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One in seven people skipping meals as cost of living bites

Cost of living LEEDS, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21: A sign painted on the side of a house directs people to a local food bank on October 21, 2022 in Leeds, England. A report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published earlier this week showed consumer prices index rising to 10.1% in September, with food and drink rising at a rate of 15%, the largest jump in decades and forcing many people to use charity food banks. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Cost of living: Around 4% of UK households have been forced to seek help at a food bank. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty

A “worrying” number of UK households are going without food and sitting in cold homes due to the rising cost of living.

One in seven (15%) people have skipped meals due to the rising cost of living and nearly one in ten (9%) had prioritised meals for other family members above themselves, according to Which?

The consumer body’s findings also showed that around 4% had used a food bank.

People are also looking for ways to save on their energy bills – with seven in 10 (72%) saying they have put the heating on less due to rising prices, four in 10 (39%) using less hot water and one in five (19%) having had fewer cooked meals.

Three in 10 (29%) respondents who said they had put their heating on less said they have often or always felt physically uncomfortable this winter as a result.

Read more: Six ways to reduce food waste and save money

Jackie Rudd, aged 72 and from West Suffolk, has found that rising energy prices have left less room in her budget for grocery shopping. This has meant she is now skipping meals two to three times per week.

She said: “The last week of the month, meals are missed – if you have no money for a loaf then there's no lunch and if there's no milk, then there's no breakfast. Basic groceries have gone up to stupid levels – the loaf of bread I usually buy has gotten smaller and more expensive."

One 85-year-old man said: “The house is cold due to the cost of heating, so I am continually wearing layer upon layer of clothes. Saving money on heating allows more money for food.”

A 30-year-old man said: “Our house is cold a lot of the time because the high costs of gas and electric makes a warm house unaffordable.”

Read more: What happens if you miss a bill?

An estimated 2.3 million UK households said they missed or defaulted on a vital payment – such as a mortgage, rent, credit card or bill payment – in the last month.

Six in ten (59%) people made at least one financial adjustment – such as cutting back on essentials, selling items or dipping into savings – in the last month to cover essential spending. This equals an estimated 16.5 million households.

Read more: Supermarket value ranges soar in price with milk and cheese 20% more expensive

Rocio Concha, Which? director of Policy and Advocacy, said: “It’s hugely worrying that households across the country are forced to go hungry and sit in cold homes as they cannot afford basic essentials this winter.

“Which? is calling on the government and essential businesses to do more to support their customers through this extraordinary cost of living crisis.

“With energy bills due to rise in April, the government must urgently consider postponing its decision to increase the energy price guarantee to £3,000. For some families, who continue to be battered by high inflation, this will offer an important lifeline to stop them falling into financial distress.”

The consumer body is also calling on supermarkets to increase availability of affordable and healthy own-brand budget ranges throughout their branches.

Watch: How to save money on a low income

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