UK Eating Habits

Greetings. I recently told someone that my New Year’s Resolution was to eat MORE food. I thought it was a funny thing to say. They eyed me with equal amounts of suspicion and fear. I mean, there are some things you just don’t say.
Recent figures charting the UK’s changing food buying patterns since 1974 have been released. The figures tell us some interesting things about England. In short we eat a lot of: chips, fresh fruit and dried pasta. No longer popular are: white bread, tinned peas and meat paste. According to the BBC, data from 150,000 households who took part in the survey of their food and drink habits from 1974-2000 have been published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).  In brief, it comes from the National Food Survey, which in 1940 began asking households to fill out diaries of their weekly food and drink purchases. And what they found out was pretty interesting. Let’s do this. Knowledge is power.

Less white bread, less full-fat milk

We here in the UK are eating less white bread. In fact, prices have dropped 75% since 1974, and according to the survey, while those of brown and wholemeal bread have risen by 85%. Also, skimmed milk (referring both to skimmed and semi-skimmed) overtook whole-fat milk in the 1990s and British households now drink four times as much.

Milk graph

They do say skimmed milk is better for you-it is good for your heart and keeps your  cholesterol levels low.

I do hope you think my blog is the best thing since sliced bread. No? We still cool.  Here is a graph on bread you might find interesting.

Bread graph


Gosh. I really have never liked liver. Who does? My Dad used to cook liver and onions for me and my brother . I thought he cared about us. Sheesh. But really, liver is not good. And I am not alone in thinking this. In fact, people in the UK used to really like eating liver-now…not so much. In 1974 a typical household bought 36g of liver per week. By 2014, the figure had fallen to just 3g-a 92% drop. Clearly, nobody likes liver. Other meats have done differently. Pork and mutton saw a more modest fall in popularity. While consumption of uncooked chicken and minced beef rose to 62% and 35% over the same period respectively.

Italian food in the UK

Man eating spaghetti

Who does not like Italian food? Come. On. Here in the UK we L-O-V-E Italian food. Funny to think that dried and fresh pasta were NOT even recorded on the National Food Survey until 1998. But between 1998 and 2014, weekly household purchases in this category more than doubled.

Pizza (frozen and not frozen) rose even more dramatically, with average purchase from 2g per week in 1975 to 53g in 2014. The amount of takeaway pizzas bought per household shot up 1,000% over the same period. Better call Dominoes. I could eat a pizza right now. Also,  it’s not as though the UK was new to Italian cooking in the early 1970s, Macaroni was a common fixture in Victorian cookbooks,  but  apparently, wartime and wartime conditions appeared to have disrupted the advance of pasta. Sigh. Then came the pizza. Although pizza comes from Italy it has been popularised by Americans.

Freezer revolution

According to the survey, just 15% of households owned a freezer in 1974. By 2000 that figure stood at 94%. In addition, this is matched by a drop in the popularity of canned and tinned food. The amount of canned peas bought by a typical household dropped from 88g to 14g per week between 1974 and 2014. In total, consumption of canned vegetables dropped by a third over the same period. Meanwhile, ready meals and convenience meat products went up fivefold. Ready meals are pretty handy. I should know. But they contain a lot of salt.

The decline of tea (although not by me)

I drink  a lot of tea-approx. 6-8 cups. And that is just in the mornings. I kid. That’s my daily consumption. Further, tea runs remain an integral part of the daily routine, but consumption of the UK’s preferred hot drink have declined steadily since 1974.

Back then, the average household bought 68g per week. By 2014 that had fallen to 25g. However tea remained more popular than instant coffee, cocoa and malted drinks. But recently, there has been a coffee culture emerging in the UK. Who knew? And you thought we were a nation of tea drinkers? Nope.

Tea graph



One thing has remained constant. We here in the UK love our chips/fries. Frozen. Cooked. From the chippie (fish and chip shop). From any shop really. British people love their chips. As for me, I could eat chips every day. Now, when it comes to fish…well, apparently, a typical household bought 44g of white fish (fresh, chilled or frozen) per week in 1974. While it still remained the most popular fish choice, 40 years later that figure was just 19g. But other types of seafood did better. Shellfish purchases rose fivefold, and those of salmon by 550%. And let’s face it, salmon is pretty darn good.

Fish graph

The role of women

In 1991 the survey stopped asking the “housewife”, to fill out its questionnaire. The respondent was later to renamed the “main diary keeper”. Well, thank goodness for THAT. The survey suggested that British women still remain chiefly responsible for food shopping duties. Hey, I have no problem with that. If I do the food shopping-I get to buy the good stuff…like peanut butter and chocolate.

So, things change. Fashion, hairstyles and even how we consume food. But one thing has not changed…we still eat food. Each and every day.









  1. LdF · February 18, 2016

    Now I know Liver has a lot of cholesterol , in a moment of dementia, you wrongly said your Dad cooked liver for u n ur brother, it was ur mom who cooked liver for you, cheers.

    • samdfb1 · February 18, 2016

      Dear old timer-you forgot you used to cook liver when we lived at 815 Thayer Avevue? 😉

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