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Almost 20% of Canadians are Reducing or Skipping Meals Because Food is So Expensive: Survey

A woman stands with an empty shopping cart

Unless you’re lucky enough to come from a super-wealthy family, chances are that your wallet has felt the sting this year. From high housing costs to growing debt to tip-flation, the cost of living in Canada feels higher than ever — so much so, in fact, that it looks like many Canadians are slashing their food consumption in order to stay afloat. 

As Global News reports, according to a new survey by the Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research at the University of Saskatchewan, the majority of respondents are actively seeking ways to cut their grocery spending (such as using coupons or looking for sales), while nearly 20 per cent were also cutting their meal sizes or even skipping meals as a way to lower their food costs.

The Canada-wide survey of 1,001 people focused on strategies to cope with increasing food costs and was conducted from September 6 to October 17.

The results of the survey align with Statistics Canada’s latest consumer price index report. According to Stats Can, September 2022 prices for food from stores grew by 11.4 per cent, which was the fastest pace (year over year) since August 1981 (when prices grew by 11.9 per cent). In September, the Stats Can report indicated that people in Canada paid 7.6 per cent more for meat, 9.7 per cent more for dairy, 14.8 per cent more for bakery products and 11.8 per cent more for fresh veggies (on a year-over-year basis).

Related: Cooking for one? Try these delicious hacks to maximize your food budget.

So how are Canadians dealing with the rising cost of food? The Canadian Hub for Applied and Social Research survey indicated a few common strategies:

  • Couponing: Most survey respondents indicated that they’ve been cutting coupons to help them save.
  • Cutting food waste: The majority of Canadians (nearly 59 per cent) were cutting their household’s food waste (though we’d note that this is increasing challenging due to factors like shelfation).
  • Meal planning: 54 per cent of respondents made meal plans to help with food budgeting.
  • Eating less healthy food: Just over 30 per cent of those surveyed said they were eating less healthy (but cheaper) food.
  • Using community resources: About five per cent of respondents said that they’ve used a food bank or community fridge.
  • Stealing. Almost five per cent said that they’d stolen food out of necessity. 

See also: Did that price go up? 10 everyday things that will cost more in 2022.

The survey also highlighted some differences in how people from different areas and age groups are getting their food across Canada. 


Regionally, the survey suggests that people in the Prairie provinces were much more likely to turn to emergency measures for food. 

“Alberta and Saskatchewan have some of the highest food bank usage rates across Canada,” Jessica McCutcheon, associate director of the research hub, said.

Conversely, people in Quebec tended to be in the best place when it comes to food. In Quebec, 95 per cent of survey respondents said that they could afford to eat a balanced diet.

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“It could be because Quebec just has a more robust social security net with their policies,” McCutcheon said.

When it comes to age groups, the survey found that Millennial and Gen Z Canadians (specifically, young people aged 18 to 34), were more likely to have used a food bank or community fridge and less likely to feel that they could afford a balanced diet. 

The next age group, those aged 35 to 54, were more likely to have used coupons or bought items on sale, according to the survey.  

When looking at the survey, it’s important to also note that the researchers said the survey had a 3.1 per cent margin of error, plus or minus, 19 times out of 20, nationally.

You may also like: Some Millennials and Gen Zers are going into debt from dating: survey.

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