Good Food Blog
Annus horribilisPosted at 12:02PM, 16 September 2008 by Abbie Dobson - News journalist
So, expensive bills, bills, bills, and with farmers reporting the worst harvest in 20 years, is there any end to the tragic story of Britain's, and indeed the world's, spiralling food costs...?
But are higher food prices necessarily a bad thing? Food costs might be up 10% in a year, but we spend only one in every ten pounds on food, compared to three in ten 30 years ago. Are higher food costs forcing us to make wiser, better choices about the food we eat? Have we been spoilt for too long? Enslaved like some junkie to the lure of the hallowed halls of our supermarkets complete with its treasure trove of goodies?
Sadly, often bad food is cheap food, resulting in poorer households stocking up on processed goods
For too long, many have argued, we have been a lazy nation gorging on cheap food stuffs frequently out of season and flown halfway round the world. Sadly, often bad food is cheap food, resulting in poorer households stocking up on processed goods. A whole generation are believed to be without even the most basic cookery skills needed to feed a family. Higher food prices are merely perpetuating this damning indictment of British food culture among the nation's poorest.
Ironically those on moderate to high incomes are thinking more about buying wisely, widely and, more often than not, more healthily, as the cost of our shopping escalates. Those who have at the very least a working knowledge of food preparation have found themselves broadening their net for the weekly shop, visiting not one but many outlets in the hunt for bargains. Some of the supermarkets are pushing their products at half price as they no doubt see many of their savvier customers turning away from them as a single source for the weekly shop.
But how about those worst affected, with limited cooking knowledge? Processed foods are still a big draw. The giants like Sainsbury's may claim to be pushing healthier, cheaper food to its customers at the moment, but queuing up the other day I was staggered by the vast array of cheap biscuits (less than a pint of milk) and giant chocolate bars for a pound (yes, I was tempted by the latter). The big boys are still pushing the rubbish to those more vulnerable customers, and when it comes to the sweet stuff, I count myself as one of them!
So just how bad are our food costs? There can be little doubt that costs won't go down as globally high oil prices, the introduction of biofuels and, for some nations, the increased desire and expectancy to eat meat, seek only to perpetuate rising costs. But taken over a 30-year period, our rising costs appear less dramatic. It does beg the question though, as to what we as a nation, both rich and poor, can do. Education about how to eat, cook and reduce waste is just the start. But as party conference season begins this week, how high food costs will play on the political agenda is yet to be seen, although it's unlikely to be the focus of government policy for some time to come.