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Inflation impact: sambar is luxury, chutney staple in many lower-income households in Bengaluru

INDInflation impact: sambar is luxury, chutney staple in many lower-income households in Bengaluru

Tomatoes, a staple vegetable in kitchens, have seen a sharp increase in Bengaluru.
| Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

Vimala (name changed) works as a housekeeping staff at a private engineering college near Kanakapura Road. Her family has three members— a husband and a child besides herself. In the months of May and June this year, she was torn between allocating money in her monthly budget for her child’s education and supplies for cooking as the prices of almost every vegetable went up in those months. She settled for buying “second quality” vegetables and groceries.

Cost of home-cooked meals

The inflation has increased the price of a home-cooked meal by at least 10% this year, according to Crisil’s food plate cost tracker. The cost increase is characterised by the increased prices of staples like tomatoes, onions, and garlic, besides vegetables like beans. Many families like Vimala’s have resorted to buying lower quantities of vegetables or making dishes which do not include vegetables for a few days a week. 

As of July 8, the selling price of beans was ₹98 per kg, tomatoes were ₹70 per kg, potatoes were selling at ₹59 per kg and onions were selling at ₹56 per kg in HOPCOMS. Though prices have come down slightly when compared to a couple of weeks ago when all these vegetables except potatoes were selling at over ₹100 per kg, most vegetables will continue to be beyond the reach of the lower-middle class. Over the summer, beans were selling at a record price of ₹280 per kg in retail markets.

While the prices of a few fruits have also gone up over the past year, many lower-middle-class households The Hindu spoke to reported that other than bananas, they do not bring home other fruits unless it is festival time. “But cooking without vegetables is a real problem,” said a home-maker.

Alternate recipes 

For Chandrakala R., a pourakarmika in Sunkadakatte who has an ailing mother to take care of, her monthly budget is divided between milk, vegetables groceries and medicines for her mother. Of late, her vegetable shopping has been limited to two pieces of two vegetables. 

“In the last six months, the price of all commodities has been going up. When the prices started going up, I reduced the quantity of vegetables from 1 kg to half kg. Now I cannot even afford that. I buy two brinjals and two radishes and try to manage with them for a week. Buying spinach at markets is also a costly affair, so I buy them for a lesser price from hawkers,” she said. 

Making sambar and curries is a luxury for her now. “If I get tomatoes for a slightly lesser price, then I use it for sambar. Some weeks when all vegetables get expensive, I end up making coconut, groundnut or horse gram chutney instead,” Ms. Chandrakala said. 

Vegetable budget up by ₹300 

While those from lower levels of socioeconomic background are avoiding costly vegetables, middle class households have reduced the quantity. 

“We are a family of two people, and our vegetable budget has gone up by at least ₹300 per month when compared to last year. Some months, it was up by ₹500 too. As vegetarians, we cannot compromise on vegetables as we will miss out on nutrition without it,” said Kiran Kumar, a retired bank employee from Sahakarnagar.  

No changes in rates in hotels 

Some hotels have imparted some cost-saving methods given the high prices of vegetables. “A few hotels are using tomato puree instead of fresh tomatoes. Some are judicious with onions. For example, instead of giving onions in salads, they give more cucumbers,” said P.C. Rao, president, Bruhat Bengaluru Hoteliers Association (BBHA). 

However, he ruled out increasing rates in hotels. “It is true that we have also been affected by inflations. But, at the moment we will not change the rates. We are waiting to see if monsoons will have any impact on the prices of vegetables,” Mr. Rao said.  

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