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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Account Manager - OTE £80,000+

£40000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - Kent - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Junior Web Developer - ne...

Recruitment Genius: Production Team Leader / Chargehand

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a Chargehand to join ...

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project