When grocery bills soar, are meal kits worth it? Expert advice to cut food spending – National

Rising food prices are prompting many Canadians to take a closer look at their grocery bills, with some rethinking whether their sticker prices eating utensil worth saving time in the kitchen.

For us Shock defeat series inflationary In your household, Global News spoke to experts this week about when meal kits might be the right choice and some other ways to save on your grocery bill.

The latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) figures from Statistics Canada on Wednesday show Food inflation at its highest level in more than 40 years.

Soaring food prices – Canadians paid 9.7% more at the grocery store in April than they did last year – is considered one of the biggest drivers of inflation nationally.

According to StatCan, inflation hit items like pasta (up 19.6%) and coffee (up 13.7%), in which basic items like meat and fresh fruit increased more than 10%. .

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“Food inflation is probably the biggest issue affecting households today,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analysis Laboratory at Dalhousie University.

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Canada is not alone in the face of soaring costs of living, with peers like the US facing 8.3% inflation and the UK fixing inflation at 9% – the highest. in 40 years.

But the prices at grocery stores in Canada still surprised Jainee Gandhi and his family in Toronto.

After migrating earlier this year from Singapore, which is completely dependent on food imports for stockpiles, she told Global News she had expected Canadian food prices to be lower in comparison.

But comparing the $5 she says she can spend on a handful of avocados in Singapore with the $6 or $7 she pays for the same amount in Canada, she admits there was a bit of a shock in the doors. Grocery store in Toronto.

“Since Canada develops everything, we were quite surprised when our grocery prices were about 10% or 15% higher than in Singapore,” said Gandhi.

Jainee Ghandi with husband Vaibhav, son Aarav and daughter Chahel in Singapore (left) and Niagara Falls, Ont.


Meal set value is called question

Gandhi said she spends between $400 and $500 per week to feed her family of four, including 12- and seven-year-olds. She said her household eats home-cooked meals every weekday for lunch and dinner, occasionally dining out at restaurants on weekends.

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Included in their weekly food budget are the occasional meal kit, which arrives at their doorstep with two to three recipes and pre-digested ingredients every few weeks.

Gandhi estimates each recipe from a meal kit costs a total of $50 to feed her family of four, without the leftovers to last.

How much you pay for a meal kit depends on the service you subscribe to and how much you order in a given week.

In general, buying for a larger household – or buying multiple meals at once for a smaller family – is more economical when it comes to meal kits.

Compare the cost per serving of meal kits broken down by the number of servings per recipe (four or two). Based on orders of four formulations per box, through prices publicly listed on each supplier’s website.

Even when buying for a family of four, Gandhi says she’s under no illusions that she’s saving any money by choosing meal kits, which tend to be more expensive per meal than just look to buy the same ingredients from the store.

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“They don’t come into the picture from the point of view of saving money. They definitely come from a time-saving point of view,” she said, adding that replacing each meal with a recipe from a kit would break her budget in the long run.

Instead, she uses the meal kit option sparingly.

“If I know that my next two weeks are going to be tough and I won’t have time to cut vegetables or wash vegetables, that’s when we’d prefer a meal kit.”

Research from the Agri-Food Analytical Laboratory shows that the popularity of meal kits exploded during the pandemic as Canadians looked for new options for cooking at home as restaurants closed.

But with inflation dragging grocery budgets thinner than ever, Charlebois believes we’re at a “crossroads” when it comes to meal kit adoption in Canada.

“People want to save as much money as possible instead of paying premiums for… pre-cut meals,” he said.

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Estimates from the Agri-Food Analytical Laboratory suggest that the meal kits market in Canada could peak in 2020 with 12.8% of households signing up for the service, down today to around 8 .4%.

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As the economy reopens, people are returning to restaurants and out of their kitchens, Charlebois said, and leaving behind their meal kit subscriptions. While many were supported through discounts and coupon codes in the early days, not everyone who tested the service paid the full price.

Of the more than one in five Canadians who have tried a meal kit and then canceled, 78.1% overwhelmingly cite the high cost as the reason they abandoned the service, according to the lab.

“People are starting to normalize their lives. And meal kits are becoming less and less appealing,” says Charlebois.

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Advantages of the meal set approach

Experts say there could be a number of reasons for a household to stick with a meal kit or delve into today’s market.

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Charlebois says that meal kits are still the most popular with the younger generation and could be a good way to alleviate those who don’t feel comfortable cooking more in the kitchen than at home.

Certain types of households, such as single-family homes, where time is spent planning meals, can also get more value out of meal kits than others, he said. .

Personal finance expert Rubina Ahmed-Haq says the every-night tableware recipe may not be sustainable for the average family, and suggests once or twice a week as a more reasonable frequency.

However, she agrees that for those looking to balance a busy home life with healthy and productive eating, meal kits can be a smart, if expensive, choice.

She told Global News: “If you’re a really busy family and it’s about organizing healthy food on the table in an efficient way and you’re going to eat it all, it could be a great option for you. friend.

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One of the ways that meal kits can cut costs is by reducing food waste, a common cause of headaches for families’ grocery bills.

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The The National Zero Waste Council said in February that 63% of the food Canadians throw away could have been eaten, costing the average household more than $1,300 per year.

“Basically, if you eat as much of what you buy as possible, you save money. And that’s what meal kits do. They have the ability to really measure portions very well,” says Charlebois.

The trade-off when it comes to meal kits is that even though much of the food has already been used up, the packaging needed to get the recipe to your front door adds to the meal’s carbon footprint. yours.

Ahmed-Haq notes: “If that’s your agenda, where you want to put less waste back into the landfill, you’re probably not getting there by buying a meal kit.

Tips to cut down on food waste

There are a few evergreen tips to reduce food waste without the need to pack or pack plastic packaging.

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Ahmed-Haq says a little forethought can go a long way.

She encourages families to prepare a list before heading to the grocery store, which helps you avoid hasty purchases.

Consulting with a salesperson can also allow you to plan that week’s sales.

A quick inventory of your fridge and pantry before you leave the house can ensure you’re not double-purchasing a particular item you already have, increasing the chance that one of those purchases will go to waste.

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“If you don’t make a list, you’re going to fail,” says Ahmed-Haq.

“Even if you’re going on a quick trip, just take two minutes to do a lap around your kitchen to make sure you’re not buying things you don’t need and that you’re actually buying something that will. serve you and your family when it comes to your meal plan. “

Ahmed-Haq admits that popular advice from financial experts might be to plan just one trip to the grocery store a week, but she denies that when it comes to reducing waste.

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Going to the market every two to three days may not be feasible for every household based on situations like cars and gas prices, she notes.

But when it comes to perishables, she says reducing the time between visits will help ensure that you don’t push certain foods into the back of the fridge only to find mold growing. develop on them a week later.

“We forgot about those zucchini and three weeks later we found them and they were soggy in a bag. And you think, ‘Wow, I just wasted three or four dollars right there because I had to throw them away. “

– with files from Global News’ Anne Gaviola

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