Money Wellness
Image of a woman carrying a box filled with vegetables
category iconcost of living
calendar icon05 Dec 2023

Households buying less veg because of cost of living pressures

The amount of vegetables bought by households in the UK has fallen to its lowest level in 50 years due to rising prices and cost of living pressures.

Figures from The Food Foundation Peas Please Progress Report 2023, show many low-income households are struggling to afford heathier options.

The amount of vegetables bought by households remained fairly stagnant over the past thirty years, however it dropped sharply to its lowest level in fifty years during 2021-2022, from 182g per person, per day in 2020-21 to 154g in 2021-22.

The Eatwell Guide, the government’s recommended guideline for a healthy diet, suggests 20% of people’s daily food intake should be made up of vegetables.

What’s most concerning is that the amount of veg households are buying is continuing to fall, with the weight of the average shopping basket made up of vegetables falling from 7.2% to 6.8% over the past six years.

Vegetable purchases have always been linked to income even before the cost-of-living crisis. Data for 2022-23 shows that the shopping basket of those earning less than £10,000 a year is just 5.9%, while the baskets of households bringing in more than £70,000 was filled by 8.2% of veg.

The Peas Please project launched in 2017 with a mission to make it easier for everyone in the UK to eat more veg. Since then, 110 organisations from supermarkets, such as ADSA, TESCO, Aldi, to restaurants and retailers like Subway, Greggs, Weatherspoon and Prezzo and growers and manufacturers, have committed to veg pledges that support people accessing more veg.

Its pledgers have sold 1.1 billion additional portions of veg since 2017 and around 1.5 million children have taken part in the Veg Power school’s programme.

Why do we need to eat vegetables?

Vegetables add fibre, vitamins, and minerals to your meals and wating a healthy diet can help reduce your risk of developing coronary heart disease by helping you maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels, as well as manage your weight which in turn can help to reduce your risk of type two diabetes.

Where can I pick up cheap vegetables?

The supermarket basic ranges are pretty good and cost effective – Aldi discounts six fruit and veg items every fortnight and offers them at outstandingly low prices. Also check out reduced items – ‘yellow stickered’ - that are close to their sell by dates and are being sold off at huge discounts at certain times of the day. Ask your local supermarket when’s the best time to visit for price reductions.

Local markets also offer cheaper alternatives. To keep prices down look to buy fruit and veg that’s in season.

Another fail safe is frozen or tinned vegetables. You can pick up a 1kg bag of frozen veg for £1 in Sainsburys with carrots, peas, broccoli and cauliflower in it, and tinned items like plum tomatoes and peaches start about 15p.

What can I do if I can’t afford to buy food?

If you need to use a food bank you can get referral from official sources like your child’s school, a doctor, social worker or your local Citizen’s Advice.

You can find your nearest food bank on the Trussell Trust website.

Your local council can also help to put you in touch with organisations in your area who might be able to help with food donations. They might also be able to offer vouchers or a grant to help towards the cost of food so that you don’t need to visit a food bank.

If you can’t get a referral, you might still be able to visit a food bank. Check the map at Independent Food Aid Network to find the contact details of local charities and food banks near you.

What will a food bank give me?

Food banks offer food parcels that you’ll need to collect from the address you’ll be given when you’re referred. If you can’t get to the food bank as you live rurally, they might deliver it to you.

Some food banks will only allow you to be referred once so they can’t be relied on as a long term option.

If you can’t cover day-to-day costs like food, you should check you’re claiming all the financial help you’re entitled to. We can do this for you.

The Healthy Start scheme

If you’re pregnant or caring for at least one child under 4, you might be eligible for help from the Healthy Start scheme.  

Healthy Start is a government run scheme that provides a prepaid card that can be used in some UK shops. You can use the card to buy:

  • Plain liquid cow’s milk
  • Fresh, frozen and tinned fruit and vegetables
  • Fresh, dried and tinned pulses
  • Infant formula milk based on cow’s milk

You can also use your card to collect:

  • Healthy Start vitamins – these support you during pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Vitamin drops for babies and young children – these are suitable from birth to four years old

Your local council can also provide food for children who get free school meals during the summer, Easter and Christmas holidays. If your council hasn’t been in touch, visit their website for more details.

Other places offering free or reduced food

Foodcycle

Community Grocery

Your Local Pantry

Avatar of Caroline Chell

Caroline Chell

Caroline has worked in financial communications for more than 10 years, writing content on subjects such as pensions, mortgages, loans and credit cards, as well as stockbroking and investment advice.

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