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A shopping basket of goods | © Martin Lee / REX / Shutterstock
A shopping basket of goods | © Martin Lee / REX / Shutterstock
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Gin is in, Menthol Cigarettes Are Out: Meet the UK's National Shopping Basket

Picture of Andrew Webb
Food & Drink Editor
Updated: 12 July 2017
The UK’s Office for National Statistics has released its annual ‘shopping basket’ of goods this week that help calculate UK inflation, and it’s a fascinating snapshot of British history.

Every year since 1947, the price goods and services we spend our disposable incomes on, has been recorded by the Office for National Statistics. As trends and habits wax and wane, the resulting basket of 700 items offers a long view on the shopping habits of post-war Britain.

The 2017 basket has just been released and making a welcome comeback, is gin – thanks to booming sales, replacing the more generic ‘bottle of spirits’. The ONS believes this reflects a ‘ginaissance’ and rise in artisan and small-scale distilleries.

Another new addition to the basket is non-dairy milk (which comes in a variety of styles) reflecting the growing trend for dairy-free alternatives and a vegan lifestyle. Cider was also adjusted from bottled apple cider, to canned apple cider and bottled flavoured cider.

What is the ONS’ shopping basket used for?

Current UK inflation is 1.8%, meaning the price of things we buy has increased by that much since the previous year. This is important because wages haven’t kept up with inflation – have you had a pay rise since last year? This means the value of the pound in your pocket (what it can buy), is less.

Highlights from history: what we used to buy

The first ever shopping basket from 1947 only contained 65 items, and included wild rabbit, a tin of corned beef, prunes and condensed milk, all of which we rarely buy today. Breakfast cereals such as Weetabix were added in 1952, while that store-cupboard staple, tinned tomatoes, joined in 1974, along with yoghurt and instant mashed potato. The latter was hugely popular in the 1970s, but by the 80s was replaced with frozen oven chips. The 1980s breakfast of choice, muesli, was added in 1987, only to come out in 2006. Pitta bread was added in 2000, only to be replaced by garlic bread ten years later.

You can find out more about the fascinating history of what’s gone in, and out, of the shopping basket, in this Radio 4 documentary (which just happens to be presented by yours truly).