Lower income households are struggling to buy healthy foods as the impact of inflation sees the cost of a weekly food shop eating up almost half of their total income, a new report has found.

A survey by safefood on the cost of a healthy food basket reveals that for a two-parent household, who rely on benefits, their weekly food shop is £169 or 45 per cent of their income.

This marks an increase of 4.3 per cent since the last research was conducted in 2020.

The report also found that a food basket for a pensioner living on their own has increased by 4.9 per cent and costs £64 per week – 29 per cent of their income.

Inflation, soaring energy costs and the increased price of food over the past few years have been attributed to the pressure placed on low-income households and afterward a more pronounced nutritional inequality.

Lori Armstrong, a 20-year-old single mother and full-time student, said balancing buying an affordable food basket with other rising household expenses on limited financial resources is a struggle.

“I have to be resourceful and make every penny count. From managing household expenses to providing for my young daughter, it’s a delicate balancing act that requires careful planning and sacrifices,” she said.

“I strive to give my two-year-old daughter the best start in life, and that includes providing her with healthy and nutritious foods but finding ways to do it by keeping the cost down. However, financial constraints coupled with the rising cost of everyday food items often force us to rely on convenience foods, which are cheaper but not always the healthiest options.

“I find it’s a constant trade-off between providing my daughter with a healthy diet and prioritizing other household essentials such as gas and electricity. Sometimes, I would sacrifice our comfort by limiting heating our home to make sure she has everything she needs to thrive.”

Lori Armstrong, a 20-year-old single mother and full-time student

Andy Cole from the Food Standards Agency said: “Tight budgets make it more difficult for households on a low income to eat well, potentially leading to health inequalities.

“The 2022 Food Basket research adds to an evidence base aiming to shape Northern Ireland’s policies to address food needs amongst the most vulnerable in our society.”

Dr Aileen McGloin from safefood said: “Average food prices are now at their highest since we started this series of research in 2014.

“We’re seeing a consistent pattern of households trying to balance buying an affordable food basket with other rising household expenses.

“With food shopping being the only flexible household spending, many families are being forced to choose cheaper and often nutritionally poor food items to keep food spending within their means and this is a really worrying trend.

“For all families with children, food is the largest household cost, and this has only been exacerbated by the rises we have seen in inflation in the past 12 months.

“Foods like meat, fruit, vegetables, dairy, bread, and cereals make up two-thirds of food costs for families and these foods have increased in price between 3 per cent and 7 per cent in the last two years.”