It is getting ever more expensive to go food shopping, but what happens when you have to worry about dietary requirements as well?
It is a phrase that has become part of everyday parlance – ‘the cost of living’. Whenever we turn on the television or read something online, it is impossible to ignore articles or segments about it. Everyone has been affected in one way or another. The cost of living is a challenge that nobody can ignore and it is causing real hardship for many people.
What stirred me to write this piece was seeing an article recently where the headline said: ‘Cost of living with food allergies becoming unbearable’. What made me read on was the fact that I have a child with food allergies.
That requires us to buy certain specialised items. Already more expensive than regular everyday staples, those have gone up too, in line with everything else. Unlike with other products, there are not many ‘cheap’ saver own brands.
But a health or dietary requirement is an essential for a child and has to be prioritised despite any rising costs. So with the supply chain having become more irregular, there is a sigh of relief if the specialised products are still in stock before you even begin to look at the price.
It has to be remembered of course, that children are independent and unpredictable eaters and therefore as a parent, you need plenty of options at all times. Our children are growing all the time, their appetites get bigger and they need more food. More than ever, it’s a case of finding the balance of nutrition and what the children will willingly eat with now the third factor of increased costs.
Last summer, it was frightening to watch the price of petrol and diesel sky rocket and head towards the staggering figure of £2 per litre. It meant that for many people, it was costing over £100 to fill up their cars.
Prices have come down from those nightmarish levels, but not to the extent they were at before. But while prices creep down, it was galling to see announcements of record profits by BP and Shell, as those companies and their shareholders feel the benefits as the vast majority count the cost.
To try to offset these rising fuel prices, I have considered whether I could drive less. Goodness me, that would be wonderful, but unfortunately, not very practical. My children are at a separate primary school and nursery, which involves heading in different directions.
Neither are more than 15 minutes’ walk from my house, but to walk to both and then back home would probably take me about 45 minutes to an hour and is simply not a realistic option because I have my own work to factor in.
As a result, everything gets squeezed and in terms of the car, that involves a merry-go-round of nipping here or nipping there to pick someone up or drop them off. I am turning the car on about eight to ten times a day and driving no more than ten miles at most.
That is the worst, most uneconomical style of driving and it means I am spending more money at the pumps but getting fewer miles to the gallon and I am losing out economically.
As the 1 April deadline looms, the six-month energy rebate provided by the Government is about to run out. By that time and with a further price rise expected, our monthly spend on gas and electricity will have more than doubled from what it was at the end of 2021.
In that time, our house has not doubled in value, and nor have our salaries. We are certainly NOT using twice as much gas and electricity. As befitting a young family, we have a dishwasher and a washing machine that are used a lot because work demands reduce the time that we have to perform tasks like these.
Also on dark winter nights, the lights go on and children like having them on for comfort and warmth. And it is very hard explaining to a five-year-old that we need to turn lights off to save money if they say that they find the dark scary.
None of us want to feel like money is flying out of our wallets uncontrollably. But as parents of young children, it feels like we are fighting a losing battle wherever we turn, be that at the pumps, in our homes and in the shops.
There are also the items that have to change as children grow up like clothes because children can’t wear the same clothes aged four as they did when they were three. The same for shoes. Age also affects the car seat that can be used, which is not an insignificant purchase. Toys and games need to be updated, too, as children grow up to match their learning and development and what sparks their interest and attention.
Everyone is having to manage their way through the cost of living as it confronts us on a daily basis. But the most worrying thing of all about it is the fact that there is currently no end in sight.