Slow and steady wins the food-waste race

Pricewatch: Chef Conor Spacey’s campaign against waste aims to protect the environment as well as saving you money

Conor Spacey is a chef with a difference. In addition to making food, he has devoted much of his career to making a point about food waste and has long campaigned for a greater awareness of the issue, which he describes as “a huge problem”.

He is heavily involved in the Chefs’ Manifesto, a global movement that puts chefs at the hearts of addressing some of the critical issues our planet is facing, including food security, sustainability and supporting indigenous producers.

He is passionate about reducing the amount of food waste we generate and says a lack of planning and a lack of thought as well as a poor understanding of what to do with the food we have is at the root of the problem.

‘We don’t plan what we’re buying, we go into supermarkets without any real plan’

“Think about how we plan everything else, but we never plan around what we’re eating, what our meals are, where we’re going to be and then we buy kind of off the cuff. We don’t plan what we’re buying, we go into supermarkets without any real plan,” he says.


He also points to the “lack of knowledge about how to use the foods that we have”.

He highlights storage issues. “We tend to put everything into our fridges and keep everything together, [but] a lot of fruits, will overripen in fridges and need to be left out at room temperature, and some root vegetables are better left in cupboards. But it does go back to planning and what you are cooking this week and what it is you need to buy.”

He also works with the UN World Food Programme on different projects. “A lot of that is me giving talks, and I do cooking demos to show what we can do better.”

Under the auspices of the Chefs’ Manifesto, he works with “a lot of NGOs on all sorts of different projects around sustainable development goals” and he says closer to home he has two audiences: those who are focused on the environment, and those for whom monetary savings are key.

Start small

“Some people will jump on sustainability and the environment and then there are some who feel as individuals, there’s not much they can do when it comes to the environment but when you’re talking monetary terms, you capture them. I think this is where people are really starting to look at the rising cost of living. How can I save money at home? People are really, really homing in on that and looking for ideas and seeing what they can do.”

‘It really is about changes over a six-month period or even a 12-month period’

He advises anyone looking to overhaul their kitchen habits to start small.

“If you think that overnight you are not going to waste food at home any more and are going to change everything, you can get overwhelmed and you’re set up to fail. You need to come up with a plan that over the next six months, or whatever it might be, you’re going to look at a plan for your shopping, you’re going to look at what you do throw out. It really is about changes over a six-month period or even a 12-month period.”