Food and money: The food waste problem

Many times, people buy raw food to prepare at home. An example could be a bunch of matooke. Half way the bunch, due to supplementing it with some other stocked food in the house, it ripens and is thrown away. Ultimately, it is food and money wasted.
Anthony Makumbi, a resident of Kyanja, explains that one of the ways in which people waste food and money is “waste after meals.” “Many people don’t finish food they serve on their plates and it eventually becomes a habit. In the long run, the quantities wasted, however small, are big,” Makumbi says.
Some people buy large quantities of perishable food that is not stored properly. Others do not consider the number of people in the house or how frequently they consume that particular type of food.
“If you buy two loaves of bread at Shs8,000, yet you are two people in the house, there are high chances that one loaf will go bad without being opened because you won’t be eating bread alone,” Makumbi explains.
The other common link between food and money, he says, is most people don’t know how to buy things like tomatoes especially if they are bought in big quantities to be consumed in say, a week or two.
“If you buy very ripe tomatoes and you plan to consume them in a week, they will obviously go bad earlier than the time you had planned to have them consumed, whether they are refrigerated or not,” Makumbi highlights.
To avoid waste, households should prepare the right quantities of food based on the number of people. If not, part of it will be trashed, wasting food and money.
Stuart Oramire, a resident of Kyaliwajjala, a Kampala suburb, notes that when it comes to food and money, most Ugandans are financially indisciplined, a habit that affects how they spend their money.
“If you are to buy food for your home, it has to be well planned and well scheduled with a detailed shopping list on what you want to buy, its quantity, where to buy it and how much it costs,” Oramire advises.
Part of the problem is in impulsive buying. “Some people buy what pleases their eyes without a clear understanding as to whether they need it or not,” Oramire says. This, he asserts, is mostly driven by the fact that Uganda, like many other countries in Africa, mainly operates on a cash system as opposed to a credit card system.
“Lack of financial discipline and literacy is what informs our impulsive buying. You buy some of the things because you have the money on you,” Oramire asserts, adding that unplanned spending is driven by not calculating what one should spend on food in a week or month.
Some people prefer fast foods because they are assured of dodging the kitchen to cook. But this is more costly compared to preparing your own meals.
Mariat Nasasira, a radio presenter was once a victim of fast foods. “Before I started cooking from home, I would buy fast foods and spend Shs15,000. But when I started cooking, I use approximately Shs4,000 and save Shs11,000,” Nasasira recalls. Because she stays alone, when she prepares her meals, she budgets for how much food to cook so that she does not have to pour any left-overs.
“When I cook and I don’t finish the food, I keep it refrigerated, sometimes for two days and it does not go bad. All I do is just keep warming it,” Nasasira says, advising that cooking saves time and money as opposed to buying fast foods like chips and chicken which are costly.
According to a source within Uganda Bureau of Statistics who speaks anonymously, the parastatal does not carry out surveys from households to find out how much food is wasted. “We only carry out price surveys of different products in different markets around Kampala and monitor how often the prices change,” the source says.
Michael Ojok, an Executive Assistant with an NGO in Kampala notes that he used to buy food items in supermarkets without checking for expiry dates.
“Whenever I got home and opened items like powdered milk, I would notice that the expiry date is like a month away yet I travel a lot. I could not take them back to the supermarket. Since then, I m check for items with extended expiry dates of upto one year,” Ojok notes.

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