- By Noor Nanji
- Business Journalist, BBC News
Consumers are switching from fresh to frozen foods in a bid to combat rising grocery prices, retailers said.
Frozen foods currently outperform fresh produce in supermarkets, according to data from research firm Kantar.
Frozen chicken, ready meals, pizzas and fries are the most popular items.
Here are some of the things mum-of-three Laura Tedder told the BBC she chooses to help lower her food bill. “We buy a lot more frozen food. We can’t afford to buy fresh,” she said.
Mrs. Tedder is not alone. The British Retail Consortium said consumers are making the same “swaps to save money” as the cost of living rises.
“Frozen foods tend to be a lot cheaper and there’s less waste, so you can see why they’re selling well in the cost of living crisis,” analyst Ged Futter said.
Mrs Tedder, from Ampthill in Bedfordshire, has to watch how much she spends in the supermarket.
“When you have a lot of kids to feed, it all adds up,” she said.
She often finds herself comparing fresh and frozen prices for items like chicken and has been buying a lot more frozen vegetables in recent months.
She also uses frozen fruit to make smoothies for her daughters – Millie, 10, Pip, nine and Ottilie, six.
In the past, she bought fresh food because she thought it was nutritionally better for her children.
“Now I worry more about the sweets my kids eat than the meals I cook for them,” she said.
Lindsay Hawkshaw from County Durham also stocked up on frozen chicken, rice and waffles for her three children.
“It’s cheaper than fresh, and there’s less waste, so it’s a no-brainer when you count the pennies,” she said.
She said she has noticed more supermarket deals on frozen food.
“It’s not ideal,” she said. “Fresh tastes better, there’s no doubt.”
“But the packaging says it’s frozen immediately, so I think that dispels the myth that it’s less healthy,” she said.
Mr Futter said frozen food “had a bad reputation for years” but the quality “is actually very high”.
“Whether it’s peas, potatoes or fish – most of the time it’s even better for you, because these products are frozen as soon as they are ready, whereas fresh products can sometimes stay longer,” he said.
Cost of living issues
In supermarkets, frozen food is doing “notably better” than fresh food at the moment, Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insights at Kantar UK, told the BBC.
“And part of that is clearly related to the cost of living,” he added.
Kantar data, seen by the BBC, shows demand is strongest for items such as frozen chicken, where volumes increased by 5.9%. At the same time, frozen prepared foods, including ready meals, pizzas and fries, were up 2.6%.
Overall frozen food volumes remained flat, although shoppers are buying less overall. In the 12 weeks to mid-March, total grocery volumes fell 4% while frozen food volume purchased was flat, the data showed.
” Economic “
Waitrose said its range of frozen foods has grown in popularity as customers watch their budgets.
M&S told the BBC it is seeing more and more customers opting for frozen vegetables and frozen herbs, which it says are “a great value choice”.
Richard Walker, executive chairman of Iceland Foods, said frozen foods offer “many benefits” to consumers, adding: “More and more shoppers are becoming aware of this more economical option in these tough economic times.”
Fresh food inflation hit 17% in March, from 16.3% in February, according to the British Retail Consortium, marking its highest rate since records began in 2005.
Mum-of-two Kate Hall from Bromley has set up a website, The Full Freezer, to advise people on how to save money and reduce waste by using their freezer correctly.
She said she had become much more engaged over the past six months as the cost of living soared.
“People are getting over their fear of frozen foods, and that’s a good thing,” she said.
Ms. Hall freezes everything from cashews to eggs. She also freezes red wine, to use for cooking.
“You can freeze leftovers, it can be as simple as putting a spare onion in the freezer and then using it later to make soup.
“There’s a lot less food waste if you use your freezer efficiently, and that’s something people are really aware of right now.”
How can I save money on my grocery store?
- Check your cupboards to find out what you already have
- Head to the collapsed section first to see if it has everything you need
- Buy things close to their expiration date which will be cheaper and use your freezer
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