Food prices are rising, which has changed the way we eat

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

“It was very humbling to have to go from that situation to where we are now.”

Altman and his wife live in Austin, Texas with their three children. Recently, they are mostly based on an income. Reduced earnings, along with inflation, have hit finances.

And that has completely changed the way we eat. Altman isn’t alone in making big changes.

We asked CNN readers how inflation has affected their eating habits, and many mentioned eating out less often, buying less meat and giving up splurges. Some have said they are very worried about the future.
Food prices have risen 11.4% in the past year, the largest annual increase since May 1979, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in mid-September. Food prices rose 13.5% and restaurant menu prices rose 8% during that period.
Consumers are responding by looking for deals and switching to generic brands, according to July data from market research firm IRI. Like companies Tyson (TSN) they’ve noticed customers switching from beef to chicken, and Applebee’s and IHOP have reported an uptick in higher-income customers, who are likely being traded away from more expensive restaurants. Some people may eat less often or avoid restaurants altogether.

For those who struggled to afford food even before the price hikes, rising costs could lead to food insecurity, a situation where access to affordable food is unreliable.

“If food prices continue to rise at a rate that outpaces wage increases, that’s the inevitable outcome,” said Jayson Lusk, chair of Purdue University’s agricultural economics department. “The last time we had food insecurity rates rise significantly was after the Great Recession.” Last year, about 10.2 percent of U.S. households were food insecure, according to the USDA, down slightly from the 10.5 percent rate in 2020 and 2019.

Even for those who are not at risk of hunger, the increases in food prices are staggering.

Food “matters a lot to our self-esteem, to our mood,” said William Masters, a professor in Tufts University’s school of nutritional science and policy who is also a faculty member in the economics department. “Not being able to buy the foods that people are used to, what your kids want, what your family wants, that’s really hard,” he said. “Any break from habit is very, very hard.”

Renunciation of simple pleasures

Carol Ehrman took a Thai cooking class during the Zoom pandemic.

For Carol Ehrman, cooking is a joyful experience.

“I like to cook, it’s my favorite thing to do,” she said. He especially likes to cook Indian and Thai food, but sourcing the spices and ingredients he needs for those dishes is no longer feasible. “When all the ingredients go up, it adds up to the total bill,” he said.

“What used to cost us $250 to $300 … now it’s $400.” Ehrman, 60, and her husband, 65, rely on their Social Security income, and the increase was stretching their budget. “We couldn’t do that.”

About six months ago, he realized there was to change the way they buy food.

In an effort to reduce immediate costs, Ehrman stopped buying in bulk as often as before. Now, she looks for sales, avoids buying beef, and when she buys wine, she opts for boxed wine instead of nice bottles. He is also preparing simpler meals and saying goodbye to dinner parties.

Ehrman has stopped making basic items like tomato sauce because of the expense, opting instead for the prepackaged version.

“I know I can make it a lot healthier,” she said. And “it’s always much better”. Those fresh ingredients are too expensive now.

Ehrman’s husband is retired due to chronic health issues, and it has been difficult for him to work because of his health issues — he recently had a pacemaker and heart catheterization procedures. The couple, who live in Billings, Montana, were frugal before today’s price hikes, enjoying simple pleasures. But now, even those are out of reach.

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

From Coke to Pepsi

Rick Wichmann, 64, and his wife have dined out less often in recent years in an effort to eat healthier because of the pandemic. As menu prices rise due to inflation, they see no reason to change their habits.

“Eating out is expensive,” she said, noting that she is often happier with home-cooked meals than restaurant food.

But grocery shopping is also more expensive. In the past year, Wichmann noticed that he spent about 25% more than before on groceries for himself, his wife and their son.

To help alleviate those costs, Wichmann, who lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, started going to different stores. He avoids Whole Foods and Stop & Shop, opting instead for Costco and the local Market Basket chain.

He has also switched to store brands 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 is cheaper than he would otherwise choose. the coke

Wichmann also pays attention to events such as weather and how they can affect prices. When he saw reports of a possible tomato shortage due to droughts in California, he took notice. The next time he saw tomato sauce on sale he stocked up enough to last him a month.

On the lawn in front of the garden

As Wichmann, Jenni Wells, 38, looks at weather patterns and food systems. A former chef and rancher, he noticed price increases long before today’s inflation.

“My alarm bells started going off in 2019 because prices went up,” he said, after devastating floods in the Midwest. He drowned the cattle and destroyed the grain crops. Wells then decided he wanted to be more himself.

“I saw that food prices were going up, and I realized it was going to blow over our budget quickly,” he said. So in February, she tore up the front lawn of the Fort Worth, Texas, home she shares with her husband and best friend and planted a vegetable garden.

“I wanted to see what I could grow for myself,” he said. This year, he managed to grow broccoli, cauliflower, okra, tomatoes, peppers, squash and more in his garden.

There are, of course, upfront and maintenance costs for the garden. And it’s not easy to grow vegetables. But the household’s weekly grocery spending, excluding meat, has dropped from about $200 to $50, he said.

With the extra cash, Wells and his household have been able to eat out, something that would have been “too much of a luxury” if they were still spending $200 a week on groceries. And therein lies the satisfaction of growing your own food.

“There’s a great sense of reward,” he said. “I feel proud of every meal I make with it.”

Change for the better

Food drive for Lisa Altman last week.

Some consumers have made changes due to current circumstances that they intend to sustain.

Now, Altman, an Austin parent of three, aims to keep her grocery bill to about $100 to $125 a week. buying store brands, lots of pasta and a limited amount of protein each week.

Instead of ordering steaks or ribs or grilling, Altman’s family eats more basic meals with smaller portions. “Now our meals consist of a main course, and nothing else, maybe some bread on the side, or a salad.” If they’re going out to eat, they’ll have a fast food meal with a few sides, like a hamburger and two fries, split the items and have drinks at home.

When Altman can afford it, he will return to buy more fruits and vegetables. But he hopes that some habits will remain, such as to prevent children from mindless eating and to reduce food waste.

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