Food is not a discretionary expense – it is a fixed cost. We have to eat. Yet with so few dollars left over after taxes, rent/mortgage and utilities, it often feels like it is a discretionary cost and many families look to cut costs where they can.
Here is some good news: Canada’s updated annual food price report says while food inflation is expected to be slightly lower this year than previously estimated, shoppers can still expect big jumps in the price of meat.
The mid-year forecast update by Dalhousie University projects grocery and restaurant food prices will rise between three and four per cent. But researchers say meat prices are expected to jump seven to nine per cent by year’s end – due in part to low inventories, particularly for cattle and hogs. Lead author Sylvain Charlebois also says “grocers are boosting prices to increase profits at the meat counter after prices were a little bit depressed at the end of 2016.” The report also suggests prices for dairy, eggs, bakery goods and cereals are expected to drop between one and three per cent. They were previously expected to remain flat or rise up to two per cent.
Even with a silver lining in this update, an opportunity to save a few dollars does exist and the food budget is the single-easiest way to reduce expenses AND derive more satisfaction out of everything you eat.
Here are a few tips that could save you time and money:
- Plan your meals two weeks out.
- Check your existing food inventory levels, make a list.
- Try to limit your shopping to three times per month and don’t be lured into buying more to collect reward points.
- Designate a meal prep day and prep your veggies as soon as you get them home. They will stay fresher for longer by doing this.
- Label your food in the freezer, and once a month designate an eat-out-the-fridge day.
- Get creative. You might surprise yourself with what you can do with leftovers.
- Check out how much waste you have on a weekly basis. Any food you throw out is like throwing out money.
Changes don’t happen overnight. Try to focus on health and not dollars. Reduce the frequency of the expense instead of the dollar amount. Change your behaviour first, and incremental dollar savings will follow.