Australians’ Food Security is the Biggest Cost of Living Concern: 2024 Survey

Savvy surveys 1000 Australians to learn which expenses cause people the most stress
Last updated on January 12th, 2024
  Written by 
Adrian Edlington
Adrian Edlington is PR & Communications Manager at Savvy. With a keen interest in personal finance, car loans, the mortgage industry, cost of living pressures, electric vehicles and renewable technology, Adrian's research includes conducting primary data surveys and analysis of up-to-the-minute secondary Australian data sources. His work on behalf of Savvy has been featured on The Conversation, the Sydney Morning Herald, AFR,, The Age, Herald Sun, Adelaide Now, SBS On The Money, 7News, Car Expert, Which Car, and more. In his spare time, Adrian enjoys mountain biking and business podcasts.
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Grocery shopping in Australia

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As part of Savvy’s ongoing research into consumer sentiment and the impact of economic trends on everyday Australian life, we survey Australian adults on how they are navigating the continuing cost of living crisis.

  • 62% of Australians cite grocery prices as the greatest ongoing concern
  • Almost all demographics and states/territories highlight grocery prices as the biggest issue
  • 68% of people surveyed said they are cutting back on non-essential expenses to make ends meet
  • 67% of women and 58% men cite cost of groceries as biggest concern
Grocery shopping in Australia

A representative national survey of 1,000 adult Australians has revealed that 62% of respondents say that the cost of groceries or food has caused the greatest amount of concern amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Petrol or fuel was the second biggest concern (47%) with utility bills coming in a close third (46%).

Far more women (67%) considered food and groceries their greatest concern in comparison to men (58%.)

All demographics except the 18-24-year-old cohort cited groceries as their primary concern; the 18-24s said that petrol or fuel costs as the biggest cost-of-living concern (61%).

For the 35-44s, groceries (58%) and mortgage repayments (57%) were almost of equal importance. All demographics over the age of 45 said that groceries were the biggest issue followed by utility bills. Respondents in all states and territories showed a clear majority for groceries being the biggest cost-of-living issue.

Considering the cost of living, what recurring expenses cause you the greatest concern? (by gender)

Total 1000 (100%)499 (100%)497 (100%)4 (100%)
Mortgage repayments312 (31%)154 (31%)158 (32%)-
Petrol/Fuel466 (47%)236 (47%)228 (46%)2 (50%)
Utility bills463 (46%)237 (47%)226 (45%)-
Rent and rent increases253 (25%)118 (24%)132 (27%)3 (75%)
Insurance247 (25%)107 (21%)140 (28%)-
Internet & phone74 (7%)30 (6%)44 (9%)-
Cost of groceries / food622 (62%)287 (58%)322 (67%)3 (75%)
Other24 (2%)13 (3%)11 (2%)-
None26 (3%)18 (4%)7 (1%)1 (25%)

(Respondents choose top 3)

Source: Savvy's 2024 Cost of Living Survey

Considering the cost of living, what recurring expenses cause you the greatest concern? (by age group)

18 - 2425 - 3435 - 4445 - 5455 - 6465+
Total 120 (100%)192 (100%)171 (100%)163 (100%)150 (100%)204 (100%)
Mortgage14 (12%)82 (43%)97 (57%)61 (37%)41 (27%)17 (8%)
Petrol/Fuel73 (61%)71 (37%)72 (42%)77 (47%)75 (50%)98 (48%)
Utility bills27 (22%)80 (42%)66 (39%)88 (54%)83 (55%)119 (58%)
Rent 57 (48%)69 (36%)38 (22%)36 (22%)30 (20%)23 (11%)
Insurance22 (18%)26 (14%)27 (16%)43 (26%)49 (33%)80 (39%)
Internet & phone24 (20%)13 (7%)6 (4%)9 (6%)9 (6%)13 (6%)
Groceries / food65 (54%)116 (60%)100 (58%)102 (63%)96 (64%)143 (70%)
Other3 (2%)3 (2%)2 (1%) 3 (2%)4 (3%)9 (4%)
None6 (5%)4 (2%)4 (2%)3 (2%)2 (1%)7 (3%)

(Respondents choose top 3)

Source: Savvy's 2024 Cost of Living Survey

Despite headline inflation or the Consumer Price Index easing to 5.4% in the September quarter 2023, it’s still double the Reserve Bank of Australia’s inflation target of 2-3%. As a lever against inflation, the RBA raised interest rates from a record low of 0.1%p.a. to 4.35%p.a. over 2022 to 2023, with 10 consecutive rises from May 2022 to March 2023.

Over two-thirds (68%) of Australians are cutting back on non-essential expenses to deal with rising costs of living, broken down into 63% of men and 73% of women. 58% said they were seeking cheaper alternatives to higher-priced items, while 20% said they were seeking additional sources of income. Only 7% said they weren’t making any adjustments.

How are you adjusting to the rising cost of living? (by gender)

Primary KeywordTotalMaleFemaleOther
Total1000 (100%)499 (100%)497 (100%)4 (100%)
Cutting back on non-essential expenses680 (68%)316 (63%)362 (73%)2 (50%)
Exploring cheaper alternatives582 (58%)279 (56%)301 (61%)2 (50%)
Seeking additional sources of income204 (20%)93 (19%)111 (22%)-
Not making any adjustments74 (7%)53 (11%)20 (4%)1 (25%)

(Respondents choose top 3)

Source: Savvy's 2024 Cost of Living Survey

How are you adjusting to the rising cost of living? (by age group)

18 - 2425 - 3435 - 4445 - 5455 - 6465+
Total 120 (100%)192 (100%)171 (100%)163 (100%)150 (100%)204 (100%)
Cutting back on non-essential expenses64 (53%)134 (70%)123 (72%)117 (72%)103 (69%)139 (68%)
Exploring cheaper alternatives64 (53%)109 (57%)101 (59%)108 (66%)84 (56%)116 (57%)
Seeking additional sources of income38 (32%)55 (29%)38 (22%)27 (17%)20 (13%)26 (13%)
Not making any adjustments6 (5%)5 (3%)12 (7%)12 (7%)11 (7%)28 (14%)

(Respondents choose top 3)

Source: Savvy's 2024 Cost of Living Survey

Savvy spokesperson and money expert Adrian Edlington says that it is no surprise that food is the biggest cost of living issue for most Australians.

“While rising cost of expenses such as rent, mortgage repayments or even fuel are big issues, none affects everyone in the same way as food does. We all need to eat and the hike in grocery bills is both dramatic and obvious. To save on groceries, people will no doubt already be buying more generic brand items, shopping at bulk outlets and waiting for specials. The issue is that even by doing so, the savings are not enough to reduce financial pressure on many individuals and families.”

Why are we in a cost-of-living crisis?

The primary reason Australians are living through a cost-of-living crisis is due to high levels of inflation in the greater economy. Inflation is an increase in the money supply which increases prices at a faster pace than interest on deposits or growth in wages. This decreases the purchasing power of your dollar over time, meaning you need more dollars to buy the same items or services, such as Internet access or utilities.

For example, a basket of goods priced at $100 a year ago may cost $110 today – though you will need to come up with that additional $10 from earning more income or using your savings.

One major way to combat inflation is to decrease the availability of money though increasing interest rates. The Reserve Bank increased rates from 0.1%p.a. to 4.35%p.a. over 2022 to 2023. These rises also flows on to mortgages, personal loans, and credit cards. It should also flow to interest on deposits.

As demand eases and people tend to save more, prices tend to fall. The RBA’s inflation target ranges between 2-3%. Right now, inflation is at 5.4%.

Although, for mortgage holders, they will also need to come up with more money to cover their repayments (if they are on variable rate home loans.) Coupled with high inflation, this means they must come up with more money to maintain a certain standard of living.

Ways to save money during a cost-of-living crisis

There are several ways you can save money during a cost-of-living crisis which you can use right now.

You can save money on utilities by switching high-energy halogen or incandescent light bulbs with efficient LEDs. You can also plug in appliances usually on standby into smart switches or foot switches, to turn them off completely and save significantly. One sure fire way is to compare your current energy plan with others in the market – if you haven’t shopped around in a while, this may save you quite a lot.

When heating or cooling, adjusting your temperature settings by one degree saves 10% in energy consumption.

The primary concern for households is the cost of groceries. Buying in bulk – especially non-perishables such as toilet paper or long-life foods such as rice and pasta – can save your family bundles in the short-to-long term. Preparing your meals ahead of time also reduces reliance on fast food – sometimes feeding a family of four at the drive-thru costs as much as four to five meals made with fresh ingredients!

Another idea is to audit all your subscription services to either get rid of them if you aren’t using them or switch to plans with lower costs or greater value (hopefully both!) Combining car and home insurance may give you a discount on both, the same goes for bundling home internet and mobile phone plans. Try to stretch your dollars as far as they can go – and devote any excess to saving for a holiday or big-ticket item, or paying down debts.

If in need of a loan to consolidate debts or to cover expenses, learn more here


Savvy 2024 Cost of Living Survey; n=1000

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Savvy is one of Australia’s largest online financial brokers, focusing on personal and commercial financial products. Founded in 2010, the firm has seen rapid growth, a testament to their provision of market leading rates and reaching customers with the latest in media and technology. Savvy is a proud supporter of Kids Under Cover, a charity assisting homeless and at-risk youth to strengthen their bonds to community and education. Savvy was named one of BRW’s fastest growing companies in 2015.

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