Did the Great Recession Create Another Generation of Waste-Haters?

great recession reduces food waste

If you grew up with grandparents or other relatives that lived through the Great Depression, you likely know that “waste not”  played a big part in how they lived their lives. My paternal grandmother particularly not only had tactics for preserving food down, but also didn’t let much go to waste: she could always find something to do with odds and ends of food that others of us would’ve just tossed. Those of us who came of age in subsequent decades definitely bought into a throwaway culture wholeheartedly, but the most recent major economic turndown, the Great Recession, may have created another generation of frugalites who will find use in things that others might throw in the trash.

So, how do I know this? Well, Great Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) just took a poll of UK residents, and see evidence that that hard times since 2007-08 have made UK residents much more conscious of their spending on food, and much less likely to waste it. According to The Guardian, the FSA’s third “Food and You” study found that “Total household food waste is down by 21% over the last seven years, while the proportion of people who claim to always avoid throwing food away is up from 48% to 58% over four years…” Now, this doesn’t just mean that Brits are finding cool and interesting things to do with their leftovers; rather, they’re taking the potential for waste into account at every step in their processes of buying and preparing food. That means they’re planning their meals and their shopping, storing the food they buy to make sure it lasts, and, finally, keeping leftovers around for further meals.

Given that the average British family normally throws away about £700 ($1123 US) worth of food, this is good news… not that we want another recession to take care of the rest of the waste, but to see that people learned from the experience. I’d guess that such frugal practices will stay with many of these people even as the global economy continues to improve.

Have you started watching your food waste more closely since the economy slowed 6-7 years ago? What practices have become habits? Share your ideas in the comments.

Image credit: Shutterstock

About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at
  • Buster Knott

    My wife & I got married straight out of high school in the last two years of the Carter administration. Things were truly awful then with unemployment well into the double digits and we well remember trying to scrape up fifty cents to buy day old bread. That being said we’ve ALWAYS been careful to not let food or anything else go to waste even now that we’re doing well. You never forget going hungry or the fear of how you’re going to make the rent. My grandparents who were young parents during the great depression were the same they never wasted a penny they didn’t have to or throw out anything that could be re-purposed until the day they died. America went through a time of plenty and great prosperity for a very long time but I truly believe those days are rapidly coming to an end. Those who do well in the future will be the people who learn to do with less and provide for themselves with what’s available.