Lentils have been a health food staple for as long as health food stores have existed. They’ve also been the butt of many a joke, typically involving the ‘beards and sandals brigade’ who mythically roam the streets in search of health food and wholefood shops.
But the time for joking is over. That’s because lentils (together with their companion pulses, chickpeas) yesterday officially joined the ‘basket of goods’ used by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) to calculate the annual inflation rate.
Each year the ONS adjusts this virtual basket of 700 consumer items to accurately reflect the nation’s purchasing habits.
This year, men’s suits were taken off the list for the first time since the basket’s inception in 1947, a victim of changing working patterns accelerated by the pandemic (the formal blazer take’s the suit’s place). Coal is dropped from the list too (in anticipation of government restrictions on its use), as are doughnuts (replaced by multi-packs of cakes).
Canned beans, chickpeas and lentils enter the basket for the first time alongside meat-free sausages. The growth in vegetarianism and veganism, driven by both greater health and environmental consciousness, see these items make their debut into the basket, says the ONS.
Also new for 2022 are antibacterial surface wipes, pet collars (reflecting soaring pet ownership during the lockdowns) and – more mysteriously – crop tops.