Storm Emma cast a cold eye on our changed eating habits

SuperValu customers spent an extra 60c on each shop, the latest survey found.

Kantar consumer insight director Cora Campbell said: “On average SuperValu’s shoppers are spending an extra 60c each time they shop with the retailer, and while this may not seem like much, it’s been enough to contribute to an increase in overall sales of 2.5%.”

However, back to what we are putting in our baskets and therefore on our kitchen tables.

On a daily basis, of people aged between 18 and 64, 78% consume white bread, 66% eat cheese, 65% consume syrups or preserves, 62% eat biscuits, 61% consume ready-to-eat breakfast cereals and 47% eat meat products or some form of processed meats. This is according to the National Adult Nutrition Survey carried out by the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance.

Going by the current food pyramid used by Kantar, where it is recommended we consume five to seven pieces of fruit and vegetables a day, shoppers are spending just 15.9% of their grocery budget on these goods.

The highest percentage of spend actually happens at the top of the pyramid, the products that are high in sugar, salt and fat, where we are spending 23.6% of our grocery budget.

According to the pyramid, it is recommended we eat from this shelf just once or twice a week. The shelf for meat, poultry, eggs, beans and fish, suggests we eat from it twice a day and we spend 23.1% of our grocery budget on it.

When it comes to sitting down at our kitchen table and actually eating, according to Bord Bia’s PERIscope report for 2017, 32% of say we rarely have time for breakfast and 77% state that they choose foods that are easy to prepare.

A total of 66% of us believe that frozen foods are as good quality as fresh products, 69% pick foods that are quick to cook, and 43% would often eat ready meals or convenience foods. This would indicate, as Ballymaloe chef Darina Allen has said, that we are cooking from scratch less and less.

In terms of actually cooking, 29% of us see it as a chore during the week and 47% of people in Ireland prepare food from scratch on a daily basis.

Only 19% of us rate ourselves as being a good cook, and 54% of Irish people grade themselves in the bracket of being able to cook a simple meal such as meat and three vegetables or beans on toast. Our most popular method of cooking is oven roasting, boiling or grilling.

However, to compare where we are now with where we were almost 100 years ago, we need to look at information from the CSO called the Consumer Price Index.

The index is the official indicator of inflation and it comes in a “shopping basket” format where commonly purchased household items are tracked. It is carried out every five years and we have looked at it from 1926 to 2017 to see how our spending habits have changed.

Looking at this time span it is easy to see how we have moved from a country that cooked from scratch, using relatively few items, to one that relies heavily on convenience foods and has a vast array of products to choose from.

Looking at 1926’s basket, we have appeared to have been very different.

Beef was listed as a commonly purchase in the 1926 basket and under headings such as neck, liver, sirloin, shoulder and corned brisket.

We also ate mutton, and bacon was listed as a commonly purchased household item in the form of streaky rashers, American and Irish styles.

We also bought pig’s head. Fish was big on the agenda in homes, from cod steak to fresh herring. We bought

potatoes and we also ate rice. We had very little sweet items in our kitchens, but sugar and strawberry jam did make the cut.

Fast forward then to 2002, we have a basket that included garlic, garlic bread, olive oil, chilled convenience foods and specialist breads. More of us also started buying coleslaw as well as prepared salads.

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