Juan Carlos has stopped buying meat. Mercedes visits up to six supermarkets to compare prices. María has changed the time she puts on the washing machine so that it is cheaper for her. The rise in the CPI and rising energy prices, motivated by the war in Ukraine, are crushing many families, who have had to change their daily lives. According to a survey by the OCU, 75% of consumers have changed their energy, water and mobility consumption habits.
Many people have been forced to cut expenses to save at the end of the month. 45% of the population lowered the heating last winter and now, in summer, many avoid putting the air conditioning or the fan so that the electricity bill does not skyrocket. Inflation is, therefore, a daily burden on household pockets and, in the worst cases, it also causes them to postpone health expenses such as going to the dentist or other specialists.
The shopping basket: the target of inflation
One of the first consequences of price escalation is seen daily in the supermarket. “You think more carefully about how to make the purchase,” María tells us. She is a teacher, lives with her partner and they plan a menu for the whole week. However, she tells us that with the rise in prices they buy less quantity of fish and fruit: “Some week we haven’t bought strawberries in case the price fell the next.”
This is the day to day of many consumers. With the pandemic, they saw energy prices go up and, in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, they face the increase in light and staple foods such as milk, eggs, fruit and legumes.
From January to June 2022, milk is up 24%, eggs 35% and buying a tray of whole chicken or a loaf of bread is 10% more expensive, according to a study by the Valencian Association of Consumers and Users.
This is precisely what Mercedes complains about, pointing out that in these months basic foodstuffs rose up to six cents overnight and in the same establishment. She is long-term unemployed and now spends more time looking for the cheapest option: “Before I only went to two supermarkets and now I go to six. If I have to walk further to find the same product 50 cents cheaper, I do it”.
Both buy ‘white brands’ or ‘distributor brand’, a traditionally widespread option in Spain that was accentuated by the pandemic and, now, by high inflation. Families are looking for more offers and “right now, the consumer is more sensitive and attentive to promotions,” assures us Aurelio del Pino, president of the Association of Spanish Supermarket Chains.
“We have stopped buying meat and eat pasta and eggs”
However, there are families who already had economic difficulties and now, with the rise in prices, they have stopped eating certain foods. “We have stopped buying meat and eat pasta and eggs, although they have also risen a lot. You no longer know where to shoot”, Juan Carlos tells us.
He was already dragging a complicated situation, with an eviction and unpaid electricity bills. Now he receives a disability pension of 526 euros and, although he has found work and earns a total of 1,300 euros, it is not enough to pay rent, electricity and support nine people, three of them children, in a two-bedroom apartment.
In his case, inflation makes it difficult for him to guarantee a correct diet for all and “you can’t buy some yoghurts and food for the kids every day”, he points out. Also, he can barely chew because he has a broken denture and has no money to replace it.
They denied him the Minimum Vital Income and he is going to request the help of 200 euros to be able to face another difficulty, the electric bill. “It seems outrageous to me to pay 150 euros for electricity,” he explains, and he is worried because he doesn’t know how much the bill will increase this month. However, they do not plan to turn off the only water fan they have to be able to sleep this summer.
Energy: look for the cheapest hours and reduce the air conditioning
Along with food, Energy it is another key reason why life is now more expensive. “Basically, what all this rise has caused is the change of routine to put the dishwasher, the washing machine and look for cheaper hours”, tells us María, who until now had never consulted the price of electricity by time slots.
Mercedes, which has requested the aid of 200 euros, has changed his way of cooking and he has spent months turning on the ceramic hob less and heating food in the microwave to spend less electricity.
In summer, the consumption of air-conditioning. Many households use it only when they spend the day at home or for the hottest nights: “I turn it on for half an hour a day to be able to sleep, but many times I prefer to sleep worse as long as I don’t put it on,” says Mercedes, who is a beneficiary of the Thermal Social Bonus for households in vulnerable situations.
In the case of Jessica, this situation also makes her work difficult. She is a cook and makes desserts to sell to acquaintances and earn extra money. In addition to paying more than double for flour, butter, oils and eggs, he says that he has noticed more in electricity, since he cooks at home: “Between the fans to deal with the heat, turning on the kitchen, the kneading machine and the oven, it’s crazy… I now pay 35% more in electricity each month”.
Return to the energy consumption of 40 years ago
In this stage,what changes we can make at home to save energy and reduce our bill? The experts provide a double vision: methods to save on the bill, but a cultural change in our energy consumption habits is also necessary.
“We’re going to have to go back to where we were 40 years ago.”, tells us Diego Mateos, CEO of Gese Energy Services. For him, it is necessary to recover the form of consumption where the heat was combated by fans, not air conditioning, and heating was not abused so much in winter.
Now, in summer, he recommends ventilating the house at night and replacing the air conditioner with two or three fans. It is also key to change our way of cooking, using the microwave and the pressure cooker instead of the ceramic hob. With these changes, he ensures that it could be save up to 30% on the bill.
However, the energetic gaze turns to the next winter. Last season, many families stopped turning on the heating for as many hours as before, especially in February and March, when electricity shot up as a result of the conflict in Ukraine.
In homes like María’s, the use of electrical appliances was planned: “I put on the washing machine and the heating at the same time to take advantage of and dry the clothes.” This is a “trick” to save that you may have to repeat in a few months if electricity remains unaffordable.
Mateos warns that next winter the situation is going to be “much worse” than last year due to the tensions arising from the conflict and the uncertainty about the Russian gas supply. Therefore, remember that it will be necessary to save more, especially in heatingand move away from the imaginary way of consuming to which we have become accustomed until now.
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