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What will produce more packaging waste for an average family, options not restricted to those below:
1. Home cooked meal.
2. Supermarket ready meal.
3. Take away meal.
4. Buffet like food.
5. A la carte restaurant meal.
6. Any other type of meal?

The confusion arises from the fact that most fruits, vegetables, meat and fish products, rice, pasta, spices, etc. for the home user come packaged unless conscious effort is made to buy without packaging - provided this option is even available. So most ingredients of a home cooked meal would be individually packaged. With already prepared food, although the meal itself may come packaged, buying ingredients in bulk may reduce packaging at source.
in Plastic by (370 points)
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Hi. The only way to know the absolute answer to this question would be to do a Life Cycle Analysis for a specific dish for a specific location, and I'm not sure how helpful that would be unless someone is happy to eat the same dish every day of their life, and never move to another location!

In my experience I can cook a meal for a family with absolutely no packaging waste as long as cook local fresh ingredients but if i want to create a dish from another country I'm probably going to have to buy ingredients that are flown / shipped in which inevitably means packaging to protect the food produce.

It's interesting that you say that most ingredients come individually package. I make an effort to buy as much locally grown food from local stores as i can afford. This means i get to avoid a lot of packaging  but even when i have to shop in supermarkets I'm able to pick up a lot of food items packaged-free and the range is increasing all the time.

On a practical level there's lots of other factors that go into someone's decision about choosing a home cooked meal over takeaway over restaurant meal. Health, cost, convenience. I doubt someone will ever choose a type of meal solely on the amount of packaging it creates. Also packaging isn't the only sustainability concern we need to consider. Making a dish with intensively farmed ingredients is not sustainable whether they come from a restaurant or a home cooked meal.

When trying to live sustainable it's very easy to get lost in the 'weeds'. Is x better than y? Is a more sustainable than b? The best advice is to minimise consumption wherever you possibly can. If you can do it in relation to food by shopping in stores that offer package-free options like loose fruit and veg or unwrapped bread, great, if you can't then drive less or fly less or buy fewer clothes. Reducing our overall level of consumption is the core issue for this generation.

Elaine
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