Cost of living crisis: Some Aucklanders cutting meals to cope

As food prices continue to rise, some Aucklanders say they are cutting meals to cope.

The latest Food Price Index figures from Stats NZ were released today, showing groceries were 6.4 percent pricier this April, compared to the same month last year.

Fruit and vegetables rocketed up 9.4 percent, and meat, poultry and fish 8.4 percent.

“I only eat once a day and if I’m low on food I either ask my mother or my sister,” Karen told Checkpoint, outside WestCity Mall in the west Auckland suburb of Henderson,

She said she was looking for work and was on a benefit, but the money barely covers her costs.

After rent, water, and power she said there was hardly enough for fresh fruit and vegetables, and meat was out of the question.

“I was landscaping and because of Covid and travel restrictions and all of this it got stupid, and the people I was working for, they couldn’t even maintain themselves, so I was let go,” Lola, another local, told Checkpoint.

The loss of work made it much more difficult to support herself and her son.

“Car’s out… I’m doing okay. Because I understand if I don’t do okay, we’re not going to be okay.

“But I have called on food services more in the last three years than I ever have.”

Situations like this are getting more common in some areas of Auckland. Fiona told Checkpoint the cost of living was constantly on her mind.

“It’s affected my sleep quite badly. I suffer from insomnia quite bad because I worry about what I’m going to do for this week.”

Family Works’ Waitākere and Whangārei area manager Alistair Houston heard similar stories daily.

He dealt with everyone, with all sorts of budgets, benefits, parents working two jobs, people struggling with rents or mortgages.

“There are going to have to be some tough decisions in terms of priorities. Do they continue to pay the bills, or eat, or a bit of both?. There’s real, real pressures on everything at this moment in time and if fuel does continue to go up, you can only see things getting worse.”

Some of his clients were effectively trapped in a cycle, unable to pay to keep vehicles roadworthy, being caught and consequently being unable to travel to work.

“For the second time this person lost their job… the car fails the WOF [warrant of fitness] and they couldn’t then afford to go and get another job because they couldn’t actually drive to it.

“So we found a source to help remedy that, which allowed them to go and look for a job and actually get a job and then come back to earning some money again.”

Jan told Checkpoint she was relying on her pension while still trying to service a mortgage.

“I got forced out of work through an accident. So it just makes it even that much harder going from earning $800 a week to getting $300 a week from pension.”

For Rachel and her husband, supporting their two growing boys was getting tougher.

“It’s hard. The boys eat a lot. The prices, some of the stuff has just gone up, like cheese especially. It was like $10 and that’s gone up at least $5.”

Lola said she feared more in the community will turn to alternative ways of getting by.

“Drugs – there’s lots of it out here. Gangs, they’ll eat you up. They want you to start selling drugs for them. You’ll get some money.”

Those who spoke to Checkpoint – parents, elderly, workers and those looking for work – show the rising cost of living is affecting many.

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