You’ve probably noticed a significant increase in the price of groceries during your weekly run.
With food prices soaring, you might be wondering; what is the average cost of food for one person in Canada?
According to the 2023 edition of Canada’s Food Price Report, the forecasted food expenditure of the average man between 31 and 50 is predicted to be $347 per month. Women of the same age are forecasted to spend $311 per month.
The answer and the outlook for the future might surprise you. While groceries have increased, there are still ways you can save on your supermarket trips.
Average Cost of Food Per Family in Canada 2023
The annual food price forecast considered family diversity and included tables showing average annual expenditures.
For example, a family of four, including two parents, a teenage son, and a younger daughter, spends around $16,288.41 on food per year, or $1,357.36 per month. Other family situations are detailed, including older couples and single parents.
These numbers only account for families cooking at home. They also don’t consider the need for specialized diets or food delivery services. Consequently, it isn’t necessarily indicative of how most Canadians eat but offers insight into how much typical families pay for groceries each year.
An Increase in Food Prices for 2023
In 2022, the data in Canada’s Food Price report shows that men aged 31 to 50 spent $324.66 per month in food expenditures. For women of the same age, they spent $291.25 per month on average in 2022. This is an increase of a staggering 10.3% over 2021.
The news doesn’t get any better, unfortunately – In 2023, food prices are expected to increase between 5% – 7% in Canada above 2022.
The increase in monthly food expenditures is on par with rises in other facets of Canadian life, namely fuel and energy costs, as well as a staggeringly high inflation rate.
These price increases started with the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has disrupted global markets and economies while significantly impacting the food supply chain.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there were border and facility closings, layoffs and limited workforces. Combine this with changes made to enhance safety procedures and time spent sanitizing, and you can see how problematic it was getting food from farmers to consumers.
Monthly food prices increased for families and individuals as their needs did. The pandemic saw many restaurants closing for safety and people working from home. This meant a rise in home-cooked meals and a need for food retail instead of food service.
The report found that overall food prices increased by 3% – 5% during that time period. Meat products, bakery items, and vegetables saw the biggest surges.
Will the Increases End Soon?
Rising food costs are causing grief for many Canadian families. With a rise in countless consumer items and many Canadians struggling financially, is there an end in sight?
Sylvain Charlebois, author and Dalhousie University professor isn’t so sure. He told Global News, “We don’t expect a break at the grocery store any time soon. This is the highest increase that we’ve ever expected. If farmers are asked to spend more on equipment and COVID-19 cleaning protocols, consumers will eventually have to pay more.”
One of the main drivers of rising food prices is inflation. Inflation occurs when the prices of goods and services increase over time, leading to a decrease in the purchasing power of money.
In Canada, the inflation rate reached a 30-year high in January 2022, with food prices predicted to soar even higher. As a result, Canadians are finding it increasingly difficult to afford healthy food, with the cost of feeding a family of four in Ottawa rising by over 20% during the pandemic.
Most of Canada’s produce comes from California, a state ravaged by wildfires. With significant damage to many of those crops, expect continuing price increases.
Climate change is another factor affecting prices. The historic wildfires weren’t the only significant event causing food chain issues. Droughts throughout the prairies hurt grain crops. Many harvests were smaller than usual, and the shorter supplies affected both humans and the animals who relied on it for their feed.
With extreme weather patterns becoming the norm – expect no relief from soaring prices. Grains, fruits, and vegetables will remain high for the foreseeable future.
Cost of Meals
Let’s break down the average cost of breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you have a better idea of what to expect.
A typical breakfast in Canada can include eggs, toast, bacon, or sausage, and coffee or tea. If you’re making breakfast at home, you can expect to spend around $1.50 to $2.50 per meal.
This cost can vary depending on the type of food you purchase and where you live in Canada. For example, if you live in a rural area, you may find that the cost of food is slightly cheaper than in a large city.
If you opt to eat breakfast at a restaurant, you can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $20 per meal.
Lunch is typically a lighter meal than breakfast or dinner. A typical lunch in Canada can include a sandwich, soup, salad, or leftovers from the previous night’s dinner. If you’re making lunch at home, you can expect to spend around $2 to $5 per meal.
If you choose to eat lunch at a restaurant, you can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $25 per meal.
Dinner is typically the most substantial meal of the day in Canada and can include meat, vegetables, potatoes, or rice. If you’re making dinner at home, you can expect to spend around $5 to $10 per meal.
If you choose to eat dinner at a restaurant, you can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $50 per meal, depending on the restaurant’s location and the type of food you order.
Overall, by preparing meals at home, you can save a significant amount of money compared to eating out at a restaurant.
Food Insecurity in Canada
Food insecurity is a significant problem in Canada, affecting millions of individuals and households. According to a study by the University of Toronto, nearly 6 million people in Canada experienced food insecurity in 2021, which equates to 15.9% of households across all 10 provinces.
This issue has become more prevalent in recent years, with the inclusion of food insecurity as an indicator for Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2018.
Food insecurity is defined as the inadequate or insecure access to food due to financial constraints. It can manifest in various ways, including reduced food intake, disrupted eating patterns, and reduced food quality and variety.
Food insecurity can have severe consequences for physical and mental health, including chronic diseases, malnutrition, and mental health issues.
Food insecurity rates vary across Canada, with higher rates seen in certain regions and populations. In 2022, the percentage of individuals living in food-insecure households was highest in the Atlantic provinces, with 23.6% in P.E.I., 22.7% in New Brunswick, 22.5% in Newfoundland and Labrador, and 22.0% in Nova Scotia.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing food insecurity, there are resources available to help. Food banks, meal programs, and community organizations can provide immediate assistance, while government programs such as Employment Insurance and the Canada Child Benefit can provide financial support.
Food Waste and Its Impact
According to a report by the UN Environment Programme, the average Canadian wastes 79 kilograms of food per year at home, which is more than the average American and similar to the amount wasted by the average European.
This waste amounts to almost 2.3 million tonnes of edible food wasted each year in Canada, costing Canadians in excess of $20 billion.
Food waste not only has a significant economic impact but also an environmental one. Canada’s yearly food waste is equivalent to 9.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. Fruits and vegetables account for 45% of food waste, while dairy and eggs account for 15%. By wasting food, you are also wasting the resources used to produce it, such as water, energy, and land.
So, what can you do to reduce food waste? Here are some tips:
- Plan your meals and only buy what you need.
- Store food properly to make it last longer.
- Use leftovers to make new meals or freeze them for later.
- Donate excess food to a food bank or community organization.
- Compost food scraps to reduce waste and create nutrient-rich soil.
By taking small steps to reduce food waste, you can make a big impact on the environment, the economy, and food security in Canada.
It’s common knowledge to budget and never go to the grocery store hungry if you’re looking to save money. However, with significant rises in prices, many consumers need to do much more to make their money go further. Here are some tips to keep costs low while still enjoying the foods you love.
1) Buy Generic
Sometimes brand-name items taste better. For example, many people swear by certain ketchup or mayo brands. However, many pantry staples like sugar, flour, and certain canned goods aren’t much different than their brand-name counterparts. Substituting just a tiny part of your grocery list with generic items will lead to even more savings.
2) Save on Meats
Meat prices increased substantially in the past year, causing many consumers to experience sticker shock at the grocery store. While you can give up meat entirely and add more vegetables to your diet, that probably isn’t the norm for most families.
To save money on meat products, it’s best to buy larger cuts of cheaper meats. For example, instead of buying a pack of preportioned hamburgers, get ground beef in bulk and make your own patties. Often, many stores will offer a cheaper rate if you purchase in larger amounts. You could use what you need for the week and freeze the rest for another time.
3) Shop with Cash
This one might be tough if you always pay with a credit card. However, leaving your card at home could save you money. Consumers paying with cash are more likely to stick to their grocery list and not add other incidentals to their carts.
Furthermore, this type of shopping makes buyers more aware of prices and forces them to meal plans to stay successful.
4) Buy Less Prepackaged Items
You might need to spend more time chopping, but putting in more time in the kitchen could be worth the extra savings. Prepackaged items are always more expensive than their counterparts. For example, grocery stores offer chopped vegetables for sale at a huge markup. Instead of buying the already prepared diced carrots, peppers, and onions, go for the whole versions of each and do the work yourself.
Yes, it might be more time-consuming, but you’ll notice a change in your grocery budget immediately. With prices steadily climbing, that extra effort in the kitchen can save you money each week.
5) Buy Frozen
If a particular fruit or vegetable isn’t in season, the price skyrockets. While fresh strawberries are delicious in the summer (and affordable), winter berries lack flavour and cost twice as much. The solution for your craving is to buy frozen.
The best part is that frozen fruits and veggies are just as nutritious as fresh ones. In addition, you won’t have any waste. You can use what you need and put the rest in the freezer.
6) Repurpose Meals
Save money on your weekly grocery list and make your ingredients go further by repurposing meats and vegetables. Roast chicken for dinner one night? Use the leftovers to make a casserole or soup. Not only will this save you money, but it’ll also cut down on your food waste.
Related Reading: How to Save Money on Groceries in Canada
Experts agree that food prices won’t be going down anytime soon, and the most recent data tends to confirm this.
With that in mind, make sure you stick to a budget so you can get the most for your money when you’re at the store. If you’re looking to get serious about budgeting, check out these best budgeting apps.