The headlines are scary but the sight of your grocery bill and gasoline expenses are scarier still. Inflation has been rising at its fastest pace since 1981 and that’s leaving many households in a tight squeeze, if not a full-blown crisis.
While some may be able to simply postpone a vacation or cut back on restaurant dining, others are having to make difficult choices to make ends meet.
Even in non-inflationary times, Akron Children’s has social workers, dietitians, case managers and other allied health professionals who offer advice, share resources and help patient families struggling with housing, utilities, food insufficiency, childcare and transportation to medical appointments. So, we went sought out two of these professionals for advice.
Michele Mizda, manager of Social Work, says there are many resources out there for families and many are just a phone call or web click away, and dietitian Abbey Granger says grocery dollars can be stretched without compromising on nutrition.
Here’s what they had to share:
My Local Link
As Akron Children’s footprint has grown throughout Ohio, it became obvious that pediatricians needed a simple database to connect families to services in their own community. Thus, the creation of MyLocalLink. Parent simply need to enter their zip code to search for local resources for food, housing, legal aid, public benefits and educational programs. Learn more at: https://www.akronchildrens.org/pages/MyLocalLink-Community-Resources.html
United Way 2-1-1
A national program of the United Way, 2-1-1 helps people find local resources for concerns related to housing, supplemental food and nutrition, utilities and transportation, clothing and household items, health care, mental health care, legal assistance, substance abuse treatment, educational programs, and more. The service is free, confidential and offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Learn more at https://www.uwsummit.org/basic-needs.
And here’s the 2-1-1 link for Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana Counties: Help Network of Northeast Ohio
Ohio Jobs and Family Services
Parents who are employed, in school or in job training, and meet other criteria may qualify for financial help with childcare expenses through Title 20. This can include the cost of summer camps for children. Learn more at: http://www.odjfs.state.oh.us
Community Action Agency
Community Action Akron Summit is a private, non-profit corporation that helps address the needs of low-income residents of Summit County. Programs include Pathways HUB (focused on prenatal care and reducing Ohio’s infant mortality rate), Foster Grandparents, Head Start, and energy assistance. Learn more at: https://www.ca-akron.org/
Cut Back on Meat but Not Protein
While the inflation rate for food, in general, has gone up 10.8 percent, meat prices have gone up 14.3 percent. Meat lovers can still get their taste of beef, poultry and pork if they strategize.
- Instead of making it central to the meal, stretch your meat purchase by using it in a casserole, stir fry, soup or salad.
- Eggs are high in protein and still economical compared to meat and fish. Have breakfast for dinner at least one night a week. An omelet bar can feature cheese, cut-up veggies, salsa, and other favorites.
- Plan vegetarian or plant-based meals several nights a week.
- Peanut butter, lentil or chickpea pastas, beans, lentils, cans or pouches of tuna, salmon or chicken, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are other affordable sources of protein.
- Shop with a list and don’t shop hungry. Base your list on what’s in the weekly grocery store ads and what’s in season.
- Be willing to shop around and go to more than one store if you have time and savings are worth it.
- Now is the time to cut back on non-essentials like soda pop, salty snacks and sweets that add little to health and are pricey.
- Clip e-coupons offered by large grocery chains and sign up for a rewards card.
- Buy generic or store brands instead of national brands.
- Cash-back apps can help you earn money while you shop. These include Upside, Fetch, and Ibotta.
- Shop with the MyPlate app, where you’ll find budget-friendly foods from every food group, along with recipes.
Get Creative & Thoughtful
- Perhaps this is the year to plant a garden or grow your own herbs in the kitchen.
- Join a warehouse club for savings in larger quantities. If it’s too much for just your family, perhaps another family would be willing to split costs.
- Make your own pre-packaged snacks and save money on convenience. This could include homemade trail mix or snack packs that include a protein like a cheese stick or mixed nuts.
- Study your spending habits and adjust. What food is frequently wasted? How can we avoid last minute fast-food dinners? How can we avoid frequent trips to the store and impulse buying?
- Think strategically as you plan your driving to save trips and gas. Combine errands that are near each other instead of taking separate trips.
- Carpool to work with a colleague who lives near you.
- If you are having trouble getting to doctor’s appointment, check with your health insurance. Some plans, including Medicaid, offer transportation assistance to and from health appointments but you must call ahead and arrange it through Customer Service.
Free or Low-Cost Family Fun
You can still have fun outings with your children without having to spend big bucks. You are likely to learn of ideas by networking with other parents but here are few:
- Your local library probably has a summer reading program with prizes and free events aimed at pre-schoolers through young adults.
- Many museums offer one free day of admission per week and are a great way to enjoy a few hours of air conditioning.
- Your county park system and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park offer a variety of free and low-cost nature programs for kids and families.
- Your local community may offer free concerts throughout the summer. Children under 18 are free with an adult at all Cleveland Orchestra summer concerts at Blossom Music Center.
- Plan a neighborhood yard sale – get to know your neighbors, do some cleaning and make some money.
- Gas too expensive for a beach vacation this year? Don’t forget about the North Coast. Lake Erie has lots of nice beaches that are within a few hours drive for most families within Akron Children’s service area.