Page last updated at 11:43 GMT, Monday, 7 July 2008 12:43 UK

Planning 'key to avoiding waste'

Fruit yoghurt
More than nine million unopened yoghurts are thrown away each week

Planning meals around the family week is the best way to cut down on food waste, according to experts.

Nutritionists say that healthy meals can still be made on busy days that can save families money.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said "unnecessary" buys were contributing to food price rises with tonnes being thrown away.

A Cabinet Office study says the average UK household throws away 8 of leftovers a week.

Families have reported feeling the pinch with the cost of basic staples such as milk, bread and eggs on the rise.

Grocery bill

Shoppers are increasingly likely to switch to discount grocery stores such as Aldi and Lidl to save cash, according to a report by the Institute of Grocery Distribution.

We even throw away 140,000 tonnes of food that is still in date
Dr Richard Swannell, Wrap

The report forecasts that the discount share of the total UK grocery market will grow from the current 3.4%, worth 4.5bn, to 4.5%, worth 7.5bn, by 2012.

In turn, the discount stores will offer a wider range of fresh food, such as fruit and vegetables, to match shoppers' demand for healthy alternatives.

Nutritionist Nigel Denby said discount offers, such as buy-one-get-one-free were adding to the opportunity to buy bigger amounts of healthy food.

But he said that planning meals around the family's week was key to avoiding waste.

"If a restaurant's food bill was comparable to a household's, then it would soon go out of business," said Mr Denby, who used to work in the catering industry.

He said that restaurants would plan well ahead, judging what was popular and then making the most of oversupply by using these ingredients in "chef's specials".

Households should consider their week before buying, he suggested.

Stir-fried vegetables would be appropriate on a day when a swift meal was needed because children had to be picked up from an after-school club, for example.

Out-of-date?

Potatoes, bread and apples top the list of avoidable food waste, according to Wrap (Waste and Resources Action Programme).

And an estimated 9 million unopened yogurts are thrown away each week.

Fresh food
Discount supermarkets are expected to expand their range of fresh food

Separate studies have revealed some confusion about when food is still suitable to eat.

Food marked with a "use-by" date, such as fish and milk, might not be safe to eat after that date, whereas "best before" labels are put on food, such as canned items, which can still safely be eaten after that date but might have lost some quality.

Richard Swannell, of Wrap, said there were plenty of ways to protect food as it headed towards these dates.

"We even throw away 140,000 tonnes of food that is still in date," he added.

He offered tips for people living on their own, such as freezing bread and just taking out slices to toast rather than throwing away half a loaf.


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