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Stuffing the trolley at the last minute, or is Christmas wrapped up well in advance?

Zero Waste Scotland festive food survey shows we’re a nation of planners, panickers and survivalists.

28 Nov 19

The different food shopping styles of Scots in the run up to Christmas has been revealed in a survey for Zero Waste Scotland.

With people across the nation identified as planners, panickers or survivalists, a leading psychologist says the key to a happy, healthy festive meal experience is making time to enjoy it with friends and family.

The YouGov survey, commissioned by Zero Waste Scotland, reveals that as many as a million Scots who celebrate Christmas leave it until the last minute - with 21% saying they or someone in their household buys food the week of Christmas and 43% saying they buy it on the third week of December.

More than a third (35%) don’t do any planning before hitting the shops to buy their Christmas meal. In contrast, 1 in 5 (20%) say their festive food planning begins in November or earlier.

Overall, a quarter admitted to feeling worried or stressed when shopping for food for Christmas Day (3% and 22% retrospectively). Zero Waste Scotland has partnered with Dr Esther Papies from Glasgow University’s School of Psychology to develop a series of simple tips to ease anxiety around feeding family and friends.

Dr Papies said: “Christmas food shopping can seem really difficult. Most of our eating during the rest of the year is influenced by our habits, but around Christmas everything changes and our usual habits don’t work. 

“The food we eat and the number of people we cook for are usually very different over Christmas compared to the rest of the year. As a result, we often end up buying and preparing too much food.

“Remember, your Christmas meal doesn’t need to be too big or perfect – focus on what Christmas feels like, not what it looks like. Make enjoying time with friends and family a priority, with a nice home-cooked meal part of the experience.”

Dr Esther Papies offers some useful tips on how to tackle your Christmas Day food shop:

  • Plan, plan, plan. Taking time to think about how many people you will be cooking for and how much they will likely eat - for example, a young child won’t need the same amount of food as an adult - and write a list. Having a list will help layout what you need and will help you to remember any staple items we typically forget.
  • Remember, your Christmas meal doesn’t need to be too big or perfect – focus on what Christmas feels like, not what it looks like. Make enjoying time with friends and family a priority, with a nice home-cooked meal being only one part of the overall experience.

Around 67 million meals will go to waste in Scotland this December and 84% of households will have leftover food from Christmas Day. Festive favourites including turkey (56%), roast potatoes (34%) and Brussels sprouts (30%) are most likely to go uneaten. 

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “As a nation, we will waste thousands of tonnes of food this festive season, a lot of which is avoidable. To put this into context, over £11.5 million pounds of meat and poultry alone will be thrown away throughout December*

“Everyone really wants to enjoy Christmas Day, however no one likes throwing away money or good food. Taking simple steps, like resisting the urge to overbuy and using a shopping list to avoid doubling up on ingredients, are easy ways we can all reduce food waste and do our bit to tackle climate change.”

Food waste is a significant contributor to the global climate crisis, and the true cost to the planet of Scotland’s wasted food more than doubles when emissions from growing, processing and cooking it are taken into account. If wasted food is then sent to landfill the environmental impact are even worse as this emits methane, one of the most damaging greenhouse gases.

Visit the Love Food Hate Waste Scotland website for more top tips on how to reduce your food waste this Christmas: https://scotland.lovefoodhatewaste.com/

Notes For Editors

Media Enquiries: 

Sophie Thirkell | Press Officer | Zero Waste Scotland

Mobile 07966 284095

Email Sophie.Thirkell@zerowastescotland.org.uk


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1001 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22nd - 25th November 2019.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scottish adults (aged 18+).

*All statistics marked with an asterisk are based on the YouGov poll of 1,001 respondents and the ONS statistics on the number of Scotland 18+ population being 4,409,302. LUX undertook all these all calculations.

About Zero Waste Scotland

Zero Waste Scotland exists to lead Scotland to use products and resources responsibly, focusing on where we can have the greatest impact on climate change. 

Using evidence and insight, our goal is to inform policy, and motivate individuals and businesses to embrace the environmental, economic, and social benefits of a circular economy. 

We are a not-for-profit environmental organisation, funded by the Scottish Government and European Regional Development Fund.

More information on all Zero Waste Scotland’s programmes can be found at https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/. You can also keep up to date with the latest from Zero Waste Scotland via our social media channels - Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit our website or follow @scotgovESIF.

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