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Frozen food beating fresh as shoppers seek savings

Consumers are swapping from fresh to frozen food in a bid to combat rising grocery prices, retailers have said.

Frozen food is outperforming fresh in supermarkets at the moment, data from research firm Kantar suggests.

Frozen chicken, ready meals, pizzas and chips are the most popular items.

These are some of the things mum-of-three Laura Tedder told the BBC she chooses to help keep her food bill down. "We're buying much more frozen food. We can't afford fresh," she said.

Mrs Tedder is not alone. The British Retail Consortium said consumers are making the same "swaps to save money" as the cost of living rises.

Waitrose, M&S and Iceland all told the BBC frozen food is rising in popularity, while Tesco has also seen shoppers switching from fresh to frozen.

"Frozen food tends to be much cheaper, and there's less waste, so you can see why it's selling well in the cost of living crisis," said retail analyst Ged Futter.

Mrs Tedder, from Ampthill in Bedfordshire, has to keep an eye how much she's spending at the supermarket.

"When you have a lot of kids to feed, it all adds up," she said.

She often finds herself comparing fresh versus frozen prices for items like chicken and has been buying a lot more frozen vegetables in recent months.

She also uses frozen fruit to make smoothies for her daughters - Millie, aged 10, Pip, nine and Ottilie, six.

In the past, she bought fresh food as she believed it was nutritionally better for her children.

"Now I'm more worried about the sweets my kids eat, rather than the meals I cook them," she said.

Lindsay Hawkshaw from County Durham said she had noticed more supermarket deals on frozen food.

"It's not ideal," she said. "Fresh tastes better, there's no doubt about that."

"But the packaging says it's frozen immediately so I think that dispels the myth of it being less healthy," she said.

Mr Futter said frozen food "has had a bad rep for years" but the quality "is actually really high".

"Whether it's peas, potatoes or fish - a lot of the time, it's even better for you, as these items are frozen the minute they're ready, whereas fresh items can sometimes be sitting out for longer," he said.

Cost of living concerns

In the supermarkets, frozen food is doing "notably better" than fresh at the moment, Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar UK, told the BBC.

"And some of that is clearly to do with the cost of living," he added.

Waitrose said its frozen food range had been rising in popularity while customers keep tabs on their budgets.

M&S told the BBC it was seeing more customers opt for frozen vegetables and frozen herbs, which it said are "a great value choice".

Richard Walker, executive chairman of Iceland Foods, said frozen food unlocks "many benefits" to consumers, adding: "More shoppers are waking up to this more budget friendly option during these challenging economic times."

Fresh food inflation hit 17% in March, up from 16.3% in February, according to the British Retail Consortium, marking its highest rate since records began in 2005.

Many of the country's largest supermarkets recently experienced shortages of some salad items and vegetables, which helped push prices up further.

Mum-of-two Kate Hall from Bromley set up a website, The Full Freezer, to advise people how to save money and reduce waste by using their freezer properly.

She said she's had much more engagement in the last six months, as living costs soared.

"People are getting over their fear of frozen food, and that's a good thing," she said.

Mrs Hall freezes everything from cashew nuts to eggs. She also freezes red wine, to use for cooking.

"You can freeze leftovers, it can be as simple as putting a spare onion in the freezer, and then using that later to make a soup.

"There's much less food waste if you use your freezer effectively, and that's something people are really conscious of right now."


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