Families 'spending less on fresh food than on takeaways'

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The Independent Online

Britons are spending more on takeaway meals than fresh vegetables, according to the annual survey on family expenditure.

Families put an average of £3.40 towards fresh vegetables a week, but pay £3.80 for takeaways at home, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported.

The Family Spending study shows that households in Northern Ireland are keenest on takeaway meals, spending about two thirds more on them than the average for the rest of the country.

Householders use only one fifth of their weekly food bill for fresh fruit and vegetables, which together account for only £6.20 out of a total of £45.

The survey also shows that London families appear to be the healthiest eaters across the country, spending the most on fresh produce - £7.50 - while people in the North-east shell out just £4.10.

Meat made up the bulk of the average weekly shop in the financial year 2005 to 2006, with £10.10 spent on it. Chocolate and sweets accounted for £1.80.

The report also revealed that householders are spending more on eating out than on takeaways, paying £11.90 a week to dine in restaurants and cafés. Londoners pay one third more on this than elsewhere in the UK, with a weekly spend of £15.70.

Families are continuing to switch to semi-skimmed from whole milk, according to the ONS figures which are based on a survey of nearly 7,000 households. The amount of money going on whole milk fell by nearly 4 per cent in 2005 to 2006 compared with the previous financial year, while semi-skimmed had a 3 per cent increase. But the figures suggest that householders are not cutting down on their butter intake - 8 per cent more money went on butter in 2005 than in 2006.

Fish continues to be increasingly popular on the menu of the average family, with households spending nearly 6 per cent more on it, although this is due in part to an increase in the amount spent on fish-based ready meals.

The survey also found that total household spending on food and drink rose slightly by 2 per cent, calculated at a little less than £24 per person per week.

Meanwhile, money used for eating out is down in real terms when inflation is taken into account.

The highest item of family spending is transport, accounting for almost £62 per week. This includes £27.90 for personal transport - costs such as fuel, repairs and servicing. The second-highest category was recreation and culture - television, computers, books and holidays, for example - at £58 per week. The statistics also show that more than half of all households in the UK are now connected to the internet at home, and that more than three quarters of householders own a mobile phone. One of the purposes of the ONS's figures is to define the "basket of goods" used to measure inflation in the Retail Price Index and the Consumer Price Index.

Where our money goes

* The average UK household expenditure was £443 a week in 2005-06, up £9 a week compared with the previous year.

* Average weekly household expenditure was highest among families of three children and three or more adults at £744. Two children and two parent families on average pay out £642 a week, dropping to £125 for single pensioners.

* Train fares and transport continues to be the biggest expense for families, costing an average of £62 a week.

* £45 a week is spent on food and non-alcoholic drink.

* The largest chunk of expenditure goes towards repaying the mortgage, with repayments making up £49 of the total £139.60.

* The real cost of mortgages to families is far higher when those not on the housing ladder are taken out of the equation. For households with mortgages, the average weekly cost of their home loan in the 2005-06 was £127.

* Households in the South-east spend the most on their mortgage, an average £171 a week, 34 per cent higher than the UK average.

* Rents similarly differed from region to region, with Londoners paying £84 a week, almost 50 per cent above the national average.

* £25 a week on housing alterations and improvements.

* Council tax, water charges and other local taxes set the typical UK household back by £23 a week, figures showed.

* £3.40 on vegetables.

* £3.80 for takeaways.

* £10.10 for meat.

* £1.80 on chocolate and sweets.

* £11.90 on average a week to dine in restaurants and cafés.

* £27.90 "personal transport" costs such as fuel and servicing.