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‘Shelflation’ Caused Canadians to Waste Over $500 Million Worth of Food: Study

hand holding a bag of produce

With food prices surging and grocery bills expected to balloon by about $1,000 this year for the average Canadian family, finding ways to make the most of our food budget is top of mind for many of us — yet, paradoxically, it appears that we’re also throwing away more food than usual. 

A study of 1,500 Canadians conducted by Dalhousie University found that people are trashing more food than normal due to food quality and shelf-life issues. This food waste, combined with rising grocery costs, spurred the coining of an apt term by Dalhousie University: “shelflation.” And, as Sylvain Charlebois, Dalhousie University’s Agri-food Analytics Lab director, told Global News, that shelflation may have led Canadians to waste an estimated $500 million in food in the past six months.

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

What is ‘shelflation’?

As the word implies, the term shelflation refers to what happens when there’s a shorter shelf life and/or change in quality of food items, which leads to people throwing away a greater quantity of food than normal — which leads to an inflation of (already expensive) grocery bills.

“‘Shelflation’ is when the shelf life of food products is compromised due to supply chain problems essentially,” said Charlebois.

When food items are delayed in reaching store shelves more often, they have a shorter shelf life once purchased. So, when people bring food, such as produce home, they notice it going bad more quickly, and end up throwing away more than they normally would. 

Specifically, the Dalhousie study found that 63 per cent of Canadians surveyed (overall nationally) said they were noticing these issues in the quality and freshness of the groceries they’d been purchasing.

See also: This grocery app helps save the planet while saving you money.


Young woman holding basket with groceries

How can Canadians combat food waste and ‘shelflation’?

If you’ve been noticing a shelflation situation in your household, you may want to consider some steps you can take to counter it — saving food and money. Here are a few ideas:

  • Look for recipes that make use of frequently tossed-out items. If you have food that’s still good, look for recipes that make use of those items and enjoy them before it’s too late. Here are a few recipe ideas to consider.
  • Consider food storage. Different types of food need to be stored in different ways to maximize and prolong their freshness. For example, instead of storing cheese in plastic bags, you can wrap it in a layer of wax paper covered by a layer of tinfoil to help preserve proper moisture levels.
  • Shop frozen. Buying certain produce items (think: berries) frozen instead of fresh can give you much more time to enjoy them without going to waste.

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