Families cut back on fresh food

Many young families cut back on fresh fruit and vegetables and switched to less healthy processed food as the recession squeezed household budgets, a study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has revealed. It shows that rising food prices and stagnating wages have led people to buy less food and choose cheaper products.

Key findings

  • Comparing the years before the recession (2005-2007) with 2010-2012, households on average cut real spending on food brought into the home by 8.5 per cent; reduced calories purchased by 3.6 per cent; and spent 5.2 per cent less per calorie.
  • Households with young children reduced real expenditure, calories and real expenditure per calorie more, on average, than other household types.
  • The nutritional quality of the foods that households purchased also changed: a number of measures show a reduction in quality, on average, over this period.
  • Pensioner households, lone-parent households and households with young children saw the largest declines in the nutritional quality of the foods purchased between 2005-2007 and 2010-2012.
  • On average, all household types moved away from calories from fruit and vegetables, with the largest switches away being by households with young children and lone-parent households.

Source: Rachel Griffith, Martin O’Connell and Kate Smith, Food Expenditure and Nutritional Quality over the Great Recession, Briefing Note 143, Institute for Fiscal Studies
LinksBriefing Note | BBC report | Guardian report

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Publication date: 
Nov 1 2013