What can you do about soaring food and clothing costs?

Published: September 20, 2022 at 4:40 pm

Inflation might have dipped slightly in the 12 months to August, but food and clothing prices continue to shoot up.

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The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation fell from 10.1% in July to 9.9% in August, according to data this week from the Office for National Statistics, mainly due to lower petrol prices. However, food and non-alcoholic drink prices jumped sharply, seeing their 13th consecutive monthly rise and reaching a 14-year high.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown said: “They were up 13.1% in a year, including some painful rises in the price of some essentials, including low fat milk, which was up more than 40%, and butter, whole milk, and jam - up almost 30%. Food is the price rise we feel most keenly - with 96% of people saying their food costs have risen.

“This is one of the costs that hits those on lower incomes disproportionately hard, because once they have shopped around and traded down, the only option left is to buy less, which can mean some impossible decisions at the supermarket.”

Clothing costs are also increasing steadily, which is bad news for anyone needing to buy warm clothes as we head towards winter. Ms Cole said: “Inflation was up notably here too, to 7.9% overall and 9.2% for men’s clothes - largely as a result of a return to more normal selling patterns, where clothes for the new autumn season arrive in stock and discounts evaporate.”

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Ways to keep food and clothing costs down

Clothes and food are both essentials we can’t do without, but there are ways you might be able to keep costs down.

Food

Some supermarkets have introduced re-vamped or new low-cost ranges in recent months to help with the cost of living crisis. Asda, for example, launched its Just Essentials range in August, with prices from 28p for 40 tea bags, 45p for a kilo of long grain rice and 50p for a punnet of cherry tomatoes. It’s worth checking out these ranges as well as keeping an eye out for any yellow sticker offers where items are heavily reduced as they’re nearing their sell-by date.

There are also several apps which can help you get free food, such as Too Good to go which enables you to buy food cheaply from local businesses that would otherwise end up in the bin because it hasn’t been sold, and Olio, a food sharing app that helps local communities to share any excess food they or local supermarkets have with each other.

Clothing

If you’re trying to reduce the amount you spend on clothes, a good starting point is to set yourself a strict budget when you shop. Charity shops are a great place to find bargains, with some, including Oxfam.org.uk and Faraonline.co.uk offering online shopping so you can browse and buy from the comfort of your home.

According to research by Forbes Advisor, two fifths (42%) of Brits are wearing old clothes for longer than they would have done previously to avoid spending money on the latest fashion, while a third (33%) are primarily buying sale or discounted clothes. Within this number, one third (30%) are turning to charity shops or second hand markets more than ever before.

Another option is to arrange a clothes swap with friends who are a similar size. Simply arrange a time and place where you bring any clothes you’re happy to swap and see if you can update your wardrobe without spending a penny. Alternatively, look at websites such as Freecycle and Gumtree where clothes are often offered free of charge.

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There are also plenty of apps available where you can sell unwanted clothes and buy second hand items. Apps worth a look include Vinted, Depop and Etsy.

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