The way we live now: what's in our baskets?

Changes in the inflation 'shopping basket' reveal a time-poor, throwaway society, reports Sean O'Grady

An image of the average Briton tucking into a hot rotisserie-cooked chicken bought from a supermarket, washed down with a glass of rosé and watching an internet-sourced DVD is conjured up by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in its latest review of the nation's average "shopping basket", used to calculate the rate of inflation.

As ever, the list of the items entering and leaving the ONS index offers a revealing snapshot of the way we live: in come Freeview receivers, cat- food pouches, MP4 players, hardwood flooring and free-range eggs. Out go "party" bottles of cider, wine boxes, cans of cat food and MP3 players, some after relatively short careers.

Most of the 650 representative items in the ONS's inflation indices – such doughty symbols of the British way of life as a bag of compost, a full leg wax, squash court hire and pet insurance – remain an integral part of the index.

This year's changes suggest a Britain increasingly "time-poor" but wealthy enough to develop gradually more sophisticated tastes in food and drink. Thus the ONS has recognised the remarkable rise of the foil-wrapped whole cooked chicken, at the expense of its raw brethren, the latter perhaps a sign that, despite the efforts of Delia Smith, the British are beginning to forget how to roast a chicken – if they ever knew.

It is also an indication of the apparent attraction to many people of doing as much of their shopping as possible in one place, that is the big supermarket chains, at the expense even of more traditional fast food outlets as well as home cooking. Morrisons said yesterday that it sells "in excess" of 300,000 rotisserie chickens a week, up by about 5 per cent on last year.

The trend towards time-efficient internet shopping rather than the physical kind is also glimpsed in the substitution of web-based subscription services such as Love Film at the expense of the now-old-fashioned DVD (formerly VHS) rental store, rapidly disappearing from shopping parades. Blockbuster is one major chain moving towards internet services.

More sophisticated tastes are, arguably, reflected in the addition of free-range eggs, Parmesan cheese and the loss of the wine box, which only joined the index in 2006, ousted by the currently fashionable rosé. Imported cheddar cheese and imported lamb chops are also dropped this year. Britain's cats have seemingly also become even more fussy; cans of cat food have now been supplanted by pouches, with sales up by about a quarter on last year.

Technology, too, drives many of the changes: MP3 players, which only arrived in the basket three years ago, are now pushed out by the video-friendly MP4 player and the Blu-ray disc is now significant enough to make an appearance. Watch repair finally exits this year, as cheaper digital timepieces, usually not worth fixing, hasten our journey to becoming a "throwaway society".

The latest overhaul has also shown that spending in certain areas has changed dramatically with inflation, with households spending far more on fuel and light than in recent years. Conversely, expenditure on restaurants, hotels, clothing, footwear and motoring has shown a relative decline, according to the ONS.

Despite doubts in some quarters about its accuracy, the ONS collects about 120,000 prices every month for a "basket" of about 650 goods and services, in the most comprehensive survey of its kind. Changes in the prices of the items are used to compile the two main measures of inflation: the Consumer Prices Index – used as the Bank of England's inflation target – and the Retail Prices Index, which includes housing costs and is used to uprate many pensions and benefits.

Changes to the basket of goods and services this year are being introduced with the February 2009 price indices published today.

The inflation basket

2009 In

2009 Out

*Rotisserie whole-cooked chicken from supermarket

*Free-range eggs

*Parmesan cheese

*Rosé wine

*Hardwood flooring

*Blu-ray discs

*MP4 players

*DVD internet rental

*Pouches of cat food

*Wine boxes

n "Party" bottles of cider

*Imported cheddar cheese

*MP3 players

*DVD shop rental

*Tinned cat food

The way we were

*Mangle 1947-62

*Prunes 1947-74

*Single cream 1962-2009

*Dried mashed potato 1974-87

*VHS player 1987-2006

*Disposable razors 1991-2005

*Duvets, introduced 1987

*Take away "ethnic" meal 1990

*Tracksuit bottoms 1994

*University fees 2001

*Laptop computer 2005

*Smoothies 2008

Modern trends

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'