14 million shoppers get thrifty as cost of living bites

New Which? research reveals consumers say they are increasing efforts to waste less food  by cooking with leftovers, making smaller portions and freezing more to save money.

Rising food prices are consistently one of consumers top financial concerns, and now new Which? research reveals around 14 million people say they are reducing food waste due to financial reasons.

The cost of food has rocketed over the past six years with prices rising around 12% over and above general inflation yet incomes are stagnating. Eight in 10 of us (78%) are worried about rising food prices with nearly half (45%) saying they’re spending a larger proportion of their income on food compared to 12 months ago.

In the past 12 months, nearly half of shoppers said they freeze food (47%) or cook with leftovers (47%) to avoid waste. The survey also found that two in five (39%) said they are cooking smaller portions, so there is less chance of meals going in the bin.

We found that consumers are changing their shopping habits in an effort to reduce food waste, with a third (35%) saying they are buying less food and a quarter (26%) doing more frequent top-up shops rather than one main food shop.

Four in 10 (43%) say they have started to check the ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ dates more frequently and, worryingly, a third (35%) have even stopped adhering to use by dates on food packets.

Separately, our monthly consumer insight tracker shows there has been a significant increase over the last year in the number of people dipping into their savings to pay for their groceries, with around a third (36%) now compared to a quarter (25%) last year.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“Rocketing food prices are changing consumers’ habits, with more people helping themselves by cooking with leftovers and preparing smaller portions to avoid chucking expensive food in the bin.

“Our research shows that, with more people feeling the squeeze, they are also buying less food and even paying for it with their savings.

“We want supermarkets to help people find the best deal by displaying simpler pricing and ensuring that special offers are genuinely good value for money.”

The findings come after chef and campaigner, Jamie Oliver, has launched a new campaign born of public demand.  ‘Save with Jamie’ offers top tips to help households cut down on food waste.

Jamie’s top tips on food waste:

1.    Make a shopping list – I know it sounds obvious, but that way you’ll avoid doubling up and wasting things later

2.    Frozen veg is perfect for many types of cooking and you can just grab a handful of what you need when you need it

3.    If you have too much fruit then freeze it before it goes off.  You can then make it into smoothies or add yogurt and blend into a delicious ‘ice cream’ when the mood takes you.

4.    Knowing how to joint a chicken is a really brilliant skill to have. You can buy a whole chicken for just a little bit more than the cost of two chicken breasts.

5.    If you have a surplus of herbs, don’t throw them away. You can make and freeze herb butters, or freeze ice cube trays of herb oils. Alternatively you can dry them somewhere warm like an airing cupboard and use them up as you need them.

Jamie Oliver said:

“I’ve had so many requests for advice on how to save money on food without compromising on taste, so I’m not surprised that Which? has found people are being really careful.  It’s the main reason I wrote the “Save with Jamie” book and filmed the TV series.

“As everyone knows, I consider the public to be my “boss” so I set about working on something that would really help people to save money by shopping cleverly, cooking smartly and using their leftovers to waste less and create incredible meals at the same time. It’s about embracing tips, ideas and principles that you can easily adopt into your everyday life, all of which should make a good difference to your wallet.”

Notes for editors

1. Food survey: Populus, on behalf of Which?, surveyed 2,028 GB adults, of which 1,969 were grocery shoppers, online between 28 and 30 June 2013. Data were weighted to be representative of the GB population. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

2. Monthly tracker survey: Populus, on behalf of Which?, interviewed 2,091 UK adults online between 28 and 29 August 2013.  Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all UK adults.

3. Which? calculation for 12% food price rise is based on ONS data.

4. Save with Jamie by Jamie Oliver (Penguin) is out now.

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