‘Era of cheap food’ over as two in five Britons buying less food

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Households have been warned that the UK’s “golden era” of cheap food is over, as official figures published on Friday (13) pointed out that two in five people are buying less food to get by.

According to the latest public opinions and social trends survey published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), two in five adults are buying less food when they go shopping. 

The three big worries that emerged in the survey were food, energy bills, and the price at the pumps.

Nine out of 10 of the adults polled told the ONS their outgoings were higher this month than last. When they were first asked, back in November, just 62 percent of adults said this was the case. 

Two in five did not think they would be able to save any money in the next 12 months.

People were cutting back spending on non-essentials, trying to use less power and heating, and avoiding unnecessary trips in their cars. They had also started shopping around more to find the cheapest prices, says the report.

Research for The Guardian by price analysts Assosia last month showed big jumps in the cost of everyday foods, with the price of basic pasta up 45 percent, tinned tomatoes and eggs up by 13 percent, and dog food up by more than 40 percent in the past year. Official data points to a near-20 percent rise in the price of a pint of milk.

“We have been perhaps through a golden era,” The Guardian quoted former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King, a senior figure in the retail industry who also sits on the board of Marks & Spencer. 

“I suspect what we will see is a higher proportion, across the piece, spent on food for the longer term.”

Sarah Coles, a senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the ONS survey showed “alarm bells ringing over food”. 

“The proportion buying less is growing, and while this will include some people who are giving up expensive treats or cutting down on waste, there’s a real risk that some are having to go hungry,” she said.