger and so has our desire to fill these with goodies. Could the scarcity of food during the war resulted in our current need to hoard? More than likely. Irrational as it may be, there is a fear of having to make do like our ancestors before. Survival of the fittest today equates to gluttony and greed. Resourcefulness is for wimps and dissenters.

I am that dissenter. Tell supermarkets to BOGOF and buy less. Buy what you need, not what you won't use. Am I the only one that looks forward to menu planning my week? It can be fun and even involve the whole family. Waste is minimal, leftovers are magically whipped up into soups, salads, and lunches for the next day, and you don't have to think about “what's for tea”. Love food, hate waste. Revel in culinary messiness and forget about perfection. After all, a clear plate is a clear conscience.