Squeezed families' weekly spending rose to a new high last year, with households shelling out over three times more on petrol-related costs than on fresh fruit and vegetables, official figures have shown.
Households typically spent around £483.60 a week on their regular outgoings, representing a £10 a week increase compared with 2010 and the highest average expenditure recorded by the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) annual Family Spending report series.
The report showed how people have cut back their spending on new cars, clothing and furniture as costs for other "vital" outgoings such as rent and household fuels have increased.
Transport costs took up the biggest chunk of spending at £65.70 per week, and within this figure, spending on petrol, diesel and motor oil was up by £3.30 compared with 2010 at £24.90 a week.
Households are spending around three and-a-half times more on these petrol-related costs each week than they are spending on fresh fruit and vegetables, which remained unchanged in 2011 on the previous year at around £7.10.
Giles Horsfield, editor of the ONS report, said: "The figures reflect the increase in the price of petrol and diesel in 2011. For a lot of households, that kind of expenditure is considered essential.
"There was increased spending on some items which people considered vital and spending went down in areas where people felt they had a bit of discretion."
Families slashed their spending on new cars, which was down to £5.50 a week, representing a drop of £1 on the previous year. They also spent around £10.20 a week on bus, rail and tube fares, cutting their spending back by £1.90 on a year earlier. Recreation and culture took up the second highest amount of families' spending, costing £63.90 a week on average.
The report comes in the same week that Which? estimated that more than 10 million households are feeling financially squeezed and almost one in 10 have defaulted on a loan, bill or housing costs.
Releasing its findings ahead of Chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement, the consumer group has urged the Government to ensure spiralling household costs are kept under control.