For most of us, the food shop is costly in terms of both time and money. I go to one of three main supermarkets at least twice a week and buy extras ad-hoc. I’ve tried on many occasions to plan a weekly menu and to shop accordingly, but it tends to fall by the wayside after a few weeks. My shopping habits changed drastically during lockdown when Ian, my two teenage children and I were home for three meals a day. I couldn’t believe how often I had to replenish the cupboard and, even more frequently, the fridge. I simply couldn’t keep on top of the demand for milk, salad, fruit and veg.
Now though, it’s different. My daughter Poppy has gone back to university, Harry’s back at school in his final A-level year, and Ian only works from home for some of the time. My nest feels empty by comparison. But even though I need less food, I STILL go to the supermarket several times per week. This not only takes a lot of time, it presents more opportunities to be enticed by special offers and multi-buys. This results in impulse purchases and a greater than necessary food bill. Not only that, I sometimes waste food because it’s past its best.
Filter Out Food Waste
I was shocked when I read some research from sustainability charity WRAP. It revealed that British households collectively pour 490 million pints of milk down the sink per year, because it’s past its best. The charity found that switching to longer-lasting milks, (like Arla Cravendale), could reduce that amount by around 80%. I was equally surprised when I found out if food waste was a country, it’d be the 3rd biggest contributor of CO2 emissions, after China and USA!
I want to be able to do my bit to help reduce food waste, which is why I am taking part in a unique study with Arla Cravendale to monitor my shopping approach and food waste habits. Arla Cravendale is passionate about helping to reduce waste and has launched a campaign called ‘Filter out Food Waste.’ This focuses on shopping behaviours, and how money is ‘poured down the drain’ when we waste things, for example milk that’s past its best, food left over in the fridge and buying things in large quantities, that are surplus to requirement. Guilty as charged. Arla Cravendale aims to show that making smarter choices in the shop can pay off at home by reducing both food waste and costs.
About Arla Cravendale
Arla Cravendale is passionate about crafting the purest fresh British milk around. They finely filter the milk to make it purer for a delicious taste, and because they remove more of the natural impurities, it lasts twice as long as standard fresh when opened, (7 days vs 3), and 3 weeks unopened (vs 2 weeks). No additives or preservatives – simply fresh milk that gets filtered for purity, so it lasts longer and less goes to waste. What’s not to love!
Monitoring My Food-Shopping Behaviour
Arla Cravendale asked me to shop and live as normal for two weeks. They monitored my behaviour in three ways:
- Via a Go-Pro type camera as I shopped, with a narrative of my thoughts and habits.
- With fridge photos: a series of snapshots throughout the week to show what went into the fridge, and if anything remained untouched.
- A waste watch-list. A record of everything I threw away and why.
After two weeks, Behavioural Expert Corinne Sweet analysed my behaviour, then provided me with some tips on how to reduce waste in the home by making simple changes. Over the following two weeks, I adopted new behaviours following the recommendations. These too were monitored by the expert.
Shopping Diary Weeks One And Two
Shop 1: (Day One): Morrisons.
My fiance Ian and I shopped together and got everything on the list apart from new potatoes. I spied a pack of breaded fish sporting a yellow label, so I got it to put in the freezer. This was the only additional food product. Food shopping always takes longer when I’m with Ian, partly because we end up wandering off and looking at different things from each other. I’m more focussed when I shop alone.
Shop 2: (Day Four): Aldi
The second shop was again with Ian. We went as soon as I finished work. I’m an optometrist and work three consecutive 11-hour days in practice in full PPE. I’m tired, hungry and dehydrated after work and this definitely influenced my shopping behaviour; we bought three “unplanned” pizzas plus some chorizo to put on them. Other impulse and extra buys included some chocolate mousses for Harry, some chocolate for us and then staples butter and white wine vinegar which we were running out of.
(I get most of our basics including tea, cereal, tins of pulses, passata, poppadoms, yogurt, cat food and loo roll from Aldi. If I want a particular brand, then Morrisons is my supermarket of choice).
Shop 3: Day 5: Marks and Spencer Simply Food
This was a complete impulse shop. I work near to an M&S Simply Food and just fancied a wander round during my lunch hour. Therefore, I didn’t have a list or a plan. I succumbed to the £12 Dine In offer and chose a roast chicken, tenderstem broccoli, sticky toffee pudding and a bottle of white wine. The fresh oranges looked gorgeous, so I bought two. It was pouring with rain and really quite cold. I’m certain this went some way to me choosing the comfort food that is sticky toffee pudding. And if I needed any more justification, I had some custard to use up in the fridge. After all, this project is about reducing food waste.
Shop 4: Day 9: Aldi
This was another planned shop which turned out to be bigger than I expected. I went alone, after work in the early evening, so was quicker then when I’m with Ian! I tend to add items to a shopping list as I run out of them, or, just as and when I remember. On this occasion, it turned out that I hadn’t quite remembered everything until I got into the store. However, there weren’t any impulse buys as such; all of the extras were things I use on a regular basis.
Food Waste Diary: Weeks One and Two
Keeping a food waste diary made me realise how much food goes to waste. I didn’t discard anything in large quantities, but it was more than I expected. I’m just thankful that I don’t contribute to the 490 million pints of milk that get poured down the sink every year. Anybody with a teenage son will know, the problem is quite the opposite. Supply of milk for their copious cereal doesn’t always keep up with demand. When Harry goes to university a year from now, I’ll have to remember not to buy milk in the quantities that I do. I can see why empty-nesters might end up with milk that gets past its best and why Arla Cravendale is a great solution because it lasts longer.
The Expert’s Analysis
I sent the footage of my shopping along with daily photographs of my fridge, my shopped list and my food waste diary for expert analysis. This is what she said:
“Lizzy is a busy working professional with two almost grown up children, and she likes to have good, healthy food and drink to hand. However, she works long hours, so has to make an effort to have what she needs to hand. Lizzy is more of an ‘impulse’ shopper, who likes variety, and special offers. She likes change and doesn’t want to waste food, but sometimes does, as the impulsive purchases can replace what was planned.”
- Plan meals more so that the impulsive side of buying is curbed, which will mean less waste;
- Be aware of liking to ‘browse’ in supermarkets and shops, but this can lead to impulse purchases (not all bad by any means);
- Involve partner in some meal planning/cooking, to be more accurate about the weekly shop;
- Try not to shop when tired and hungry as we tend to buy more or be attracted to sweets or puddings, when empty ourselves;
- Be realistic about shopping – maybe make a regular phone list when things get low.
My New Shopping Strategies To Save Time and Reduce Food Waste
I agree 100% with the expert analysis. Good food and drink is an absolute priority. Ian and I both love to cook and we make almost everything from scratch so use a lot of fresh ingredients.
I’m going to write a weekly meal plan, check the cupboards and fridge to see what we need and stick to that list. I hope that this will necessitate fewer trips to the supermarket and fewer impulse buys. From now on, I’m going to shop on one of my days off so I’m not as tired and hungry as I am after a long day in practice.
There are times too that I go to the supermarket just because we’re running out of milk. Inevitably, I buy additional items too. So, to eliminate the need for those extra trips to buy more milk I’m switching to Arla Cravendale which lasts 21 days unopened (vs. 14 days standard fresh) meaning I won’t need to shop as frequently.
If you are interested in receiving a free Fridge Thermometer which can help food to make the food in your fridge last longer, buy any bottle of Cravendale in Tesco by the 28th, keep your receipt & claim at cravendalefoodwaste.co.uk
This post is sponsored and was commissioned by Arla Cravendale
This is brilliant, I’m all for reducing food waste. Great initiative Liz, thanks for sharing.
Thank you Michelle. It has really made me aware of every single item of food I buy and use and I have reduced both costs and waste. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and know it will have a long-term effect on how I shop for food xxx
Liz this study of your food waste habits was SO fascinating! I’m like you in that I think we’re doing well but if I were to actually record everything, I’m sure there’d be areas where we could improve. Keith and I drink different milks so it gets used a lot slower than most households as it’s only him drinking it… I *must* remember to look out for Cravendale now as it lasts longer!
Thanks for this excellent post 😀
It was really fascinating and already I’m seeing the benefit of planning a weekly menu. I have shopped less so spent less and I haven’t wasted a single thing! I’m really, really pleased I took part in it xxx