Elderly woman found 'eating cat food' as cost of living crisis soars

A Christchurch woman has spoken out after she found her 77-year-old nana eating cat food because she was struggling to make ends meet.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, became her nana's full-time carer in 2021 after no one else in her family could look after her.

The woman's nana was living in Greymouth in a flat by herself with no one going to check on her regularly, she said.

She had organised meals on wheels for her nana, but because the 77-year-old has incontinence and mobility issues, she struggled to prepare them.

Her nana couldn't afford anything else and had to resort to food not fit for human consumption.

"She had even been eating cat food," the woman told Newshub.

The woman added her nana had also "lived off pumpkin soup and ham sandwiches". Her nana had often left the ham out of the fridge but still ate it after it had gone off.

To try and help, the woman moved her nana out of the house in Greymouth to Christchurch. 

Food prices

She told Newshub she wants to help her nana out, but because she is on the benefit and the cost of living is increasing, she was really struggling.

"Food prices are through the roof [and] the dollar isn't stretching."

In August, Statistics NZ's food price index showed food prices had increased by 8.3 percent over the past year.

The cost of fruit and vegetables had also increased by 4.1 percent (up 2.3 percent after seasonal adjustment) and meat, poultry and fish prices had increased by 1.2 percent.

The Food Price index annual change from January 2008 to August 2022
The Food Price index annual change from January 2008 to August 2022 Photo credit: Stats NZ

The woman said she gets $850 a week with her benefit, but this doesn't go far. After paying $650 in rent and $150 for utilities like Wi-Fi, electricity and petrol, she only has $50 a week for food.

"We are just surviving to get by," she said.

To try and lower the cost of food, the woman considered growing her own fruits and vegetables. But this has proved difficult because her house in Christchurch doesn't have grass or a green area. She's since bought flexi tubs to try and grow things in but this was still difficult to do.

Even after the Government increased the superannuation rates for singles fortnightly from $1013.28 to $1076.48 in April, she said her nana was still struggling with the rising cost of living.

"She has to live paycheck to paycheck."