Hard-pressed shoppers are ditching fresh vegetables from their diets as the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, a new report claims.
Sales have dropped from 6.7 per cent of the weekly spend to 6.2 per cent in the past year as consumers make their budgets go further.
Parsnips have seen the biggest slump in sales, followed by sweet potatoes, leeks and courgettes, with experts suggesting fewer hot meals are being prepared at home.
The report by Veg Power, an organisation set up to encourage Britons to eat vegetables, also found poorer households were cutting back more than richer ones.
Chief executive Dan Parker said: 'People are walking out of stores spending the same but with fewer items. If the total bill at the check-out exceeds their budget, people are taking out the fresh veg to keep costs down.'
The price of vegetables has risen by 2.6 per cent in the past year compared to an average of 5.3 per cent across all food groups.
Despite this, people are choosing to cut back, with 78 per cent saying they were buying less fresh veg. Some 28 per cent of people had also reduced their consumption of frozen vegetables, while 19 per cent were eating fewer canned goods.
Households earning less than £30,000 a year had cut vegetable consumption by 20 per cent – almost double that of households with an income of £30,000 to £60,000.
Mr Parker said: 'Clearly, for many that extra portion of vegetables is not considered essential. Our worry is that these shopping patterns become a habit that stays after the cost-of-living crisis ends.
'This should be a cause for concern. We need to support people to keep vegetables in their basket. When families cook at home and eat together they generally eat healthier food with more veg. Home-cooked food can be the most affordable way to eat.'
Sales of parsnips were down 20.1 per cent, sweet potatoes 19.9 per cent, leeks 15.6 per cent, courgettes 15.5 per cent and mushrooms and celery both 15.4 per cent. Cabbage was also in decline, with sales falling by 14.9 per cent, sweetcorn 14.1 per cent, cauliflower 13.5 per cent, asparagus 12.9 per cent, peppers 11.9 per cent, carrots 11.5 per cent and tomatoes 10.9 per cent.
Sales of frozen peas, the most popular frozen vegetable, are also down by 16.5 per cent.
Veg Power is launching a Simply Veg campaign to encourage families to eat healthier food, by promoting ideas such as substituting half the meat in a recipe with vegetables or lentils.
For example, replace half the mince in a shepherd's pie with lentils, and half the potato with mashed celeriac or sweet potato.
Another report has revealed that we are buying less organic food.
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board found while people are keen to buy organic for health and moral reasons, sales had fallen by 16 per cent in 12 months.