Monday 9 December 2019

Cheap casseroles back on the menu as country goes to pot

Aideen Sheehan

FAMILIES are casseroling their way to cheaper grocery bills.

The switch to cheaper foods and falling prices across the sector have cut grocery bills by €600 a year since the end of the boom.

Thrift has been the mother of invention when it comes to the weekly shop, with consumers trading down to cheaper foods.

The average household now spends €5,572 on groceries each year -- down 10pc from the €6,172 being spent two years ago, a new report shows.

However, the volume of food purchased has not changed in that time.

Frugal shoppers are saving €294 a year by substituting cheaper choices for expensive foods on the family dinner table, according to a Bord Bia report.

The drop in prices throughout the economy is saving each family €248 on the grocery bills each year. And shopping around in cheaper stores is reducing their bills by another €58.

Butchers say that people are increasingly buying cuts of meat they weren't able to give away during the Celtic Tiger years.

Shanks of lamb, oxtails and shin beef are among the items that have returned to shopping lists after a lengthy spell in the shadows of prime cuts such as fillet, striploin and sirloin steaks, said David Lang, a butcher for more than 40 years and now development officer of the Association of Craft Butchers of Ireland.

"A lot of these cuts were seen as peasant food and not upmarket enough for our tastes during the Celtic Tiger, but now people realise they can go a lot further to feed a family as long as you cook them the right way.

"You can take a kilo of diced beef, add a few spuds, carrots and onions in a casserole and you've enough to feed a family, whereas you'd probably only get two striploins for the same money," he said.

Other choices growing in popularity are gigot chops that are half the price of loin chops, or shoulder of lamb for €9.99 compared to more than €20 for a leg of lamb.

Butchers are responding to the changing tastes by offering consumers advice and recipes for cooking these cuts, because they need long, slow cooking to make them tender, Mr Lang said.

Shoppers have also been more promiscuous in their purchasing habits, going to more shops and shopping around, according to Kantar World Panel, who researched the Bord Bia report. They are also saving money by purchasing cheaper own-brand products and stocking up on special offers.

A third of the groceries we buy are now own-brand, compared to just 16pc a decade ago. A large part of this has been driven by competition from German discount retailers Aldi and Lidl, who stock mainly own-brand goods.

However, Irish shoppers still remain much more loyal to brands than in Britain and even Marks & Spencer recognised this recently by introducing a limited range of branded goods in their Irish grocery stores, including Weetabix and Fairy Liquid.

While shoppers have enjoyed the benefits of falling prices over the last two years, they may have to find other ways of saving on their bills because, according to David Berry of Kantar World Panel, prices stopped falling in August.

And the grocery sector appears to have turned a corner, reporting growing sales in treats, pizzas, desserts, ethnic food, pasta, rice and pet products.

Irish Independent

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