Written by Ethan Rotberg
Tuesday, December 21st, 2021
Experiencing grocery store sticker shock?
“Food prices have jumped in ways we've never seen before," says Steve Zinger, president of Blendtek Ingredients, an ingredient distribution company based in Cambridge, Ont. “Prices in most ingredient markets have gone through the roof. These cost increases are across the board, so Canadians will experience higher price tags in grocery stores."
Zinger points to skyrocketing costs of ocean freight, delays that force manufacturers to use more costly sources, weather and drought conditions and cost of labour as just some of the reasons for the drastic uptick in food prices.
“Nobody knows how much food costs will increase next year," he adds. “Because supply is everything right now, prices could continue to rise like this in 2022."
Your paycheque probably isn't soaring at the same rate as your grocery bill. So if the cost of imported food continues to swell, what about shopping closer to home?
My Locally Sourced Experiment
Why does fruit grown just minutes away typically cost more? It's because of economies of scale: production costs decrease as the size of the farm increases. But with the price of imported food climbing, I decided to take another look at local sources when in-season.
Before the winter, I ordered an organic produce box online from a local farmers' market, which offers free pickup in my neighbourhood. The box, which contained nine different types of fruits and vegetables, serves 2-3 people for a week at a cost of $30.
Next, I did some comparison shopping at my local grocery store. For the exact same items, the bill came to about $33.50.
The difference is small, but there are other benefits of shopping at farmers' markets when they're an option. Not only can I help support local businesses, but I'm getting the freshest and tastiest produce I've ever had.
Other Ways to Shop Local
Farmers' markets aren't the only way to find local discounts. Just make sure you don't spend all your time — or gas money — just for a few dollars of savings. You're probably not saving as much as you think when you factor in the cost of driving from store to store.
Buy directly from farms: Even if farms can't compete with grocery stores on the price of a single cut of beef, they offer big discounts on bulk orders. One farm near me sells a quarter or half cow for about $5.95/lb, which can be split between friends and family and stored in a freezer.
Community gardens: While I do enjoy condo living, I can forget about gardening. But even if you're like me and don't have space, you can still grow your own vegetables in a community garden. You may need to live in the area and pay an annual fee, but just imagine the money you'll save come harvest time.
Find imperfect food: According to a University of British Columbia study, consumers expect misshapen fruits and vegetables to be less tasty and even less nutritious. Not even close! One Ontario-based company, which sources rejected produce from local farmers, advertises prices up to 30 per cent lower than grocery stores — so find out if any companies sell “ugly" local food where you live.
Check out what's available in your part of the country. Every area is different and the costs may fluctuate, but maybe you'll find something that fits your budget and taste buds.