I spent $58 to fill up my van with gasoline and $132 at WalMart for groceries. There were some extras--replacement for garden hose, big bag of birdseed for the feeders--but there usually is something extra. We can afford $50+ for gasoline, $100+ for groceries, $750 to fill the propane tank but it must be a real challenge for people in the $40-50,000 range in addition to housing and children and near impossible if there is an income interuption such as job loss or medical problems.
OTOH, I see people who can least afford it making one foolish decision after another. Buying junk food from vending machines, smoking, lottery tickets, doing as little as possible at work, not getting an education, credit cards and payday loans. But it is not just lower income folks, the middle and upper middle income groups can be just as foolish-->You want it??-->just put it on a credit card. Bigger house-->no problem-->bigger mortgage. Live right up to the limit. Assume everything is going to be rosy--you or your spouse will never get sick or lose a job so there's no need to save for a rainy day. The idea of saving up for something, well, it just would never occur.
There's several sides to today's economy. Yes, food and energy costs are up but for a long time many Americans have had really unrealistic expectations of what they can afford.