scorecardPeople are turning to fish heads, protein shakes, and unsold food apps to save money on groceries
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People are turning to fish heads, protein shakes, and unsold food apps to save money on groceries

Pete Syme   

People are turning to fish heads, protein shakes, and unsold food apps to save money on groceries
Retail4 min read
  • The rising price of groceries and energy bills has caused a cost-of-living crisis in the UK.
  • Insider spoke to Brits who are replacing dinner with protein shakes and batch cooking pasta.

"The rising costs made me feel awful at first," says John Junior, a mental health activist and public speaker from Cheshire in England's north-west.

Junior, who is non-binary, went viral last year when they shared how an episode of the soap opera Hollyoaks helped save their life by featuring a storyline about suicide.

Insider spoke to Junior and other Brits to hear how they are saving money on groceries amid the cost of living crisis.

According to the data company Kantar, the price of groceries in the UK rose by 14.7% in October, meaning an extra £682 ($780) on the yearly food bill. It is the highest such inflation since Kantar began tracking prices in 2008.

Costs have been rising across the board, with the government stepping in to limit energy prices this winter after the official regulator said the price cap would nearly double to £3,549 ($4,158) a year.

Jeremy Hunt, the finance minister, told The Times that the help with bills will cost the same as the entire National Health Service.

Junior says the energy bill for their 5-bedroom home has been their biggest concern, so they have cut costs on other essentials like groceries.

"It's so expensive living here," they added, "But my dad died here so I would never move."

Batch cooking and then freezing pasta sauces has been Junior's main way to save money, as well as planning meals and switching to budget supermarkets like Lidl.

"It's costing me £1.80 per meal and I used to spend £20 a day on one meal, so huge savings for me."

Fish heads and protein shakes

HyperJar – a banking app which allows users to set up different budgeting categories – says that 42% of its customers are planning to spend less on both groceries and energy in response to the cost of living crisis.

A further two-thirds are buying more from supermarkets' own-brand value ranges, like Junior, who said they used to buy branded products.

Jenny Holden, who runs a PR firm in Staffordshire, told Insider that she's started having a pea protein shake for dinner once a week.

She said it's "nutritious and filling," but also means one less mouth to feed in the house. "I'd rather my children have fresh fruit and vegetables, and I can go without."

Mat Megens, the CEO and founder of HyperJar, told Insider that more customers are moving away from high-end supermarkets towards budget ones, and making more frequent trips.

"People shop like chefs, buying more often so they get only what they need and reduce waste. So while basket value is stable, overall monthly spend is higher," he said.

Megens added that "food shopping is one of the biggest everyday expenses for most of us, and it's taking increasingly large chunks out of our household budgets."

This year, the supermarket chain Tesco has twice raised the price of its meal deal, a popular lunchtime choice for office workers, which now costs over a dollar more without a loyalty card, having been £3 ($3.53) for 10 years. The meal deal now costs £3.90 ($4.79).

At the high-end supermarket Waitrose, sales of fish heads and Spam rose by more than a third according to its annual report.

Some 72% of those surveyed said they were "more mindful" of their grocery budget.

Waitrose executive director, James Bailey, said that "the events of the last year have created a difficult backdrop for many people and like all supermarkets we've had to judge the mood and react. We're seeing some big changes."

More Brits are buying unsold food through apps

More people are turning to apps like Too Good To Go, which reduces food waste by letting users buy "magic bags" of unsold food for one-third of the retail price.

In the first half of this year, it saw 100% month-on-month growth in the number of grocery bags being saved in the UK. It also says users are increasingly turning to household essentials, over takeaways and treats.

Its managing director for the UK and Ireland, Sophie Trueman, told Insider: "With the rising food prices we're witnessing at the moment, we have certainly seen an increased awareness of food waste."

"We're incredibly proud that our model can support people during this challenging time," Trueman added.

One user of such unsold food apps is Penny Moyses, the founder of the Clean and Tidy Home Show, which offers household budgeting tips. She also recommends batch cooking and sharing food with others, like she does on a WhatsApp group with her neighbors.

Moyses works with home organization influencers like Kaya, who has 34,000 followers on her Instagram account Mrs Peachy Clean.

She told Insider she uses supermarkets' click-and-collect function, as the online basket lets her budget more effectively and stops her being tempted by things she doesn't need.

A post shared by (@mrspeachyclean)

It's evident that the scene in the UK is changing as the cost of living crisis is prompting most people to find new ways to save money.

The Trussell Trust, a charity which supports over 1,200 food banks, has launched an emergency appeal as they now give out more food than is being donated for the first time.

Jeremy Hunt, Britain's fourth finance minister in 2022 alone, recently announced his cost-cutting Autumn budget. The energy price cap has been extended by one year, but will increase by £500 ($613) from April 2023.

The country has a new prime minister, too, but as the Bank of England predicts the country's longest recession in 100 years, Brits will still have to find more ways to cut costs.