The Northern Ireland Living Costs and Food Survey

The Living Costs and Food Survey is the main source of information on the cost of living in Northern Ireland, which is needed to calculate the rate of inflation. It is also a valuable source of information on health and nutrition.

Details of the Survey

A household expenditure survey has been conducted each year in the UK since 1957. From 1957 to March 2001, the Family Expenditure Survey (FES) and National Food Survey (NFS) provided information on household expenditure patterns and food consumption. In April 2001, these surveys were combined to form the Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS).

In 2008 selected government household surveys led by the Office for National Statistics, were combined into one integrated household survey (IHS). In anticipation of this, the EFS moved to a calendar-year basis in January 2006. The EFS questionnaire became known as the living costs and food (LCF) module of the IHS in 2008, to accommodate the insertion of a core set of IHS questions. In quarter 2 of 2014, the LCF came out of the IHS.

The questionnaire content is reviewed thoroughly to ensure that it is up-to-date and captures information efficiently. Some changes reflect new forms of expenditure or new sources of income, especially benefits. Others are the result of new requirements by the survey’s users.

Received a letter?

If you have received a letter, then your address has been selected at random from a list of all addresses in Northern Ireland. One of our interviewers will be calling to ask you to take part and to explain the survey in more detail. All our interviewers carry an official identification card, which includes their photograph and a NISRA logo as it appears at the top of this webpage.

It is important to the success of the survey that you take part, as we need information from everyone selected to make sure the survey is completely representative of Northern Ireland households. As the survey is so important, each person aged 16 and over who takes part will receive a £20 High Street voucher and each child aged between 7 and 15 will receive £5.

Everything you tell us is treated in confidence. The results will not be used in any way in which they can be associated with you or your address.

The information leaflet provides further details about the survey. The letters sent to respondents and alternative language versions are also available to view.


The LCF is a voluntary sample survey of private households. The basic unit of the survey is the household. A household comprises 1 person living alone or a group of people (not necessarily related, living at the same address) who share cooking facilities AND share a living room or sitting room or dining area.

The survey is continuous, interviews being spread evenly over the year to ensure that seasonal effects are covered.


Each individual aged 16 and over in the household visited is asked to keep diary records of daily expenditure for 2 weeks. Information about regular expenditure, such as rent and mortgage payments, is obtained from a household interview along with retrospective information on certain large, infrequent expenditures such as those on vehicles. Children aged 7 to 15 are asked to keep a simplified version of the diary.

Detailed questions are asked about the income of each adult member of the household. In addition, personal information such as age, sex and marital status is recorded for each household member.

Results / Publications

The primary publication from the LCFS is Family Spending, produced by ONS. The most recent version is available on the Expenditure: Spending patterns of UK households ONS website page.

Microdata / Datasets

Datasets can be downloaded via the UK Data Service Living Costs and Food Survey page.

Further Information / Helpful Links

Nutritional analysis from the food expenditure data in the LCFS can be found at the following link:


Name: Claire Cromie

Telephone: 02890 255104


Central Survey Unit

About the Central Survey Unit