A quarter of families say they can't. But a change in your shopping habits could be the answer. Our Savvy Supermarket Shopper explains.
How are rising food prices affecting your health? A survey by ING Direct out this week showed just how much of an impact our supermarket shopping was having on our financial well-being.
Sixty-five per cent of those who responded to the survey said that food and grocery shopping was putting their finances under strain. Many have changed their shopping habits in an attempt to alleviate the pressure of rising prices. Four in 10 are buying more value products, and nearly a quarter have switched to a cheaper supermarket in an attempt to cut their grocery bill.
But many people may be making bigger sacrifices than simply buying value beans. The survey showed that a quarter of people now believe that feeding their family a healthy diet is too expensive. These are the people who are choosing to fill up on cheap processed foods, rather than pay for expensive fruit and vegetables and Britain's health is suffering as a result.
As representatives of Britain's doctors pointed out this week, unhealthy food is cheap. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) said in a report that the "culture, circumstances and environment in which food and drink are available is predicated towards an unhealthy balance of foods high in sugar, fat and salt.
"We believe that alongside this, the cheap and abundant availability of highly calorific food and the perceived relative expense of fresh fruit and vegetables provides strong financial disincentives to individuals pursuing a healthy, balanced diet," the group said in a report on how to deal with Britain's obesity crisis.
The AMRC wants a 20pc increase in the price of sugary drinks, as well as a ban on fast-food outlets near to schools. But this is unlikely to be enough when customers are reacting to rising supermarket bills by deprioritising their health.
Figures from Defra, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, show that those who are struggling financially are the most likely to cut down on healthy food.
Since 2007, when food began to rise in price, those on the lowest wages bought 25pc less fruit and 15pc fewer vegetables. In the same period, the amount of processed food they bought dropped by just 1pc. In short, when money is tight, it is easier to buy a cheap lasagne (with or without horsemeat) than it is to spend a large percentage of your income on the scratch ingredients for a stew.
Defra research showed that, for the population as a whole, regardless of income, price was a far greater deciding factor when buying food than health benefits. More than 40pc of people cited price as their top deciding factor, against just 8pc who said health was the most important.
Given this tendency to value price over health, it is small wonder that many experts believe that the solution is to tax unhealthy food more heavily. In Hungary, for example, foods with high sugar, salt or caffeine face a special tax, and Denmark taxes saturated fat by the kilo. New Scientist estimates that the Danish tax system would add an extra 5p to the cost of a bag of crisps and an extra 25p on a burger.
The UK medics stopped short of recommending a blanket "fat tax", despite recommending a tax on sugary drinks.
But it is noticeable, when perusing supermarket shelves, how many of their offers are on processed food and how few are on fresh fruit and vegetables. Tesco (Other OTC: TSCDY - news) 's website this week contained no fresh fruit and vegetable deals on its Top Offers page. However, it did include crispy chicken, Dairy Milk, crisps and tomato ketchup.
Whether or not the medics get their way, those who want to eat well on a budget have to watch their step in the aisles. Getting fresh produce for less is often a case of considering only fruit and vegetables in season, shopping from markets, and not being seduced by the bogofs and other promotions on processed food. The horsemeat scandal may go some way to turning us off our cheap lasagne habit, but many supermarket shoppers will need more of a kick.
OFFERS OF THE WEEK
- Lidl is offering 8kg of its own Formil washing powder for £9.49
- It is also offering 600g of spaghetti for 49p
- The supermarket has six fruit corner yogurts on offer for £1.79, down from £3.58
- Lidl is offering a litre of Robinsons no added sugar squash for 79p from Thursday onwards, down from £1.39
- It’s also offering 100pc extra free fresh red apples 2kg for the price of 1kg pack at £1.69
- Lidl’s 1kg of pork loin medallions are two for £10, saving £1.98
- Lidl is also offering fresh British beef roasting joints, 2kg‑2.5kg, at £4.99 per kg, saving £3 per kg
- Morrisons is offering its M Kitchen Takeaway Indian range at half price, including main dishes for £1.75, down from £3.50
- Its M Kitchen stuffed crust pizzas, including double pepperoni, cheese feast and smoky sausage & bacon, are two for £5 or £3 each
- Cathedral City grated mature cheese 200g is £1.19 at Morrisons, down from £2.38
- Its Cook Italian chopped tomatoes, four x 400g, are £1.89, down from £3.79
- The chain is also offering any three for £10 or £5 each on Persil & Comfort two in one (875ml) and Small & Mighty non bio 1 litre