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

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Salesforce Developer

£500 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: Salesforce APEX Developer APEX, Classe...

Market Access Analyst (FIX 5.0, Equities, Derivatives)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Market Access Analyst (FIX On-boarding, FIX 5.0,...

Nursery Nurse

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Nursery Nurse Level 3 or above Ear...

Special Needs teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Special Need teachers required t...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on