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Want to know about millennials' lives, Madonna/whore complexes and all? Look at the Consumer Price Index

The Consumer Price Index has become a mishmash of cappuccino makers and cocktail sausages so processed they could survive a nuclear holocaust

Holly Baxter
Wednesday 16 March 2016 17:25 GMT
Most millennials are perpetually staring into shop windows at products they can't afford
Most millennials are perpetually staring into shop windows at products they can't afford (Getty)

When do you know you’re in love? Is it when the person you’re dating produces a delicious risotto and a homemade tiramisu, complete with wine that almost certainly didn’t come from a two-for-a-fiver deal at the corner shop?

Is it when you share a Michelin star meal on a very special occasion and realise you don’t mind admitting to them that you’ve never seen an oyster in real life, much less tasted one?

Or is it when you look fondly at their pasty, hungover face as they shovel handfuls of Aldi’s Own salt and vinegar “maize snacks” into their mouth, washing them down with a warm beer they found on the floor, and still pause to think, “My God, you’re sexy”?

Really, it’s a mixture of all three. Because while we all have our moments of dietary aspiration, most have also been found licking the sauce out of the bottom of a kebab from time to time. Even though it was ordered the previous night.

Modern life forces us to live this dichotomy, poised between occasional splurges and the stark reality of a low-wage life without savings. Groceries are expensive and working hours stretch into oblivion, so expensive restaurants or organic stores are increasingly populated by millennials treating themselves for a weekend or a Saturday brunch. Then Monday rolls around, and it’s back on to the microwave rice and ketchup for the next five days.

This distinctly 21st century way of living – part houmous and Champagne, part microwaveable burgers and Lambrini – is reflected in the Consumer Price Index, released this week. In its ‘shopping basket’ of average British household items, fresh fruit and vegetables have stopped being categorised as organic or non-organic because organic food has become “mainstream”. If we’re going to make ourselves the juice we saw on Instagram yesterday, then we’re going to do it properly – Whole Foods produce and all.

Coffee pods for upmarket coffee machines have also made the updated list of modern supermarket essentials. No granular instant cuppa for us on a Sunday morning. But microwave meals and packets of “meat-based buffet snacks” (yummy!) have made the cut, too. And multipacks of fizzy drinks in the nation’s shopping trolleys have increased in size, even as citrus fruits are purchased at record levels.

As long as there’s a slice of lemon on the side of your pre-made canned margarita, then everything’s going to be fine (just take deep breaths and don’t think about the mortgage you won’t qualify for until your late forties).

Retailers have known for at least a decade that we were heading towards lives of immense slobbery punctuated with occasional bursts of luxury. They’ve even been encouraging us to celebrate that particular millennial trait. Remember the Pot Noodle commercial that screamed out of the telly: “It’s dirty – and you want it”? Remember how the same brand proudly called itself the “slag of all snacks”?

How about the Sun Rice ready meals ad, which showed a man reclining on the sofa with a lead in his hand as his dog took a walk on a treadmill, after cleaning the kitchen floor with mop heads attached to the bottom of his flip-flops, before sitting down on a cardboard box and enjoying a heated-up chilli con carne?

“Here’s to micro effort”, the tag-line read. The message was clear: your time-poor solutions aren’t shameful. They aren’t sad. They don’t represent failure, or gross unfairness. They’re ingenious. They’re innovative. They’re understandable. They’re fun, young, novel answers to your problems of which you can be proud. Go ahead and chow down on the slag of snacks: you deserve it.

There are brands who take the opposite approach to your guilt. Heston Blumenthal’s microwave meals, sold by Waitrose, were designed to make you feel as though your midnight meal for one was actually a gourmet dish prepared hours earlier by a grinning masterchef. But that mentality has a sell-by date.

Millennials will make up half of the global workforce by 2020, and our spending habits are so influential that the Consumer Price Index has become a mishmash of cappuccino makers and cocktail sausages so processed they could survive a nuclear holocaust.

Marketeers, take note: this is how we live now. Even our shopping habits have a Madonna/whore complex.

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