Which? poll says many 'borrowing money for food'

A shopping basket The survey suggests many households are cutting back on essentials

Related Stories

One in five UK households borrowed money or used savings to cover food costs in April, a Which? survey says.

It suggests the equivalent of five million households used credit cards, overdrafts or savings to buy food.

The consumer group tracks the spending habits and behaviours of 2,000 people every month.

Which? boss Richard Lloyd described the findings as "shocking". The government said tax and benefit changes meant working households were now better off.

The figures come despite official statistics last week showing that personal insolvencies had dropped to their lowest levels in five years.

The Which? monthly tracker involves researchers interviewing a cross-section of the population online. The results can then be filtered by age, income, gender or region.

Of the one in five households borrowing or dipping into savings to pay for food, most were low income families - half of whom earned less than £21,000 a year.

Average household earnings in 2011 were about £37,000, according to the most recently available data from the Office for National Statistics.

Among the group who used savings or credit to pay for food:

  • Eight out of 10 (82%) worried about food prices
  • More than half (55%) said they were likely to cut back on food spending in the next few months
  • Nearly six out of 10 (57%) said they found it difficult to cope on their current income
  • A third (32%) borrowed money from friends and family in April

A typical weekly food bill averages about £76, Which? researchers said, up 4% on last year.

Of all the people polled, the research showed:

  • A quarter said they were living comfortably on their incomes
  • More than a third - 36% - felt their finances were under pressure
  • Almost one third - 31% - cut back spending on essentials last month, and were most likely to be women aged between 30 and 49.
'Mixed economic picture'

Mr Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: "Our tracker shows that many households are stretched to their financial breaking point, with rising food prices one of the top worries for squeezed consumers.

"It's simply shocking that so many people need to use savings or credit to pay for essentials like food."

BBC business correspondent Joe Lynam said the economic picture in Britain was decidedly mixed these days.

Start Quote

Families face a cost of living crisis and are being forced into debt or to use their savings simply to put food on the table”

End Quote Mary Creagh Shadow environment secretary

"It's true that millions are at what Which? describes as 'financial breaking point', yet retail spending is growing, as are house prices, while the number of people in work is at a record high."

He added that average real incomes in Britain had fallen to the same levels as a decade ago because salaries were not rising but the cost of living was.

"The good news is that the economy is recovering, albeit at a glacial pace. The bad news is that it's not happening quickly enough for millions who are genuinely struggling to make ends meet," he said.

A spokesman for Oxfam said millions of people were under pressure from a combination of rising prices and stagnant incomes - with their problems added to by cuts to services and safety nets.

Mary Creagh, Labour's shadow environment secretary, said the UK was facing a "growing epidemic of hidden hunger".

"Families face a cost of living crisis and are being forced into debt or to use their savings simply to put food on the table.

"This incompetent government needs to wake up to the human cost of their failed economic policies and change course now," she added.

A government spokesman said nine out of 10 working households would be better off as a result of last month's changes to the tax and benefit system - with the average working household better off by more than £300 a year.

"The economy is healing: the deficit is down by a third, over 1 million private sector jobs have been created and interest rates remain low," he added.


More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    All the while we spend public money fighting unwinnable wars, shoring up casino bankers and continually 'celebrating' unelected, vacuous aristocrats at vast expense, the government has no credibility if our citizens have to incur debts to feed themselves. A completely new political system is required.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    Does anyone know if MPs ever go hungry?

  • Comment number 297.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 296.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    One human keeps me going for a year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    Great article.

    But Mr William Hague suggests that there need be no alteration or amendment to the current battery of Tory destructive policies.

    How wrong can a man be?

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    this may be true but it's probably because most of the country is obese

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    I wonder if it's just the reporting of this which doesn't really define what is meant by borrowing? Credit card purchasing, but paid back at the end of the month? Since we broke our addiction to big-name brands and started doing most of our shopping at the cost-cutter supermarkets (mainly, but not always LIDL) our bills have fallen a lot - and I think we live just as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    I'm very unhappy that this survey is receiving so much exposure: it's so clearly flawed.

    Many people pay bills by credit card, and many run long-standing overdrafts - for a variety of reasons, not just straightforward poverty. Likewise it isn't necessarily alarming that some people dip into their savings to buy food.

    Why is the BBC so shrill in its support of this travesty of a survey?

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    I am now not working and on benefits due to ill health. I have no savings but can survive ok on £71 aweek. i think I must be a minority? I eat well - cook homemade dishes, watch no TV only iplayer as free. I have a PAYG phone, use Skype with a cheap internet tariff. I walk when i can and use public services like libraries. I don't expect to receive money for Sky TV, iphone contract, or petrol.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    Amazing how Ian Duncan Smith has gone all quiet now, after his claim he could live on £53 a week. This government are totally out of touch with reality , and as for people borrowing money or dipping in to savings just to put food on the table is a disgrace for him and his advisors. But will he be bothered i dont think so. Them and us springs to mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    242.Blistering Blast of Truth
    you ignore they certainly had enough money to give millionaire's massive tax cuts didn't they, they certainly had enough money to give away billions in illegal wars and aid to countries in far better financial situation than us but of course no money for working families but the politicians want a 32% pay rise and guess what the poor will pay for that too

  • Comment number 287.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    Don't people just use their credit cards at the shops as a matter of credit habit? Whether they have the money or not? Pretty sure they do. This is a non article that could be said of anytime since credit cards came into existence. The conclusions are untrue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Too much food gets thrown out - surely at restaurants this happens. But aside from this comment, using credit cards is just not a good idea because paying them off (considering high interest rates) is one step away from impossible, or should I say starvation.
    My suggestion - grow as much as possible, barter, join co-op.
    How could this happen to a modern country? Reads more like 3rd world.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    All comments are true, working&unemployed struggling, working & unemployed living the life of Riley.Obesity can exist alongside malnutrition in the same body, do not assume normal bodyweight equals healthy. We have had low utility & food prices for years,the current generation of Ma's N Pa's will find it hard to adjust to a shrinking budget but they will do it, just like past generations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    258.Breadman Going on about young couple shopping in Sainsburys> Actually if you choose and use carefully Sainsbury's is very little, if any, dearer, if you don't buy really expensive stuff. Sainsburys are good if you don't like GM or like me veggy - I can only get CHEAPER veggie stuff there. I also shop at Morrisons, and home bargains etc. Again know-it-all presumptions that are plain WRONG!

  • Comment number 282.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    275.Blistering Blast of Truth

    Then you woke up in your 1 bedroomed bedsit, sweating in case the knock on the door was the TV licence officer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Priorities for many of today's cash strapped people:-
    1. Mobile phone.
    2. Fags
    3. Large screen TV.
    4. Sky TV.
    5. Food


Page 25 of 39


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.