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Heat Or Eat: Rising UK Energy Costs Seep Into Food Spending

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Elizabeth Rigby and Andrea Felsted, Financial Times

Supermarkets are seeing a squeeze on spending by the poorest households in Britain as rising utility bills force families to make a hard choice between energy and food.

Asda, Britain’s second biggest supermarket by market share, and Wm Morrison, another of the UK’s top four grocers, say a growing number of their customers are being forced to make trade-offs between buying food for their families and heating their homes on the back of galloping energy bills.

Three quarters of young mothers – and nearly two-thirds of mums – told Asda in its Mumdex survey of 5,500 parents that they cannot afford to turn on their heating for as long as they need to.

“What we are seeing is customers having to make trade-offs,” says Alex Chruszcz, head of insight at Asda. “The hardest hit households are having to make really tough decisions, because the things they have to spend money on, they really can’t control that much. The worst case is you have a family, you have a house that has to be heated, and you have more mouths to feed. For those hard-up families, they are the ones that feel this most.”

High energy bills have shot up the political agenda in recent months amid growing public anger on the back of repeated price hikes from the big six energy companies. David Cameron – bounced into action by Labour’s promise to freeze energy bills for 20 months if it wins the 2015 election – this week promised to “roll back” green levies in his own bid to help bring down bills.

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