The Living Costs and Food Survey (LCF) collects information on spending patterns and the cost of living that reflects household budgets across the country.

The study provides information about household spending patterns which is used to update the contents of the consumer inflation basket of goods and services. It is also used to provide information about food consumption and nutrition. It is an important source of economic and social data for government and other research agencies.

The study is conducted throughout the year across the whole of the UK and is the most significant consumer study undertaken in the UK. The results are essential for understanding society and planning to meet its needs.

Frequently asked Questions

Why is this study important?

We need high-quality information about individual and household spending patterns and the relationship between diet, nutrition and health.

The study enables us to provide information on changes in spending patterns and the cost of living that reflects household budgets throughout the country.

The study also informs government policy about changes in diet.

Why should I take part?

Whatever your circumstances, they are relevant to this study.

Obtaining information from as many selected households as possible is the only way we can get a complete and accurate picture of the nation's spending patterns and changes in diet.

By taking part in the study you will ensure that your experiences and circumstances become an important part of the bigger picture of life in the UK today and will be helping to influence matters that affect us all.

What is involved?

An interviewer will arrange a suitable time to visit you to conduct the interview.

All questionnaire data are collected face-to-face using computer assisted questionnaires.

The interviewer will collect information about how you manage your household finances.

The interviewer will also leave each person a diary to record details of their expenditure.

If there are children in the household they too are encouraged to complete a shorter diary.

How will the information I provide be used?

Government departments use the results of the study to identify how and where they should be using public resources.

They use the information to check how different groups in the community are affected by existing policies and to inform future policy changes.

Who is carrying out the study?

The Living Costs and Food survey is being conducted by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the government's largest producer of statistics.

We compile independent information about the UK's society and economy which provides evidence for policy- and decision-making and for directing resources to where they are needed most.

The ten-yearly census, measures of inflation, the National Accounts, and population and migration statistics are some of our highest-profile outputs.

Will I be paid for taking part?

To reflect the importance we place on your assistance, a gift of a £20 voucher will be sent to each adult person interviewed who also completes their diary.

Children, aged 7 to 15, who complete the diary will receive £5.

Do I have to take part?

Our work is very important and we need your help to make our studies successful. Every year about half a million people help us by taking part in our studies. No-one has to take part if they do not want to, but for us to paint an accurate picture of our society, it is vital that we interview as many people as possible, from all walks of life.

Is the study confidential?

Yes, the information you give us will be treated as confidential as directed by the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. It will be used to produce statistics that will not identify you or anyone in your household. Study information is also provided to other approved organisations for statistical purposes only. All such statistics produced are subject to the Code and the same standards of protection are applied to your information at all times.

Why have I been selected?

Households are selected at random from the Royal Mail's Postcode Address File. About 12,000 addresses are selected. Once selected we cannot replace you with another household. This means your participation is very important to the success of this official study in ensuring that all groups in society are properly represented.

Who can I contact for further information?

If you have any queries about taking part in the study please contact us on 0800 298 5313. The opening times for the phone line are:

Monday to Thursday 9am to 9pm
Friday 9am to 8pm
Saturday 9am to 1pm

You can read about the commitments ONS makes to those taking part in its studies in our ONS Respondent charter for surveys of households and individuals.

We welcome your suggestions about how we can improve our studies and would also like to hear from you if you are happy with the service you have received.

You can email us at surveyfeedback@ons.gsi.gov.uk.