Food cost as a percentage of the average UK household budget has remained steady for over fifteen years. According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2017 most of us spent 10.5% of our total budget on food and non-alcoholic drinks. Another 1.5% of our budgets went to alcoholic drinks.
In this study we’ll show the breakdown of household home food budgets across food categories, how much we spend on eating out and finally how food & drink budgets change with income levels.
Average Food Costs
The average annual food cost for a typical UK household was around £4,635 in 2017, including £245 spent on non-alcoholic drinks (for the purposes of this article, "food" includes non-alcoholic drinks but not alcoholic drinks). We spend more on food at home (£3,005) than we do on food eaten or prepared out of the home (£1,630).
The average weekly food cost for the typical UK household is £89, up 4% from 2016.
On an individual basis, average food costs per person are £1,930 per year (based on the average 2.4 people in each household), with £1,250 spent on groceries and £680 spent out (e.g., restaurants, takeaways, etc.).
UK Food Annual and Weekly Spend
|Per Person||Per Household|
|Weekly||Food at Home||£24||£59|
|Food Out (e.g., restaurants, take away, etc.)||£13||£31|
|Per Year||Food at Home||£1,252||£3,006|
|Food Out (e.g., restaurants, take away, etc.)||£678||£1,628|
We love our processed meat, the category that takes the biggest bite out of our household food budget. We spend a whopping 13% of our home food budget, or £364 a year, on sausages, bacon, ham and other processed meats. We spend a touch more on fresh fruit (£198/year, including £78 on berries alone) than we do on cakes, buns and biscuits (£192/year). We also spend more on fresh vegetables (£213/year) than we do on cakes and biscuits! Non-alcoholic drinks is another large part of our food budget, consuming £244 a year, mostly on soft drinks.
Average UK Household Budget for Food at Home is £3,006
The categories that make up the largest proportions of the typical UK food budget at home would be familiar to most households:
|Household Budget: Food at Home||Weekly Average||Annual Average|
|Other prepared meats||£6.10||£317|
|Bread, rice and cereals||£5.10||£265|
|Buns, cakes, biscuits, etc.||£3.70||£192|
|Other sauces, herbs, etc.||£2.50||£130|
|Potatoes and other tubers||£2.40||£125|
|Dried or frozen vegetables||£1.60||£83|
|Frozen, preserved & dried fruits and nuts||£1.40||£73|
|Butter, margarine, cooking oils, etc.||£1.20||£62|
|Bacon and ham||£0.90||£47|
|Edible ices and ice cream||£0.60||£31|
|Total Spend: Household Food at Home||£58.00||£3,006|
Average UK Household Budget for Food Outside the Home is £1,630
Dining out at restaurants and cafés eats up the largest piece of our out-of-house food budget, costing the average household £988 a year, with takeaways and snacks costing us £525 year.
|Household Budget: Food Spend Outside the Home||Weekly Average||Annual Average|
|Restaurant and café meals||£19||£988|
|Take away meals eaten at home||£5.10||£265|
|Other take-away and snack food||£5.00||£ 260|
|Canteens & Catering||£2.20||£114|
|Total Spend: Household Food Outside the Home||£31.30||£1,628|
On average, we spend about 65% of our food budget on meals and snacks prepared and eaten at home, and we spend 35% of our food costs on eating out. Out of a total £4,635 annual food expenses, we spend on average £3,005 on food for home and £1,630 on takeaways, restaurants, cafés, and snacks, as you can see in the following chart.
How Does Food & Drink Spending Vary across Income Groups?
The highest earning households with disposable (after-tax) incomes over £63,000 per year spend 4.2 times as much per year on food and alcoholic drinks compared to the lowest earning families with incomes under £10,000.
Relative to average, lower earning households spend a significant amount more of their food budget on processed meats and milk. The highest earning households spend a significant amount less than average on processed meats and more on fresh vegetables. Not surprisingly, the lowest income groups spend the highest proportion of their total household budget on food and drinks: 21%. We all need to eat and this budget area can only be cut so much. As a result, a higher percentage of disposable income must go towards the food budget for the lowest earners.
Wealthier families spend a greater proportion of their total food and drink budget - nearly 50% - on food and drink away from home, which includes restaurant meals and takeaways. Those on smaller budgets tend to save money by eating at home more, spending 74% of their food and drink budgets for consumption at home and only 26% of their food and drink budgets out at restaurants and on take aways.
In terms of actual spending, you can see how weekly food and drink budgets increase as disposable incomes rise. The wealthier dine out more, the budget-conscious eat at home more.
Cheap Eats: How to Save on Food
Whatever your food budget, you can probably borrow some tips from thrifty households to reduce costs down even further. Try to work these methods into your family’s food plan.
1. Cook at home
It does take more time, but cooking and eating at home can save loads of money over the long run. Consider that the actual cost of food for a restaurant meal is less than a third of what you pay for it. The rest of the money you spend at a restaurant goes to other costs like labor and overhead. If you cook at home, you only pay the food cost, and pocket the rest. Team up with your partner, child or a friend to create great food and memories.
2. Stock up on staples
Buy big. Packages, that is. Stores usually charge less per unit (kg, litre, etc.) when you buy more at a time. This means that a 2 kg bag of rice will cost less per kilo than a 0.5 kg bag of rice. If you live near a warehouse store like Costco, consider becoming a member. There you'll have a better chance of finding the largest food packages (e.g., American sizes).
3. Swap pricey proteins or goods for cheaper ones
Ground beef costs less per pound than steaks. Chicken thighs cost less than chicken breasts (and are juicier!). Include lots of dried beans into your meals to add protein and fill your family. Be on the look out for discounted food that the grocery store needs to sell that day due to an impending expiration date—just be sure to cook it ASAP!
Another way to reduce your food budget is by taking a look at your nonalcoholic beverages spend. The average UK family spends a whopping 8% of their at-home food budget on coffee, tea, juices, mineral/sparkling water and sodas. While we'd never suggest eliminating your daily cuppa (coffee and tea aren't the budget problem anyway), there is really no room for soda, juice and fancy water in a tight budget. We have two words for you: tap water.
If you don't like the taste of the life-saving liquid that flows plentifully from your tap, try squeezing in some lemon or boiling it into tea. We try to keep a pitcher of homemade iced herbal tea in the fridge—tastes great, cheap and has no sugar or sugar substitutes. Buying cappuccino at chains like Starbucks or Costa everyday, while convenient, can easily total £1,000 a year, based on our calculations. Instant coffee with a dash of cinnamon or chocolate on top is an easy and impressive alternative.
Food and drink may be necessary for life, but a few small tweaks can help you spend less on them.
Comparing Food Spend to Other Areas of the Budget
While food is clearly a large budget item, there are a few categories that take an even larger bite of the average annual household budget. The average UK household also spends over £4,600 on transportation costs and a whopping £10,500 on all things housing. Our largest utility cost is gas and electricity. The average UK household spent another £102.30 per month on gas and electricity in 2017 (£1,228 per year). The cost to light, heat and run our homes accounts for close to 5% of our household budgets each year.
Note: Updated in January 2018 to reflect the most recent Living Costs and Food Survey from the ONS.