How to save at the grocery store amid rising food prices

With the inflation rate on the rise again, Marney Blunt looks at how to save at the grocery store amid rising prices.

As of March, Canada’s food inflation rate rose 8.7 per cent year over year, according to Statistics Canada.

Sylvain Charlebois, the director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, says the food inflation rate hasn’t jumped over eight per cent since 2008.

“The difference between now and a decade ago is we believe this increase is going to sustain itself. We are expecting many months of higher food inflation rates, higher food prices,” Charlebois told Global News.

“We’re not expecting prices to drop any time soon.”

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Charlebois says that’s because numerous factors are pushing food prices higher, including the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, energy costs and labour.

“There’s a huge perfect storm impacting the grocery industry right now,” he said.

Charlebois noted that meat and dairy prices appear to be the hardest hit, while produce prices are surprisingly holding relatively steady.

He says deals are few and far between right now, but he encourages people to consider sales for products closer to their best before date.

“The products that are on sale are products about to expire or products that are not as fresh as they used to (be). They are labelled ‘enjoy tonight,’ for example,” Charlebois said.

“So if you’re willing to compromise on that, I certainly encourage people to do that. You can save quite a lot — like, 30, 40, 50 per cent sometimes.”

Charlebois adds that the most efficient way of saving money starts at home with reducing food waste.

“That’s really the best way to save money,” he said.

“So whatever you buy, make sure you eat it. That’s really the key here.”

Dylan MacKay, an assistant professor in the Department of Food & Nutritional Sciences at the University of Manitoba, says swapping fresh produce for frozen produce can help save money and is still nutritious.

“There’s nothing to say they can’t be as healthy as the fresh stuff,” MacKay said. “Often those fruits and vegetables will be frozen closer to picking than when you get them fresh in the grocery store, so that can conserve a lot of the nutrients depending on how you prepare them. So you still get all the benefits of the fruits and vegetables but it’s a little easier on the wallet.”

MacKay also says switching animal-based proteins for plant-based proteins can also help.

“Beef, chicken, eggs and dairy have really been going up — almost 10 per cent or more over the last year,” he said.

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“Animal proteins are a little more expensive than the plant-based proteins. If you’re exploring those, there may be some plant-based proteins that are more affordable…. Thinking of pulses, beans, lentils.”

He also cautions consumers to read items closely.

“Some products aren’t necessarily going up on the by-item price, but you have to watch for what’s called ‘shrinkflation,’ where essentially the manufacturers are reducing the amount of the product in a serving or a container and charging the same price,” he said.

“You end up paying more for the food without even noticing it.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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