National campaign aims to reduce food waste by changing the nation's approach to leftovers and food storage

  • Research reveals widespread confusion between “best before” and “use by dates”, contributing to significant waste
  • Sainsbury's pledges to help shoppers understand that “best before” does not mean “bin before”
  • “Catwalk cookery” obsession contributes to throwaway culture
  • Fruit bowls are a major contributor to waste, research finds
Shoppers are being urged to make better use of leftover food and improve food storage in an effort to cut the mountain of wasted food in Britain's households and to help cash strapped customers make their budgets go further. A recent report from WRAP revealed that food brought home and not eaten was costing £10 billion, the equivalent of up to £600 worth of avoidable waste per household.

National YouGov research for Sainsbury's points to potential confusion between use by dates and best before dates. When asked whether they saw a “use by date” or a “best before date” as a cue to throw away food, 31% and 24% of respondents said yes respectively. The research carried out for Sainsbury's reveals that almost a quarter of Britons throw food away once past its “best before date” even though it may be perfectly edible.

Sainsbury's head of brand policy and sustainability, Alison Austin, said: “Consumer reactions to 'use by' and 'best before' dates are largely similar despite the fundamental difference in their meanings. 'Use by' is an instruction and 'best before' is guidance. The implications of this misunderstanding are that households are throwing away substantial volumes of food on its 'best before' date when it may be perfectly edible. Sainsbury's will take the lead in communicating the important message that best before does not mean bin before and we would like to see cross-industry collaboration on this point.”

The research also indicates a growing obsession with perfect looking 'catwalk cookery' that is contributing to a throwaway culture, with a new generation of cooks losing touch with the value of leftovers, a cornerstone of British cookery for centuries. Almost a quarter (22%) of 18-24 year olds throw away fruit and vegetables as soon as they have lost their perfect look. Alison Austin commented: “Once they've been in the home for a few days, fruit and vegetables can look a bit bruised or tired but they're probably still tasty and perfectly edible.”

“We are so used to seeing 'catwalk cookery' on TV, with its use of perfect-looking ingredients, that we have forgotten how to use leftovers to make meals that the family will love. With a little creativity it's easy to turn leftovers into a culinary delight. Using leftovers, particularly fruit and vegetables, helps meet the five a day targets and saves money.”

Sainsbury's and Good Housekeeping magazine are forming a campaigning alliance, encouraging a new generation of cooks to develop the cookery and home economics skills of their grandmothers and at the same time help the environment and save money.

The campaign, launched in the July issue of Good Housekeeping magazine and backed up by practical advice in all Sainsbury's stores and online, urges shoppers to change their habits and start using leftovers from meals such as the Sunday lunch in other dishes.

Louise Chunn, editor of Good Housekeeping magazine, says: “We're delighted to join forces with Sainsbury's in its “Love Your Leftovers campaign”. With food waste currently topping the news agenda, this initiative will hopefully inspire the nation to think before throwing out perfectly good food. Well be running a series of Tried and Tested tips, celebrity recipes and Good Housekeeping Institute favourites in the magazine for the next eight months. This campaign will not only help UK households save money and reduce waste, but also give leftovers a new lease of life.”

Sainsbury's is creating an online archive of advice on leftover cookery that will also offer tips and recipes to inspire better use of leftover food and is asking its 16.5 million customers to contribute their own ideas for tasty, money-saving recipes.

Alison Austin added: “This campaign is all about showing people that leftovers don't have to be binned. Stews and casseroles often taste better after a day in the fridge when flavours have infused and leftovers can be used in everything from fruit smoothies to cottage pies and home made soups.”

Shoppers will also be urged to store fruit and vegetables in the fridge and only put out in the fruit bowl what is needed for the next day or two. The supermarket has pledged to work closely with campaign group Love Food Hate Waste to discover why so much fresh produce is thrown out. Initial research shows that fruit and veg stored in the fridge can keep fresh for up to two weeks longer and now Sainsbury's will become the first supermarket to display advice on the refrigeration of loose fruit and vegetables in its stores.

Despite the benefits of refrigeration, research shows that 63 per cent of people store most fruit in an open food bowl.

Good Housekeeping and Sainsbury's tips to Bin Less and Save Money:
  1. Before doing the weekly shop, check whats in the fridge and consider what you can make from it.
  2. Try to plan a weeks recipes in advance, with use of leftovers firmly in mind.
  3. Keep your cupboard stocked with herbs, spices, sauces and pickles, all of which can add a magic touch to leftovers.
  4. Bring back to life food that looks past its best with a little culinary know-how. Cube stale bread and toast for croutons or whiz in a food processor to make breadcrumbs. Cook an onion until soft and add any combination of vegetables for a great soup.
  5. Pour remnants of wine into ice-cube trays and freeze. Use the frozen cubes to boost the flavours of gravies or sauces.
  6. Slice leftover lemons or limes and freeze. Add to squash or water to boost the flavour.
  7. After a roast, cooked lamb leftovers can be used in a moussaka or shepherds pie and shredded chicken or pork in a stir-fry.
For more information on Sainsbury's “Love Your Leftovers Campaign”, check out the July issue of Good Housekeeping magazine.