Concerns about food waste are rising, as reflected by Sustainable Development Goal 12, which calls for reductions in food waste generated by retailers and consumers. Every year, households in the UK throw away an estimated 7 million tonnes of food and drink, almost half of which could have been consumed. Nevertheless, a majority of UK households claim to throw away hardly any food. These figures highlight a gap between perception and reality, which makes behaviour change difficult.

Against this backdrop, the authors of this brief conducted a small-scale exercise to examine potential opportunities for solutions, and to better understand barriers that require additional investigation. The brief examines how food waste links with the households’ “food journey” – that is, from shopping to storing to cooking to disposal of food.

Participants in the exercise attended two focus group sessions held at the beginning and end of a four-week period, during which they received weekly text messages on the subject of food waste. Participants also received a kit that included daily food diaries, postcards with food waste-related images, a “food journey” map, and instructions for sending photos and voicemail messages on the subject to the project’s leaders.

Though the pilot was too small to reach generalizable conclusions, participants’ observations suggest that focusing on the shopping stages of the “food journey” offers particular promise for reducing food waste. Discussions with participants revealed that key motivators for reducing food waste are the desire to save money, and to be role models for children.