Britons cutting back on fresh food as cost-of-living crisis bites, says Cabinet minister George Eustice

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Britons are buying less fresh food and more frozen items  (PA Wire)
Britons are buying less fresh food and more frozen items (PA Wire)

Britons are cutting back on fresh food as the cost-of-living crisis bites, a Cabinet minister said on Monday.

Environment Secretary George Eustice explained that more people were instead buying frozen food, which is often cheaper and lasts for longer.

Millions of families are seeing their weekly budgets squeezed by inflation having hit a 40-year-high of 9.1 per cent in May, with the Bank of England predicting it could jump to an eye-watering 11 per cent later this year.

Soaring inflation is being driven higher by food prices, which were up by 8.7 per cent in the year to May, with the largest contributions to the hike from bread, cereals, and meat, with the cost of fuel also spiralling.

Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Mr Eustice said: “What we know from the supermarkets is that the profile of the average shopping basket changes and is changing at the moment.

“They are reporting for instance that they are selling slightly more frozen categories and a bit less of the fresh categories.”

Some shoppers are limiting their supermarket spend, to £30 for example, and putting back items which they discover at the checkouts take them over this limit, say supermarket chiefs.

The British Retail Consortium said it was “no surprise” that families were buying more frozen food given how fast the cost of fresh produce was rising.

James Hardiman, senior analyst at the BRC, said: “Households are continuing to rein in spending as the cost-of-living crunch squeezes consumer demand.

“Many customers are buying down, particularly with food, choosing value range items where they might previously have bought premium goods.

“With fresh food inflation rising quickly, it is no surprise that consumers are swapping fresh for frozen goods.”

Boris Johnson was set on Monday to use a session of a summit in Germany of G7 leaders (US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Italy) to call for urgent action to help get vital grain supplies out of Ukraine’s blockaded ports to support the country’s economy and alleviate shortages around the world.

Time is running out to prevent stores of grain rotting in silos, with July’s harvest set to exacerbate the problem.

The UK is pushing a proposal to seek to get large quantities of grain out of the country by rail given that ships are unable to use Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea, including Odesa, because of a a Russian blockade.

In Britain, MPs and business chiefs are also piling pressure on Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to act swiftly with fresh moves to ease the cost-of-living crisis, such as a cut in VAT.

Mr Sunak, though, has so far resisted pressure to speed up any further measures to prop up the economy and help struggling families, with more announcements instead expected in the autumn, and the threshold for paying National Insurance contributions rising to £12,570 next month.

The Government recently announced a further £15 billion of support for households struggling with soaring energy, fuel and food bills.