Tightening belts: They can still cope, but only just

Although higher food prices won’t tilt Thetjeng Motlatjo’s household over the edge, his family has had to learn to live without nonessentials such as chocolate and cakes.

Motlatjo, the Congress of the People’s Polokwane office administrator, his wife, three children and their live-in domestic worker have a combined net income of about R43?000 a month. But their food budget is not unlimited.

Until about two years ago, they spent R3?000 a month on groceries. But in the past year they have started to budget R5?000 for food each month.

While many may feel Motlatjo has no reason

to whine, he does say that, with six mouths to

feed, R5?000 is not enough. By the last week of the month they are making do with cheap convenience food.

“Our food expenditure has gone up quite dramatically and towards month end we struggle. I now spend double on food, but I’m not satisfying my kids’ needs. It’s not enough to last the whole month,” he says.

The Motlatjos used to shop at premium retailer Woolworths, but not any more.

“We have now moved to Shoprite, but as you know, it’s not the same and the quality of our food has gone down, because we want to spend less.”

They have also cut back on foods they previously enjoyed.

“I don’t know when was the last time I bought lamb,” he says, laughing.

They have also cut out red meat in favour of chicken and canned meat.

“You know fresh fish is also expensive, so we have replaced it with tinned fish.”

The family’s grocery list includes: mealie meal, rice, beans, red and white meat, bread spread, cooking oil, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, spices, vegetables and fruit.

It also includes cheese, polony and other spreads for lunchboxes for the children.

Their restaurant budget has also been cut. They used to eat out at least once a week, but now it’s twice a month.

Also off the grocery list are chocolate, yoghurt, cakes, grapes and other nonessentials.

“There is just no way we could live like we used to. Expenditure has gone up and salary increases are not matching up.”

Motlatjo says he can understand how poor families buy food with borrowed money. He asks: “How else can they survive?”

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