Cost of living: One in seven people skipping meals as prices soar to 'stupid' levels

One in seven people (15%) have skipped meals amid the rising cost of living - up from one in eight (12%) three months ago, according to a consumer champion.

The latest findings from Which?'s Consumer Insight tracker have found an alarming number of households are going without food and sitting in cold homes as rising inflation and high energy bills put pressure on incomes.

The findings also found almost one in 10 (9%) had prioritised meals for other family members above themselves.

Among those skipping meals is Jackie Rudd, 72, from West Suffolk.

Her growing energy bill means she is now skipping meals two to three times per week.

She told Which?: "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."

'I am wearing layer upon layer'

As people look for ways to save money, seven in 10 (72%) are putting their heating on less, four in 10 (39%) are using less hot water and one in five (19%) have cooked fewer meals.

Three in 10 of those who put their heating on less said they often, or always, felt physically uncomfortable as a result.

"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," one 85-year-old man said.

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Which? also found an estimated 2.3 million households missed or defaulted on a vital payment - such as their mortgage, rent, credit card, or bill payment - in the last month.

This is in line with the number missing such payments in January this year, suggesting financial difficulties have remained high in 2023.

Six in 10 (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 equates to an estimated 16.5 million households.

Calls to keep energy price cap

There are fears the problem could get worse with the main energy bill support scheme coming to an end next month, and the energy price cap seemingly due to jump for an average household in April.

A campaign from Money Saving Expert's Martin Lewis is calling on the government to stop bills rising by 20% next month, keeping the price cap at a typical £2,500 a year.

Backed by a number of charities, he said last week: "All unofficial indications now show it looks like we've now won this campaign. Energy bills WON'T now rise 20% in April."

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."