Every year we throw away a lot of food, much of it perfectly edible. WRAP (the waste and recycling advisory body) estimates that in 2015 we threw away about 4.4 million tonnes of food that could have been eaten. That is about £13 billion worth of food, or the equivalent of £200 for every person. Perhaps it is just an inevitable part of our pre-prepared, ready bagged, multipacked, buy-one-get-one-free way of shopping. But Tony Cowling, one of Reading Sustainability Centre’s directors, thinks not and has a friend who is providing living proof. Read on to find out more about how Quentin is bucking the food waste trend.
Quentin, a recent graduate of Reading University now rents a one bedroom flat near where he works.
Quentin is a unique person. He spends the least on food of anyone that I know. He is well organised and plans his meals carefully, only buying what he can store and eat for a week in advance. He knows portion sizes with precision, he does not waste anything. However, on the rare occasion there are surplus left overs or food approaching its use by date, Quentin will resourcefully and creatively cook, freeze or plan it into the following week’s menu and shopping requirements. If needed, he’ll make soup with anything that he can’t consume, or simply add it to the next meal.
His shopping list is disciplined and he doesn’t deviate on impulse. He avoids highly processed ingredients or pre-prepared meals and sticks to unadulterated food types, such as; rice, noodles, pasta, porridge, pulses, bread and potatoes, meat, fish, fresh fruit and vegetables. He also dislikes sweets, but you already guessed that.
Some people spend more on take away coffee than Quentin spends on food in a week! He only spends £25 per week not including his generous contributions to bring and share work lunches, and this does include his lunches for work. That is just 40% of the average for a single person.
Hopefully Quentin will be able to share some first-hand tips on the Sustainability Centre web site in the future (see below). In the meantime, hats off to Quentin for his impressive achievements in cutting out unnecessary food waste in his shopping and cooking.
Quentin kindly explains his strategy using the example of a typical week’s menu and shopping costs.
I would of course be happy to tell you about my shopping expenses. Using the past week as an example…
(If no price is next to the ingredient, it means it had been previously purchased in bulk.)
Breakfast (alternating between Weetabix and cornflakes):
Lunch – bacon and pesto pasta (4 servings for work):
Bacon for cooking, frozen
Basil pesto £1.00
Cheery tomatoes £0.53
Lunch – contribution to a bring-and-share at work:
Clotted cream £1.85
Strawberry jam £2.19
Lunch – garlic bread, smoked salmon, salad (2 servings for the weekend):
Garlic bread, frozen
Smoked salmon (reduced price) £1.00
Dinner – Seafood paella (3 servings):
Green beans £1.00
Frozen seafood from pack
Dinner – Lamb chops (3 servings):
Frozen lamb chops £3.75
Dinner – cold supper at church evening group: Free!
Kiwi fruits £0.51
If I had included the shares of ingredients pre-purchased in bulk, I shouldn’t think the total coast would have exceeded £30. I guess my trick is to purchase ingredients in bulk, to prepare a few servings for each dish, and to eliminate wastage of fresh ingredients that will not last.
I hope this helps! Quentin