People Turn to Microwave Meals as Food Prices Soar

People are increasingly cooking with their microwaves to save money as food prices soar, research suggests. Kantar found there were 4% fewer meals made using an oven in the 12 weeks to 11 June versus the same period last year, while microwaved meals rose 8%.

Grocery price inflation has slowed to its lowest level since the start of 2023, it said, but remains very high. Nearly 70% of households say they are “extremely” or “very” worried about rising food prices, it added.

“People are thinking more and more about what they eat and how they cook as the cost of living crisis takes its toll on traditional behaviours,” said Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar.

“The most prominent change we’ve seen is that people are preparing simpler dishes with fewer ingredients. We also saw a reduction in hob use and a rise in food prepared with toasters and grills.”

The BBC is reporting that people have been looking to cut back on their energy bills after prices soared following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and microwaves consume far less energy than conventional ovens.

According to Kantar’s research, grocery prices increased by 16.5% in the four weeks to 11 June, compared with the same period a year ago.

That was the sixth highest monthly figure for the past 15 years, Mr McKevitt said, although price rises are starting to ease.

“Price rises are now being compared to the increasing rate of grocery inflation seen last summer, which means that it should continue to fall in the coming months, a welcome result for everyone.”

Households seeking ways to save are increasingly switching to the cheapest supermarket own-label lines, Kantar says. Total spending on these value ranges is up by 41% since last year.

Retailers had zoned in on shoppers’ need to “dial out of inflation”, Mr McKevitt said, but it was getting “much harder” for stores to hit the one pound price point for some goods.

“You can understand the power of the pound, it doesn’t sound like much money [and] psychologically it’s very arresting,” Mr McKevitt said. “If you’re shopping in cash, because some people still are, it’s quite easy to shop at those round pound price points.”

However, Kantar said inflation meant £1.25 was now becoming a common pricing point. The Kantar data showed that sales at discount chains Aldi and Lidl had surged by 24.6% and 23.2%, leaving them with ever larger shares of the grocery market.

Mr McKevitt said consumers will continue to be hurt at the till as summer wears on.

The price of seasonal favourites like ice cream and mineral water have gone up by around a fifth since last year, while burgers and sausages are up 16% and 13% respectively.

According to official figures, UK food prices are rising at their fastest rate in nearly 45 years, with staples such as sugar and pasta up sharply.

Supermarkets have been accused of not passing on falling wholesale costs to consumers, prompting the Competition and Markets Authority to launch an investigation. However, grocers deny profiteering and have begun cutting the price of basics.

Morrisons and M&S were the latest to announce discounts this week, while Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Aldi and Lidl have all reduced bread, milk and butter prices in the past few months.

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