Sunday, April 14, 2024

Watching the pocket


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Roxanne Jones stares intently at an item on the supermarket shelf.
As the seconds tick away, she weighs her options. One thing’s for sure, she’s getting that piece of meat. That means something else has to come off the shopping list.
Jones is an example of the emerging budget-conscious Barbadian shopper who supermarket hop in search of the best bargains now that prices for almost everything – food, utilities and health-care products and medication – have been climbing.
Thus, calculated decisions are now whether to buy a pack of $2 biscuits or a $20 piece of pork.
The shopping experience for most Barbadians has become a major task in and around Bridgetown. Shoppers say they have either cut back, shopped around, or simply buy only if they desperately need it.
Others implement a strict regime. If the plan is to spend $50 then it is that and no more.
Jones’ informal research shows that some of the smaller supermarkets were better for affordable prices.
At the checkout counter Jones keeps a steady eye on the total and as it rises, she makes an on-the-spot decision about what will be in her cupboards monthly.
“I love my meat, so I have to get that and as a diabetic I also need to get vegetables so I will leave off other things such as snacks and the sweet drinks,” she said.
As is the case with many others, Jones’ health helps to eliminate certain items from her list.
For around $35 to $40 health-conscious shoppers can get a pound of onions, sweet peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, christophene and beans.
Carrots, a staple, will sell for $4 a pack, cassava $2 a pound, yams $2.50 and English potatoes $1.50 a pound.
Depending on the size of the household the produce can last anyway from a day to a week.
Pensioner Gordon Manning is determined to stay within his budget.
“I leave home with one intention. To get what I want and come back out. I don’t browse, I don’t look around . . . . I get certain things and if they don’t have it then I don’t get it at all,” he said.
Manning said he has had to cut back on what he buys as the prices continue to rise.
Mary Carmen John’s household survives on the cheapest prices and the shopper does not buy anything she does not want. In addition, she buys smaller packages, or cuts out items from her grocery list.
“The prices have risen but if I plan to spend $50 I spend that and no more,” she said.
Simone Beckles, the mother of a young child, shops around for the best prices on her favourite brands. She lamented that while the shopping bill was rising the items were becoming fewer and fewer for the money.
Her greatest challenge, she said, is making sure her daughter gets the healthy foods that would include fruits.
A budget for fruits is also in the $35 to $40 range. For that sum shoppers can purchase a pound of grapes, five apples, six tangerines, four pears and a pineapple.
Some very health- and budget-conscious shoppers have taken to cutting out the vendors and purchasing at wholesale prices. At that rate a pound of grapes are about $7.50 and tangerines $1 each.
Going for wholesale prices may apply in K. Cummins’ case.
“Everything is different, I have to go cheaper with everything,” she stated.  
Fortunately, her monthly food bill is supplemented by a mother who ships barrels of food items from the United States.  That leaves her only major expense as meats.
But there are the other shoppers whose spending patterns have not been affected. One shopper who did not want to be identified but alternates between living in Barbados and overseas admits to not having to cut back.
Almost daily he makes stops at the supermarket to pick up one and two items for his wife.
“I would say I am a lucky one. The situation does not affect me,” he said.
Family setting also determines how far a spender’s money will stretch or how much they are affected.
Rico Boyce, who is in his 20s, has been working for only five months and, according to him, not feeling the pressure in his spending.
He admitted that he was still living at home and therefore “probably not feeling the pinch like most people”.
He admits that while he was shopping for a few items for himself, the deficit in his finances would have been greater if he had to look after an entire household. (AC/LK)


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