Over the last few weeks I have noticed many of the supermarkets here very actively promoting the reduction of food waste and it got me thinking about the difference between how the supermarkets offer discounts here vs what I recalled from living in the UK. I understand that there has been a move away from Buy one get one free types of deals in the UK in recent times but I recall noticing when I first moved here that this kind of deal didn’t seem to be the way in Danish supermarkets. In 2008 a voluntary organisation, Stop Spild af Mad, was set up to start reducing food waste in Denmark.
Firstly the issue of food waste and some figures. 260,000 tons of food is wasted every year in Denmark with each Danes throwing away 47kg of food at a cost of 7200kr per family.
Around the time I moved here in 2008, Rema 1000, a discount supermarket, was the first supermarket to actively take up the fight against food waste and they continue to innovate. They stopped volume discounts and multi buy offers, instead offering discounts on the unit price. These kinds of deals are the main driver in food waste and by changing this it leads people to not buy more than they need. They also offered many fruit and vegetables by weight rather than prepackaged so you only buy what you need. Other initiatives include discounting food close to use by date and recently they introduced bread in smaller packages (in the UK 1 in 5 households throw away a complete loaf of bread every week). They also donate food to Project Hjemløs to provide ingredients for hot meals for the homeless, perfectly fine food that would previously be trashed.
The work started by Rema 1000 has been adopted by many of the other supermarkets here. Some such as Lidl, are making a big show of this with promotions about madspild outside their stores and the production of a pamphlet about it. I don’t think I ever see bulk discounts on food offered but always reductions, at most its a buy two for a set price. Many supermarkets are working with chefs and food writers to suggest ways to use leftovers.
I personally always meal plan and endeavour to use up all the food I buy before it goes off (I am no saint and sometimes find things that I have forgotten about and that are out of date) but as I am aware that as a household we have a food budget and also as a world there are many people without sufficient food, I hate to waste too much. I am pleased at the supermarkets, which are truly the place to tackle food waste, are on board here.
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I remember when we were living in the UK that we did one big weekly shop. After 2 days the salad would start to smell funny so we would bin it. The day after, the fresh orange juice was supposedly over its use bay date so that also got binned. The ham never lasted more than a couple of days after it was opened so the remaining 10 slices also ended up in the bin. I never understood why ham did that? Who eats a family pack of 16 slices (or something like that) within 2 days of opening the packet? Anyway, my point is that since stepping away from the big shop concept and planning meals a couple of days in advance we have also seen our food wastage gone down immensely. I love how there is a big push in Denmark to get everyone on board against food going to waste. Really enjoyed reading your article.