As the price of groceries accelerates at its fastest rate for five years, how can you save on your weekly shop?
UK food prices have been rising at their fastest pace since 2014, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), with food prices growing 1.8 per cent in May alone compared with last year.
The rise has been blamed on last year’s cold weather – the Beast from the East and the delay in planting crops as a result cutting into supplies. Last year’s spring flooding followed by a summer heatwave did not help either.
Experts believe this increase is just the start of an upward trend. At least 50 per cent of the food and drink we buy in Britain is imported and of that 70 per cent comes from the European Union. In fact, at least £40bn of the food we buy comes from abroad.
This is not a problem in itself. The issue is that after the referendum vote in June 2016, the value of the pound dropped dramatically, which meant importing food became more expensive. Food prices were last at a historic low in 2008, around the time of the credit crunch.
Here we share a few everyday food price hacks for you to try.
1. Eat in season and buy local
Buying fruit and vegetables in season can save money. In 2017, when poor weather in Europe caused a fruit and vegetable shortage, many local greengrocers claimed to have seen a rise in business.
Buying seasonally you will most likely end up buying British and supporting British producers; important as we get nearer to Brexit when tariffs could make things from the EU more expensive.
If you are a meat eater, remember all cuts are not the same: chicken thighs are cheaper and can work better than breast meat in certain recipes. Other unpopular cuts like ox tongue, pig’s cheek and pork knuckle are also tasty.
Be savvy about leftovers, which often get binned. If you know you are not going to use them, freeze them.
2. Be a savvy food shopper
Approvedfood.co.uk claims to have saved shoppers £40m since it was launched 10 years ago. The online retailer sells surplus food and drink. It buys stock nearing its best before date, as well as “problem” stock in unpopular flavours or lines or outdated packaging design, and sells it online at a hugely discounted rate.
Andy Needham, managing director, says the company has prevented thousands of good items going to landfill. He is calling for better education about food labelling, particularly around the difference between best before and use by dates.
He says: “Tinned, dried and vacuum-packed food all carries a best before date when, in reality, it can last for many years beyond that date.”
3. Work the supermarket sweep
The leading 10 supermarkets are signed up to the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, which guarantees fair prices for suppliers, but they have ways of persuading us to part with our cash. Apply these tips:
Buy loose not pre-packaged fruit and veg. It’s cheaper and better for the environment.
Avoid temptation by buying the heavier basics like tinned or frozen food online. Jane Arthern, a former merchandising manager for Safeway and Manor Bakeries, says: “Supermarkets are there to make money so the top-selling brands will be on the middle shelf. These are exactly at eye level so you are more likely to buy it.”
The Co-Op is one supermarket that is allowing customers to buy food that has gone past its best before date. While a lot of fresh food can be eaten a few days after its best before date, it’s worth buying and freezing it.
Supermarket own brands can often be better quality than the premium ones. “Own brand sausages have more pork in them, and if you are going dairy-free, some own label biscuits are actually vegan because they use vegetable oil,” says Jane.
“Many own brand cereal tastes the same and some own label beans have a higher tomato content than more expensive brands.”