We're a nation of food wimps, needlessly put off by best before dates
PUBLISHED: 18:20 02 January 2019 | UPDATED: 18:20 02 January 2019
Do you throw away food as soon as it passes the best before date? Rachel Moore says use your senses to tell when food is really inedible and stop needless waste
Festive season bin collections are always guaranteed to top the small-talk topics at seasonal get-togethers.
We’re obsessed with how and when we can chuck stuff out. If we don’t know when the bin lorry will be back we get jittery.
Pity we’re not more interested in cutting down what ends up in those bins.
The over-indulgence and gluttony of Christmas and New Year creates such an excess waste mountain we should hang our heads in shame.
Our bins don’t get any less full, however much we claim disapproval for single-use plastics and insist we’d like to send less to landfill.
We’re still focusing more on what we’re buying rather than what we waste. This will be the first, and most likely the only time – but I will agree with environment secretary Michael Gove, when he said: “Food waste is an economic, environmental and moral scandal.”
It is indefensible that, when children are going to school hungry in one street that people in the next are throwing away enough unwanted food for family meals for two days.
Our priorities and morals as a national are badly skewed, if not wrecked.
We’re all guilty. Now, by our own ineptitude and wastefulness, government resources are having to be diverted to tackle a problem we have created all by ourselves and, for once, we can’t blame the government, or anyone apart from ourselves.
If we resolve to make one change in our homes this year, it must be to cut down on the obscene amount of food we throw away every day. That means changing how we shop, cook and eat.
Businesses that dump huge amounts of food that is perfectly safe to eat every day must shape up too.
It was bin day for us yesterday. Green bin day, which, in our district, is general waste.
Driving to work yesterday morning, overflowing wheelie bins had been dragged to the end of drives after festive gorging.
Doubtless, lurking in the reams of unrecyclable wrapping paper, chocolate tubs and unnecessary supermarket black plastic packaging, were unopened packs of meat and fish, on-the-turn vegetables and, I wager, on very street about a dozen unused tubs of brandy/cognac/grand Marnier cream/brandy butter, bought every year because they’re must-haves but rarely touched by human hands.
All chucked into the trolley on the pre-siege supermarket sweep, they had just passed their best before or use-by date, so are declared “waste.’
Such slaves we are to be told what to do, when to do it and how to do it, we’ve relinquished all our common sense and decision-making about what we eat to the food police who, protecting themselves by the widest parameters from any risk of litigation (and to persuade you to buy more), slap short use-by dates on items, which are perfectly fine to consume.
It always tickles me that a chicken bought from a butcher has no use-by date. He expects you to use your nose and sense, but a chicken bought from a supermarket bears instructions that, in our heads, must be obeyed to cook and eat it before the magic date on its plastic wrapping or it ends up in the bin.
But it’s not funny. Waste is criminal.
We’ve forgotten – or never learned, in the case of my generation and after – how to shop sensibly and how to cook with what we have, rather than what a recipe dictates we must have.
We’ve lost the knack of making food work for us, but are slaves to the industry that provides it. We should be so ashamed that the government has had to appoint a food waste champion because we create £10.2million of waste a year, the equivalent of 250 million meals a year.
Yes, 250 million meals – when teenagers are begging and sleeping in the streets and families earning the supposed “living wage” rely on food banks.
Our wastefulness has been deemed enough of a crisis to appoint a champion to sort it out. His first job will be to redirect waste food to those who need it before it ends up in landfill, which is what being a society is all about.
The food industry is culpable, throwing away £800,000million worth of food and drink last year.
Short shelf life is a big problem, but there is someone who needs every bit of food we throw away.
We must change our shopping habits now. The weekly shop, buying “just in case” rather for need, stockpiling and chucking away, was the start.
Our lack of imagination in the kitchen and our pathetic fear that eating something a day past the date on the packet will poison us has created a real crisis.
When you’re tempted by the ‘book now’ holiday adverts, don’t forget to include granny.
Taking grandparents on family holidays is a tacking loneliness, according to the minister tackling social isolation, Mims Davies.
Call me cynical, but usually the only reason grandparents are usually invited on family holidays is to babysit and provide a cocktail hour pass.
Far better to encouraging grandparents, especially widows or widowers, to go on holidays with other elderly people, to let their hair down and have fun with no responsibility of looking after small children.
Often all they need is confidence to venture out with friends to beat loneliness by themselves and shape their own lives.