Food prices are going up, and that’s changing the way we eat

New York
CNN Business

Lisa Altman used to pride herself on being able to eat whatever she wanted without worrying about the cost.

Growing up, seconds were not served and side dishes were rare. “My mom had a budget every week, and she stuck to it,” she said. “As I got older and became more financially independent, having a full pantry and being able to eat whatever I wanted was a sign of success for me,” She added.

“It was humbling to move from this situation to where we are now.”

Altman and her wife live in Austin, Texas with their three children. Lately, they have been mostly relying on a single income. Their low profits, along with inflation, have dealt a blow to their finances.

And that has changed, drastically, the way they eat. Altman is not alone in making big changes.

We asked CNN readers How has inflation affected their eating habits?Many mentioned eating out more often, buying less meat and giving up extravagance. Some said they are very worried about the future.

Her food prices It increased by 11.4% over the past yearIt is the largest annual increase since May 1979, according to data released in mid-September by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Grocery prices jumped 13.5% and restaurant menu prices increased 8% in that period.

With food prices rising, people are changing the way they shop and eat.

Consumers are responding by searching for deals and turning to generic brands, according to July data from market research firm IRI. Companies like Tyson

You have I noticed that customers are switching from beef to chickenAnd the Applebee and IHOP reported Slight increase in higher-income customers who are likely to go down in price from higher-priced restaurants. Less people may eat out or avoid restaurants altogether.

For those who struggled to buy food even before prices rose, rising costs could mean falling into food insecurity, an unreliable condition for affordable food.

“If food prices continue to rise at a rate that outpaces wage increases, that is the inevitable outcome,” said Jason Lask, chair of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University. “The last time we saw a significant rise in food insecurity was in the aftermath of the Great Recession.” Last year, about 10.2% of American households were food insecure, According to the US Department of Agriculturejust below the 10.5% rate in 2020 and 2019.

Even for those who are not at risk of starvation, the sharp rise in food prices is stark.

Food “is very important to our self-esteem and mood,” said William Masters, a professor in the School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University who is also a faculty member in the Department of Economics. “Not being able to buy the foods that people are used to – that your kids demand, that your family wants – that’s really hard,” he said. “Any disruption in the habit is very, very difficult.”

Carol Ehrman attends a Thai cooking class over Zoom during the pandemic.

For Carol Ehrman, cooking is an enjoyable experience.

“I love cooking, it’s my favorite thing,” she said. She especially loves to cook Indian and Thai food, but stocking up on the spices and ingredients you need for those dishes is no longer possible. “When each ingredient goes up, it adds up to the total bill,” she said.

“What used to cost us $250 to $300… is now $400.” Ehrman, 60, and her husband, 65, depend on his income from Social Security, and the increase has been straining their budget. “We couldn’t do that.”

About six months ago, she realized that she did it To change the way she shops for groceries.

In an effort to cut immediate costs, Ehrman stopped wholesale shopping as she used to. Now, she looks for sales, avoids buying beef, and opts for canned wine instead of bland bottles when she ever buys wine. She also cooks simpler meals, and says goodbye to dinner parties.

Even Ehrman Ha gave up making basic items, like tomato sauce, because of the cost, opting instead for a prepackaged version.

“I know I can make it healthier,” she said. and “it always tastes so much better.” These fresh ingredients are now very expensive.

Ehrman’s husband retired due to chronic health problems, and it was difficult for her to work due to her health problems – she had recently had pacemaker procedures and cardiac catheterization. The couple, who live in Billings, Montana, were content before the current price hike, and have simple fun. But now, even those are out of reach.

“Before, at least we found happiness in being at home and having friends and family, cooking and sitting around the table and just being content,” she said. Now, “I’m not enjoying it at all. It’s really sad.”

Local markets and generic brands help the family save money on groceries

Rick Wechman, 64, and his wife have been eating out a lot less in recent years, due to the pandemic and in an effort to eat healthier. With menu prices rising due to inflation, they see no reason to change their habits.

“Eating out is expensive,” he said, noting that he’s often happier with his home-cooked meals than with restaurant food anyway.

But buying groceries is more expensive, too. Over the past year, Wishman has noted that he has been spending about 25% more on groceries shopping for himself, his wife and their son than he once did.

To help mitigate these costs, Fishman, who lives in Brooklyn, Massachusetts, has started going to various grocery stores. He avoids Whole Foods and Stop & Shop, opting instead for Costco and the local market chain.

He’s also switched to brand stores, if he feels the quality is the same, and will sometimes choose products based on price rather than brand loyalty – for example, buying Pepsi when it’s cheaper, when he’d choose otherwise Coke.

Wechman is also interested in events such as the weather and how they can affect prices. when he saw Reports of a possible tomato deficiency Because of the drought in California, take note. The next time he saw tomato sauce for sale, he stockpiled enough of it for months.

Turn to gardening to save money on food

Like Witchman and Jenny Wales, 38, concerned with weather patterns and food systems. A former farm chef and breeder, she noticed rising prices long before inflation.

“My alarm bells are starting to go up because of the price hikes in 2019,” she said, when she was devastated. Floods in the Midwest The cattle were drowned and the grain stocks were destroyed. Wells decided at the time that she wished to be more self-sufficient.

“I saw food prices soaring, and I knew they would quickly outpace our budget,” she said. So in February, she tore the lawn in the front lawn of her Fort Worth, Texas, home, which she shares with her husband and best friend, and planted a vegetable garden.

“I just wanted to see what I could grow for myself,” she said. This year, she was able to grow broccoli, cauliflower, okra, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, and more in her garden.

There are upfront costs and garden maintenance costs of course. It is not easy to grow vegetables. But the family’s weekly spending on groceries, excluding meat, fell from about $200 to $50, she said.

With the money left over, Wells and her family were able to eat in restaurants, something that would have been “a lot of luxury” had they still been spending $200 a week on groceries. And there is the satisfaction of growing your own food.

“There is a great sense of reward,” she said. “I feel proud in every meal I eat.”

Last weekly grocery transfer to Lisa Altman.

Some consumers have made changes due to the current conditions they plan to hold.

Now, Altman, Austin’s mother of three, aims to keep her grocery bill between $100 to $125 a week. by purchase Brands, lots of pasta and a limited amount of protein each week.

Instead of ordering or grilling steak or ribs, the Altman family eats basic meals in smaller quantities. “Our meals now consist of one main dish, and that’s it, maybe some bread on the side, or a salad.” If they go out to eat, they’ll pick up a quick bite from several sides, like one burger and fries, split items and have drinks on the house.

When Altman can afford it, she will come back to buy more fruits and vegetables. But she hopes some habits will continue, such as encouraging her children to avoid mindless eating and reduce food waste.

“I’m not going to spend $1,200 a month on groceries,” she said. “This taught us that this is not necessary.”