While oil prices have plunged, food prices across Canada have spiked. It’s a combination challenging for thousands of Albertans who are struggling to keep up. During our three-part Grocery Grind series, Dallas Flexhaug examines how much more we’re paying at the supermarket, and how it’s impacting both consumers and retailers.
The spike in prices at Canadian grocery stores has had an impact on many lives.
Megan Williams from the University of Calgary’s Campus Community Kitchen said she’s noticed an increase in the number of people currently using the campus food banks.
“I think that just represents the amount of people who require food just, in quantity not in the quality, which is an issue in and of itself,” Williams said.
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University of Calgary Food Studies instructor Lisa Stowe thinks consumers are more concerned than they used to be about how much money they’re spending at the grocery store.
“I think more people are paying attention because people have less money,” Stowe said. “When people have money in their pockets they’re not going to worry about the extra 25 cents per item. But when they actually are starting to count pennies, it becomes pretty obvious when food prices go up.”
Food prices in Canada have gone up 4.1 per cent in the past year, according to the Food Institute of the University of Guelph. Meanwhile, food costs in the United States have gone down slightly, making for a 4.5 per cent difference between costs in the two countries.
The price of cauliflower became a hot topic among consumers in December when it hit eye-popping highs. Although prices for the vegetable have now dropped, Sylvain Charlebois with the University of Guelph Food Institute imagines the outcry from consumers may have a long-lasting impact.
“I suspect grocers will learn from the cauliflower hysteria, and they will probably be a bit more careful before importing products that may actually be too expensive for consumers to bear,” Charlebois said.
So how do you get the best bang for your buck at the grocery store?
“Prices may actually change from one day to another, so if you do find a head of cauliflower for $8, the next day it actually go down to $4 or $5, so you need to be diligent and visiting grocery stores a little more often may actually pay off,” Charlebois said.
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