Which? poll says many 'borrowing money for food'

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

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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.

 

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  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 779.

    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
    Does this take into consideration the new bedroom tax?

    The only "Getting More" I have seen recently is the growing number of potholes in the road.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 778.

    757. monkeygonetoDevon
    Thank you for your concern. Apart from all the bills I have to pay. Food is my no1. priority. I am not materialistic, never have been. I don't even wear make up. So I do go check out Tesco and Morrisons, as one has just opened up. I go from each of those supermarkets looking for the best deals.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 777.

    763.
    brt123

    The sort of situation I have described as far more common that the situation you describe, and is becoming increasingly common (as it would during any stagnation).

    Sadly, most reactionary armchair pundits would remove help for the unfortunate people in the (false) belief than anyone not working has never even tried.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 776.

    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

    THIS IS A HUGE £5.76 PER WEEK BETTER OFF,IS THIS SPOKESMAN FOR REAL ??

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 775.

    Are these people actually borrowing money and using savings to buy food because they are truly short of money, or are they doing it after other unnecessary outgoings, such as the fastest broadband, cable TV and Love Film have been paid off? Also, how many use expensive ready meals as their main source of nutrition?

    Things are rarely as simple, or as disastrous, as these surveys make out.

  • Comment number 774.

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

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 773.

    In the view of my Son, his wife and in supporting their 2 children of 19 months and 3 months on a total gross income of £29,400 pa with their only benefits being child allowance it is the priority people place in their lives.
    They cook all their own meals from scratch, including for their eldest child.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 772.

    I am not sure why people are claiming that food in the UK is expensive? Compared to where? Due to the massive competition from large food retailers we have some of the cheapest food in Europe. I have lived in France, Germany and Italy for several years and our food is much cheaper than those countries.

    However, booze is more expensive here and so are restaurant meals, in my experience.

    768

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 771.

    I am on the brink of retirement. My state and private pension will add up to around GBP 21,000 gross from which I must pay income tax and council tax.

    We have always eaten fresh home-made food. We have no debts but significant savings. Therefore our income can easily sustain us.

    I do however resent about a quarter of my income being stolen by the state through income tax and council tax.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 770.

    @742.Psycho-Si

    Because not everyone can afford to? And it doesn't last for very long in a depressed job market? Spending money on insurance is more of a luxury than anything else in life.. and people prioritise the mortgage first. Many people also don't see redundancy happening to them, if they're in a job they think is secure. High paying jobs, sure you can afford extras.

  • Comment number 769.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 768.

    Yes, thanks Mr Osbourne. With the increased tax allowance I am not £1.63 a month better off (because you increased my pension contributions, I am a teacher)

    So in 3 years I have had an average increase to my income of 54p. That covers the increased cost of living right?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 767.

    Further to my previous comment,

    That is 14hrs a day EVERYDAY!!

  • Comment number 766.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 765.

    Perhaps the BBC could help out families by instructing its motley crew of celebrity chefs to start using budget ingredients, after all when was the last time you saw a food programme on the beeb, that showed food on it that the average British family can afford and cook?

    OH AND BY THE AVERAGE FAMILY I MEAN, PROPLE THAT EARN NOT MUCH MONEY, WHICH IS MOST BRIT'S....

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 764.

    Of all the people bemoaning their lack of available funds for life's basics on telly lately (and there's been a fair few of them), most were severe "bloaters"... which is interesting...?!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 763.

    @743

    What if you have a steady job for 10 years, then have kids. Following a further 10 years your job goes, not long after that your savings...


    ----------------------------------------

    but in that situation you have at least tried to budget, that's just unfortunate that it has turned out that way. I'm talking about those who expect to be able to have a family paid for by the taxpayer.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 762.

    I don't understand what you're talking about. I am comfortably living on benefits and just came back from a feast down at the pub. I suppose my 3 children bump up my benefits to a more comfortable level. Cheers and here's to a nice summer!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 761.

    If anyone cannot afford to eat camp yourself outside the House of Commons where subsidised meals and drinks are served all day !!!!!!!!!!! all in it together yeh right Dave 2015 beckons

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 760.

    I bet even the Daily Mail rejected this story as too far-fetched!

 

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