I’d be inclined to say yes. I saw a programme on TV last week that said that many of us are earning less (pay/hour cuts, no pay increases in spite of inflation etc) while the price of food has gone up. No surprises there then. And the trend, sometimes verging on pressure, towards organic/ free range / high quality food continues to increase. Add it all together and I, for one, feel that it isn’t as easy to stick to a frugal food budget as it was a couple of years ago.
I always feel a bit guilty about not shopping in the butchers more often. I know I should. I just can’t get out of the mindset of doing my shopping all in one go at the supermarket. Also, I can never really work out if it is cheaper or not (I must train myself to be able to understand how much things cost by looking at the cost/weight in the butchers counter. I hate being unsure about how much to ask for and how much it will come to). My Mum finds that, largely, our local butcher is cheaper (or at least comparable) on most things. However, even she said that she had to buy chicken at the supermarket today because a single chicken breast at the butchers cost £3. £3! I bought a pack of three from Co-op for £3.75 earlier. I genuinely feel bad for not supporting local businesses but we really don’t have much income right now. That said, my local greengrocer had an offer on avocados last week – 28p each or 3 for £1. Amazing considering that I saw single ones being sold for 99p in Tesco just this morning.
Here’s another thing. Co-op (not generally known for being the cheapest of the supermarkets) often has an offer where you can get 3 packets of sauce (cheese, white, onion etc) for £1. The other week I was making my own cheese sauce and realised I had used nearly half a block of cheese to get the sauce, well, ‘cheesy’ enough. This was 75p just on the cheese alone – to work out the full cost of the sauce I’d have to factor in the butter, flour and milk (though the packet sauce would also have required milk to be added). The price difference might only be pence but if you look at it as a percentage, the difference is huge. And while it is ‘only’ pence, the truly thrifty know that this is what can really swing your fiances either way.
It is all very well to say that you should spend on food or that savings should be made elsewhere. But what if you really can’t spend much? What if there aren’t really any other funds you can eek a few pounds out of? There’s a big difference between being budget conscious (while having a good enough income to have savings in the bank, nice holidays etc) and being backed into a corner by a low income.
I hope this isn’t coming across as a big build up to a tidy conclusion. I don’t have one – this is just me having a ponder. What do you think? Are you finding it harder to stick to your food budget? Has it had to be increased? Should we spend more on ‘better’ ingredients even if it means we have to make genuine sacrifices elsewhere? I’d be really interested to hear what other people have to say on this subject!