More than 18 percent of Americans say there have been times this year they couldn’t afford the food they needed, according to a Gallup poll released Tuesday. Yahoo! asked readers: How are you dealing with rising food costs and the possibility of going hungry? Here’s one perspective.
FIRST PERSON | If I had to travel to the market and buy groceries for dinner tonight, would I have the money to do so?
The truth is, yes, I would. There is a “rainy day” jar my wife and I keep bedside with about $250 of assorted change.
Yet it’s strange to think that this is life in America today. Like tens of millions of other people in the United States, we look closely at an expenditure that we took for granted just a few years ago — the cost of food.
Six years ago both my wife and I were employed at quite lucrative professions. Together we easily cleared $100,000 in combined compensation and had a cushion for a majority of necessities. We even had an emergency fund in a money market account, good for three full months of living expenses. Food (groceries) represented about 5 percent of our budget.
Today, our story is vastly different. I was downsized from my firm 17 months ago, and while I have had the opportunity to work both contractually and part-time, my compensation pales in comparison to what I earned just two years ago. Combine the stress of moving from a dual-income household to a single-income family along with the inflation associated with groceries and our food budget has easily doubled to almost 10 percent of our total net income after taxes.
In the past, we never asked how much of our monthly income is budgeted for food. Today, it’s commonplace.
At 46, it’s a humbling exercise.
Nonetheless, we are lucky. We live in the farming community of Lancaster, Pa., where fruit and vegetables are more than reasonably priced. That means plenty of corn on the cob, red potatoes, lettuce, and tomatoes. We mix our own dressings and the water in the tap is from a well. As for meat, we buy flank steak and split chicken breasts (instead of cutlets) in bulk. And, yes, we eat plenty of pasta.
My family is hardly desolate. We live in a beautiful but reasonable home in a great area with excellent schools. Both cars run well and we feel little need to “upgrade.” Like many families in our community we have learned do without.
Is it scary sometimes? You bet it is. However, it could always be a whole lot worse.