The top 5 most wasted food items

Dec 3, 2015 | 9 comments


I was interested in this post yesterday from Hugh’s War on Waste. He says, and I’ve read similar things before from eg WRAP, that the top five most wasted food items are bread, milk, potatoes, cheese and apples (and soft drinks, but I can’t really get worked up about those at the moment) I’m sure that bagged salad is up there as most wasted too

The average family wastes a days worth of food every week. That’s nearly two months food budget each year! What else could you do with that money? If you got rid of waste, and ate at £1 a day 2 or 3 times a week, how much would you have saved at the end of the year, and without having to actually earn any more either.

1 Bread, the most wasted food item. WRAP says that 240 million slices are thrown away every year. I find that such a huge number, that I had to break it down to something that I could visualise.

So I divided it by 22 slices into loaves. Nope still too big. 365 days, still huge.  I ended up with about 148 loaves being  thrown away every hour. That’s a lot of useable bread

So, how can you reduce the number one wasted food item. With presliced bread, this is easy if you have a freezer. Just pop it straight in the freezer as soon as you take it home. It stays beautifully fresh, so if you just want to use it for sandwiches, you can, right down to the last slice. If you want toast, bung it straight in the toaster or under the grill from frozen. It defrosts back to fresh bread  in minutes, or if you want it right now, after being nuked in the microwave for just a few seconds. All bakery products will freeze well. Don’t store it in the fridge tho, instead of making it last, it dries it out and makes it go stale much quicker.

This post talks about huge numbers of things that can be done with stale bread. Hugh also suggests the ever popular eggy bread too. Then there are the breadcrumb recipes I’m currently contemplating. savoury bread and butter pudding, see this post on croutons for lots of ideas, and this one for panzanella, use summer tomatoes and it is totally lush

2. Milk. I was a bit baffled by this one. With the way milk is homogenised in modern times, it stays usable for ages. Again, to try and see in my minds eye, just how much waste we are  talking about. I worked out how much we are wasting every hour of every day. Its, are you ready for this ……… Over 673 glasses. Of milk. Every hour. I’ve got a feeling there are going to be a LOT of exclamations in this post!

If you don’t think you will be using it before it goes off, pop it in the freezer. Or make a crumble with some apples, the number 5 on this list and make some custard to go with it, Or make some Yorkshires to go with tonights dinner, always popular, a good yorkie. Or make some pancakes, savoury or sweet, the pancake post has almost  101 ideas to have with a pancake or two

If it does somehow manage to go off. Sour milk makes the most divine scones, light and fluffy and delicious. When I was growing up and it was usual not to have a fridge, and milk was often left on the doorstep in the sun, it went off very quickly. This is one of the things my Mum did to use it. So even if it’s already gone off, if you don’t want scones now, freeze it until you do.

3. Potatoes, every hour, 662 are chucked in the bin. Potatoes that have been grown by the farmer, harvested, cleaned, packed, taken to a distributer, sent round the supermarkets, picked up by you, paid for with money that you have had to go to work to earn, lugged home, unpacked, put in the cupboard, left there for a while, then chucked in the bin, picked up by the binmen, tipped at the waste dump and left to rot and release their gases to the atmosphere.

There are so many things you can use potatoes for. Make them into spicy wedges for tea, have them as rosti with a poached egg. Cook and mash them and mix in anything tasty in the fridge to make patties. A jacket potato, or several small ones can be enjoyed with lots of different things. Potatoes can  be frozen once cooked, so if you have some that it looks like you won’t use, keep them ready to eat in the freezer.

4 Cheese, I couldn’t find out the quantity of cheese wasted every day, so lets just say that its a lot

Again, wheel out the freezer, cheese keeps beautifully frozen, any type.  Make a cheese sauce and bung in any veg that needs using. Cook up broccoli or cauliflower stem, fry an onion, grate a carrot, maybe mix in a bit of cooked pasta too, cover it with a tasty cheese sauce and yum, there’s dinner. That will freeze too, as a lovely homemade ready meal.

5 Apples 148 an hour delicious, crisp and tasty apples, binned.

If I want to use a lot of apples in one go, I will peel them, slice them, add a little muscovado sugar and cook them in the microwave. Then I keep them in the fridge and have them with  thick Greek yogurt for breakfast.

Or I’ll decore one and liquidise it with half a banana and a splash of orange juice or milk as a smoothie

Then there is Mike’s favourite, apple crumble. Or grate one, skin and all and add it to muesli

Tass gave us her Aunt Louisa’s Apple Chutney recipe recently. I’ll add apple to the soup du jour f I have some to use, or in a casserole

And of course, the freezer. I’ve found that if I peel and slice them, they sit very happily in the freezer and are almost as good as fresh.  I don’t cook them first, then they are very convenient to use.

I feel like your friendly neighbourhood freezer salesman now! I’m pretty sure you lovely lot don’t waste as much as the average, but I hope a couple of ideas may be new to you



  1. Lesley

    DP is vey fussy amd I usually end up enjoying all kinds of what I consider to be delicious morsels, by myself, at lunchtime!

  2. misspiggy

    Try living with a supertaster type person who detects stale flavours and smells much more than other people do… I end up freezing stuff and eating it if he goes away, which works out less wasteful than cooking stuff that he takes one bite of and refuses to eat. But I must be doing something wrong with freezing cooked potatoes, as they end up dark and inedible. Any advice?

  3. Lesley

    Yes, you’re so right. Carrots are the same. You can get a kilo, or 2 kilo of value ones for very similar prices.
    Milk lasts so long now, I can’t remember the last time we had any go off! I suppose someone at work could take any leftover milk home at the end of the week. But yes, it is things just like that that drive waste

  4. Katherine

    Without justifying waste, the trouble with milk is that if 4 pints cost 89p and 2 pints cost 75p then you really have to waste an awful lot of the 4-pint container before you would be better off having bought only 2 pints. This somehow seems to devalue milk. It can be a problem if it is just for hot drinks at work for a small number of people. There are always things we can do to avoid waste at an individual level, but I think this plays a significant part of the problem

    I think if pasteurised milk goes off after 8 or 9 days in the fridge, it tends to go nasty rather than sour and it isn’t worth using, but I suppose you could always taste it and make a decision

  5. Lesley

    that sounds yummy!

  6. Eileen

    Stale bread cut into small cubes then tossed in melted butter and a little brown sugar makes a great alternative crumble topping.

  7. Lesley


  8. Diane Clement

    Yes, the freezer is almost always the solution. I have a small one (I know, hard to believe here in the US, land of big!!) so I have to be careful and plan ahead. Mushrooms are my biggest problem. There’s an aging batch sitting on my counter right now, waiting to be made into a spicy Thai soup. I just gave my son six jars of frozen applesauce I made last year from my apple tree. It is a task to keep up with food to avoid waste. I grew up poor so I cannot stand to waste things but I also have a microbiologist son so I have to be careful to deal with food before those microbes get too numerous! My goal right now is to avoid buying too much and to use up what I have before buying more. Reading your ideas helps keep me on track.

  9. Helen

    One way of using up 4 out of 5 is to poach the spuds, thinly sliced, in the milk then bake them, covered in grated cheese and breadcrumbs or even small croutons.

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