Report reveals the weekly cost of a healthy family diet for low income households

  • Up to 36% of take-home income needed for a healthy food basket.

30 November, 2016.  A study¹ has revealed some families need to spend up to €160 a week to eat a healthy balanced diet, a 36% share of their budget if on a low income or social welfare.

The study also revealed the cost of a healthy food basket for different household types: a two parent, two children household needs to spend between €121 and €160 a week; a one parent, two children family needs to spend up to €101; and for a pensioner living alone, the cost of a healthy food shop is €64 per week.

Introducing the report, Ray Dolan, CEO, safefood said: 

This study confirms the stark choices that low income households have to make, spending in some cases up to one third of their weekly take home income in order to purchase a minimum acceptable standard of food, while also meeting their nutrition and social needs.”

“Families on a low-income tend to eat less well, have poorer health outcomes with higher levels of obesity and its’ complications, continued Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan, Director, Human Health & Nutrition, safefood. In general, cheaper foods and takeaways are simply less nutritious. This presents a real challenge for parents when it comes to food shopping and planning for the week”.

The research was based on menus put together by consumers themselves and details the cost of a healthy food basket for six of the most common² household types in the Republic of Ireland. The research reveals the challenges facing low‑income families to balance the expense of a minimum nutritious food basket while meeting other weekly household expenses.

Research lead Dr Bernadette MacMahon of the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice continued “This is our second report into the cost of a basic but healthy food basket in the Republic of Ireland. While some food prices may have fallen slightly since our first food basket report last year, low-income consumers continue to struggle to afford a healthy, balanced diet.”

“Because the contents of the food baskets in this study were put together by people themselves, this gives us an evidence-based measure which is grounded in the lived experience of Irish households”, added Dr MacMahon. This research will help inform the decisions needed to tackle food poverty in our communities.”

“Food poverty is complex. It affects those living on low incomes, with limited access to transport and poor cooking skills while others in the same situation have a healthy diet in spite of these obstacles”, continued Dr Foley-Nolan. “In trying to make a limited household budget go further by compromising on healthy foods, some households are ending up nutritionally poor”, she added.

The findings also show the cost depends on the age and number of people in the household. In particular, the cost of providing food for an adolescent is similar to that for an adult.

The report “What is the cost of a healthy food basket in the Republic of Ireland in 2016?” is available to download from

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For more information or to request an interview, please contact


Julie Carroll 086 601 6005 or

Dermot Moriarty (m) 086 381 1034 or


¹MacMahon, B and Moloney, N (2016). What is the cost of a healthy food basket in the Republic of Ireland in 2016? safefood Dublin.

² The six household types analysed for the study were

  • Two parent & two children (3 & 10 year olds)
  • Two parent & two children (10 & 15 year olds)
  • One parent & two children (3 & 10 year olds)
  • Single adult, Male, working age, living alone
  • Pensioner couple
  • Female pensioner living alone

Editor’s notes

  • The contents of the food basket costed in the study were based on menus put together by people themselves
  • People selected an acceptable food basket in terms of taste and menu choices, while also meeting the social needs of a household for example hosting visitors or special occasions like birthdays.

The food baskets were reviewed by nutritionists from University of York to make sure they met the nutritional guidelines of the Food Pyramid and price-checked accordingly.