Study: Millennials waste more food than any other generation

A recent study by Currys suggests millennials waste more food than any other generation, with Gen Z not far behind.

As the cost-of-living rises, storing our leftovers for later can save money as well as saving the seven million tonnes of food that is wasted in the UK every year.

A recent study by Currys uncovered which generations are wasting the most food, along with how they’re storing common foods. They enlisted the expertise of microbiologist, Dr Jonathan Hughes, to learn how to safely store food items.

According to the study, 25% of Millennials are throwing their leftover food in the bin, Gen Z isn’t far behind at 20%, and 18% of Baby Boomers store the most food.

It found higher earners waste the least food, with less than 1 in 4 of those on £65-£75K throwing food away.

Giving food a sniff is a useful test to tell if food has spoiled

Ketchup, potatoes, eggs, bread, and mayonnaise storage is causing debates among households: 23% can’t decide whether bread belongs in the fridge or cupboard, and 63% are storing mayo in the cupboard.

Dr Jonathan Hughes, Microbiologist, says: “Giving food a sniff is a useful test to tell if food has spoiled. Most of the bacteria that cause food poisoning have no discernible smell but bacteria that grow alongside them do; if conditions are good for the growth of the smelly bacteria, it’s likely the harmful bacteria have also been growing.”

“Taste can also be a good identifier of spoilage. I’d still recommend using your other senses first. Look for discolouration or the formation of moulds and try the old sniff test first. Also, touch can be informative, if you have chicken that feels slimy, it’s time to throw it away. If you’re tasting food that you suspect to be off and the taste seems off, don’t consume it.”

Key findings:

  • Women (73%) are more likely to store leftovers than men (58%).
  • Millennials are least likely to store leftovers (25%)
  • Baby Boomers store the most leftovers (18%).
  • Households earning between £15 to £25k annually are least likely to store their leftovers (64%). In second and third place are households earning over £35k per year (66%) and £65-£75k per year (71%).
  • Least wasteful cities are Plymouth (75%), followed by Southampton (70%), Leeds (67%), and Newcastle (64%)
  • Most wasteful cities are London (19%), followed by Edinburgh (18%), Glasgow (16%) and Belfast (13%)

Cupboard vs fridge: where Brits are storing their food

The study surveyed 2,026 people in the UK to find out where they’re opting to store food items, and the controversy it can cause. Learn where Brits store their food:

  • 39% of Brits keep their chocolate in the cupboard.
  • 29% of Brits keep their chocolate in the fridge.
  • 63% of Brits keep their mayonnaise in the cupboard.
  • 11% of Brits keep their bread in the fridge.
  • 56% of Brits keep their ketchup in the cupboard.
  • 26% of Brits keep their onions in the fridge.
  • 50% of Brits keep their eggs in the fridge.

The tensions food storage causes with loved ones

So, we know where people are storing their food, but what about the fights that this can lead to? Well, it turns out that fighting about where to keep certain items is a common problem that is impacting the nation. Here are the stats on who’s fighting the most about their food storage habits:

  • 12% of Brits will seriously argue with friends/family about how to properly store food items.
  • Gen Z (32%) are most likely to feel tension when food isn’t stored correctly.
  • 20% of households that earn between £65k-£75k per annum feel food-storage related tension.
  • 26% of Brits feel the most tension about the improper storage of bread.
  • 24% of Brits fight over how to properly store leftovers.

How long do people store items for?

While some use-by dates are very clear, like the ones on meat and dairy, some of them, such as ketchup and mayonnaise, aren’t common knowledge. We wanted to find out how long Brits are keeping common food items. Here’s what the survey divulged:

  • Almost a quarter of Brits will keep their ketchup for up to six months, despite Heinz Tomato Ketchup bottles stating it should be refrigerated once open and eaten within eight weeks.
  • 17% of Brits admit to keeping their mayonnaise for up to half a year even though Hellmann’s Real Mayonnaise recommends using the product within three months.

What methods people use to tell if food and drink items have gone off

To some, the ‘Use By’ date is more like a guideline rather than set rules and to others, they’re as good as law. We discovered that over 1 in 10 Brits have given themselves food poisoning in the past, but how do they figure out if food or drink items are still okay to consume? Here’s what we found:

Rank Method %
1. I smell it 76.55%
2. By the expiry date on the package 41.91%
3. I taste it 31.05%
4. I don’t check it 4.15%
5. I wouldn’t know 1.48%

Dr Hughes, added: “Chocolate is best stored in a cool, dry place such as a storage cupboard. When chocolate is removed from the fridge and the condensation created returns to room temperature, it causes a phenomenon called sugar bloom – the white powdery coating on the outer surface of your chocolate.”

“Store your bread in a bread bin, as a cool dark place allows for good control of humidity. Bread goes stale quicker in the fridge as it causes the starch molecules in the bread to recrystallise faster than at room temperature.”

“Ketchup is acidic due to both the tomatoes and the vinegar it contains, which significantly inhibits bacterial growth. Ketchup usually comes with a best before date of about a year unopened and 8 weeks in the fridge once opened. However, it is highly resistant to bacterial growth, lasting up to 6 months after opening.”

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