Family life

Prepare to pay $420 more on groceries in 2017

Gird your grocery list: Vegetables, fruit and meat prices will jump significantly in the new year.

Mom holding baby at grocery store

Photo: iStockphoto

Remember the great cauliflower crisis of 2016? A small head fetched as much as $10 and people freaked out, while this unassuming vegetable became a harbinger of rising food prices. Well, get ready for more sticker shock.

Canada’s annual Food Price Report, published this year by Dalhousie University, estimates we’ll be paying three to five percent more on food in 2017—which, for the average family, works out to about $420 more. It’s a bigger jump than the typical one- to two-percent rate of inflation, and also higher than the sizeable 2.6 percent increase we saw last year.

Here’s how the forecast breaks down: families in Ontario and Quebec will feel the hike hardest, the cost of fruit and nuts will jump by three to five percent and veggies and meat (pork and chicken are set to rise, beef will stay put) by as much as four to six percent. Dairy and eggs and bakery and cereal will stay stable with the rate of inflation.

So why is everything from apples to zucchinis more expensive? Blame our unstable loonie. “The biggest factor will be the falling Canadian dollar,” explains study author Sylvain Charlebois. “Given how many food products we import from abroad, our food economy is vulnerable to currency fluctuations.” The report also considered the impact La Nina’s weather patterns and Trump’s presidency will have on the state of agriculture and the cost of food.

Some good news for local food lovers and growers: While you pay a premium at farmers’ markets, those food prices don’t see the inflation that grocery stores do. But what else can you do, besides planting potatoes in your front garden?

  • Know that we have underpaid for food for years—we’re used to getting things cheaply. Increases, while inevitable, still hurt.
  • Spend more time on menu planning and making grocery lists—it will keep you on track and save you from impulse purchases.
  • Pay more attention to your food waste. (According to Second Harvest, Canadians waste $31 billion of food every year—that’s about $861 per person!—with  47 percent wasted in the home.) Cook big batch recipes that allow you to tweak one meal several ways and freeze leftovers and make soup stock or a big omelet with the wilted vegetables at the back of your fridge.
  • Track what you spend and look for spots you can trim (shaving $20 off your weekly grocery bill adds up to $1,000 in savings for the year).
  • Try out a couponing app or a loyalty program that throws the points you earn right back at your grocery bill.
  • Stock budget-friendly staples like dry beans, which are an excellent, lean, meat-free source of protein, and frozen veggies, which are processed at their peak and way cheaper than a lot of the “fresh,” imported vegetables in stores throughout the winter.

Read more:
8 best deals at Costco for families
15 ways to save money on just about everything
5 easy budget-friendly meals