Why the non-rich throw away food: Some tips for Richard Benyon

Why do the non-rich throw away food? Because we’re stupid and we’re losers. That goes without saying, otherwise we’d be rich, wouldn’t we? As Tory minister Richard Benyon tactfully notes, we’re so stupid we wouldn’t even think to wrap up a piece of cheese after we’ve opened it (assuming we’re in the 13% of the population who don’t practise cheese-wrapping). Then again, even if we weren’t so ignorant of cling-film, we wouldn’t do it anyhow. That’s because we’re lazy and entitled. We’d be all shall we save that cheese? Nah, why bother? If we run out the welfare state will provide!

I am not rich and I waste food. Can’t stop myself, me. My waste-food bin floweth over. Even so I would like to point out that there are reasons other than the ones given above for throwing away food when you’re not rich. I feel it necessary to do so for no other reason than I strongly suspect that Richard Benyon, whose own fridge is to be found somewhere here, has very little experience of budgeting for food on a daily basis. So especially for you, Richard, some reasons why the food of the non-rich might head binwards:

  • Non-rich people don’t have as much money as rich people. Therefore we want it to go further. Hence we might buy a massive, fuck-off block of cheese rather than a more reasonably-sized one, in the full knowledge that we won’t eat it all. This is because basics food often isn’t available in smaller portions and it’s a total bugger to work out “well, I’ll probably have eaten 2/3 of that before it’s gone off, so that’s more than I’d get if I bought the rich people’s cheese and it’s only 1p more …. And hey, I could always have a massive cheese binge and get down to the last 1/8”. Often you just chuck the cheese in your basket without even thinking it through. And yes, proper Big Society local communities should organise themselves better and get some kind of cheese-sharing system in place in order to avoid waste, but we’ve not got round to doing it yet. Obviously now I realise this is a greater priority than I thought.
  •  Non-rich people buy food that is on the verge of going out of date anyhow. Or we might buy things that are on 2 for 1 or bogof offers. That is because you get more for your money. And yes, once again, we might not eat it all in time. That doesn’t mean it would have been cheaper to purchase a smaller quantity of non-cheap food and consume the same amount. It doesn’t mean it wouldn’t, either, but at the very least it depends. Plus having limited resources makes you inclined to buy more when you can. And yes, perhaps we should just stockpile tins, as though we’re living in paranoid fear of a nuclear war. Actually, perhaps we do. How do you know, Richard? It’s just the leftover cheese you notice, not the multipacks of tuna and twelve cans of cream of tomato soup I’m saving for when it really matters.
  • Non-rich people eat food that looks a bit crap. We also eat leftovers. We aren’t always slaves to the “use by” date. What we don’t do is eat food that will actively make us ill. Or rather, my partner did once and he had to take a whole two days off “striving” due to the constant vomiting. Is that really what you want?
  • Non-rich people don’t have cooks or domestic help. Nor do we have partners who stay home and cook for the family (or rather if we do, the economic value of their work is disregarded which means they have failed as human beings – unless of course their partner’s rich, in which case they’re angels of the hearth). Sometimes I get home late from work, school and nursery pick-ups and my kids are tired and hungry and I’m tired and hungry and guess what? Rather than diligently use up the leftovers, I reach into the tuna can stockpile and we just eat that instead. And yes, if I was more organised I’d prepare the leftovers in advance, but the truth is, I know the cost of a can of tuna and I know the cost of my time. Perhaps I’m taking liberties here in thinking one can be non-rich and cut corners, even if it’s in a non-home-help-employing way, but sod it. I’m having the tuna.
  • Non-rich people are fully aware that it is a piece of piss to buy food that their children will eat without complaint. Alas, if we buy too much of it our kids get fat and then that’s another reason why we’re basically rubbish when compared to rich people.
  • As of today non-rich people throw away food just to spite Richard Benyon. Hey, Rich! I just ate some sandwiches WITH THE CRUSTS CUT OFF!!!

This isn’t meant to be a food-waster’s charter. I don’t actively approve of wasting food. It does however strike me that if waste is an issue – both a moral and an economic one – focusing on whether or not the poor wrap their cheese seems a breathtakingly pointless place to start. What about pricing models which guilt-trip people into buying more than they need? Or the amount of food supermarkets simply throw away? Or what about the fact that rich people earn so much more than everyone else yet still have only one life, one body and one consciousness through which to channel all this excess? If it’s possible to live on £53 a week, how wasteful are the rich? And why should anyone, ever, go without?

I don’t imagine Richard Benyon has the slightest clue how much food gets thrown out of his own kitchens (I assume these are in the plural). I hope at the very least that he always cleans his plate – after all, there are starving children in Birmingham. Even so, inequality will persist. Blessed are the cheese-wrappers, but let’s be honest, they’re not the ones inheriting the Earth.

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