How to face the increasingly increasing bill at the grocery store

I never thought that choosing what to eat was such a privilege.

Grocery bills are becoming overwhelming high. Photo by Ivan de Jacquelin

The last few weeks, even months, have been stressful for most Quebecers facing the price increase in their grocery basket caused by inflation and food shortages.

However, some families are more impacted than others, and the solutions offered by the government lack consideration for their situations.

If for some people the food budget was already small before the approximate ten per cent increase in prices, now it is even smaller. For them, this situation seems unfair since they must adapt their eating habits to lower-priced items to be able to afford to pay the bill. For example, I cannot stop thinking about the bill parents with children or teenagers at home must face every week. 

Although the government has given $500 to almost the entire population to cover inflation, it is certainly not enough to cover the differences in prices. For my partner and I, this amount does not cover more than a couple of months considering that the inflation is so high and affects a lot of sectors such as gas, grocery, etc. For instance, our grocery bill was about $120 weekly before the inflation, but now it is higher than $150 even if we choose less quality produces, including less red meat or more vegetarian options, compared to two years ago.

Although my heart almost stops every time I arrive at the checkout seeing the bill getting bigger week after week, I count myself lucky. I never imagined that choosing fresh vegetables over canned ones would be a privilege because I never had to be careful with what I put in my basket. However, the current increase in prices gives me a better understanding of the economy and how it affects different people and communities. While I am lucky to still be able to eat what I want, in the last few weeks I have kept an eye out for specials to avoid bursting my grocery budget. Every time I walk out of the grocery store, I feel guilty about what I’ve bought, and wonder how I could’ve been more careful to lower the total of my bill. 

I am outraged by the current situation and the government's lack of compassion for families who need financial support. Eating is not supposed to be a privilege, it is the most fundamental need. Everyone should have the right to eat and consume healthy and fresh produce. Fruits and vegetables are often more expensive than pre-prepared or canned meals, which can become an alternative that consumers can take because of cheaper prices, although potentially affecting their health.

I am not convinced that the government’s actions are enough. One in five Canadians went hungry at least once because of their financial situation between March 2020 and 2022. Moreover, food banks are struggling more than before and this summer is expected to be the toughest in many years. 

People, and families especially, deserve the right to eat the food they need instead of the food the economy forces them to. For me, it is a right that everyone should have access to. So what are some actions that the government can take to help those who are more disadvantaged? Or how can we ensure stability in our budget to continue to save or do activities without having to spend all our money on food and gas?

Every household probably has its ways to save on groceries. For me, one solution has been to cook at home the most that I can, as prepared meals are often more expensive. Second, I cook more vegetarian meals as meat has become really hard to find at a reasonable price. Third, I try to go to Costco at least every three weeks and freeze some products (e.g.: bread, chicken, fish, etc.) to enjoy the price of buying in bulk. I truly hope that we can find ways to continue to enjoy eating even with the current situation, as sharing a meal for me is the biggest pleasure of my day!