Nutrition & Food Science

ISSN: 0034-6659

Article publication date: 1 December 2002



Blades, M. (2002), "Editorial", Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. 32 No. 6. https://doi.org/10.1108/nfs.2002.01732faa.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2002, MCB UP Limited


Supermarkets and shops abound with a tempting abundance of food. Like most, I select and then pay by the inevitable credit card. While I pay attention to what I buy and the price of foods and by some may be considered to be somewhat frugal in my purchases, I have recently been putting myself into the position of shopping on a budget.

Recently I was asked to do a project on shopping for those with a reduced income to see if a well-balanced menu could be produced. It turned out to be a fascinating project. Looking at shopping on a budget, I visited both local shops and supermarkets of all types in the area. In my area it proved impossible to produce a reasonable menu from local corner shops. Fruit and vegetables were expensive in such shops and even those fruit and vegetables on offer from roadside stalls proved more expensive than supermarkets. I live in an agricultural area where farm shops abound as well as people selling surpluses from their gardens and allotments at their gate.

Prices seem to change frequently which made the exercise of menu planning somewhat difficult. Therefore one needed to be flexible in the approach to setting a menu and to adapt this according to the offersand prices.

Most of the supermarkets had a range of economy brands and most were excellent value. These proved essential to drawing up the menus. Mainly they were situated on lower shelves in supermarkets rather than at eye level.

Other supermarkets had special offers of foods and also reduced perishable items at the end of the shopping day.

On occasions some of the stores did not have various items especially fruit and vegetables or in the economy ranges, which again meant one had to be flexible as regards purchases. This would have been difficult if I were actually shopping on a budget.

I was shopping as if to provide a week's menu for two adults. With some thought of budgeting and also knowledge of food and an ability to cook and store food in a freezer and refrigerator it would have been possible to provide an adequate diet on a limited budget. For those reliant on convenience foods and takeaway meals due to an inability to cook, the exercise would have been much more difficult. Some sort of storage for food is also needed so ensuring the adequacy of meals for those without these means would mean shopping on a daily basis; not to mention missing out on bargains.

It also meant that one needed some ability to actually travel to out-of-town supermarkets to which there are usually no bus services.

The menus all provided less than 30 per cent of the dietary energy from fat. It would have been straightforward to have further adapted the menus to be lower in fat and sugar and contain more starchy carbohydrates, such as could be advocated for those with diabetes. For those with intolerance to foods like milk the necessity to purchase milk-free items while keeping to a budget may have been more difficult.

Anyone catering for children and teenagers who insist on food with the names of brand leaders rather than budget-range items could find the exercise impossible as well as stressful to family relations.

Wherever I shopped the most expensive components of a well-balanced and nutritious diet were fruit and vegetables. This was even true in one supermarket where fruit and vegetables were reduced to half price. My shopping trips were in the summer months when salad items and vegetables are relatively inexpensive. In winter months such items are likely to increase significantly in price.

Local markets offer fruit and vegetables at economical prices but are not on every day in most towns. Also there often is no adjacent parking and thus heavy items must be carried.

It is recommended that we eat at least 400g per adult per day of fruit and vegetables. This has been interpreted as eating five portions of fruit and vegetables by the "Take Five" and "Give me Five" campaigns. Yet despite these campaigns the average intake in the UK is only three portions of fruit and vegetables per day.

It is not surprising that those on a reduced income may omit fruit and vegetables from their shopping basket.

Mabel Blades

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