The study found older generations are more likely to plan meals in advance and make full use of the food available, while millennials are creating more interesting meals.
Sainsbury’s surveyed 5,050 consumers on their shopping habits and found 18-34 year olds were more likely to buy exotic food with a shorter shelf life, while people in the 55 plus bracket are more concerned with conserving food.
“There’s plenty to be learned from older generations, who waste less food and save more money as a result,” said Paul Crewe, head of sustainability, energy, environmental and engineering at Sainsbury’s.
“We need to ensure those good habits are passed down to the next generation of young people, to stop both the environmental and financial impacts of wasting food.”
Sainsbury’s stressed the gap in attitudes between the postwar “eat to live” generation and the “live to eat” generation who are racking up higher shopping bills than their parents and grandparents.
Two fifths of the over 65s surveyed for the study said they never waste food, compared with 17 per cent of under 35s. Older people are also happier in the kitchen, with only 18 per cent telling Sainsbury’s they wanted to learn more about cooking and managing their weekly shop.
Polly Russell, food historian and broadcaster, said: “A postwar increase in household food waste is due to changes in how we value choice, time and money in relation to food. Gone are the days of eating the same food, on the same days of the week, week in, week out."
“Most people today, particularly younger generations, demand variety when it comes to food. As a result we’ve gained a broader and more exciting diet. However, with a menu which changes often, it is more challenging to control waste and plan ahead."
Despite increasing prices at the supermarkets, and high profile food waste campaigns by figures such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the UK’s household food waste problem is getting worse. According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), the volume of food going to waste in UK households increased by 4.4 per cent between 2012 and 2015.
Wrap estimates that a typical family wastes £700 of food every year, with around 7.3m tonnes of wasted food going to landfill each year. The body has advised that the reported increase in food waste is “not statistically significant”, once population growth is factored in, but does decrease the likelihood of the UK meeting its sustainability targets.
A voluntary agreement between supermarkets and Wrap, known as the Courtauld Commitment, requires the UK to reduce food and drink waste by 20 per cent by 2025.
“It’s a case of ‘Granny Knows Best’ when it comes to cutting food waste,” the Sainsbury’s report concludes.