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Frugal feast: How Canadians can cut costs on holiday dinners this year

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Frugal feasting: How Canadians can cut costs of holiday dinners
WATCH: Jaw-dropping food prices? No surprise there. But recent findings from University of Dalhousie suggest Canadians may be ditching some staple holiday foods this Christmas, to cut costs. Noor Ra’fat Ibrahim reports – Nov 30, 2023

The sound of barcode readers and ruffling wallets has become anxiety-inducing in the last few years, especially around the holidays.

Rising food prices have forced many to shorten their grocery lists, and their guest lists.

But late this year, some relief came down the pipe, and into grocery aisles.

“Things are looking better for staples like flour, coffee for example, and many fruits and vegetables are cheaper than they were in September,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of Agri-food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.

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Yet, jaw-dropping price tags have re-emerged this Christmas, on staples that form a festive meal.

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According to recent data from the Agri-food Analytics Lab, the price of turkey is up 5 per cent.

Side dishes have also taken a hit — with potatoes up 6.6 per cent, and carrots up almost 13 per cent.

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The cost of putting together a Christmas meal for four to six people? Almost $105.

Several factors are to blame, says Charlebois, including adverse climate impacting crops, shrinkflation, labour disputes causing supply chain shortages, and the Avian flu pushing the cost of poultry upwards.

All this during a time when Canadians are struggling to afford housing.

“Its too difficult for a lot of people to manage that expense,” Vartikaghi told Global News Toronto on Thursday as he watched ice skaters at Nathan Phillips Square.

While Vartikaghi is not planning on cutting costs this year, other Toronto residents have had to make some difficult decisions.

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“I’m not planning to have a Christmas or any dinner, because I’m very broke,” Mwanzia told Global News.

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The international student from Kenya is spending his first Christmas in Canada alone, but hopes things will be better for him financially next year.

“We usually try to have like big meals and stuff, but I think this year we’ll probably do it a little bit smaller,” said Claudia, who is spending Christmas at her aunt’s house.

“I’ve been trying to cut down on gifts so that we can have a bigger dinner,” said Desiree.

“I might just bring rice and beans as a side this year,” she also said.

Because Christmas is the most expensive time of the year for Canadians, a personal finance expert says staying on budget requires planning.

“The number one thing I can tell anybody before they go shopping is to make a list, and do a short inventory of what you already have in your home,” said Rubina Ahmed-Haq.

Switching from red meat to poultry is a good idea, says Ahmed-Haq, or from turkey to ham, says Charlebois.

Another cost-saving method? Hosting a potluck where everyone contributes, and being mindful of not going overboard with portions.

“So really trying to avoid excess, which then of course is a huge waste of money, because you’re just throwing that food away.”

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