aldi supermarket

How our food shopping habits are changing

How do you do your food shopping now, compared to how you did 5 years ago? It may not be something you particularly think about, but when you do, you may be surprised!

In this article we take a quick look at a few of the ways in which food shopping habits have changed during recent years, and seem set to continue doing so.

One key factor in the change in food shopping habits was the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. This forced everyone to change the way they shop. Supplies of essential items ran short in the early weeks, as people were panic buying. Online shopping slots became incredibly hard to get, which led to huge queues outside shops and supermarkets, who were only admitting a certain number of people at a time. 

During Covid, many people reverted to a large weekly food shop rather than buying things on a daily basis as needed. Shopping lists came back into fashion again, as did advance meal planning. 

There was also a trend during the pandemic to abandon loyalty to stores or brands. For example, many people chose to shop in different stores than previously, either for convenience of access or wider choice of produce. People also considered wider ranges of products – including supermarket own brand products – to overcome availability issues.

But all this is now three years ago. Yet many people have stuck with these new pandemic-related habits, and evolved their shopping in other ways due to new pressures such as the cost of living crisis. 

Here are seven ways that our food shopping habits are continuing to change in the UK.


We shop less frequently

Recent research by analyst firm Kantar found that before the pandemic the average household shopped 18 times a month, but now this is around 16. However, more money is spent on a big shop than previously, particularly around pay day. 

The reduced frequency of trips to the shops can partially be explained by more people working from home and having less opportunity to shop in passing.


Online food shopping has peaked and slowed

Once the early panic buying days of the pandemic had passed, and online shopping slots became more readily available, online food shopping peaked at 15.4% of all UK grocery spending in February 2021. This figure has now reduced to 11.7%, which is still higher than before the pandemic, when it represented around 8% of all UK grocery spending.

Interestingly, more younger than older people are continuing to do food shopping online, and this trend is predicted to continue as a default for this age group. But many older people who were forced to shop online during lockdown are doing less food shopping online, perhaps because they are now able to get out to shops again.


Supermarket own brands are becoming more popular

By the end of 2022, around 51% of UK grocery sales were supermarket own brands, an increase from 45% in 2005. This is partly due to the impact of the pandemic, where food shopping – particularly in the early days – became a case of “get what you can”. And in many of these cases, once people tried supermarket own brands they realised they liked them.

And of course, another major reason for people choosing supermarket own brands is that the escalating cost of living is driving many people to look for cheaper alternatives to their normal products. 

In parallel with these two drivers, many supermarkets have been increasing the quality and quantity of their own-brand ranges to entice customers to give them a try; often with positive results.


Discount supermarkets are continuing to grow

The expansion of the discount supermarkets Aldi and Lidl is having a major impact on food shopping patterns in the UK. Over the past year, sales at these two stores have increased by over 23%: double the pace of the UK’s top two supermarkets, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

Both Aldi and Lidl are planning to open more than 1,000 new stores by 2025. Last year Aldi became the UK’s fourth biggest supermarket – overtaking Morrisons – and Lidl is predicted to soon move into fifth place.

Sales at these discount supermarkets have been boosted by the cost of living crisis, with many customers now doing most of their main food shop at one or both stores.


Many of us are eating less meat

Another food shopping trend is that many of us are buying and eating less meat. Recent research on UK diet trends from found that around 7.2 million people in the UK – 14% of the population – are currently following a meat-free diet such as pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan. And further 8.6 million Brits – 16% of the population – are considering doing so.

There are many reasons for this trend, including ethical, health and sustainability considerations. But some of it is also due to reducing costs. In 2021, research by Oxford University found that vegan diets could reduce food costs by up to one third, and vegetarian diets not far behind. Even a flexitarian diet with reduced amounts of meat and dairy could cut the costs of food shopping by around 14%. However, pescatarian diets can work out up to 2% more expensive than meat-based diets.


The use of supermarket loyalty schemes is increasing

An increasing number of shoppers are using supermarket loyalty schemes to get discounts on their shopping. Many supermarkets are now offering special prices to loyalty scheme customers, such as Sainsbury’s Nectar card and Tesco’s Clubcard price schemes. 

Such loyalty scheme deals are gradually replacing general in-store offers, which now account for 25% of all grocery spending, as compared with 40% in 2014.

It is also easier to be a member of several different loyalty schemes, as most have a phone app that can be used instead of carrying a card.


More of us use contactless payment options

The Covid pandemic acted as a catalyst for contactless payment methods such as debit cards, Apple Pay, Google Pay and digital wallets. Around 60% of consumers who were previously not prepared to experiment with new digital forms of payment decided to do so during the pandemic.

Contactless payments have risen from 7% to 27% of all payments since before the pandemic. 83% of people across all age groups and regions in the UK now use contactless. This was helped by two changes to contactless debit card payments in March 2021. Firstly the contactless limit increased from £45 to £100 , and the threshold before a customer is required to enter their PIN rose from £130 to £300.


We hope that the information in this article helps you to think about how your food shopping habits have changed in recent times, and whether what you are currently doing is the best option for you.

Check back here soon for more lifestyle and financial tips from direct lender Munzee Loans.