Given that food is one of the essentials in life it’s unsurprising we spend a huge amount on it over our lifetimes. But you might be shocked to learn that the total cost is almost equal to two average houses, using Nationwide’s latest price.
What is even more surprising, maybe even slightly stomach-churning, is the amount we end up spending on little luxuries for our tastebuds. The likes of coffees, chocolate bars and takeaways cost the average person around £210,000 over their lifetimes – that’s enough to buy a holiday home next to Cannes on the Côte D’Azur and a new convertible Mercedes Benz to park outside it.
We take a look at exactly where this money goes and what you can do to bring the costs down.
Food shopping - £102,557
The weekly supermarket shop leaves a big dent in family finances. Government figures show that families spend around £24.50 a person each week on food, equating to £98 for a family of four and accounting for 11.5% of income for the average family or 15.8% for those on low incomes. Over the course of the average lifetime this stands at £102,557 for a single person in current terms.
That’s partly thanks to food prices in the UK rising almost 40% since 2005 as the underlying costs of wheat, maize, sugar, butter and coffee have soared due to droughts and floods, rising oil prices and increased demand from countries such as China.
Cut your bill
Always use supermarket loyalty cards and discount vouchers at the checkout. If possible get a cashback or loyalty-card credit card to earn as much back as possible.
Don’t get distracted by the BOGOF offers or discounted food unless you were planning on buying it anyway. Make a list and stick to it.
Anything pre-sliced, grated or cubed usually costs more while sauces in squeezy bottles - such as mayonnaise - are generally more expensive than their glass-bottled equivalent.
Eating out - £60,946
With more than 250,000 eateries from high end restaurants to local cafes in the UK, there are plenty of options to tempt us away from our own kitchens. We eat out in the evening around three times a month, according to retail market researchers Allegra Strategies. This tends to be towards the end of the week with Italian and Indian food firmly established as the nation’s favourite.
We fork out an average of £20.13 per person for dinner in chain restaurants, £16.21 for pub restaurants and £8.83 in fast food joints, the research found.
High street chains are our favourite venues for a meal out with JD Wetherspoon pubs, Harvesters, Pizza Express, Pizza Huts, Nandos’ and Brewer’s Fayres the top destinations. Fast food stalwarts such as McDonald’s, KFC and fish and chip shops were most popular for a quicker meal, the Quickbite survey from Horizons found.
Cut your bill
More than half of people now regularly use discount vouchers when eating out so always check websites such as vouchercodes.co.uk or vouchercloud.com before heading out or sign up to their email list.
Higher-end restaurants often offer discounts or exclusive set menus on websites such as Toptable.co.uk or Squaremeal.co.uk.
If you eat out regularly a Tastecard or Gourmet Society card can save you hundreds of pounds over the year. Membership costs as much as £80 although free trials lasting one or two months are also available.
Lunch and snacks - £61,362
The lunchtime stampede to the local sandwich shop or supermarket is a common sight in cities across the UK. One in three of us join the queue every working day for our sandwich, salad or soup, according to Superdrug, and spend an average of £986.40 a year. That’s 46,360 during our working lifetime.
We’re also bad at avoiding the work vending machine or that quick trip to the corner shop, which leads us to fork out an extra £1.33 a day on snacks between meals. This adds up to £319.20 a year or £15,002 over our working lifetime.
Cut your bill
Bring in multipacks of crisps, snacks and fizzy drinks and stash them in a desk drawer so you can stop buying marked up single serve portions at the checkouts in shops or supermarkets.
Look out for meal deals – more independent stores are now following the lead of Boots and the supermarkets in offering salads or sandwiches with crisps and drinks.
Failing that, try buying individual ingredients and keeping them at work – so a pack of sliced meat or cheese and a French stick could be kept in the fridge at work and cover several days of lunch for less.
Of course, if you can make a packed lunch or bring in leftovers from home to heat up, that’s cheapest. But as that advice has been around for at least a decade, if you haven’t started doing it yet, you might want to try one of the above options as a compromise.
Alcohol - £58,000
Many people relax with a few drinks at the end of a day’s work whether at home or in the pub. Research from Beneden Health shows that the average Briton drinks three nights of the week and has a total of nine drinks, costing £962 a year.
However, over a lifetime this equates to an average of 8,700 glasses of wine, 5,800 pints and 2,900 bottles of cider – not to mention 726 hangovers. Almost six people in 10 said they regularly drink at home while only one in six said they often go to the pub.
Cut your bill
Buying in bulk can lead to substantial savings on all booze but especially wine when the supermarkets are running deals such as ‘get 25% off when you buy six bottles’. Online wine services frequently tempt new customers in with big discounts off their first order.
Buying alcohol in Europe usually works out to be cheaper due to high UK taxes. If you’re travelling from anywhere in the EU you can bring back large quantities of alcohol – as long as it is for personal use. This roughly means 110 litres of beer, 90 litres of wine or 10 litres of spirits before Customs get suspicious.
When you’re out, if you can stay out of rounds that can work out far cheaper.
Takeaways - £17,250
Whether it’s a Saturday night Chinese, rainy day pizza or a late night kebab, we munch our way through 46 takeaways a year – or 2,453 during our adult lifetime, according to Beneden Healthcare.
More than quarter of us indulges in one takeaway a fortnight with another quarter getting their takeaway fix every week. We spend an average of £6 per person each time, usually on a Friday or Saturday night. Over the years this hits £17,250.
Cut your bill
Supermarkets are battling among themselves to offer dine in for £5/£10 deals – although you will still need to heat it yourself many ranges are now as good as or better than a takeaway and at a fraction of the cost with just as little washing up.
If that’s still too much like effort or planning ahead, pizza chains are always offering special deals so look around for vouchers before you place your order. Independently owned takeaways will often throw in small freebies so it’s worth asking – especially if you’re placing a big order or you’re a regular customer.
Coffee - £15,600
Millions of us turn to coffee shops for our daily caffeine fix either from habit or because it’s infinitely tastier than the instant coffee we have at home or in the office.
Coffee firm Douwe Egberts says more than two thirds of people spent between £1 and £5 in coffee shops five days a week because they didn’t know how to make cappuccinos or lattes themselves at home or weren’t confident using a cafetières. This lack of knowledge costs them at least £15,600 during the lifetime.
Cut your bill
For some coffee lovers it’s all about the taste but for those who just want the caffeine, a cup of instant coffee works out around 7p a cup – rather than £2.50 for a latte.
Buying a decent coffee machine, a thermos flask and some gourmet beans will set you back a couple of hundred pounds in the first place but can equally save you hundreds of pounds a year.
Alternatively, a single-cup cafetière costs around £10, with gourmet ground coffee costing £3 to £4 a bag from the supermarket, saving you even more.
If you’re still hankering for shop bought coffee or simply like the time away from your desk, then get a loyalty card that occasionally gives you a free coffee when you’ve bought a certain amount. Some chains will also give you a discount if you bring your own mug; at Starbucks it’s 25p a drink, potentially saving around £60 a year.