At the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham today, already beleaguered PM Liz Truss defended her new government’s much-derided economic strategy with an already well-worn food metaphor, insisting once again: “we need to grow the pie, so everyone gets a bigger slice”.

But with the threat of a real terms cut in benefits and average two-year mortgage rates hitting 14-year highs, not to mention a litany of other cost pressures, that pie is, at the moment, looking a lot smaller.

Even with the government’s investment in an energy cap worth up to £140bn, and lower income taxes, people are already having to making sacrifices to survive.

And one of the casualties looks like being vegetable consumption – despite price hikes on vegetables remaining limited.

In response to the growing crisis, the British public, according to vegetable charity Veg Power, is now cutting its veg intake in favour of protecting other essential grocery items – whether that be toilet roll or perceived essentials like chocolate biscuits.

As The Grocer reported yesterday, data from IRI Worldwide showed that veg sales dropped to 6.2% of overall basket spend, some 7.5% lower than last year and 8.8% lower than pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, a YouGov survey carried out by the charity found that 49% of families with a household income of under £30,000 were buying less fresh veg due to growing concerns over household finances.

Dan Parker of Veg Power said: “Clearly, for many, that extra portion of vegetables is not considered essential. Our worry is that these new shopping patterns become habits that stay after the cost of living crisis has eased.”

This is not the first time veg consumption has fallen. It happened in the 2008 financial crisis too, according to an Institute for Fiscal Studies report, as consumers tightened their belts.

But it feels different this time around. Despite the government’s pledge to subsidise energy bills through a £140bn package, soaring heating bills will particularly affect families with income of under £30,000: 178% are more likely to be cooking less at home and 122% more likely to be eating less veg as a direct consequence of rising energy costs, according to another Veg Power survey.

Parker also suggested that energy costs were having an impact on frozen too. Among those lower income households who claimed to be eating less veg, 78% said they’d reduced their consumption of fresh veg; 28% said frozen; and 19% said canned. As these figures roughly match frequency of serve, this indicates that rising energy costs are affecting all veg types equally.

The public are not just eating less veg but eating less food overall. Food volume sales across the board are falling. Vegetable sales are falling faster but there should be wider concern that it is not only broccoli that is getting the chop.