What’s really going on with rising food prices? Plus… recipes with the cheapest ingredients
Food inflation is at a 40 year high in 2023, and many items have increased by more than 40% in price. These extraordinary changes have meant we’re all making alterations to our shopping habits. You might have moved from buying branded items to supermarket own-brand, and perhaps you’re avoiding certain products altogether.
We take a look at which products have seen the most drastic price increases – and offer recipe suggestions for ingredients that have been least affected: canned tuna, lemons, baking potatoes, mushrooms, beef and basmati rice. Find all our budget cooking tips, ideas and recommendations in one place here.
Food inflation has had an effect on every single one of us, whether you shop at a bargain supermarket or a high end one. Some of the most basic household items have seen the greatest increase, such as cheese, milk, eggs and fats like olive oil and butter. Overall, food has seen the biggest increase of any sector when it comes to inflation, with an average of 19% (sadly, that figure is still growing).
There are many reasons for the rapid increases, including the war in Ukraine (which affected oil and gas prices and therefore production costs for our food manufacturers). There have also been increases in the prices of basic ingredients such as tomatoes, caused by shortages (due to bad weather) that have affected fresh and storecupboard products like ketchup and baked beans. The cost of energy used in production, packaging and transportation has also gone up, all of which has had a knock-on effect on our shopping bills.
It's unrealistic to cut out an entire food group, but there are ways you can plan in more meals around cheaper ingredients.
It’s neither fun nor realistic to cut out an entire food group, but there are ways you can plan in more meals around cheaper ingredients. There’s no harm in swapping out olive oil for sunflower oil when you make pestos and salad dressings, for example. And instead of relying on the more expensive basics such as cheese, chicken and baked beans as often, why not plan more meals around less pricey vegetables such as lentils, mushrooms and potatoes?
The ingredients that have almost doubled in price
There isn’t always rhyme or reason behind which products have shot up in price the most. For instance, broccoli and cucumber have been greatly affected, while avocados remain relatively stable, despite their journey from farm to shop shelf being a long one.
Here’s a list of frequently purchased items that have suffered the greatest increases:
- Baked beans: 39% increase
- Cheddar cheese: 42% increase
- Frozen breaded/battered white fish: 32% increase
- Olive oil: 49% increase
- Hard cheese: 44% increase
- Granulated white sugar: 42% increase
- Fresh/chilled whole chicken: 22% increase
…And ingredients that have seen the smallest price increase
- Mushrooms: 7% increase
- Lemons: 3% increase
- Tinned tuna: 10% increase
- Beef joints: 7% increase
- Baking potatoes: 6% increase
- Basmati rice: 13% increase
- Avocados: 9% increase
Recipes to try with cheaper ingredients
Mushrooms can cost as little as 94p a punnet, so enjoy them in this curry inspired by methi murgh, with the rich flavours of fenugreek, yogurt and ginger.
Baked potatoes take on a Scandi vibe and a delightful purple hue in this fresh, vibrant, super-simple dish… No need to reach for an expensive can of baked beans and cheese.
Two very different fish work brilliantly together in this dish – with anchovies bringing the umami and tuna bringing the meaty texture it’s so well known for. Try the combination in this inexpensive, buttery pasta dish.
This flavoursome recipe by chef Vivek Singh is made with basmati rice, spices, cauliflower, peas, chillies and onions and makes for a great main meal served alongside chutneys and raita or a simple lentil curry.
Who doesn’t love a three-ingredient pudding? This lemon posset recipe is an inexpensive dessert for when friends are visiting. You can turn it into a tart, too: pour the posset mixture into a blind-baked pastry case for an easy tarte au citron… Genius!
We love easy recipes for Sundays. Our three-step roast calls for one of the more economical joints of beef – topside – and is made with onions and mushrooms, neither of which have risen in price as much as some other ingredients. There’s another plus: the recipe takes only an hour to cook.
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