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27th May 2012

Poorest budgets eaten up by food

5.2 million cash-strapped homes hit hardest by grocery bills

Research reveals that the UK’s lowest income homes are being forced to spend a disproportionate amount of their weekly expenditure on food shopping. The average household in the UK spends 11 per cent of its weekly expenditure on food.  However, 20 per cent of households (those on lower incomes) are actually forced to spend proportionately at least 30 per cent more of their current weekly food spend than the national average.

The research, released by supermarket chain Morrisons, found that 5.2 million households – already defined as living in poverty1 – spend 15.5 per cent or more of their total weekly outgoings on food and non alcoholic drinks alone: up from 14.5 per cent in 2007.  Unfortunately, the experts warn that this inequality is only set to worsen if the increasing rise in the general cost of living continues to outstrip wage increases.

The analysis, conducted for Morrisons by John Glen, Senior Lecturer in Economics at Cranfield School of Management, highlights:

– A one-parent family with a family income of less than £237 per week spends 15.6 per cent of their total expenditure on food per week. If that expenditure was at the national average level of 11 per cent, they would save £11.18 per week
– If a one-parent family was to reduce their weekly food expenditure by just 1 per cent, from 15.6-14.6 per cent of total expenditure, they would be able save £2.47 per week
– In April 2011 the basic pension in the UK was increased by £4.75 per week. If a single pensioner reduced their food expenditure from 18 per cent of their total weekly expenditure to 14.8 per cent of their total expenditure, the saving on their weekly food spend would be equal to the increase in state pension they received in April 2011
– A four-person family with a household income of £13,000 spends 16 per cent of its total expenditure on food per week. If its expenditure was at the national average level of 11 per cent, it would save £14.57 per week
– If a four-person family was to reduce their weekly food expenditure by just 1 per cent, from 16-15 per cent of total expenditure they would be able save £3.06 per week
– A single pensioner on a state pension spends 18 per cent of their total expenditure on food per week.  If that expenditure was at national average level of 11 per cent, they would save £10.35 per week

He continued: “These findings make for worrying reading. In today’s stretched financial society, the disproportionate food spend in low income households means that there is simply less money left in the pot for all the other things families need to pay for such as bills, clothing and fuel.

This is an economic problem society has been facing on an increasing level, particularly over the last four years. Since 2007, food inflation has increased by 26 per cent and with wages rising by only 8.5 per cent over the same period the problem is obvious. If food inflation continues to exceed a rise in wages, this issue is only set to get worse for those households living on low income.”

The number of households living on a low income has been increasing over the past thirty years. Between 1979 and 2009, the proportion of households in the UK living on a low income increased from 13.7 per cent to 22.3 per cent – an increase of 5.8million people2.

Sarah Willingham, money saving expert, commented: “Whilst the average household spend of 11 per cent of outgoings a week on food may not be totally achievable for everyone, being aware of it, at least as a key figure in your expenditure, can help in planning and budgeting.”

Richard Hodgson, Morrisons Group Commercial Director, added: “In these tough economic times it’s worrying to see the effect that the necessity of buying food is having on those households with a limited income – and it’s a situation which, certainly in the short-term, is not set to improve.

“We know that shoppers are finding it tough to make their budgets stretch far enough at the moment.  However, budgeting shouldn’t mean having to compromise when it comes to the supermarket shop.

“We believe that the weekly shop should be as affordable as possible for everyone and that all of our shoppers should be able to enjoy tasty, nutritious and varied meals.  This research was invaluable to us when developing our new M Savers range of everyday grocery essentials such as apples, baked beans and washing up liquid.”

Morrisons has launched its new M Savers range to offer shoppers a range of groceries to help them save money without compromise. Featuring a range of basic products, such as teabags and soup, as well as household essentials, such as dishwasher tablets, the range is available in store now.

Sarah Willingham has some top tips for people shopping with their food spend in mind:

Sarah’s Supermarket Saving Tips

– Make sure you always go armed with a shopping list.  Don’t be tempted to buy things ‘on offer’ that you simply won’t use or don’t need
– Don’t forget to look up and down when browsing the aisles so you can get a clear picture of all product options – don’t just go for the nearest product at eye level
– Never go shopping on an empty stomach!  Sounds obvious but many of us do and you end up buying more, or purchasing things that you don’t need
– Be aware of the supermarket layout: offers are often to be had at the end of the aisles, but sometimes you can seek out bargains elsewhere. And don’t be tempted by impulse buys at the checkout!

Morrisons has created a range of easy to cook recipes using the M Savers range, which can be found at

As a challenge to Morrisons new range, I am planning a roundtable meal where I will be cooking 10 of my lucky guests a variety of different (and exciting) dishes by attempting to only use M Saver products. A follow up of my meal will available shortly!

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