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Number of courses shrinks as people tighten their belts

By Shi Jing (China Daily)

16:31, January 13, 2012

A customer at a Wumart supermarket in Beijing's Chaoyang district on Thursday. (China Daily Photo)

SHANGHAI - Jiang Qigang likes his food. He says that just three months ago, he would frown and grumble about only having a three-course meal at dinnertime. However, he has been forced to relent and grudgingly make do with the once hard-to-accept arrangement because of soaring food prices.

"In the past I would certainly complain to my wife if she made only three courses for dinner. But as the price of food is surging, I have no choice but to put up with the current situation because our salaries are not keeping up with inflation," said the 29-year-old banking analyst from Shanghai.

It used to be a rule at Jiang's house that there should be at least two meat dishes, two fish dishes and soup every night. But now the menu has been reduced to one meat dish and one fish dish with a vegetable salad. The soup has become optional.

"The price of fish has been increasing like crazy. Pomfret (found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans) for instance, sold for about 27 yuan ($4.27) each last year. But now the price has soared to about 40 yuan," said Jiang, who says he cannot go without fish for a single meal.

"However, I find the increase in the price of fruit the most striking. A box of strawberries that contains around 30 cost 18 yuan last year. But this year a box of 12 strawberries costs more than 10 yuan," he said.

To further cut expenditure, Jiang has not bought wine for dinner at home since October and has also cut back on meals at restaurants. "I ate at a Vietnamese restaurant with my wife the other day. The two bowls of pho and an appetizer cost us 200 yuan. We did not order any alcohol either. It's like the price of everything is rising," he said.

Lu Yongchun, a 55-year-old Shanghai housewife, is busy making special purchases for the Spring Festival.

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