Food Inflation in Canada (And How to Stop the Bleeding)

Even at my local mom and pop grocery store, I have noticed food inflation. Painful painful food inflation in Canada. It just seemed like a few months ago when you could get apples on sale for $0.79/lb, now I feel lucky if I can get some applies for $1.29/lb. Here’s a post on what the current food inflation in Canada is and how to stop your wallet and groceries budget from hemorrhaging.

Food Inflation in Canada

The numbers have to get pretty high to change human behaviour. And it has. Studies show that people are changing their grocery shopping habits and are trying to shop sales now regularly.

Despite general inflation slowing down, the price of foods have increased 10.6% year over year in February due to extreme weather and supply chain constraints.

And I wasn’t hallucinating, apple prices have indeed gone up 16.6% year over year.

Shop the Sales

If you want to battle it out against food inflation in Canada, you’ll have to pivot and change, and this means shopping the sales to save money on groceries in Canada. I actually don’t shop at one place for groceries and go to a few places once a week sometimes.

For example, I buy my eggs and milk at one place, then I buy fresh fruit and vegetables at another place (usually a mom and pop grocery shop), and then I buy seafood, meats and pantry staples at another place (or wherever there is a sale).

Sometimes if we are planning to go for a family outing at the local swimming pool, I’ll try and see if there’s anything good on sale at the specific grocery store close by using the Flipp app.

Use Your Freezer

If there’s a sale on chicken thigh (you’ll have to know your prices for a good sale on chicken thigh) for example at that specific grocery store, I basically back the truck up and buy as much as I can (within the limits set in the flyer of course) to fit in our freezer.

Having freezer room is invaluable to fight food inflation in Canada.

In addition to storing grocery items that are on sale, your freezer is useful to help prevent foods from spoiling too fast.

It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that I realized you could freeze bread, bagels, English muffins, croissants etc.

Freezing bread was a game changer for me!

Finally, your freezer can store fruits and vegetables that can freeze well too! Frozen fruit and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh ones and are great to have if you are in a pinch.

Weirdly enough, I think our kids prefer eating frozen strawberries and blueberries to fresh apples…

Change Your Diet

It goes without saying that meat is more expensive than eating ‘beans and rice’.

When I make lunch for myself for work, I pretty much have some Balderson cheddar cheese, crackers, fruit and vegetable, some dates and almonds and I’m good to go.

Reducing meat consumption is good for your wallet and good for your health. You may have heard fo the Blue Zones diet (the Blue Zones are pockets of places around the world where the number of longest living people are unusually high- think those who are over 100 years old), which is:

  • Eggs three times weekly
  • Beans daily (lentils, soy beans, black beans etc.)
  • Meat consumption five times a month
  • Three times a week of fish or less
  • 1-2 handful of nuts per day
  • Lots of vegetables

Here’s a summary of the Blue Zones food guide. Although we are not 100% plant based (very far from that actually), switching it up to meatless lunches most of the week and a meatless dinner meal once a week is still beneficial to counteract food inflation in Canada (and help improve your health).

Lentil soup and fresh no-knead bread really hits the spot in the fall and winter.

Don’t Let Food Go to Waste

According to the National Zero Waste Council, Canadian households throw away $1300 worth of food each year.

In Canada, most of the food wasted (by weight) are:

  • Vegetables: 30%
  • Fruit: 15%
  • Leftovers: 13%
  • Bread and Bakery: 9%
  • Dairy and Eggs: 7%

Here’s an infographic on what is wasted in Canadian households.

I’m actually kind of weirdly proud of my skill of reducing our family’s food waste.

I try and use everything up. If we have leftover pineapple from making Hawaiian pizza, I’ll save that (or I might pop it into the freezer to freeze it for later) to make a poke bowl the next few days.

Even if this means eating a super duper ripe banana that none of my other family members touch, I’ll eat it. Or make it into a chocolate chip banana bread. Or throw it in a smoothie.

Also, avocados seem to just instant become too ripe when you take them home from the store and when you can’t eat 5 avocados all at once, I learned a trick to wrap them with aluminum foil and it really works. Once they are ripe I put them in foil and stick them in the fridge, they will still be perfectly green on the inside after one week.

Make Your Own

Thank goodness for food blogs and the Internet. it would be much more difficult to make your own foods without recipes you can access easily.

Making your own:

  • Coffee (haha I had to throw that one in there- but I don’t count Starbucks coffee outings in my grocery budget do you?)
  • Chicken stock frozen pucks (Costco chicken bones in the instant pot for 2 hours with water and some green onions)
  • Artisan crusty bread (No knead bread overnight in a dutch oven)
  • Bread (I recently got a Pullman loaf pan and tried making my own Japanese milk bread, I feel that once you can make a loaf of bread on your own you are instantly transported to an elite club of self sufficiency)
  • Granola (granola is ridiculously expensive in stores but actually very easy to make on your own)
  • Pizza dough (I like using this recipe, sometimes I double it and put some in the freezer)

Can save you a lot of money.

Sure it takes some time and planning and energy, but a lot of these don’t take that much “active time”.

Grow Your Own Food

Even more self sufficiency is growing your own food.

I’m not at the hard core gardener level and my thumb is not very green, but there are some fruits and vegetables that are almost fool proof, even for someone who kind of sucks at gardening like me.

  • Raspberries-They are so expensive in the stores but so easy to grow and taste so delicious from the plant. Be careful though it will take over whatever container you have them in.
  • Blackberries- This will take over the container too.
  • Kale– My kale plant is still alive from the winter after months of neglect and bitter Vancouver winter weather.
  • Swiss chard– This grows really well, is so good for you (the vibrant colours seem chock full of vitamins) and it sounds fancy to have sautéed Swiss chard with your salmon, doesn’t it.
  • Garlic– I tried planting garlic for the first time two years ago and it was fun to harvest them last year. The garlic that you grow yourself seems to last much longer than the store bought garlic.
  • Zucchini– This takes up a bit of space in your garden bed but the zucchinis just keep coming!

I didn’t have much luck with strawberries or tomatoes last year but maybe because it was a colder spring on the west coast.

USe Food Waste Apps

Probably even worse than household food waste is food waste from grocery stores or food establishment businesses.

Here are some food waste apps in Canada that will save you money.

Too Good To Go

Too Good To Go is exciting but I think the Vancouver one is catching on that there aren’t many available pick ups lately that isn’t pizza and pastries. It’s nice for the occasional treat but probably not good for your waistline to be eating fast food and bakery carbs all the time.

I still have the aforementioned non-glazed donuts from a popular donut establishment in Vancouver from a few weeks ago in the freezer. Nice to have a cheap treat once in a while, though!

Sign Up for Loyalty Points Programs

When the cashier asks you if you “want to join so-and-so program, it’s free” live it up a little and say yes!

The PC Optimum Points is a great loyalty points program. I shop at Shoppers Drug Mart on the 20 times the points days (it seems like this occurs at least every week) and check my PC Optimum app for offers.

The Scene+ Rewards program is also another great program (think stores like Safeway, Sobey’s, Freshco) especially since you can redeem your points for travel. Spend money on groceries and get rewarded with travel, I like that!

I use the Stocard app to keep the loyalty points programs card numbers accessible so that my wallet will be able to close without having to stuff them with loyalty cards.

Also, this isn’t a loyalty points program, but don’t forget to sign up for Caddle and submit your grocery receipt for another $0.10, haha. That will buy you nothing anymore (can you even get a sour key candy for $0.10 anymore?) but it all adds up right?

Hope these tips help you reduce the pain on your grocery budget. Some of them are easier to implement than the others.

In 2022 we spent about the same as 2021, under $700 a month on groceries for a family of four (a 3 and 5 year old with not that much food intake compared to teenagers, mind you) but my husband eats dinners pretty much, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This amount includes lumping toothpaste, toilet paper, body wash, or whatever it usually bought at Costco and doesn’t include take out or meals out which brought it to $900 a month.

I’m still in the contemplation stage for getting some backyard chickens. When I get more time, I say. Anyone have any back yard chickens? Is it a lot of work?

Do you have any tips on fighting food inflation in Canada?

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