Canada’s Food Price Report 2021 with Tips for Eating Well

Canada’s Food Price Report 2021 is out. The report, compiled by four Canadian Universities, predicts food prices in 2021 to rise by about 5% across the board. Considering the pandemic, current economic and political turbulence, environmental crisis like the wildfires in California and general eating trends – are you surprised?
chart of rising food prices
I’m surprised by the prediction that restaurant food prices will go up by “only” 3-5%. Given the tough times they’ve had in 2020, increased minimum wage and the fact that their food costs are going up as well, I would expect their increase to be higher. But hey, I’m no researcher and maybe restaurants will continue to operate on tight margins just to survive. Ugh, I feel for them.
But more than anything, I feel for people who are already struggling to put good food on the table. With vegetable prices expected to continue to increase, getting half your plate is going to become even more challenging for many Canadians.

More TidBits from Canada’s Food Price Report 2021

Here are some more interesting tidbits from this report and past reports. Also check out Stats Canada for Canadian Food Expenditures in the past.
  • Food inflation has outpaced general inflation in Canada for the last 20 years.
  • The amount of our income spent on food has gone from below 10% to close to 20%. This is particularly hard hitting for low income families.
  • The average household grocery bill has increased by 170% over the last 20 years.
  • As for veggies – root crops like potatoes, carrots and beets will stay stable, it’s perishable produce like tomatoes, greens and cucumbers that will cost more. Expect cauliflower, cabbage and asparagus prices to increase too.

And here are some interesting stats re food, the pandemic and how Canadians are responding.

  • Before the pandemic, the ratio of food spent on retail food (groceries) to food service (restaurants) was 62%/38%.
  • At the first lockdown in May 2020 that ratio was 91%/9%.
  • It then settled to about 74%/26% in early December 2020.
  • Consumers have become more interested and aware of local food with 4 out of 5 Canadians willing to pay extra for locally grown produce.
  • 60% reported making more meals from scratch.
  • 1 in 5 Canadians started a home garden.
  • 53% Canadians are concerned about food supply.
  • Canadians cooked and gardened more this year than since the 1970’s.

It seems we are more aware and strategic about our food choices than ever. A recent survey by Dalhouhie University and Angus Reid on Canadians’ plans for food in 2021 reports we’re looking at food differently. When asked about food plans for 2021 participants said 30% plan to start a garden, 46% plan to eat more fruits and veggies, 40% are committed to reducing food waste, 38% plan to cook more often and 18% plan to donate more to food banks (up from 8% in 2020).

How to Eat Well With Rising Food Prices

Canada’s Food Price Report 2021 lays out what we can expect. Now it’s up to us to figure out how to continue to eat well, despite predictions for rising food prices. In addition to smart shopping strategies like taking advantage of sales, coupons and discount grocery stores, here are a few tips to keep you eating healthy despite rising food prices. Some of these I shared with listeners of Hal Anderson on 680CJOB.

1. Make a Meal Plan and Grocery List

Sadly, we often over buy and inadvertently waste food. In fact, the average Canadian household tosses about $1,500 worth of food every year (University of Guelph Food Waste Research Project). Making a meal plan and grocery list can help.

Here’s a handy dandy Weekly Meal Planner and Grocery List that can help you plan your weekly grocery needs.

2. Use a Combination of Fresh, Frozen and Canned Fruits and Vegetables

Don’t let higher fruit and vegetable prices prevent you from filling Half Your Plate with nutritious produce. To help with the pocket book, shop for frozen and canned fruits and veggies as well as fresh produce. The nutritional content of frozen or canned fruits and vegetables is pretty much equal to and sometimes even better than fresh produce that’s been sitting too long in coolers, transport trucks and warehouses.

3. Eat Seasonally

You’ll get much more value for your dollar when you buy what’s in season. Check out these charts of when local fruits and veggies are in season. Use frozen or canned alternatives when you can’t find fresh.

fall winter produce

4. Eat Your Leftovers

Don’t toss ’em! Make leftovers part of your routine. Add them to your weekly meal plan so you have a plan for what to do with them.

5. Choose Beans, Lentils and other Pulses More Often

They’re nutritious, delicious, affordable and local. Replace some of your meats with these protein alternatives.

Did you know we grow some of the world’s best pulses (dry peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc.) right here on the Canadian prairies. Supporting our local agriculture helps our local economy and helps stabilize prices in the long run.  The Manitoba Pulse and Soybean Producers agrees, saying pulses are “one of the most environmentally-friendly sources of protein, contributing to sustainable food production by protecting and improving soil and water resources.”

According to the United Nations, “pulses are a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe and should be eaten as part of a healthy diet to address obesity, as well as to prevent and help manage chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary conditions and cancer; they are also an important source of plant-based protein for animals.”

It’s definitely a good time to add more pulses to our meal planning. Here’s some inspiration and advice on storing and cooking with pulses.

6. Use Your Freezer

If you can’t get to your leftovers right away or see that you have food reaching its Best Before Date – throw it in the freezer not the trash! Most prepared food freezes quite well – here’s a quick look at what freezes well and what doesn’t.

chart of what to freeze

Here’s more info on freezing leftovers.

7. Be “Best Before Date” Savvy

With rising food prices on the way, we gotta make the most of every morsel of food we buy. Do not become a sucker for Best Before dates. Just because food has reached the BBD doesn’t mean you have to throw it out. Here are the most important things you need to know about Best Before Dates in Canada.

“Best Before” dates do not guarantee product safety.  They provide the manufacturer’s recommendation for the amount of time that an unopened food product under appropriate conditions will keep its freshness, taste and nutritional quality. Think about it, the minute you open your milk jug, the best before date is invalid, so why pay attention to it – use your judgement!

Best Before Date Canada

By law, “Best Before” dates and proper storage instructions must appear on pre-packaged foods that will keep fresh for 90 days or less, and are packaged at a place other than the retail store from which they are sold. Items that can be stored for 90 days or more (eg. pasta, nuts, canned goods, etc) do not actually require a Best Before date. Sometimes I wonder if manufacturers are encouraging us to toss and rebuy food by adding Best Before dates – what do you think?

Best Before does not mean Toxic After. Understand best before dates. TWEET This

8. Make More Food From Scratch At Home

According to Canada’s Food Price Report 2021, 70% of us are cooking at home more often since the Pandemic. That’s good news and a good strategy. Cooking at home from scratch is healthier and more affordable – in the long run anyway. There are so many resources available for learning how to cook and how to prepare affordable healthy meals at home. For example, subscribe here and get regular tips and recipes in your inbox!

9. Support Local Growers or Grow & Preserve Your Own Food

And finally, here’s a more long term strategy – support local growers and food producers or grow your own. I get that not everyone can grow or raise their own food, but by supporting local food producers you’re helping to address some of the bigger issues surrounding where and how our food is produced and how that impacts our local economy, climate change and overall food production practices.

For local Farmers’ Markets, farmers that sell directly from their farm and online sales, google: Direct Farms Manitoba

For U-Pick Farms, google: Prairie Fruit Growers Association

For CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery options, google: CSA

For recipes and links to local Manitoba commodity boards, google: Great Tastes of Manitoba

To learn more about initiatives to help fight food insecurity across Manitoba, google: Food Matters Manitoba

This tip isn’t going to save you money right away. It’s a long term investment in the health of you, your family, your local economy and the global environment.

garden veggies

The people that will be hardest hit by rising food prices in Canada are those living on low income where the percent of income spent on food is much higher than for those of us with average to high annual incomes. It will also be a hard hit on those living in Northern or remote communities where food prices are considerably higher than in major urban centres. Ensuring everyone has equal access to good quality food is a challenge for all of us. Food security is everyone’s business. As one participant in a recent workshop on Food Security said “No one is food secure unless their neighbours are food secure.”

Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

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