Town and country: How two families in Estonia are coping with rising prices

Groceries being rung up at a Prisma supermarket.
Groceries being rung up at a Prisma supermarket. Source: ERR

As prices continue to rise and inflation soars toward 20 percent, the Sunday edition of ETV's news broadcast "Aktuaalne kaamera" spoke with two families — one living in the city of Tartu and one on a farm in Võru County — about their expenses and daily purchases.

Living in Estonia's second-biggest city, Kristi Terep's family of five doesn't need a car on a daily basis.

"Our oldest kid takes the bus or walks, and goes into the city center," Terep said. "The youngest can't ride their bike alone yet, and the problem is that they need to leave home so early. And our middle boy always rides his bike. We ourselves walk or take public transport a lot in town."

The increase in gas prices has thus yet to affect their family's budget as far as daily activities around town are concerned. "When we head out of town, though — and we do have such trips, especially my spouse — we still feel that increase then," she admitted. "You used to be able to fill up the tank for €60; now it costs €100."

What has significantly increased are the bills for the children's extracurricular activities, but it is nonetheless rising food costs that have had the biggest impact on the Terep family wallet.

"We have a 14-year-old son and an 8-year-old son, and they manage to empty the fridge to the point that by evening there's just nothing left," she described. "When the oldest gets home from practice, we need to restock the fridge again. I have to go shopping almost every day, I think. But I bike every day that I am in Tartu; I bike to work in the morning, and this is the most convenient mode of transport for me."

Terep, who runs a business in the field of non-formal education, admitted that while price increases have been noticeable, their family has not yet given up the products they're used to buying. She herself does eat lunch out less often, though, as daily lunch special prices have climbed closer to €6. She has also tried to avoid impulse purchases.

"I used to spend €20-25 on a typical trip to Maxima, but that is now up to around €30," she said. "I think I'm buying pretty typical things — bread, milk. I haven't felt the price of milk [increase]. But yogurt and cheese and meat."

The family does not have a yard in town where they could grow their own food. They do, however, spend time at their grandparents' home in the countryside each summer.

"Then we do very well with [food] costs — you can pick stuff from the yard once the tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers are ripe," Terep said. "And the grandparents go grocery shopping frequently themselves, which certainly makes an impact."

Country living in Southeastern Estonia

At the Hallop family farm in Võru County, Eimar drives his youngest two children, Luukas and Miia, to the pasture to feed the sheep in an old sidecar motorcycle. The old motorcycle is only used for such short joyrides, however. The Hallop family includes four kids aged 2-8, which means that their daily driver is an 8-seater minivan.

"Kaisa drives the van; she is the one primarily dropping off and picking up the kids, dropping them off at practice and picking them up after practice," Eimar Hallop said regarding his wife. "We average about 1,000 kilometers per week, totaling 4,000 kilometers a month of family driving. Earlier, half a year ago, a full tank of gas cost €90; now it costs something like €160."

Price increases have essentially swallowed up a fifth of the family's income.

"We get by," Eimar Hallop said. "I'd like to say that we're getting by pretty well. We're maybe not putting as much into savings as before, but our basic needs are covered. We still have our hands and feet — so if we're missing something and we can't buy it from the store, then we can make it ourselves."

Most of the family's food comes from their cellar, Kaisa Hallop said.

"We have our own potatoes," she said. "Carrots, beets. All preserves. I come through here once or twice each day. We cleared more land for crops. Carrots, beets, potatoes, cabbage, radishes, onions — all of these are our own. Tomatoes and cucumbers from the greenhouse."

Asked if they did anything different this year, she said they are planting more things this year, especially potatoes.

"It's wartime — of course you have to plant more of everything," Kaisa Hallop said. "And the fact that we're growing our own food here greatly helps us keep our grocery bills down. Compared with the Estonian average, we spend very little at the store. Previously we'd spend some €50 on groceries; now it's maybe €80."

The family keeps both sheep and chickens.

"If we see that a chicken is nearing the end of its life, then we can eat chicken," she said. "My husband is a hunter. He hunts, and we get meat from there."

The family's firewood also comes from forest on their own property.

Kaisa Hallop said she doesn't spend money on beauty services, while her husband Eimar has had to put his expensive hobby on hold.

"I have a unique quirk — I absolutely love old technical stuff, of all kinds," Eimar Hallop said. "I try not to visit those [online] portals and try not to buy what's being offered and what I want in my soul."


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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