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Cost of pasta jumps 50% as inflation hits poorest households

Supermarkets CARDIFF, WALES - MAY 22: Supermarket goods at a self service checkout on May 22, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. Last week, the UK Office for National Statistics reported an 6% average increase of food and drink prices year on year, but some staples, such as milk and pasta, had risen by more than 10%. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
Supermarkets: The UK's cheapest groceries are costing more as inflation squeezes UK households. Photo: Matthew Horwood/Getty

Supermarket grocery costs have surged with the cost of basic items such as pasta up by as much as 50% and everyday items climbing 15% in price, new ONS data shows.

Looking at 30 types of food, the Office for National Statistics said that the lowest-priced items in particular ranges had risen by 6-7% in the year to April.

The cost of the cheapest 500 gram (17.6 oz) pack of pasta at a UK supermarket last month was 53p ($0.67), a 50% increase from 36p a year earlier, while the price of an 800 gram loaf of bread rose by 16% to 54p.

The 50% surge in the price of pasta is the most notable, but others include crisps (17%), bread (16%), minced beef (16%) and rice (15%).

The cost of potatoes fell 14%, cheese prices were down 7% and pizzas cost 4% less than a year before.

In cash terms, the largest price rises, on average, were measured for beef mince, which was up 32p for 500g to £2.34, and chicken breast, which rose 28p to £3.50 for 600g).

Read more: Sainsbury’s commits £500m to price cuts amid cost of living crisis

The analysis suggested that the disappearance of budget ranges would hit poorer shoppers, with a large step of 20% up to the next price point for two-thirds of the items tracked.

Lowest price of selected 30 everyday groceries, item-level price changes, April 2022 compared with April 2021. Table: ONS
Lowest price of selected 30 everyday groceries, April 2022 compared with April 2021. Table:ONS

The ONS carried out the research after concerns raised by campaigner Jack Monroe suggested that headline inflation figures were misleading, and under-stated the intensity of cost increases for households who were trying to buy the cheapest products.

Myron Jobson, senior personal finance analyst at Interactive Investor, said: “Shopping for groceries is taking a bigger bite out of household budgets amid the unrelenting rise in prices. The heightened cost to put food on the table is difficult to stomach at a time when the cost of seemingly everything else from energy bills to petrol is on the up.

“Many of us are feeling the inflation pinch most through the food we buy, and the headline inflation figures often drastically underestimates the extent of real-world food inflation, with some items, like pasta up 50% in a year, while other popular items such as crisps, bread, minced beef and rice up by sizeable percentages over the same period.

“It is important to remember that every shopping basket is different and, as such, the impact of food inflation is unique to each individual.

Read more: Cost of living crisis: 10 top tips to save money on eating out

“We all have our own inflation number, and it is worth keeping tabs on your spending habits to get a better idea of the goods and services that are eating most into your budget, and where you could cut back as the cost of living continues to surge. Look at what makes sense for you — not an arbitrary measurement from anyone else.”

Anti-poverty campaigners have pointed to sharp price rises in the cheapest categories of many food staples.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Budget range inflation has dealt a nasty blow to shoppers on low incomes.

“The price of supermarket budget ranges is rising no faster than the overall cost of food and non-alcoholic drinks. However, these rises are much more difficult to deal with when you’re shopping on a low budget and have nowhere to turn.

“The overall figure also hides the fact that once you’ve made it to the supermarket, the budget range may not be available. Not every supermarket stocks every budget item, and in some cases there may be nothing left on the shelf.

Read more: What is the cost of living and how you can manage yours

“The danger is that if you’re forced to buy the next cheapest, the difference can be horrendous. In two-thirds of cases, the difference between the lowest-cost version and the next cheapest was at least 20%. For four items, the difference was more than 50%."

The ONS trained algorithms to select the cheapest possible alternatives on the websites of Asda, the Co-op, Iceland, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L), Tesco (TSCO.L) and Waitrose, and tracked its price over the year.

The statistics body cautioned that it was “highly experimental research, based on web-scraped supermarket data for 30 everyday grocery items”, and pointed to a series of limitations to the data.

Watch: How does inflation affect interest rates?