Did you know that average household expenditure in the UK is £406 a week and that £42 of that goes on food and drink? Or that more is spent on transport and leisure? No? Then you need to take a look at the latest Expenditure and Food Survey from the Office for National Statistics. Based on a survey of the spending patterns of almost 7,000 households in 2002-2003, the report confirms that UK consumers are not the healthiest bunch. But it also explodes a few myths about who are the worst offenders and throws up intriguing clues about tomorrow’s consumer trends. Liz Hamson pored over the report to pull out the vital facts and figures.

1 Consumers may complain the weekly shop costs the earth, but the outlay on food and drink is not as big as in other areas. Only in the lowest income bracket does it top the list of expenses. In 2002 to 2003, the average household spent:


Recreation and culture£56.40

Food and non-alcoholic drinks£42.70

Housing, fuel and power£36.90

Restaurants and hotels£35.40

2 Households spend nowhere near the same amount on food and drink as they did in the 1970s. As a proportion of total household expenditure, the outlay on food and drink was down from 24% in 1978 to 17% in 2002 to 2003 - the biggest decline in any category. The amount spent on clothing and footwear also fell, from 8% to 6%, over the same period.

3 There is more than a nod to the Atkins Diet in the way the grocery spend is divided. Of the £42.70 spent on grocery shopping, roughly £10 was spent on meat, £5 was spent on fresh fruit and vegetables and £2 on chocolate and confectionery.

4 Eating out is on the increase, with total spend on restaurants and hotels only £7 less than the weekly grocery shop. And the younger generation is driving the trend, with under-30s spending 11% on eating out and over 75s just 6%. However, at home, older consumers spent more proportionately on food and drink. Over 75s spent 17% of their weekly outlay on food and drink, while under-30s spent just 8%.

5 When it comes to healthy eating, it’s 50 to 64-year-olds who are setting the positive example, spending more on fresh fruit, vegetables and potatoes than any other age group. Despite the best efforts of the healthy eating lobby, young people continue to ignore the warnings. Those under 30 spent the least on fresh produce.

6 It may be kids who keep the confectionery trade in business, but they’re aided and abetted by their sweet-toothed parents. Households with respondents who were 30 to 49 years old spent £2.30 a week on sweets last year, whereas older consumers spent just £1.20 a week. Damn those afternoon office munchies.

7 Retailers have still got a long way to go before they can boast they’re really making the most of the internet. A whopping 55% of households had a home computer and 45% of all UK households had internet access last year - five times the number that had access to the internet in 1998.

8 Smoking is a middle class pursuit it appears. Households spent £11.40 a week on alcohol and tobacco on average. Spending on tobacco was highest for households in middle income groups, at up to £7 a week compared to £3.80 in the lowest income group and £5.10 in the highest income group. Despite rocketing cigarette prices, the amount spent on tobacco fell from 3% to 1% of total expenditure.

9 City slickers lead expensive lives, but their country cousins spent more on food and drink, splashing out £46.30 a week per household. Other big spenders were single adults households with children, whose biggest expenses were food, housing and recreation. However, for two-adult households, the biggest outlays were recreation, transport and food.

10 Total spend on leisure and household services has more than doubled as a proportion of expenditure since 1978, increasing from 9% to 20% in 2002 to 2003. The largest growth has been in leisure services, such as holidays and entertainment, where outlay shot up from £16 a week to £54 a week.