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Helpful budgeting tips as food prices rise

Holding a piggybank, saving money

News that food prices are expected to continue rising next year has been hitting the headlines recently.  According to the University of Guelph’s Food Institute Food Price Report 2015 released earlier this month, overall food prices are expected to increase again in 2015, by approximately 0.3% to 2.4%.  Last year, Canadians paid for an increased 2.8% in overall food prices.  The increases were mainly driven by higher costs of meat and fish, and similar trends are expected to continue.

Food price forecast for 2015 - infographic

Prepared by The Food Institute at the University of Guelph 12/02/2014

Meat, fish/seafood, and vegetables will be the main contributors to the price hikes at the supermarkets.  While meat prices are not expected to increase as much as last year, the trend towards flexitarian diets and responsible proteins will likely continue.  Flexitarians are those who follow a mostly meat-free diet, similar to vegetarians, but less rigid.  Flexitarians replace most of their meats with vegetarian alternatives, such as legumes, soy, nuts and seeds, eggs, and dairy.  Reducing meat intake would not only help to lower food costs, but it also supports animal welfare, and environmental sustainability.  Another movement that is expected to continue is the trend towards “responsible protein.”  This is leading consumers toward supporting programs that promote healthy and humane treatment of livestock, and sustainable fishing practices.

Eating less meat may actually help stabilize costs of vegetables in the future.  The report pointed to climate change as the main cause for increasing vegetables prices.  The meat industry contributes an incredible amount of greenhouse gases to our atmosphere, even more than the emissions from our total transportation system.  Since one of the greatest contributors to climate change is the meat industry, eating less meat can actually help our crop production, and the environment.

As the rise in food prices will surpass that of inflation in 2015, Canadians may have to pay more attention to their food budgeting.  On average, less than 10% of the Canadian household budget is dedicated to food costs.  Food, especially healthy food, is often a discretionary item that gets compromised to pay other essential bills, such as rent.

So, in preparation for the new year, consider these tips to help with food budgeting.

  • Check the flyers. Fruits and vegetables that are on sale usually mean they are also in season. For example, look for peaches in the summer, apples in the fall, and squash in the winter.
  • Consider frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen produce are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, and they are quick to prepare.
  • Choose local food when possible. Choosing local foods often means spending less on costs of transportation and packaging. Not only will this reduce your ecological footprint, it will support the Canadian economy.
  • Reduce your meat intake. Choosing smaller portions of meats, or vegetarian proteins is not only a healthy choice for most Canadians, but it will also help save some money and fight climate change all at the same time.

Click here to read the full University of Guelph’s Food Institute Food Report 2015

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Annie Hoang

Annie Hoang is a Registered Dietitian with the Sunnybrook Academic Family Health Team.

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