The other night I watched a really interesting show on BBC. The Great British Waste Menu was designed to reveal two things, 1) just how much food gets thrown out everyday and 2) just how good the food is that usually gets thrown out. They did this by having four top flight english chefs compete to create dishes to for a banquet dinner for 60 VIP guests, most of whom were food critics, broadcasters and TV show presenters.

If you want to see the show you watch it on the BBC iPlayer, it’s 90 minutes and it’s pretty fascinating and depressing at the same time. If you can’t watch it because you live in the wrong region or can’t be bothered to watch the whole thing, check out this clip on youtube.

I had already read somewhere that about 20% of all food produced, sold and bought in the UK goes to waste and gets thrown out, but this show put some hard numbers and images to it to help understand what 20% actually looks like. 3,500 potatoes a minutes get thrown out in the UK…every minute! The show also tried to make the point that a significant amount of fruit and vegetables gets thrown out because it doesn’t match a very specific set of requirements in regards of size, color and texutre that the supermarkets set, in part because the ‘consumer’ only wants perfect looking food. A tomato must be a certain size, be perfectly round and the perfect color, for example a courgette (zuchinni in America) can be no longer than 30cm, so farmers are screwed if they actually have a better than usual growing season and their vegetables are too big!!! If it doesn’t match it is thrown out. None of these factors affect the taste, but it is deemed un-sellable and therefore un-eatable. The additional point of the show was to not throw out any food because it is not only still eatable, but can be used to make a very delicious dish.

An even greater point the show could have and should have made was that as ‘consumers’ we need to begin buying less food to begin with. A significant portion of the food that gets thrown away is food that sits for too long in the backs of our fridges and ‘expires’ before we remember that we even have it. If we bought less food, we would actually be able to eat all the food that we actually buy. In addition to throwing out less food, as families, we’d save quite a bit of money as well.

In addition, the show points out ‘best before’ dates, ‘sell by’ dates and ‘eat before’ dates actually have little to do with freshness, quality and taste. They are marketing techniques used by supermarkets to get us to buy more food, to increase their sales…so if something is a day or two passed the prescribed date, then give it a sniff and use it if still smells good.

The bottom line is we could stand to have a bit less of everything, decrease our footprint, decrease our usage, decrease our waste.