£2.50 for four slices of potato bread. That’s dear, isn’t it? Well, Squinter thought it was as he wandered a supermarket at 9.30 on Sunday morning in search of a few breakfast bits and bobs. (Not one of the big supermarkets, obvs, because they’re still closed on Sunday mornings so the Bible-worriers don’t have to get so upset about the swings being unchained.)

Squinter needs to ask because, while he doesn’t know about you lot any more, he’s totally flummoxed these days about prices every time he goes out for the messages (remember them?). 50 bob for a weekend staple like potato bread seemed a little excessive because he seems to remember that at some unspecified time (just pre-Covid as near as he can guess) he vaguely remembers paying around a quid for the same product. 

Figuring out whether something is dear or not is made significantly more complicated by the fact that Squinter usually does a big shop, which involves too many items to remember each individual price. And so when it comes to nipping out to get one or two things, the reality is brought more sharply into focus.

It got worse, for on the planned menu was the weekend staple of cheese on potato bread and as Squinter held his expensive tatie bread in his hand and scanned the dairy aisle he was in for another cost-of-living wake-up call. 200 grams of his favourite mature cheddar – a rather modest-sized block – was £3.70, bringing the ingredients for a rather plain morning repast to six quid and twenty pence. Granted, the supermarket’s own-brand cheese was cheaper, but the thing about cheddar cheese, and mature cheddar cheese in particular, is – as any connoisseur will confirm – is that there are only two ways to make mature cheddar mature: time and additives. And since the old adage ‘time is money’ is nowhere more true than in the cheese factory, cheese that has been left to stand for a long time costs considerably more than cheese which has been shipped out on the day of manufacture. Add to that the fact that cheaper cheese which is made to taste mature by the work of chemicals rather than the work of Old Father Time is a distinctly vinegary experience, Squinter invariably ends up shelling out a little bit more.

A few hours of diligent journalistic research (industry-speak for two minutes on Google) reveals that top of the list of staple products most affected by the breathtaking rise in the price of foodstuffs in recent years is... cheese. Potato bread isn’t on the list – mostly because there’s never a queue for the stuff in Cork, Birmingham, Cardiff or Aberdeen – but bread and grain products are top of the food group explosions along with dairy.
But of course when it comes to shopping we’re hardwired into familiar names and not groups and so as Squinter cruised the information superhighway (remember that?) he took a detour to find out which everyday branded items will give your purse or your wallet the biggest punishment beating. Feel free to turn this into an informal family quiz...

In the past few years one item that very few of us don’t have in our fridges has gone up in price by an eyewatering 53% – a full six per cent more than the second-placed item. And the winner/culprit is... roll of drums please... Heinz tomato ketchup (460g). You’ll pay somewhere around £3.80 for the medium-sized plastic bottle with the cap at the wrong end, which means that when you nipped out to the shop with your mask on during the first Covid lockdown you’d have been paying circa £1.65 to put the same item in your fridge. (We all keep our brown sauce and ketchup in the fridge, right?)

The list is quite an extensive one, so Squinter will keep this snippet of it to products that he buys on a regular basis.

Dolmio pasta sauce (47% rise since 2020).
Heinz chicken soup (46% – not again, Heinz).
Colman’s mint sauce (44%).
Hellmann’s mayo (35%).
McCain frozen chips (34%).
Green Giant sweetcorn (30%).
Walkers crisps (26%).
McVitie’s ginger nut biscuits (22%).
Hovis medium loaf (22%).

Get your club card out – you’re gonna need it because that’s an expensive crisp sandwich. And if you like Heinz tomato ketchup on your chips then you’re almost better off going to the chippy, just as Sammy Sausages advised.