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About This Edition of Family Spending This product is designated as National Statistics

Released: 04 December 2012 Download PDF


This report presents the latest information from the Living Costs and Food Survey for the 2011 calendar year (January to December). The Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS) was renamed as the Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF) in 2008 when it became a module of the Integrated Household Survey (IHS).

List of contributors


Giles Horsfield


Ellis Daniel 
Laura Keyse 
Louise Skilton 
Sophia Karim 
Tom Mahoney 

Living Costs and Food Survey team: 

Linda Williams 
Michelle Cooper 
Paul Bloomfield 
Tracy Lane 
Field Team and Interviewers 
Coders and Editors 

Review and additional commentary:

Dean Fletcher 
Richard Tonkin 
Gareth Clancy   
Martha Hankins


A large scale survey is a collaborative effort and the authors wish to thank the interviewers and other ONS staff who contributed to the study. The survey would not be possible without the co-operation of the respondents who gave up their time to be interviewed and keep a diary of their spending. Their help is gratefully acknowledged.


This report presents the latest information from the Living Costs and Food Survey for the 2011 calendar year (January to December). The Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS) was renamed as the Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF) in 2008 when it became a module of the Integrated Household Survey (IHS).

The current LCF is the result of the amalgamation of the Family Expenditure and National Food Surveys (FES and NFS). Both surveys were well established and important sources of information for government and the wider community, charting changes and patterns in Britain’s spending and food consumption since the 1950s. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has overall project management and financial responsibility for the LCF while the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) sponsors the specialist food data.

The survey continues to be primarily used to provide information for the Retail Prices Index; National Accounts estimates of household expenditure; the analysis of the effect of taxes and benefits; and trends in nutrition. However, the results are multi purpose, providing an invaluable supply of economic and social data.

The 2011 survey

In 2011 5,531 households in Great Britain took part in the LCF survey. The response rate was 54 per cent in Great Britain and 62 per cent in Northern Ireland. The fieldwork was undertaken by the Office for National Statistics and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA). Further details about the conduct of the survey are given in Appendix B.

This year’s report includes an overview chapter outlining key findings, two detailed chapters focusing upon expenditure on housing and the impact of equivalising income when calculating results, a fourth chapter looking at trends in household expenditure over time and finally a chapter of analysis of household expenditure by region.

Data quality and definitions

The results shown in this report are of the data collected by the LCF, following a process of validation and adjustment for non-response using weights that control for a number of factors. These issues are discussed in the section on reliability in Appendix B.                                                                     

Figures in the report are subject to sampling variability. Standard errors for detailed expenditure items are presented in relative terms in Table A1 (186 Kb Excel sheet) and are described in Appendix B. Figures shown for particular groups of households (for example income groups or household composition groups), regions or other sub-sets of the sample are subject to larger sampling variability, and are more sensitive to possible extreme values than are figures for the sample as a whole.

The definitions used in the report are set out in Appendix B, and changes made since 1991 are also described. Note particularly that housing benefit and council tax rebate (rates rebate in Northern Ireland), unlike other social security benefits, are not included in income but are shown as a reduction in housing costs.

Income and expenditure balancing

The LCF is designed primarily as a survey of household expenditure on goods and services. It also gathers information about the income of household members, and is an important and detailed source of income data. However, the survey is not designed to produce a balance sheet of income and expenditure either for individual households or groups of households. For further information on the balancing of income and expenditure figures, see ’Response to the survey’, Appendix B.

Additional tabulations

This report gives a broad overview of the results of the survey, and provides more detailed information about some aspects of expenditure. However, many users of LCF data have very specific data requirements that may not appear in the desired form in this report. The ONS can provide more detailed analysis of the tables in this report, and can also provide additional tabulations to meet specific requests. A charge will be made to cover the cost of providing additional information.

The tables in Family Spending 2011 are available as Excel spreadsheets.

Anonymised microdata from the Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF), the Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS) and the Family Expenditure Survey (FES) are available from the United Kingdom Data Archive. Details on access arrangements and associated costs can be found at or by telephoning +44 (0)1206 872143.

Background notes

  1. Symbols and conventions used in Family Spending 2012 edition

    [ ]  Figures should be used with extra caution because they are based on fewer than 20 reporting households.

    .. The data is suppressed if the unweighted sample counts are less than 10 reporting households.

    - No figures are available because there are no reporting households.

    Rounding: Individual figures have been rounded independently. The sum of component items does not therefore necessarily add to the totals shown.

    Averages: These are averages (means) for all households included in the column or row, and unless specified, are not restricted to those households reporting expenditure on a particular item or income of a particular type.

    Period covered: Calendar year 2011 (1 January 2011 to 31 December 2011).

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  4. Editor:

    Giles Horsfield

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