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Double whammy: High gas prices & rising food prices
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Frank Chaparro doesn’t bother walking to his car when he gets ready to head to work in the morning.

Now that gas prices hover at around $4-a-gallon, Chaparro opts to either travel along one of Manteca’s arterial bus routes to get to work, or ride his bike so that he doesn’t have to watch an inordinate amount of his take-home pay literally burn before his eyes.

With the summer coming soon enough – routinely bringing elevated gas prices in California and further raising the national average because more people take to the roads and commence traveling behind the wheel – he doesn’t see things changing anytime soon.

“If I were to take my entire paycheck and dump it into my gas tank, I’d only make it about four days before I’d be broke and walking,” Chaparro said. “I wouldn’t make it through the entire work week, and that wouldn’t be good.”

And he isn’t alone with having to figure out how to budget his finances in the wake of recent price spikes in necessities like gasoline and even milk.

Just ask Sheryl Dunaway.

While she used to like making weekly trips to the grocery store to pick up food and supplies for herself and her two young children, Dunaway now cringes when she sees the gallon of milk in the fridge nearing the bottom of the carton, and the cereal boxes starting to empty.

It looks like corn might be to blame for Dunaway’s concern about having to restock supplies that didn’t cost as much last year as she’s having to pay now – especially with gas prices making filling up her minivan an expensive proposition.

Last week Tyson Foods Chairman John Tyson told Fox Business News that Ethanol – also known as ethyl alcohol and the substance being sought after as an alternative to fossil fuels – will likely take up 40 percent of the corn crop in America and drive up the cost of feed for animals like cows, chickens and pigs.

That cost will then be passed back on to the consumers through higher food prices.

“With two small kids you’ve already got a set list of things that you have to get like milk and cheese and cereal and stuff for lunches, and it seems like that keeps getting more and more expensive and taking more out of what I budget for food,” Dunaway said. “I’m a single mother and I’m trying to do it without having to apply for food stamps, but it’s so hard to do and it’s getting harder.

“Milk going up $1-a-gallon might not seem significant, but when you’re buying two gallons a week that’s $8 by itself, and it’s like that across the board. That adds up when you’re trying to keep the lights on.”

Miguel Arande has a different approach to making sure he’s able to food on his table and take his kids to school and also make it to work and back.

He traded down in the automotive department.

Rather than keeping the Ford Expedition that was roomy and comfortable for his family, Arande traded it in for a Honda Accord that gets much better gas mileage and allows him to save roughly $50 to $100 each week he would normally put into his tank.

And his grocery shopping is mostly done at places like Costco – where he figured a yearly membership fee would pay off by allowing him to buy certain items in bulk or at reduced rates. Standard items like cheese and bread are bought in large quantities that Arande then freezes and uses when necessary to save trips to the regular grocery store.

By downsizing to a smaller car and cutting his gas bill, Arande says that he’s been able to weather some of the food price increases and stay afloat.

“If we didn’t do something different, we were going to have to make some serious decisions about what to do in our family,” he said. “We need to feed our kids and I need to work in order to do that, but we were paycheck to paycheck and anything above what I had laid out would break us.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do long term, but this has helped us right now. We’ll see what happens when the summer comes.”