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Sunday Musings: Canadians Spending Less On Groceries

Call it the next phase in the adjustment of Canadian consumers to soaring food prices. According to new figures, Canadians are spending less on food than they should. At least according to the Agrifood Analytics Lab in Halifax…

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Never been lower

Canada’s Food Guy, Professor Sylvain Charlebois, head of the Agrifood Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, says the situation is becoming precarious.

“It is extremely low. We have never seen that before,” Charlebois told CTV News.

According to the 2024 Canada’s Food Price Report, the average Canadian should spend $339 per month on healthy food. Latest survey numbers, from a little earlier this year, show the average Canadian is spending just $248 a month. That means they’re not getting the full nutritional value they need from their food dollar.

How are they surviving?

Overall inflation has eased a bit over the past year. But many monthly costs that are out of consumers’ control are still rising. Think: Utility bills, taxes, housing costs and fuel.

“People are doing anything they can to save as much money as possible, at the grocery store, and outside of the grocery store,” Charlebois observes.

The average Canadian is apparently resorting to desperate measures to make ends meet in the fact of unabated inflation. Even back a year ago, some folks were reporting they were skipping meals. Parents admitted to going hungry so their kids could eat. Consumers have massively down-graded their brand preferences to cheaper options, such as store brands and No-Names. Most folks surveyed say they’ve cut frills right out. Meat is now a luxury. Pasta is coming to the fore as a daily staple.

Lower quality foods a bad choice

The latest survey shows Canadians are downgrading the quality of foods they buy.

“It’s hard to believe that there are no nutritional compromises being made right now,” Charlebois observes, ominously. The implication? Folks may be filling their bellies, but not getting the nutrition they need.

Rules of successful shopping

The basic rules for successful shopping on a budget remain.

Registered dietitian Laurie Barker Jackman says there are always basic cost-saving strategies for shoppers to deploy.

“Before you hit that grocery store, you’ve got to shop your kitchen first,” says Jackman. Plan meals ahead with a view to using what you already have in the pantry, fridge and freezer. “Then, when it’s time to go shopping, you need to make a list stick to it.”

“What a lot of my clients will do is buy groceries online to get them delivered, because that can help prevent impulse purchases,” Jackman adds.

My take

It’s disheartening to see Canadians sinking even farther below the nutritional ‘red line’. But I guess it’s inescapable, given the state of the economy and the business model the big supermarket chains continue to push on us.

It’s good top know people like Charlebois and Jackman are out there, standing up for our interests…

My questions to you:

Are you spending less than is considered healthy on groceries?

Are you skipping meals? Going hungry so others in your family can eat?

Have you downgraded the quality of the food you buy?

Has your health suffered as a result of high food prices?

Muse on that…

~ Maggie J.

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