/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Your view: how much do we struggle to pay for food?

Saving money in jam jars

Our report found that five million UK households have turned to credit or savings to buy food, causing quite a stir this week – and not just here on Which? Convo. We round up responses from all over the web…

In our research, eight in 10 of the households struggling to pay for food said they were worried about food prices and more than half said they planned to cut back spending on food in the coming months.

Our senior insight researcher, Caroline Fletcher, was shocked by these findings and didn’t realise so many people were unable to cover their monthly food bill. But others weren’t so surprised, like commenter Terry:

‘Last year I was on the brink of borrowing off friends and relatives to make ends meet. Luckily for me, it didn’t get that bad, but it seems only a matter of time.’

Budget or bust?

Elsewhere online, there was a lot of debate about how people are budgeting. RosieFromLondon told the Evening Standard:

I find it hard to believe that this can happen in our generous welfare society. It may well be the inability of people to budget inside their income, instead of buying expensive goods as if they are still working for decent wages. Food is still affordable if you look hard enough – street markets, own-brand supermarket goods.’

Kathleen Wilson had a similar view when she responded to Metro’s story via Facebook:

‘If people spent less on their luxuries such as Sky TV, broadband connection, mobile phone contracts, eating out, drinking etc they would not have a problem paying for food. The issue to me is that we as a nation are so used to having expendable income that we struggle to prioritise when money is less than what we are used to.’

In response, Sharon Taylor explained why broadband is essential:

‘When five-year-olds get homework they have to do online, broadband these days is no longer a luxury but an educational necessity.’

And, back here on Convo, Nick Weeks urged cynics to put themselves in the shoes of people who are struggling, earning himself this week’s Comment of the Week:

‘The reality for many people is that there just isn’t enough cash for energy and food. If you’re on benefits, some kind of phone and internet connection is essential, especially if you’re looking for work. If you lost your job or became too disabled to work tomorrow, how long would it take you to set yourself up to live on the dole? What would you do if the fridge or boiler broke?’

Don’t fall into the credit trap

While many felt that paying for food is simply a case of better budgeting, others went much further the other way and felt that it could lead to much more serious debt. Commenting on Evening Standard, Dhanraj said:

‘They are going to loan shark payday lenders just to survive and getting even more into debt. And using their credit cards to the limit. I know the feeling having gone through the Thatcher recession and literally counting the pennies. Never again. My advice is downsize as much as possible, don’t borrow, and tear up those credit cards.’

And, on BBC.co.uk, Smeagol proved that this is a living reality for some:

‘Mine and my partners’ pay was frozen for five years and counting, and energy bills up by more than 30%. [We are] non-smokers, no Sky, last drink I had was nine months ago. We are finding we have to borrow more and more just to cover essentials. It’s either pay the rent/electricity and council tax or go without food. Something has to give.’

So where do you stand on this issue? Do you struggle to pay for your food – or worry that you soon will be? Or, is it simply a case of cutting back on other things and prioritising what’s really essential?


Everybody else wants to control your money now – demanding direct debit payments etc – and often for more than is necessary. If you miss a payment or are late you are charged extra. Once you are locked into a contract for something it often isn’t easy to cancel without having to pay a cancellation fee.

People STILL don’t understand Best Before and Use By dates for food and how to manage their fridges. More work needs to be done on this.

The problem with this one is it is very difficult to establish a base line. I hear and see rediculous figures issued by the media and government on how much it costs to live these days. When the government announced the benefits cap we had the local BBC TV news broadcasting stories about hard up claiments struggling to live on £3000 a month and more.
My wife and I have a gross income of around £13000 pa, we consider ourselves in good shape and have few problems in meeting the monthly bills and eat well with no waste. We don’t pay rent of course, but have to pay everything else at full whack. An Excel spread sheet maps out all finances for the next 2 years showing an increasing surplus. When we had a mortgage and endowments the entire 25 years was programmed in with the cross over from debt to profit predicted some 10 years ahead.
Many bemoan the need to pay for broadband for example, we pay around £8 to £10 per month for unlimited BB including phone calls, no big deal there. The line rental is paid annually at about £125 year. TV, both terrestial and satillite is free (apart from the TV licence of course), anyone paying for Sky or cable should consider that as a waste of good money. All services (including the credit card) are paid by DD, saving many pounds each month. Almost everything else is paid by credit card giving us a month of free credit on all purchases. Our white goods are on average about 10 years old (including the his’n’hers computers with XP), each being replaced at between 10 and 20 years old, when they can no longer be repaired. The car is 14 years old. We eat out about 5 times a year. We have a glass of wine on Sunday. Yes, a pathetic life some will say, but that is real life as we run it.

I would not say you live a pathetic life, but applaud you for living within your means. Do you manage to go on holiday during the year and what happens when your car dies.

You should go into the local colleges of education and run courses on how to live within your means. Or perhaps the local un/employment offices could run your courses for those on low income.

Andrew Crawford says:
16 May 2013

Nope not a struggle at all, there is pleanty of supermarkets out there with excellent deals, making it affordible for all walks of life.