Millions of families across the UK are skipping meals due to the cost of living crisis, Which? estimates.
Research by the consumer watchdog found that an increasing number of people are finding it difficult to eat healthy meals, while four out of 10 are buying expensive or “treat” foods less often.
The findings come as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced the rate of Consumer Price Index inflation rose to 10.1 per cent in September, up from 9.9 per cent in August.
The ONS said rising food prices were the biggest contributor to the increase in the inflation rate. This was driven by an increase in the cost of staple food products such as bread, cereals, milk, cheese and eggs.
A survey of 2,791 adults found that of those who are struggling financially, 50 per cent are skipping meals as a result.
While 46 per cent of all consumers are finding it harder to eat healthily, of those struggling to make ends meet, 78 per cent are eating less healthily than before the crisis.
The Independent’s comparison of food prices in Tesco today, compared with 1 April, found that the cost of beef mince has risen by 47 per cent, basmati rice 46 per cent, butter by 37 per cent, milk by 19 per cent and pasta by 20 per cent.
As a result of price increases, 50 per cent of shoppers are trading down to cheaper products, 55 per cent reported being on the lookout for food promotions while shopping, while almost one in five said they had bought more frozen food to cut costs (18 per cent).
Four in 10 households are buying treat foods less often, and 36 per cent are shopping around and comparing prices online and across different stores.
Which? is calling on supermarkets to support low-income customers by ensuring that essential items remain affordable.
It also said it was vital that pricing is more transparent, legible and consistent so that people can more easily understand the best deals.
Sue Davies, Which? head of food policy, commented: “The devastating impact of the cost of living crisis is, worryingly, leading to millions of people skipping meals or struggling to put healthy meals on the table.
“Supermarkets have a crucial role to play in supporting their customers through this very difficult time.
“By making sure that everyone has easy access to budget food ranges that are also healthy, can easily compare the price of products to get the best value and that promotions are targeted at supporting people most in need, supermarkets can help their customers to navigate the tough months ahead.”
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