Parents ‘eating cold meals’ to save on UK energy costs

Quarter of adults with at least one child under 18 have also cut back on food shopping, study finds

Parents facing soaring energy bills are cutting back on how much food they buy and eating cold meals to save on power as the cost of living crisis bites, a UK study has found.

A quarter of parents with at least one child under 18 have reduced the quantity of food they buy to ensure they can afford other household essentials including gas and electricity bills, which are due to rise from Saturday.

A YouGov poll commissioned by the National Energy Action and Food Foundation charities showed 28% of parents have also reduced the quality of food they were buying.

The survey of 4,280 adults found that more than one in 10 parents had eaten cold meals, or ones that did not require cooking, to save money on energy.

Household energy costs are to rise again from 1 October as soaring wholesale gas prices feed through into consumer bills.

Despite Liz Truss’s policy to freeze a typical household energy bill at £2,500 – which could cost the government more than £100bn to fund – many households will still struggle to afford the new tariffs as they are nearly double the £1,271 average bill a year ago.

This increase is equivalent to almost a third of the amount a very low-income household with two adults and two children spends on food over the course of a year.

The rise in costs meant the number of UK households in fuel poverty would have increased from 4.5m last October to 6.7m now, National Energy Action said.

Its study found 67% of parents were worried that increasing energy prices would mean they had less money to buy food. More than half were concerned about prospects for this winter and the impact on their family’s health.

Adam Scorer, the chief executive at National Energy Action, said: “People have had to choose between heating and eating. This winter millions will not have even that choice. The most vulnerable, including children, will be cold and hungry as energy prices spiral, despite government support.”

Dominic Watters, a single parent living on a council estate in Kent, spoke of the anxiety induced by having to rely on emergency credit on the pre-payment meter.

He said: “When the electric is on emergency I live in a state of emergency, not knowing if I’ll be able to cook the food, boil the kettle, wash my daughter’s uniform or even have a shower.”

Watters says he “dreads” when the power is cut off during the night as food in the freezer spoils. “It’s quite a harsh way to live,” he said.

There appears to be little respite from rising prices for consumers after wholesale gas prices jumped again this week following a series of gas leaks in subsea pipelines in Europe, which caused concerns over supplies. This week’s cold snap in the UK is likely to put further pressure on demand for gas.


Alex Lawson Energy correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Disabled people among hardest hit by cost of living crisis, finds study
People with disabilities more likely to cut back on energy use and food, Resolution Foundation says

Richard Partington Economics correspondent

04, Jan, 2023 @12:01 AM

Article image
‘I never thought we would go back to this’: Gordon Brown speaks out at Fife’s ‘bank of food banks’
Ex-PM laments need for vast warehouse as the next, necessary step in helping hard-up families in the grip of mounting poverty

Larry Elliott Economics editor

12, Nov, 2022 @10:00 AM

Article image
Economists demand urgent action on energy bills to avert ‘catastrophe’
Millions of vulnerable people will be harmed without radical policies to ease cost of living crisis, say experts

Larry Elliott Economics editor

24, Aug, 2022 @11:01 PM

Article image
Cost of living crisis: protests to launch across the UK
Enough is Enough campaign garners 300,000 signs-ups with 50 rallies planned next week across Britain

Zoe Wood

12, Aug, 2022 @12:07 PM

Article image
Ministers should stop dithering. A social tariff for energy is essential | Nils Pratley
Even the lower projections for the next couple of price caps will not be remotely comfortable for many

Nils Pratley

27, Feb, 2023 @4:56 PM

Article image
Almost 8m people in UK struggling to pay bills, says City watchdog
One in four adults either in financial trouble or at brink of difficulty, FCA survey finds

Kalyeena Makortoff Banking correspondent

20, Oct, 2022 @11:01 PM

Article image
From milk to shoes, these are the everyday items hit by soaring UK prices
As households face the biggest drop in living standards since the 1950s, five images show the scale of the cost of living crisis

Richard Partington and Ellen Wishart

24, Mar, 2022 @6:05 PM

Article image
What are the cost of living payments – and how much can you get?
Sunak has announced new measures to combat rising household bills. Here’s what you can expect

Hilary Osborne

26, May, 2022 @2:30 PM

Article image
Food bank demand for items to eat cold ‘mind blowing’, says Jack Monroe
Anti-poverty campaigner says many people cannot afford to turn on the hob because of high energy bills

Kalyeena Makortoff

26, May, 2022 @9:30 AM

Article image
How Sunak’s cost of living support will affect UK households
The chancellor has announced a raft of measures to tackle the biggest fall in disposable income for three decades. How will you be impacted?

Miles Brignall

03, Feb, 2022 @6:55 PM