Instagram Is Fuelling Food Waste

Photo: Alexandra Iakovleva/Getty Images
We hate to be stereotyped as much as anyone, but we admit there's some truth behind the cliché that young people, or so-called "millennials", spend a lot of time photographing their food. Everyone knows avo toast or an artfully arranged bowl of porridge will guarantee you likes on the 'Gram.

But, by placing so much focus on how our meals look, we end up contributing to the UK's food waste problem, according to new research by Sainsbury's.

Those of us aged 18 to 34 are buying food to take pretty pictures and failing to plan our meals, so we end up buying too much and then throwing it away, The Guardian reported. By contrast, older generations with experience of post-war rationing are more frugal.

More than half (55%) of millennials – born in or after the mid-1980s – had a "live to eat" attitude to food, believing food is more about pleasure than necessity, spending more on food and wasting more of it, the research found.

A fifth of those under 35 admitted to wasting food after a big food shop, compared with just 8% of those aged 55 to 64 and just 7% of those over 65. Older people were also more likely to hold a "eat to live" attitude and spend less on groceries.

Younger people are also more adventurous when it comes to food, the research found. They were more likely to try different recipes (to post on Instagram, of course), containing exotic ingredients that are less likely to be used in other recipes.

(Yep, we've bought many a tube of vanilla pods and countless packs of lemongrass to flavour our wondrous creations, only to never use them again. Point duly noted.)

Despite our bravery in the kitchen, more than half of millennials also admitted lacking culinary know-how and they were the most likely age group to throw food away three or more times a week. Meanwhile, over 55s reported feeling more at ease in the kitchen, with fewer than a fifth (18%) saying they wished they knew more about managing and cooking food.

Food waste is a huge problem in the UK, with 15m tonnes wasted annually – almost half of which comes from households, at an estimated value of £7.5bn, The Guardian reported. According to the government’s waste advisory body, Wrap, each family wastes around £700 of food a year.

Food historian and broadcaster Dr Polly Russell said the post-war increase in household food waste has been caused by "changes in how we value choice, time and money in relation to food,” reported The Guardian.

“Gone are the days of eating the same food, on the same days of the week, week in, week out," she added. "Most people today, particularly younger generations, demand variety. However, with a menu which changes often, it is more challenging to control waste and plan ahead.”

While many young people are embracing zero-waste lifestyles these days, re-fashioning leftovers and using them to make compost, there's no doubt the rest of us could be food-shopping more mindfully.
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