Over one third of ‘meal prep’ food wasted

Food waste app Too Good To Go, which provides customers with surplus restaurant food, has published research suggesting that ‘meal prepping’ could be contributing to household food waste, as people throw out meals if they are unsure that the food is still safe to eat.

Meal prepping, which involves bulk cooking several days’ worth of meals, has become a popular trend in recent years, with 54 per cent of Brits saying that they meal prep on a regular basis to save time and money throughout the week.

Four boxes of meal prep

Whilst meal prepping can reduce waste from overbuying, the research from Too Good To Go has revealed that 34 per cent of prepped meals are binned, with 33 per cent of these thrown away because people forget to eat them.

The results of the study, which surveyed 2,000 people via market research agency Censuswide, highlighted a lack of awareness around the best ways to store food, with over a quarter of those asked saying that they avoid meals when they are uncertain if the food is still safe. Although freezing is an effective means of making food last longer, many people are uncertain of what is and isn’t suitable for the deep-freeze, with 89 per cent unaware that overnight oats, a popular meal-prep choice, can be frozen.

The research from Too Good To Go suggested that people would like to learn more about how to make food last longer, with 81 per cent of people saying that they would be less likely to throw food away if they were provided with more information on storage.

Hayley Conick, UK Managing Director of Too Good To Go, said: “It’s easy to see why #MealPrep is a growing trend – it’s a brilliant way to save time and money while eating healthily.

“But if a third of the food prepared eventually ends up in the bin, we’re just delaying the problem. Wasted meal prep dishes will still hit your wallet while also contributing to the food waste crisis.

“Food waste causes 8 per cent of greenhouse gases worldwide. If food waste were a country it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US and China. That’s why we’re helping everyone to do their bit for the planet by rescuing delicious, perfectly edible meals from retailers, cafes and restaurants that would otherwise be thrown away.”

Food waste crisis

With 10 million tonnes of food wasted each year, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), it is clear that urgent action is needed to cut down on the amount of food thrown away.

As well as uncertainty around food storage, there is also widespread confusion about when items should be thrown away, with customers treating ‘best before’ dates as if they were ‘use by dates’, leading to edible food being wasted.

When people are properly informed about how best to store their food, meal prepping can provide an effective means of preventing food waste by ensuring that people don’t buy more than they need.

WRAP’s recent campaign, ‘Spoiled Rotten’, asks people to consider their individual food waste habits, aiming to encourage meal planning to prevent overbuying. Similarly, academics at Loughborough University have recently developed a simple food planner aiming to help people think more carefully when shopping for food.

As the results of Too Good To Go’s survey suggest, meal prepping alone does not provide a simple resolution to the household food waste problem. However, when done in conjunction with appropriate knowledge and information on how best to store food, planning and pre-preparing meals can effectively ensure that no food goes to waste.

Tips to avoid meal prep waste can be viewed on the Too Good To Go website.

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