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 | I have spent my life eating as health-consciously as possible. At times, this has been easy because of decent income and reasonable food prices. However, at 35 years old and without gainful employment despite numerous attempts, I now live on nutrition assistance — with only a $50 weekly food allotment.
The hyperinflation of food prices here in Arizona — and soon to be made worse by droughts affecting growers nationwide — leaves my allotment miniscule. Therefore, my eating habits have significantly changed to suit, while still maintaining a healthy diet as best I am able.
I only shop sales. I hunt for online and paper ads and cut coupons. I also do not stock food unless it’s extremely fiscally prudent. I no longer eat fresh fruit because of its expense, but opt for canned in its own juices on cereal or as a meal accompaniment. Fruit juice purchases are now concentrated store brands, instead of the fresh-squeezed variety I used to enjoy exclusively.
As for cereal, I cannot afford brand names and stick to supermarket brands and bagged varieties. This includes Malt-0-Meal brand — cheaper because it doesn’t use boxed packaging. Milk is store brand bought on sale or not at all, and hormone-free varieties are no longer financially feasible.
I love cheese, but can no longer afford the name brands, including Tillamook. I instead opt for supermarket brand blocks to maximize cost-efficiency. I cannot afford Boars Head deli meat and many of the preservative-free varieties. With deli meat especially I only buy preservative-free on sale, or just go without. Also, chicken, beef and fish are no longer purchased fresh but frozen and on sale only.
Generic peanut butter and store brand jelly has replaced Laura Scudder’s and confectioners brands. But I save money on bread by baking my own. It’s healthier than the preservative-filled store varieties, and costs less when ingredients are bought in bulk. The same goes for desserts including sherbet. I found an ice cream maker at a garage sale for $3, and I use leftover canned fruit juice as the base for my frozen concoctions.
I have reduced my portion sizes and meal frequency, and refuse to sacrifice quality for quantity at all costs. Creativity and flexibility is key. One day, I will have gainful employment and afford more and better again. However for today, I keep my head up and spirits high — and body healthy — as best I can.