Britons buy more ‘wonky’ veg and frozen food as living costs soar

Households are turning to “wonky” vegetables and frozen food in an attempt to keep costs down as grocery prices soared by a record 13.9% last month.

Inflation in supermarkets is at the highest level since at least 2008 when the market research group Kantar began collecting data, adding £643 a year to the average family’s grocery bill, which now exceeds £5,200.

Steeper shopping bills are adding to pressure on households struggling with higher energy and petrol costs, while some homeowners have also experienced a sharp increase in their mortgage payments.

Shoppers are seeking ways to offset inflation, with sales of cheaper imperfect vegetables – known in some stores as wonky veg – up by 38% in September, while sales of frozen foods, which can help reduce waste, were up 10%. Sales of fresh vegetables are also up – by 6% – suggesting households are cooking more from scratch as a way to save cash.

Sales of energy-saving appliances such as air fryers and sandwich makers are up 53%, while electric blankets are up 8% year on year and candles 9% – suggesting some are preparing for the prospect of winter blackouts.

Fraser McKevitt, the head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar, said: “Consumers are looking for ways to manage budgets and to avoid paying more for their shopping. We’re generally reluctant to change what we eat, so this is more about sticking to the food we know and love while hunting for cheaper alternatives.”

He said families were also switching to cheaper supermarket own-label goods. Almost two-thirds of Asda customers put one of its Just Essentials value range in their basket.

The launch of the range has helped the UK’s third largest supermarket attract 417,000 new shoppers and increase sales at 4.5%, ahead of its traditional rivals Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons.

Asda, which was bought outby the billionaire Issa brothers and private equity group TDR Capital two years ago, has reported gradually strengthened sales growth since July.

However, the traditional supermarkets are being outpaced by the discounters Aldi and Lidl, both of which increased sales by more than 20% in the three months to 2 October. Waitrose and Morrisons fared particularly poorly over the quarter, with sales down 3% and nearly 4% respectively.

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