Family food bill tops 30% of income in pursuit of healthy option

Over one-third of weekly budget required if balanced diet is to be achieved by families

A family already struggling to make ends meet will have to spend more than one-third of their entire weekly budget on food if they want to eat a healthy and balanced diet, according to a report from food safety and nutrition agency Safefood.

A family of two adults and two children will need to spend between €121 and €160 a week to eat a healthy balanced diet, a figure which equates to a 36 per cent share of a household budget if a family is on a low income or on social welfare.

The average spend per person in a four-person household is €35. A one-parent, two-child family will need to spend up to €101, while a pensioner living alone will have to spend €64 per week.

“This study confirms the stark choices that low-income households have to make, spending in some cases up to one-third of their weekly take-home income in order to purchase a minimum acceptable standard of food, while also meeting their nutrition and social needs,” said Safefood chief executive Ray Dolan.


“Families on a low income tend to eat less well, have poorer health outcomes with higher levels of obesity and its complications,” added Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, director of human health & nutrition at Safefood.

‘Real challenge’

She said that in general, cheaper foods and takeaways were simply less nutritious. “This presents a real challenge for parents when it comes to food shopping and planning for the week”.

She described food poverty as “complex” and said it particularly affects people on low incomes, with limited access to transport and poor cooking skills. “In trying to make a limited household budget go further by compromising on healthy foods, some households are ending up nutritionally poor,” she said.

The research, led by Dr Bernadette MacMahon of the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, was based on menus put together by consumers and details the cost of a healthy food basket for six of the most common household types in the Republic.

“This is our second report into the cost of a basic but healthy food basket . . . While some food prices may have fallen slightly since our first food basket report last year, low-income consumers continue to struggle to afford a healthy, balanced diet,” said Dr MacMahon.

“Because the contents of the food baskets in this study were put together by people themselves, this gives us an evidence-based measure which is grounded in the lived experience of Irish households”, she added.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast