Spending on food tops family budget

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SPENDING on food as a proportion of family expenditure rose significantly for the first time last year since 1957, according to official figures released yesterday, writes Martin Whitfield.

The increase, reported in the first results from the 1993 Family Expenditure Survey, shows food spending at an average of pounds 50 a week and reverses a long downward trend in importance of food in the domestic budget. Total family expenditure last year rose 1.8 per cent to pounds 276.70.

Spending on food is now ahead of housing, the next highest element in the family budget. Housing costs make up an average weekly bill of pounds 44.80, down from pounds 47.40 in 1992 following the fall in mortgage interest rates. Motoring costs and fares, the third largest bill, showed a rise to pounds 43.20 from pounds 42.90.

Over time, the proportion of spending has changed dramatically. In 1957, housing costs made up 8.7 per cent of the total bill, compared with 16.2 per cent last year. Housing peaked at 19.4 per cent of bill in 1991.

In contrast, the share of food expenditure has progressively declined from more than one-third of the total in 1957 to 18 per cent.

The proportion of the family budget spent on alcohol has risen from 3.2 per cent in 1957 to 4.1 per cent last year ( pounds 11.90 a week) but peaked in 1975 at 5.1 per cent of the total. The figures, released by the Central Statistical Office, are part of an annual study of family spending.