By Maria Spiliopoulou, Valentini Anagnostopoulou
ATHENS, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Four months after Greece formally exited the period of the harsh bailout programs which lasted eight years, cash-strapped Greeks are getting prepared to celebrate Christmas on tight budgets again.
This year's festive meal next Tuesday will remain frugal, consumers who flooded Athens' central market "Varvakeios" told Xinhua on Friday.
The economy is recovering, according to official indexes, but the average Greek household is still struggling to make ends meet after dozens of rounds of salary cuts and tax hikes reduced incomes by at least 25 percent compared to pre-crisis levels.
A traditional Christmas meal for 6-8 persons which includes turkey, pork or lamb, salads, soft drinks, wine and dessert will cost on average 149.09 euros (169.5 U.S. dollars), almost the same as last year, according to a recent survey by the Hellenic Confederation of Commerce and Entrepreneurship.
Most people at Varvakeios on Friday were searching for special offers, discounts and the cheapest ingredients for the menu to lower the cost as much as possible, Kleanthis Tsironis, president of the market, told Xinhua.
"People are buying chicken which costs 2 euros per kilo and pork for 3 euros per kilo. These are the top sellers. There is no demand for wild boar which costs 6 euros per kilo or turkey which costs 6.5 euros per kilo," he explained.
"The psychology of consumers has started to gradually improve, as they see that the sun is rising after eight years of darkness... I'd like to believe that these days we will see some more positive results compared to what we have seen until today," he said.
Maria and Eleni, two pensioners among his clients, were not among those seeing the coming days with optimism. Their savings have declined dramatically, their children have sought jobs and a better life abroad and the relief measures pledged for next year do not sound enough to add a considerable amount of cash to their wallets.
"The prices are good, but pensions have been slashed... I will cook pork and some chicken," Maria said.
"What can we do? All people are suffering," Eleni added.
Christina Matsouka, owner of a liquor store, told Xinhua: "The situation is difficult, it is not easy... Consumers have lost a very large part of their incomes, but they are trying."
The family business started in 1959 by her now 82-year-old mother, who is still assisting in welcoming customers with samples of chocolate bars.
Christina's two daughters are also on board in recent years, introducing clients to the secrets of the most delicious dried fruits, nuts and traditional Greek products.
Consumers, particularly before holidays, are queuing at the store to buy delicacies. They just leave with smaller quantities, compared with the pre-crisis era, she said. (1 euro = 1.14 U.S. dollars)