Poorer households "must spend over a third of income on food to stay healthy"

Low-income households need to spend at least one-third of their take-home income to buy a representative basket of healthy food, a Northern Ireland study has found.

Image: epSos.de
Image: epSos.de

The cost of a healthy food basket for a pensioner living on their own is £59 per week, while for a family of four is £119 per week, according to The cost of a healthy food basket, a report by all-Ireland food safety and nutrition body Safefood in partnership with the Food Standards Agency in NI and the Consumer Council for NI.

The report's authors asked consumers to select a realistic food basket from a taste and menu point of view, which were then reviewed by nutritionists from Ulster University to ensure they met nutritional guidelines of the UK Eat Well plate, and were then price-checked.

Safefood director of human health and nutrition Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan said: "The effects of compromising on food spending can impact on people's lives in a number of ways, from difficulties in concentration and poor energy levels in children, to wellbeing issues in everyday life for adults.

"In trying to make a limited household budget go further by compromising on healthy foods, some households are ending up nutritionally poor."

Food Standards Agency in NI head of standards and dietary health Sharon Gilmore said: "For the first time, we have sound evidence on the real cost of an essential food basket and how food issues relate to poverty and economic hardship.

"We need to take this evidence and develop an action plan to tackle food poverty in Northern Ireland."

The costed amounts for the different types of household were as follows: 


Pensioner living alone

2 parent & 2 children (3&10y)

2 parent & 2 children (3&10y)


State Pension

Job Seekers Allowance

Minimum Wage (£6.50/h)

Total food spend (£)




Take-home Income (£)




% Household Budget




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