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Food shopping and cooking in a cost of living crisis

The cost of some staples have doubled in a year. While supermarkets and their suppliers are being suspected of profiteering in a crisis, the story is more complicated. At every stage of the supply chain costs of production have risen – animal feed, energy and transport, higher import costs, poor harvests, and more. While the rate of inflation is falling, food prices are not yet feeling the benefit.

Fresh food prices saw a record jump of 17.8% year on year to April 2023, and store-cupboard items rose in price by 12.9%, according to Neilson Research.

The food products hardest hit by inflation have been identified by the Consumer Price Index of inflation, published by the Office for National Statistics, and include some important basics:

  • Olive oil up by 49.2%
  • Sugar up by 42.1%
  • Low-fat milk up by 38.8%
  • Cheese up by 33.6%
  • Eggs up by 32%
  • Pasta up by 24.1%
  • Chocolate up by 14.6%

For anyone who is struggling to cope with the rising cost of grocery shopping here are some tips to find bargains and cut the cost of cooking.

Sign up for discounts at supermarkets

Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrisons and most of the major supermarkets run some sort of loyalty ‘club’ scheme which gives members access to lower prices. These really do make a difference, so it’s worth being a part of it. By checking deals regularly and buying your usual products when they’re on offer, it is possible to reduce the cost of eating.

On the down side, this often requires customers to buy multiples of the same food item. Not ideal if your parent lives alone, and really would prefer not to eat the same meal for days. One answer is to have a big enough freezer to eat one now and freeze one for later.

Use the discount stores

Increasing numbers of people are shopping around for their groceries, and discount stores like Aldi and Lidl are seeing the benefit. They’ve reached new record market shares in the first part of this year with Lidl the fastest-growing grocer.

Batch bake for your parent’s freezer

If your parent isn’t up to making their own meals from scratch, but it’s something that you do, you could add an extra portion to freeze for your parent. Homemade food is generally appreciated not just because it’s likely to be tastier and healthier, but it also demonstrates your thoughtfulness. Meals like cottage pie, fish pie, lasagne and home-made soups are ideal for freezing and eating later, providing a filling and warming meal without a bunch of additives.

If you’re catering on a budget yourself, there are plenty of recipes that work well for batch cooking without exorbitant costs.

One thing to bear in mind is that half-filled freezers can be more expensive in terms of energy cost to run than full ones, and powering down a freezer when it’s empty is probably a false economy. If the freezer isn’t full, you could try packing the spaces with bottles of water.

Pick a time to shop for reduced items

Which? has compiled a list of good times to visit various supermarkets for ‘yellow stickered’ products – those fresh goods with sell-by dates that are about to run out. Even before the cost of living began to rise so fast, these times had a reputation for belonging to the sharp-elbowed and assertive.

Aldi and M&S say they tend to reduce close to the time that the store closes, although policy differs from store to store. Asda and Lidl usually mark items down in the morning and in the evening, although Lidl may reduce prices throughout the day. There are no specific times for yellow stickering at Morrison, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

Make sure your parent is claiming all the possible benefits

While expenditure is rising, it’s important to make sure your parent is maximising their income. There’s a resistance to claiming benefits, but it really can make a difference.

Even if they can only claim a few pence in Pension Credit, being in receipt of this benefit can open up all sorts of savings that can then be used on food and other essential items.

Additionally, if your parent qualifies for Attendance Allowance because they have a health condition that means they need help in daily life,  that can add over £400 a month to their income.

Worth a read:

Image by wirestock on Freepik

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