Millions of families and households are skipping meals or finding it hard to put healthy meals on the table as they struggle with the cost of living crisis, Which? research reveals.
New research from the consumer champion shows people across the country are making huge changes to how they shop and eat as they feel the impact of soaring inflation.
Among those who said they are struggling most financially, half (50%) said that their household was skipping meals.
Nearly half (46%) of consumers said they are finding it harder to eat healthily compared to before the crisis. This goes up to eight in 10 (78%) of those finding it very difficult financially.
As part of its campaign for businesses in essential sectors to do more for consumers during the cost of living crisis, Which? is calling on supermarkets to help their customers with clearer pricing, promotions targeted at supporting customers on low incomes and by ensuring budget lines are widely available – particularly in locations where people need them most.
Which?’s research shows that over eight in 10 (85%) people in the UK are making an adjustment to save money on food as a result of the cost of living crisis.
The most common adjustment is looking out for food items on promotion, with more than half (55%) of almost 3,000 consumers Which? surveyed saying that they do this.
Half (50%) of respondents said they are trading down to cheaper products than they were buying previously.
Alongside the alarmingly high proportion, 50 per cent, of those finding it ‘very difficult’ financially who said they are skipping meals, a quarter (26%) of people who are finding it ‘quite difficult’ reported the same.
The findings come as food prices have soared which, when combined with increases to energy, fuel and housing costs, is leaving many consumers in serious financial difficulty.
Almost all (99%) of those who are in a difficult financial position reported doing something to save money on food. Even among those who are living comfortably, this was the case for around half of people (47%).
Which?’s latest research also found that four in ten (42%) households are buying expensive or treat foods less often and around a third (36%) said they are shopping around in supermarkets, other stores or online.
Almost one in five said they had bought more frozen food to cut costs (18%), around one in 10 (12%) across all of those surveyed said that they had resorted to skipping meals and five per cent said that they were buying more ready meals or microwave meals.
Which? recognises that a number of supermarkets are introducing measures to help their customers during the cost of living crisis but they also need to make sure that budget lines for affordable essential items are widely available across their stores, particularly in areas of the country where they are needed most.
They should also ensure their pricing is more transparent, legible and consistent so that people can more easily understand the best deals.
The consumer champion also believes that marketing budgets and promotions should be targeted to support those struggling, with offers, vouchers and loyalty card benefits focused on the places and households where people are most in need.
Sue Davies, Which? Head of Food Policy, said:
“The devastating impact of the cost of living crisis is, worryingly, leading to millions of people skipping meals or struggling to put healthy meals on the table.
“Supermarkets have a crucial role to play in supporting their customers through this very difficult time.
“By making sure that everyone has easy access to budget food ranges that are also healthy, can easily compare the price of products to get the best value and that promotions are targeted at supporting people most in need, supermarkets can help their customers to navigate the tough months ahead.”
Roberta, a 57-year-old London resident, told Which?: “I am cutting back on food because I do not want to cut back on heating. I have osteoarthritis and I need to be warm.”
Roberta has changed her grocery shopping and eating habits to cope with surging food prices: “Now, I only buy strictly what I need. I have also reduced the quantity of food I eat. At lunch I go for a cup of tea – if I feel hungry, a cup of warm milk with a slice of toast.”
Other measures that Roberta has adopted include shopping early in the morning to ensure that she bags products from popular supermarket basic ranges, buying more discounted items nearing the expiry date and not buying online because of delivery charges and minimum spend requirements.
Notes to editors
Yonder, on behalf of Which?, conducted an online survey of 2,791 UK adults (aged 18+) between 8th-9th August 2022. Figures are weighted to be nationally representative.
Which? recently launched a campaign calling on businesses in essential sectors – supermarkets, telecoms and energy – to do more to help their customers through the cost of living crisis. More information is available here: An agenda for business to support consumers through the cost of living crisis.
Which? is asking consumers to share their experiences of dealing with rising food prices during the cost of living crisis: which.co.uk/your-food-shop.
Millions of families and households are skipping meals: Based on Which?’s survey and the ONS 2020 mid-year population estimate, Which? estimates that 6.3 million UK adults (aged 18+) say their household is skipping meals as a result of the cost of living crisis.
Millions of families and households are finding it hard to put healthy meals on the table: Based on Which?’s survey and the ONS 2020 mid-year population estimate, Which? estimates that 24.3 million UK adults (aged 18+) are finding it harder to eat healthily as a result of the cost of living crisis.
Among those who said they are struggling most financially, half (50%) said that their household was skipping meals: Of those that said they were finding their finances “very difficult” 50% said their household was skipping meals to save money on food. A breakdown of reported financial wellbeing is provided in the table below:
How well would you say you are managing financially these days?
% of UK population
Just about getting by
Finding it quite difficult
Finding it very difficult
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