Fussy eaters, varying tastes and clashing schedules means British families are having to prepare and cook multiple meals every day, according to new findings from Sainsbury’s. This new ‘patchwork’ approach to family meals is contributing to the seven million tonnes of food waste generated by UK households every year.
On average, parents make two different dishes for one meal time every day to accommodate the varying needs of the family, and a fifth make as many as three, according to new research from the supermarket’s Waste less, Save more initiative, developed to help shoppers reduce household food waste.
This trend of making multiple meals, dubbed the ‘patchwork’ way of feeding families, is driving the amount of food that is being wasted in the nation’s households. One in nine families say they ALWAYS have leftover ingredients and nearly a third (27%) admit that these leftover ingredients, bought to suit varying needs, often get thrown away. To put this into context, it means over 3.5 million families in the UK are binning food as a result of catering for different tastes, diets and routines.
Paul Crewe, Head of Sustainability, Engineering, Energy & Environment at Sainsbury’s, said: “We understand the challenge that Britons face when it comes to juggling the differing eating habits of one household. Over a third (38%) of households waste food because of the varying needs of the family, which is why we want to help ‘patchwork’ families avoid binning food.
“Planning meal times is key here. Meal planning by ingredient and using last night’s dinner for tomorrow’s lunch are simple things that can help patchwork families cut food waste and save money.”
One real life patchwork family are The Hilliers, a family of four who live in Swindon. Busy schedules and individual preferences mean there are multiple meals cooked every evening. While Neil (47) regards himself as the ‘least fussy’ of the family he is probably the one who gets home the latest and therefore has a conflicting routine to the rest of the family. Jo (39) chooses to be wheat, gluten and dairy-free in a bid to live a healthier lifestyle, Freya (9) has a nut allergy and Amelie (8), the youngest in the house, has recently opted to be a vegetarian. The children have extracurricular activities and both Neil and Jo work full time, making their schedules busy and often clashing.
Jo explains: “We are a two-shift family when it comes to eating our evening meal – there’s the early shift and then the late shift and both dining times involve different meals which can sometimes mean I’m cooking up to three meals per day.
“It can be challenging but as long as there’s a meal plan in place for everyone for the week ahead, it works!”
To help ‘patchwork’ families like The Hilliers, Sainsbury’s has some top tips to ensure households have a happy and waste-free kitchen:
Think ahead: if you’re cooking something for an evening meal that can be used for lunches, cook extra portions to use up all the ingredients so you cater for the working week ahead
Freeze with ease: make it easy for yourself and if only one family member likes a certain dish freeze it in portions that you can defrost the following week for dinner
Mix it up: if someone is a vegetarian, cook a meal where meat can be added at the last minute. For example, bacon lardons or ham can be added to macaroni cheese just before serving for meat eaters
Meal plan: instead of meal planning by days of the week, plan by ingredients. If you have to buy certain foods for a particular dish, plan something for the next day that uses some of the same ingredients
Invest in plastic food containers to make it easier to portion and save portions that you make up with remaining ingredients