Young families forced to turn to bread and pasta thanks to cost-of-living crisis


31 January 2023

New research from Red Tractor and YouGov has revealed that families with young children (aged 11 years and under) are most impacted when it comes to the weekly food shop as the cost-of-living crisis continues to hit pockets. Key figures

  • 27 per cent of families with children under 12 are buying less meat and 18 per cent are buying fewer fruits and vegetables due to the cost-of-living crisis
  • 39 per cent of families with children under 12 are replacing meat with carbohydrates
  • 33 per cent of families with children under 12 are buying what they consider to be lower quality food, despite concerns around impact and safety

Parents of young children are having to make the biggest changes when shopping for food, with 27 per cent saying they are buying less meat and 18 per cent buying less fruit and vegetables. 39 per cent of parents have replaced meat with carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta, in an attempt to keep their children full on a tighter budget.

This comes at the same time as research from the British Nutrition Foundation shows budgets for school dinners across the country are seeing real terms cuts and compliance with standards is not being upheld [1], meaning children are increasingly likely to be missing out on vital nutrients from a balanced diet both at school and in the home.

In the past year, there has also been a shift toward grocery shopping at non-food cut-price retailers, with 18 per cent of parents buying groceries from non-food cut-price retailers (such as Poundland and B&M Bargains).

On top of this, 33 per cent of families with young children are buying what they consider to be lower quality food as they look for cheaper options, compared to just 20 per cent of households without children. This comes despite concerns that less-expensive products may have been produced to a lower quality (55 per cent), have a greater negative impact on the environment (36 per cent), and are less safe (19 per cent.)

Meanwhile 42 per cent of parents with young children believe the quality of food they can afford will decline further over the next 12 months.

Jim Moseley, CEO of Red Tractor said: “This research lays bare the choices parents feel they have to make thanks to the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on food prices. We are making it clear to consumers that families should never have to make a choice between quality, safety and value when it comes to their child’s nutrition. That’s why assurance marques are so vital, so when parents see the Red Tractor logo they know that whatever the price point it’s safe, traceable, and farmed with care.

Lindsay Boswell, CEO of food redistribution charity FareShare said: “This report’s findings sadly tally with the stark findings from a survey we carried out last September with the 9,500 charities and community groups we provide with food and drink. 73 per cent of the groups said that the increase in demand for their services is from people needing help for the first time. The majority of charities (60 per cent) report an increase in families with children accessing their vital support.”

[1] British Nutrition Foundation, May 2022

Methodology: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2061 adults, 353 of whom were parents of children aged 11 and under. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th – 9th January 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).