If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to budget better and save money, the rising cost of food will make it a tough one to keep.
After increasing an average of three per cent in 2015, food prices are expected to continue to rise in 2016. The Food Institute of the University of Guelph forecasts that food inflation rates will push up your food bill by as much as four per cent when buying meat, fruits, vegetables and nuts.
The main driver of the increase is the value of the loonie. Over 80 per cent of produce and nuts are imported from outside of the country. We are also heavily reliant on the processing of food happening outside of Canada.
Climate change is also expected to have an impact by affected food crops.
While the forecast doesn’t look particularly appetizing, there are ways that you can keep your food bill down.
1. Go to the root
Root vegetables, like carrots, beets, parsnips, and potatoes are a great staple for the kitchen. They are hearty, store well, nutritionally dense, and, because they are often grown in Canada, inexpensive.
Enjoy them in different ways to add variety to your meals. Sweet potatoes are great as a base to burgers or as a healthy oven-baked answer to fry and chip cravings. Carrots and beets are wonderful cooked or raw when added to salads. Remember to eat carrot and beet greens as well – they are highly nutritious and can help your food dollars go further.
2. Eat at home
Regularly eating out is a great way to quickly blow through your food budget. With menu prices expected to rise by up to 3.5 per cent in 2016, we can expect restaurants to take an even larger share of our wallet. Prepare meals at home and keep ingredients ready to go in your fridge for easily assembled dishes.
3. Keep your finger on the pulse
2016 is the International Year of Pulses making lentils, chickpeas and beans a choice alternative to expensive meat protein. Not only will you save on food costs, but pulses are also nutritional powerhouses packed with fibre, protein, B vitamins, and low-glycemic complex carbohydrates. There is a seemingly endless variety of pulses so experiment with different recipes. To really reap in the rewards of the low sticker price, buy pulses dry and in bulk instead of canned.
4. Grow your own
Sprouting and growing microgreens in your home is an easy way to get inexpensive greens year-round. Set up jars designated for sprouting and grow microgreens throughout your home for a decorative statement that’s as delightful as it is delicious. There is no end to sprouting options from lentils to alfalfa to sunflower to peas. Get a variety started and in no time you will be enjoying these nutritional and inexpensive shoots and sprouts in salads, sandwiches, and sprinkled on other dishes.
5. Don’t be fooled by a pretty package
Packaged and processed foods are high-cost, often unhealthy alternatives for what we can easily make at home. Since Canada tends to outsource food processing, inexpensive grains processed into cereals or pasta raises the the price. While you may not want to become a ravioli expert overnight, other packaged foods – such as granola and snack bars – can be easily made in your own kitchen.
While food prices continue to outpace inflation throughout 2016, you can protect your budget and keep more money in your wallet.