Forgotten food costing families approx. £800 a year

  • Brits revealed as a nation of ‘dinner binners’ with half a million people throwing away food every single day
  • Simple food waste hack could help the average family save around £260 a year on food
  • The new ‘Use Up Day’ campaign aims to help families spend less on their weekly shop by making the most of food they’ve already bought

New estimates show that the average British family is wasting approximately £800 worth of edible food a year with staples including bread, bananas and milk topping the bill of most binned items.

A nationwide study by Tesco reveals three quarters of UK households (77%) say they throw away unopened or unused food, more than a third (37%) doing so on at least a monthly basis and a staggering half a million people are throwing away food they forgot to eat or never opened on a daily basis.

The campaign comes at a time when cost of living challenges have caused many households – young and old – to explore savvy ways to save. Over three in five (61%) are now planning to shop more carefully and only buy what they need. While many (45%) want to take steps to reduce the amount of food they waste at home, the research has found that lack of time, planning and understanding about what they can cook, and by when, is getting in the way.

To help families battle their binning and make their food and money go further, Tesco has teamed up with Unilever brand, Hellmann’s – who are already inspiring households to reduce food waste at home with their practical food waste handbook and hacks – to create a ‘Use Up Day’ campaign, encouraging the nation to – once a week – cook a meal using up food they already have in their kitchen.

Implementing a weekly ‘Use Up Day’ is not only incredibly simple but can help shoppers save significant amounts of money. A recent study by Hellmann’s, which was the largest and longest behavioural study into household food waste, demonstrated that the average family could reduce the amount of food thrown away at home by a third and save around a third of waste per year by adopting this simple food hack, which equates to a potential financial saving of £260 per year.

The campaign will dish up a range of resources for consumers including a ‘Use Up Day’ guide to help families find their perfect ‘Use Up Day’ and a variety of recipes that make use of commonly thrown away ingredients. Tesco’s recipe finder tool can also help shoppers discover new recipes in seconds by inputting spare, leftover and unused ingredients.

For shoppers eager to reduce waste and spend less, Tesco’s new food waste hub also includes money saving tips and advice on how to make batch-cooking a budget-friendly game-changer that turns your freezer into your new best friend.

Food waste doesn’t just impact our pockets, it is also a major environmental threat, contributing to around 8 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. In the UK, it is estimated that 71 per cent of food waste happens in our homes, creating a significant opportunity for supermarkets to support shoppers to cut waste, save money and help the planet.

Kené Umeasiegbu, Campaigns Director from Tesco said: “No one sets out to waste food but all too often hectic lifestyles, changing plans or just plain forgetfulness can mean good food ends up in the bin and money down the drain. We know that right now every little helps that’s why we are launching our ‘Use Up Day’ campaign to help our customers spend less and cut waste by using food already in their kitchen.

“We recognise that lack of time and the perception that you need to be a skilled cook can be a barrier to taking action. It’s why a ‘Use Up Day’ is straightforward and easy to implement – using recipes that are quick, tasty and help you make your food go further today.”

Katharine Crossland, Shopper Marketing Director at Unilever UK & Ireland, said “No good food should go to waste, which is why Hellmann’s is always looking for more ways to make taste, not waste. We have an opportunity and responsibility to help shoppers get more out of their food shop – one delicious recipe at a time. Small changes in our behaviour and simple interventions, such as committing one day a week to using up leftovers, all add up. It’s great to partner with Tesco on this campaign - every morsel of good food that is used up, rather than chucked out, is better for our planet and our wallets.”

Commenting on the campaign announcement, Mark Breen, Senior Creative Partner at environmental charity Hubbub, said: “It’s great to see Tesco and Unilever launch the ‘Use Up Day’ campaign to help people eat everything they buy. This campaign is being launched at the perfect time. Spiralling food and energy costs mean we’ll all have to look out for simple tips and hacks to save some cash. Reducing our food waste by shopping our kitchens keeps delicious food on the table, cash in our pockets and at the same time we can do our bit for the planet.”

Catherine David, Director of Collaboration and Change, WRAP added: “The average UK household wastes eight meals a week - wasting food costs money and feeds climate change. Food businesses can really help shoppers reduce the amount of food ending up in the bin, through simple changes like the one being championed by Tesco and Unilever. Less food wasted means more money in people's pockets, and a lower carbon footprint – a win-win for people and planet!”

The research also revealed that Gen Zers are the most wasteful generation – 23% rarely, if ever, check their fridge or cupboards before they shop for more food, just 31% always make a shopping list; compared to 38% of Gen X and 36% of baby boomers. And they are the most likely to throw food out on a monthly basis, 32% of Gen Zers compared to just 22% of Millennials and 13% of baby boomers.

To get involved, people can visit to pick a ‘Use Up Day’ that suits their lifestyle and start cooking a tasty meal every week using food that’s already in their fridge or cupboards.

The research also revealed the top food items that are most commonly wasted in UK homes. This includes popular household favourites, such as chicken breasts; potatoes; sliced bread; lettuce; milk and bananas.

Chefs at Tesco have calculated the huge untapped potential of these commonly wasted foods and identified their top budget friendly, tasty, family recipes that can all be easily created using the top 25 commonly wasted foods.

Tasty recipes from Chefs at Tesco to inspire Use Up Day:

  • Creamy spinach chicken – perfect for using up chicken, greens and cream
  • Harissa-roasted carrot soup recipe – perfect for using up carrots, onions and pastes such as Harissa
  • Chicken kebab wraps – perfect for using up chicken, tortilla wraps, cabbage and natural yogurt
  • Cinnamon and orange bread and butter pudding recipe – perfect for using up bread, oranges (or other fruit), cream and preserves
  • Clotted cream and strawberry ice cream – perfect for using up cream and milk, eggs and soft fruit such as strawberries

Top food items wasted in the home, according to new research by Tesco:

Store cupboard items Fresh food items Fruit and vegetables
Sliced bread Milk Bananas
Bread rolls Yoghurts Lettuce
Condiments Cream Potatoes
Wraps Cheese Tomatoes
Cake Chicken breasts Carrots
Biscuits Fruit juice Oranges/satsumas
Pastries Bacon Apples
Dried pasta Sausages Strawberries
Rice Beef mince Grapes
Lentils/grain pouches Sausage rolls Peppers



Notes to editors

1. The total cost of household food waste in a family (based on 3.8 people) from a 2015 Wrap study with the cost of food (from April 2021) adjusted for inflation. The full WRAP report is available here.
2. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2061 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th - 6th April 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
3. This is based on ONS population estimates (available here and 67,081,000 on 22.04.2022) that are equivalent to 1% of the survey respondents who selected this response
4. This is based on Hellmann’s findings that a weekly Use-Up Day in a Canadian Trial cut food waste by a third each week. The Hellmann’s study is here. Based on the WRAP report from 2015 and adjusted for inflation, this is the amount a family (based on 3.8 people in a household) can save. Actual saving, based annual cost of wasted food being approx. £800 and a third of this being saved each week, is £266.

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