What does our shopping say about us?

Every year the Government statistics fiends review the sort of things we spend our money on and re-jig the national “shopping basket” to reflect trends and tastes.

Then they monitor how much it costs and come up with prices indices. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has all the information about how the items are chosen and I quote: “For example price changes for garden spades might be considered representative of price changes for other garden tools. These are called representative items.”

Would it have hurt to use fork handles? But then, I suppose, where they come from they call a spade a spade.

Technical stuff aside, we want to know what’s in and what’s out. How are our buying habits changing? Here are some of the differences.

Out of the basket this year is a bar of soap, replaced by liquid soap; bottled fruit drink replaces a carton of the same and it’s garlic bread instead of pitta. Hair straighteners and tongs take over from hairdryers and baby food goes in favour of powdered baby formula. Lipstick secedes for lip gloss.


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Making their debut in 2010 are blu-ray players, cereal bars, anti-histamine allergy tablets, indigestion tablets and small bottles of mineral water.

Out of the basket are fizzy canned drinks, squash court hire and disposable cameras.

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It looks as if we are becoming a nation that is very concerned about its health but tends not to take a lunch hour or have a proper breakfast.

According to various tests and surveys it’s not easy to tell the difference between good British tap water and bottled mineral water. In restaurants I always order a jug of tap water rather than pay for a pretty bottle and, so far, touch wood, I have suffered no ill effects.

Perhaps it is more about aspirational lifestyle than taste. A bottle of branded water may say more about us than a tumbler full of Anglian Water.

There is always the option of re-filling the Evian bottle from the tap.

But it looks as though, while we pursue a healthier life, it may be bringing us out in a rash as we turn to anti-histamine allergy tablets.

Meanwhile, the greedy consumption of garlic bread - it has not escaped our notice that it is available in packs of two when one used to be sufficient - may have contributed to the popularity of indigestion remedies.

It is too easy to blame comedian Peter Kay’s garlic bread sketch (it has its own plinth in the comedy hall of fame) for its ubiquity but the truth is it is an irresistible combination of bread and loads of garlic-laced butter. It isn’t good for us but it looks as if it belongs with a plate of spaghetti bolognese. Meanwhile, the passing of pitta bread is no real surprise - it has the texture of recycled cardboard.

So what will appear in next year’s basket? Shortly after watching the latest edition of Masterchef, I grasped my crystal ball firmly between my curling tongs and predicted a future for pork belly and scallops

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