Food inflation making many rethink their Thanksgiving dinners this year | CBC News

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Many in Saskatchewan faced incremental food price increases while completing their grocery shopping this week in advance of Thanksgiving.

“By the time you’re paying, it’s $100 more than it was last year and there’s still barely anything in the cart. It’s hitting us hard,” Saskatoon resident Jason Hanley said.

“It is whether you are going to make that trip to see your relatives or have food on the table.”

Jason Hanley said he is seeing his grocery bill increase by at least $100 every month. (Travis Reddaway/ CBC)

Some shoppers CBC talked with in Saskatoon on Friday afternoon said food inflation is burning a hole in their wallets.

“Meat and fresh vegetables are the most expensive,” Whatmore Muchenje said, noting his monthly grocery bills have increased by a couple hundred dollars.

“I usually have about 10 people for Thanksgiving, but this time maybe just four very close friends.”

Whatmore Muchenje says since meat and fresh vegetables are becoming more expensive, he is cutting down on the number of guests for Thanksgiving. (Travis Reddaway/ CBC)

Jan McKechnie is celebrating Thanksgiving at her friend’s place this year. She said she has switched to carpooling to save a bit of money amidst food inflation.

“You have to cut down somewhere.”

Connie Pelk said increasing cost of living is forcing her to make changes in her household.

“I have to go through flyers, go to all the different stores and get the things that are on sale when I can get them on sale,” she said.

“Fresh produce is expensive, so frozen is good too.”

Connie Pelk says food inflation is making her switch to frozen vegetables over fresh produce. (Travis Reddaway/ CBC)

Pelk is correct in her estimate. According to Statistics Canada, frozen corn, frozen broccoli and peas, and other frozen vegetables have seen a price drop over the past year. A kilogram of pork rib cuts and beef striploin cuts also saw drops of almost nine per cent.

But many food items have seen significant increases over the past year. 

Canned soup has seen a 68 per cent increase in price, from $1.30 for 284 millilitres in August 2021 to $2.18 this year. Apple juice saw a 48 per cent increase.

Produce like onions, carrots, grapes and avocados saw an almost 30 per cent increase. 

Another resident, Wilson Askl, said imported food items are also not spared from the inflation.

“When I ask why, the shopkeepers say it’s shipping, because gas is up. Now the gas is down, the food prices are still the same and increasing,” he said.

Pritish Dash, a newcomer to Canada, said he suspected some things here would be expensive, but grocery bills were not his first guess.

“It’s really too costly right now. We are living in the age of global inflation, but then I still believe the government should take some steps to get it down.”

Pritish Dash says while food inflation is everywhere, Canada should take some steps to curb it down. (Travis Reddaway/ CBC)

Researchers at the Dalhousie University Agri-Food Analytics Lab surveyed Canadians to better understand the impacts of food inflation and found some are changing their menus this holiday season to adapt. The survey was done in partnership with Angus Reid. A total of 1,244 Canadians participated, leading to a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

“Food inflation is really hurting a lot of people. We found out was that 22 per cent of Canadians are planning to make menu adjustments for thanksgiving,” Sylvain Charlebois, a professor and director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, told the Morning Edition.

“In Saskatchewan, the percentage is about the national average.”

Thanksgiving without a turkey

Charlebois said that with turkey prices being more expensive from last year, many might consider replacing the turkey with a smaller bird like chicken, or get their protein from ham.

He said other Thanksgiving-related food items like potatoes and cranberries have also seen increases in price, prompting a push toward homemade meals.

“We found 82 per cent of Canadians actually want homemade food. About half of people in Saskatchewan want local for Thanksgiving, but they are just happy to actually have food I guess on their plates,” Charlebois said.

“My advice would be to cook everything at home.”

Sylvain Charlebois is the Director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax. (Submitted by Sylvain Charlebois)

Charlesbois said that with Thanksgiving coming a couple of months before the end-of-year holiday season, it is an important marker to assess how people are coping with food inflation.

“We are expecting a calmer 2023, but food inflation might continue to be a big deal in the coming months.”

Saskatoon Morning12:08Final harvests of the season spark meal ideas from chef and kindness from local food bank

As food prices rise, we look at cozy fall food on a budget and what the local food bank does to provide fresh food for people who are struggling financially. Host Leisha Grebinski speaks with chef Renee Kohlman and Graham Goff.

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