Smart Consumer: Why are we spending €1,000 too much on our grocery shopping?
It's time to start putting the right food in the supermarket trolley, writes Suzanne Campbell
Do the grocery shopping on Saturday, throw it out on Thursday? Despite these austere times, a new survey by the Environmental Protection Agency says that many of us are still costing our own wallets up to €1,000 a year throwing out food that goes uneaten.
Not surprisingly, most of the food we throw away is fresh fruit and vegetables. Almost half of the salad leaves bought in Ireland are binned before they are eaten and one-third of the bread we buy goes to waste.
What's disturbing is that while we can't seem to control our food waste, many Irish families are struggling to put food on the table.
St Vincent de Paul recently announced they are helping 8,000 families a week; many of whom are contacting them for food. We are also surrounded by strategies to control food waste from Safefood and campaigns like "Feeding the 5,000". So why isn't the message hitting home?
Doing a good food shop requires concentration, planning and time, which for many people is in short supply. "I just spent €65 in the supermarket but have nothing for dinner" is something many people experience but seldom like to admit.
Supermarkets don't work with the rational side of your brain. They communicate via emotion and smell; bright colours, glistening deli counters and the impression you are getting value.
Rushing around being attracted to discount offers, snack foods and what our taste buds aim us towards is the supermarket model working at its best.
Much of the food that is thrown away also arises from confusion between "best-before" and "use-by" dates.
A "best-before" date is for food that isn't highly perishable -- packaged and tinned goods that can remain edible for a long time.
That "best-before" date is the cut-off point from where the manufacturer stops taking responsibility for that food, but a product could be good to eat for several months after a "best-before date.
The foods we need to be much more careful with say "use-by" on the label. "use-by" dates are for foods that perish quickly like pork sausages, raw chicken and fish.
This means if they are not eaten within a short timescale they will develop microbiological risks and are very likely to make you sick.
But again we have to use our common sense. Rather than throw out a packet of ham that's a day out of date, use your old-fashioned senses to tell if it's good to eat.
Remember -- "use-by" dates should be followed, "best-before" dates are a guide
All meals don't have to be swanky. Beans on toast is a fantastic, nutritious meal. As is tinned fish -- salmon, sardines or tuna with some leftover tomatoes and salad.
If you've eggs in the fridge they are really versatile for leftover foods. Omelettes are a great way to use ham and potatoes.
Always include tinned tomatoes, kidney beans, chick peas, coconut milk, dried pasta and mince for your freezer in your grocery shop. Then you always have the ingredients for a spaghetti Bolognese, chilli con carne or a vegetable curry as a stand-by dinner. Leftovers can be frozen.
Put smoked fish in your trolley. Smoked packs of mackerel or herring are available everywhere. They're cheap and full of protein and healthy fish oils. As they don't need cooking simply flake the fish over toast with sliced tomato and a dash of olive oil for a quick supper.