Microwave ready-meals are seeing a surge in popularity as cash-stripped Brits continue to look for ways to cut soaring energy and grocery bills.
According to the latest figures from Kantar, meals prepared using a microwave grew by 8 per cent in the 12 weeks to June 11 compared to the same period a year earlier while 4 per cent fewer meals were made using the oven.
Nearly 70 per cent of households say they are “extremely” or “very” worried about rising food prices, it added.
“People are thinking more and more about what they eat and how they cook as the cost-of-living crisis takes its toll on traditional behaviours,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.
“The most prominent change we’ve seen is that people are preparing simpler dishes with fewer ingredients. We also saw a reduction in hob use and a rise in food prepared with toasters and grills.”
The latest rise in the use of microwave ready-meals is a clear indication how households battle to cut their energy bills and grocery costs since microwaves use significantly less energy to run than ovens. Also, the up-front cost of ready meals can often be cheaper than buying ingredients to cook from fresh, particularly if households are only cooking for themselves and not saving leftovers.
Grocery prices, meanwhile, increased by 16.5 per cent in the four weeks to 11 June, compared with the same period a year ago, sixth highest monthly figure for the past 15 years.
Almost seven in 10 households are either “extremely” or “very worried” about rising food and drink prices, the market researcher said, adding that shoppers have turned to value ranges as food prices rise, with total spending on supermarket’s cheaper own label lines rising by 41pc compared to last year.
“This is the lowest rate of grocery price inflation we’ve seen in 2023, which will be a relief to shoppers and retailers. But prices rising at 16.5pc isn’t something to celebrate and it’s still the sixth highest monthly figure in the past 15 years,” McKevitt said.
McKevitt said consumers will continue to be hurt at the till as summer wears on. The price of seasonal favourites like ice cream and mineral water have gone up by around a fifth since last year, while burgers and sausages are up 16 per cent and 13 per cent respectively.