The news keeps telling us that inflation is high and the price of shopping is going up. But can we trust the media, and just how high? Well, I went through 8 months worth of grocery receipts to find out.

I should first point out that this is my personal inflation level and yours will depend very much on what you buy. Fortunately for this investigation, I generally always shop at the same place and buy a lot of the same items each shop.

The dates themselves aren’t important, but the trends are. All items normalised to a starting value of 100% as of June 2021.

There’s some items I buy most shops and these are shown in the graph above. Bags of apples have fluctuated the most, varying between £1.10 and £1.60 over the last few months, probably because apples are often on sale. The next highest increase is for the small packs of cherry tomatoes which have gone up 28% (the large packs have only gone up 8%). The price of cheese also varies depending on what form it’s bought in. A 400g block of cheddar is now 23% more expensive than June last year, whilst packs of pre-sliced cheddar are only 11% more expensive. And 6 pints of semi-skimmed milk have gone up almost 10% in price, but 4 pint bottles have only gone up 5.5%.

Of my non-regular items, I discovered this week that 220g cans of Branston baked beans have gone up 37% after being stable for ages (was 40p per can, now 55p). In other big swings, wholewheat penne has gone up 27% from 55p per bag to 70p per bag.

Of fruit and vegetables, the only item which hasn’t changed price is cucumbers. Cucumbers have remained at a constant 43p for a standard non-large, non-organic cucumber. This is the same price as my local low-cost supermarket so I wonder if there’s some price competition going on here. (Loose onions have also stayed the same price, but I haven’t bought them for a while.)

And the one item that has come down in price is 1.25kg of sweet potatoes. Last June these cost £1.50 a bag, but they now cost just £1.11 a bag, a 24% reduction. And this one does have a sticker they’ve price-matched the low-cost supermarkets.

Long-life items such as cereal and toiletries appear to have remained relatively constant (or gone down), but I only buy these when they’re on offer and then I stock up for a while when I do, because that just makes sense. So fresh foods is really where the impact is going to be felt.

So is inflation real? Yes. How bad is it? Well, it depends entirely on what you buy (and in what packaging).

Full data (for items I’ve bought at least twice in the last 8 months):

Disclaimer: These prices are the most recent price I’ve paid, not necessarily their current prices.

Apples (6x Royal Gala)1.201.60+33%
Bananas (Loose)0.73/kg0.76/kg+4%
Baked beans (Branston 220g)*0.400.55+38%
Bacon (8 slices of back bacon)*1.251.50+20%
Branston pickle (small chunk)*2.502.500%
Bread – Kingsmill 50/50 sliced1.001.000%
Bread – Wholemeal seeded loaf1.101.20+9%
Cereal – Special K (Peach and Apricot)*2.002.000%
Cereal – Raspberry and Yoghurt Crisp*1.501.500%
Cereal – Shreddies*3.003.000%
Cereal – Weetabix Mini (Chocolate)*2.002.000%
Cheddar (400g)1.702.10+24%
Cheddar (10 slices)1.701.90+12%
Cherry tomatoes (330g)0.700.90+28%
Cherry tomatoes (500g)1.251.35+8%
Cucumber (whole)0.430.430%
Milk – Semi-skimmed (4 pints)1.091.15+6%
Milk – Semi-skimmed (6 pints)1.551.70+10%
Pasta – Wholewheat penne*0.550.70+27%
Onions (Loose)*0.85/kg0.85/kg0%
Pasta bake sauce*1.701.00-41%
Shower gel*2.201.25-43%
Sweet potatoes (1.25kg)*1.501.11-24%
* Item bought infrequently or only when on offer so may not be accurate of complete trends.

Pizza delivery

I mentioned a few weeks ago that there had been a few occasions when takeaway delivery drivers had incorrectly tried to deliver their wares to my flat, and I questioned whether I should just accept it. (Just to point out here that I never have.)

Fast forward to this week, and a couple of days ago I was sat at home and the doorbell rang. I wasn’t expecting any deliveries so I was surprised when the man announced that he was delivering pizza. Expecting him to have the wrong address, I told him so, but then he read back the address and it matched mine.

It is a pizza chain I’ve used before so they do have my details, but I wouldn’t have expected a national pizza chain to make this sort of admin mistake (and I had never heard of it happening before). Had I somehow managed to pocket order a pizza on my phone? But that was unlikely and surely I would have had some sort of confirmation message. Had someone done a random act of kindness and just ordered me a pizza? I’m not against that idea if anyone does want to do that, but I would probably have expected someone to say something first.

So there I was, with these thoughts running through my head and a man on the doorstep trying to give me pizza which was definitely addressed to my flat. Could I accept the food delivery this time? I had already eaten, but there’s nothing wrong with cold pizza and it definitely wouldn’t be wasted.

Unfortunately at this point, the delivery driver decided to phone the contact number for the order. It turns out my next door neighbours had just put the wrong flat number and there went my free pizza…

Should I just have taken the pizza straight away? Should I just accept every incorrect delivery? Would you have accepted it?

Lessons from the lockdown

Lessons from the lockdown #5

You may remember a while ago, when only takeaways were allowed to open, I wrote a post on my local restaurants and whether they were still open and doing takeaways during lockdown.

Well this week, the lockdown restrictions have lifted and it’s now possible to eat inside restaurants again. In fact, if you’re reading this on the Wednesday evening this post was published, I’m possibly out for a meal right now (but it’s slightly outside the catchment area for this list).

I thought I’d have another review of my local restaurants to see what’s changed. Here’s what I found:

  1. I said this in my previous post, but there are a lot of restaurants near me. Every time I thought I had been everywhere, I remembered another one that I yet to visit. And when writing this list out again I found even more I still hadn’t been to. I should probably have broken the list down into subcategories or a more logical order, but it is what it is. And some of them are more takeaways/cafes than restaurants, but I’m not being too picky.
  2. Only a small number of places have closed down. In fact, only one place has definitely closed down, and there’s another few that may have closed down but could potentially just still be dormant. There’s even been a new sushi takeaway open since lockdown so maybe things haven’t been as bad as they could have been (here at least anyway).
  3. There’s a few places I didn’t previously include in my list because I thought they were more “cafes” than “restaurants”. However, a lot of them have now re-stylised themselves as more “cafe/bars” and are open later in the evening for food and drink. There’s still a few pure “cafes” in the area which I’ve not included as I’m only listing places which open in the evening.
  4. I’ve also added a few extra pubs to my list. My original list only included places that served food, but I missed off a couple of pubs that did food that I hadn’t realised. I’ve just included all pubs now, even if they only do drinks.
  5. A lot of places have been refurbished. Mainly the cafes that have shifted into the cafe/bar niche, but also some of the takeaways and the restaurants too. Whether they intended to do this anyway, or whether they just took advantage of reduced customers numbers during lockdown to do it, I don’t know.
Have I been there? (April 2020)Have I been there since lockdown?Status?
The Chinese (the only Chinese now since the other one closed)YesYesOpen
The dodgy IndianYes (but not since the new management)Yes. It’s fine with new management, but it’ll still be the “dodgy Indian”Open
The classic Indian (it doesn’t look like it’s been refurbished since the 90s)YesYesOpen
The posh Indian (used to be across the road but is now where the posh Chinese was)YesYesOpen
The expensive fish and chip shopYesYesOpen
The fish and chip shop restaurantYesYesOpen
The station kebab shopYesYes. This one has now also been refurbished, but they still do a proper kebabOpen
The posh kebab shop (formerly the normal kebab shop)Yes (but not since it was refurbished)Yes (you can read about it here)Open. Not previously an eat-in place, but now has a few posh tables.
The fried chicken takeawayYesNot since lockdownOpen
The Mediterranean restaurantYesYes, and it was strangely emptyOpen
The Thai restaurantNoYes, and this has turned in to one of my favourite surprise restaurants (takeaway anyway)Open
The noodle barNoYes. They even delivered despite me only living two minutes walk awayOpen
The Indian at the other end of the high streetNoNot since lockdown, but I think I may have actually been there beforeOpen
The restaurant around the corner that possibly specialises in burgers NoYes. It wasn’t bad but they were surprised when I walked in, rather than ordering via an online delivery serviceOpen but at the moment still only for takeaway/delivery (or it was yesterday when I walked past).
The steak restaurantNoYes. Although somehow I felt like I wasn’t their target clientele when I just walked in for a takeaway mealOpen
The Italian place on the hillNoYesOpen
The pizza place up the hillNoYes, twice. The pasta was good, but the pizza had an incredibly soggy bottomOpen
The other Italian place on the hillYesNoOpen
The greek place on the hill [Missed this one off the list first time.]YesNoOpen
The Italian chain restaurantYesNoIt didn’t open during lockdown and has now closed for good. The one place that has definitely closed
The Italian chain restaurantYesNoOpen
The Italian chain restaurantNoNoOpen
The spicy chicken restaurantYesNoOpen
The large pub on the cornerYesNoOpen
The old heritage pubYesNoOpen
The tiny pub near the large pub on the corner [I didn’t include this one first time as it doesn’t serve food. But that’s no longer a requirement of lockdown rules so it is now fully reopened]NoNoOpen
The old pub behind the high street [I didn’t include this one first time as I thought it didn’t serve food. It was much bigger than I expected, including a large garden at the back.]NoYes (for drinks)Open
The cheap chain pubYesNoThis was closed for most of lockdown (even before Christmas and when outdoors has been allowed). I’m not sure if it’s reopened yet as I forgot to look when I walked past, but I can’t imagine it’ll be closed for long
The pub at the far end of the high streetNoNoOpen. I don’t think it does food, but I’ve never been here
The Mediterranean restaurant that also likes to think it’s a bar/night clubYesI went for drinks here with a friend when that was allowed last yearOpen
The hipster place on the corner YesNoAfter being closed for all of lockdown and not reopening for outside only, I thought this place might have closed for good. But it did belatedly reopen last week for outside and I’m sure inside will be open too now.
The Spanish tapas place (I thought it was more of a cafe, but it is open until late evening)NoYes. This is on my list of places worth trying again.Open
The place up the steps that used to be a police stationNoNoOpen
The Italian chain restaurant round the cornerNoNo. I had a look at the menu, but I just wasn’t interested in itOpen
The restaurant that I can’t remember next to the Italian chain restaurant round the cornerNoNoI think this one might have shut down permanently, there’s no signs it may reopen but it could surprise.
The place that used to be the French restaurantNoNoFully reopened, but it still feels like somewhere I don’t want to go.
The American dinerNoYesThere’s a notice on the door that it won’t be opening for Christmas/New Year. I fear it may not be reopening at all (but again, I could be surprised)
The chain bar that does for 2-for-1 cocktails at all timesNoNoOpen
The Irish pub opposite the stationNoNoOpen
The other Irish pub opposite the stationNoNoThe shutters are still down so it might have closed down
The burger place upstairs from the night clubNoNoI think this has probably shut down for good. The night club downstairs has been refurbished/rebranded and I’m expecting the upstairs place to be too
The seafood place on the wrong side of the tracksNoNoI’ve never been able to work out whether it was open for takeaway during lockdown. It looks like it’s open again now, but it has absolutely no signs outside so I have no idea
The dessert placeNoNoOpen as normal
The dessert place across the road from the dessert placeNoNoOpen as normal
The vegetarian placeNoYesI hadn’t realised this place opened late in the evening (I think they did it before lockdown). I think they do some chicken dishes too, so not purely vegetarian. The vegan burger was alright, would eat again.
The place that used to be the cheap cafeYes, but when it was still the cheap cafeNoThis used to be a cheap cafe, but they refurbished and now open late into the evening too.
The deli cafe NoYes, I grabbed a coffee here when I met up with a friendThis is another one that’s also extended it’s opening hours into the evening since lockdown
The “pick your own sandwich” chainNoNoWouldn’t have been on the list before, but had a brief renovation and is also open late so needs to be added

Kebabs, part 2

This evening I went to the other kebab shop near me, which has now reopened following its refurbishment. Sadly they wouldn’t sell me a kebab (probably because I went in two minutes before they closed), so I had the chicken burger instead. It looks like they do a proper “cheap kebab”, but I can’t confirm it at this time.

(Apologies for the short and boring post, but I couldn’t write it yesterday as my web host was down, and I’ve been at the pub this evening.)



Sometimes I blog some top notch investigative work (if I do say so myself), sometimes I blog about kebabs.

There are two kebab shops near me. These are both the “cheap-take-away-type-of-kebab-with-piles-of-cheap-meat-stuffed-into-cheap-pitta-bread” types of kebab shop.

There’s also a Mediterranean restaurant near me, which features kebabs on its menu. I often forget it does takeaway as it’s more of a restaurant, but it does also do takeaway. Because it’s also a proper restaurant, it’s a much more upmarket place than the two other kebab shops. On a visit to this restaurant kebab shop last year, I was suprised that it served its takeaway kebabs deconstructed with the meat in one container, the salad in another and the bread as a separate roll. As I say I was suprised, but chalked this one up to it being a more upmarket restaurant kind of place.

Recently, one of the two kebab shops was closed for refurbishment for a really long time and it seemed like it would never reopen but it did. Last week I went for the first time since it reopened and it definitely looks better inside than it did. However, the kebab was now served deconstructed.

It now looks much more like the meal from the upmarket restaurant kebab place. The cheap pitta has been replaced with a chunk of bread, the meat is served in a separate tub and the price is probably higher (I can’t remember exactly what it was before). Either way, it’s no longer the same experience of having a kebab. I guess I’ll just have to go to the other kebab shop instead…

But no, that one is also now closed for refurbishment. What if that one decides to go ‘upmarket’? What if that one starts selling deconstructed kebabs? Where am I going to go for my cheap low quality kebabs?

Lessons from the lockdown

Lessons from the lockdown #1

During this lockdown, they say that routine and regular social contact are the most important things to keep people going. So what could be better than resurrecting a blog that hasn’t been updated in around four years to get us through these troubling times.

Since my most (relatively) popular blog posts have been about my food shopping habits and meals I’ve cooked, I thought I’d make that the topic of this post.

Like most people I’ve been trying to reduce the number of times I’m going outside to reduce the risk of picking up the virus or transmitting it to anyone else. I decided that instead of shopping (approximately) weekly, I would instead try to shop for a whole fortnight. Here’s the list of things I ran out of, and why I won’t be shopping for more than a week.

  1. Milk – My diet is high in breakfast cereal and I normally go through 6 pints of milk in 7 days. Milk doesn’t normally last two weeks. If I bought 2x 6-pint bottles, the second one would almost certainly be going bad by the time I was through it. I’m not doing UHT.
  2. Bananas – My 11am mid-morning banana is a key part of my routine. Even if I had bought a sufficient quantity of bananas, they would still be well past their past by the start of the second week.
  3. Lettuce – I didn’t really run out of this, this one ran out on me. This was the only item I bought that went bad. I think it must have been close to its “best by” when I bought it and then I forgot about it for a couple of days. Unfortunately I had to throw about half of it away. I don’t often get lettuce so I could do without this one.
  4. Chicken – I thought I had 2 or 3 chicken breasts in the freezer, turns out I only had 1. Fajitas made with sausages still work though. This was bad planning on my part really.
  5. Onion – I bought a “seasonal vegetable pack” which contained an onion that went mouldy. Fortunately I had also stocked up on onions separately so it didn’t matter. The seasonal vegetables (carrot, turnip, swede) worked out well though, I made it into a soup with some leftover potatoes. I even made enough to put two portions in the freezer.

So there it is. Milk and bananas are the two reasons why I will be going shopping every week.

*Side note: It actually worked out at 12 days between large shops, with an intermediate milk purchase on day 8.

Life event

The Pizza Incident (aka Cheesegate)

Just over two weeks I was in a Surrey pub with some colleagues. It was a warm sunny afternoon so we were sat in the beer garden enjoying some drinks. I was getting hungry and the place had a special pizza oven so that seemed like the thing to go for. A few other people had already got one, so I ordered a pizza too.

As always, I ordered the spiciest pizza possible and waited for it to turn up. By the time it arrived, I was even hungrier and couldn’t wait to eat it. I grabbed a slice and took a bite…

Not only was it ridiculously spicy, but it was also almost 1000 degrees. In my shock and subsequent haste to put the slice down, I got some cheese down the front of my lip. It took me some time to notice since my mouth was literally on fire.

Anyway that bit of cheese burnt my lip and it later started to blister. A couple of days later, my lip was double its normal size and remained that way for a few days. It then started to scab over which made it look even worse.

Where I was going is this: during that time no-one asked me what had happened. Whether people assumed I had some horrible lip disease or had come across some terrible misadventure but were too afraid to ask, the actual reason was pizza related and probably less/more* exciting than you were hoping. Hopefully that clears it up…

*[delete as appropriate]


Supermarket savings

I recently got a loyalty card for my local supermarket. As a reward, they sent me some vouchers off either shopping or petrol (on alternate weeks) if I spent £20 per week over 4 consecutive weeks. If I spent all 4 vouchers, there would even be some bonus points.

Having used some of these vouchers, they then sent me some more vouchers if I spent £30 per week over the next 6 weeks. This felt like a very sneaky way to get me to spend more money. Were they trying to get more money out of me? Would spending more money actually result in bigger savings? I decided to try and find out…

Life event

I’ve made a huge mistake

The last four days have taught me that I shouldn’t have eaten this on the 1st of July.