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Food prices on the rise: seven tips to save money

Seven tips to save money amid rising food prices in Canada
Nesters grocery store at Hastings & Abbott Street, Vancouver. Photo taken with permission of staff.

The other day, I was shopping at a Nesters grocery store and noticed the following sign in the produce section:

Valued Customers:

Due to weather related events in the growing regions which we source our PRODUCE, coupled with the impact of the US Exchange we are unfortunately experiencing higher than normal costs as well as gaps in the supply chain.

We sincerely apologize for this continued inconvenience.

Your Nesters Management Team

You know that food prices really are rising when supermarkets post apologetic notes to their customers. Indeed, fresh veggies have been unusually expensive at nearly every store I’ve visited, with organic kale and lettuce at $4 per bunch, about a dollar higher than last year in my estimation. The rise in prices is a stress that all of us feel, especially in these winter months when home gardeners are taking a break.

In a turn that would be comical if it wasn’t about our daily sustenance, the price of cauliflower recently (and briefly) spiked to up to $8 per head in some Canadian cities. Now, celery is poised to become the next luxury vegetable.

According to the 2016 University of Guelph Food Price Report, in Canada, “the average household could spend up to $345 more on food in 2016.” Vegetables, fruit, nuts and meat have been especially hard hit by food price inflation.

The reasons for this have a lot to do with our low Canadian dollar relative to that of the US. “Nearly all fruit and vegetables consumed in Canada are imported,” states a recent CBC article, “making them more susceptible to the loonie's fluctuations.” Climate change and evolving consumer tastes also play significant roles. Prices in cities like Vancouver are high, but they are nothing compared with those in northern communities like Iqaluit, where a bag of grapes can cost $28.

What can we do to mitigate these costs? Here are a few ideas. While they might not provide a perfect solution, anything we can do helps.

  • Get creative about using every part of the food you buy. These waste reduction tips from the New York Times food reporters and editors are incredibly inspiring (who knew you could make chocolate mousse out of overripe avocados?).

  • Simplify your meals. Rather than using complex recipes, base your meals around basic elements of proteins, vegetables and starches. Almost any meal tastes good simply flavoured with olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar.

  • Clean your fridge out once per week and use up any ingredients that are on their way out.

  • Do an inventory of your freezer and pantry. Chances are that you have lots of perfectly good food languishing in the back (just make sure it’s not expired).

  • Eat more beans.

  • Seek out seasonal, locally-produced food. Right now, eating local isn’t just a trend, it’s a potential way to save money, since local food isn’t subject to dollar fluctuations. During these winter months, local produce can be hard to come by, but this is the perfect time of year to sign up for a CSA.

  • Get into the habit of packing your lunch for work of school.

Rebecca Cuttler is an urban gardening teacher, member of the Vancouver Food Policy Council and board member of the Environmental Youth Alliance. Join her on Roundhouse Radio 98.3 FM every Tuesday afternoon at 5:00pm for Fabulous Urban Gardens. She blogs about urban food gardening at

Join me this spring for Urban Garden Abundance, a four-part gardening class in Vancouver hosted by Hollyhock.

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