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ABC News

Rising food costs cause people to skip meals, avoid dairy, alcohol, meat to cope financially

Jobseeker recipient Karin Haevecker says without the community garden, she would not have fruit or vegetables to eat. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Skipping meals, choosing cheaper cuts of meat, and leaving overpriced vegetables out of the shopping basket are some of the cost-saving decisions families are making as food prices soar and mortgage repayments rise.

Bendigo Jobseeker recipient Karin Haevecker said she was skipping meals, due to increasing costs. 

"My fortnightly payments don't cover the fortnight, they cover a week. I've skipped meals a few times and avoid going to the grocery store because the prices are so high," she said.

Ms Haevecker volunteers at her local neighbourhood house, where she's able to take home fresh produce from a community garden. 

She said she spoke to people every day who were doing it tough.

"We've been inundated at the moment. We have people who come in regularly and just grab a few things," she said.

Pensioner Linda Morton says she has stopped buying expensive cuts of meat and some vegetables. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Can't afford meat and seafood

January inflation data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the price of meat and seafood has risen by 8 per cent over the past year, while the cost of dairy products has risen by 15 per cent. 

And a survey of 1,054 people in January by Finder found 71 per cent of Australians have cut back on takeaway meals, meat, seafood, and alcohol. 

Bendigo pensioner Linda Morton said she had stopped buying expensive cuts of meat. 

"I used to be able to buy rump steak, but I haven't touched rump steak in 18 months," she said.

"I can't afford to buy a cauliflower at $6. Nothing's cheap at the moment." 

Local neighbourhood and community houses offer fresh produce to residents. (ABC Central Victoria: Shannon Schubert)

Ms Morton said she was also buying and eating less, compared with a year ago. 

"My fridge at the moment is nearly empty. I only buy the essentials, I buy some frozen food, I've got some frozen chicken and sausages," she said.

To keep her grocery bill down, mother-of-four Danielle Kehoe buys in bulk and looks for bargains. 

"It's a lot cheaper to buy things like mince in bulk, rather than buying one little packet. We're also shopping at cheaper stores."

Head of Consumer Research Graham Cooke said families who were not accustomed to watching their budgets so closely were now being forced to eat on the cheap.

"A demographic that seems to be heavily affected is younger generations. When you ask generation Y or generation Z, 60–70 per cent are feeling stressed with the cost of living," he said.

"Nearly half of Australian households are saying that groceries are a main source of financial stress." 

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