Skipping meals and cutting back: How some Canadians are dealing with high inflation

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By Tom Yun, CTVNews.ca Writer

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    Toronto, Ontario (CTV Network) — As high inflation continues to impact consumers, some Canadians have had to take serious measures to cut down on their costs, such as driving shorter distances, paying more attention to sales at the grocery store and even skipping meals.

CTVNews.ca had asked Canadians to share how the rising cost of living was affecting them and their families. The emailed responses have not all been independently verified.

Heather Harris in Sudbury, Ont., says it’s been “an absolute struggle” and she has been paying more attention to flyer deals, buying more food in bulk and cutting back on takeout. She told CTVNews.ca $85 could fill her grocery cart back in 2019. But now, that amount “barely covers some pantry staples, fruit and dairy products.”

“Activities we would traditionally do every year without question of gas or cost, we have questioned and cancelled going because it was not in the budget. It feels hopeless right now for people in my same situation. Millennials are struggling the most,” she said in an email on Wednesday.

The cost of living pressures have gotten so bad, some Canadians have even resorted to skipping meals. Amber Rose told CTVNews.ca she no longer eats breakfast and said she has also been wearing extra sweaters around the house because she can’t afford to turn up the thermostat as the weather gets colder.

“I spend the weekend batch cooking inexpensive meals to be reheated in a toaster oven or microwave to save money. I bake bread rather than buy,” she said in an email on Wednesday. “Sadly I fear this is the tip of the iceberg.”

Unfortunately, Rose isn’t alone. A recent survey from Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab found that 23.6 per cent of Canadians have had to cut back on the amount of food they were buying. Over the last year, 8.2 per cent said they’ve had to change their diet to save money on food and 7.1 per cent said they’ve skipped meals because of the cost of groceries.

The Dalhousie survey also found that nearly three quarters of consumers were changing their grocery shopping habits, such as buying from discount stores or using loyalty program points more often. These are the kinds of changes that Gerry Lobel, who lives in Tavistock, Ont., has had to make, in addition to driving less.

“Over the last couple of years I have found that No Frills has generally the best weekly offers. I also collect the PC points and charge my purchases on the PC MasterCard, earning additional PC Points,” he told CTVNews.ca in an email.

Last month, Statistics Canada announced that the annual inflation rate had slowed to 7.0 per cent in August. However, this was largely driven by the falling price of gas, and grocery prices have risen 10.8 per cent since last year — the fastest pace in over 40 years.

“We’ve been in this situation for quite a long time now. So I mean, most Canadians are now accepting their fate in terms of how much it costs to go to the grocery store these days. And so they’ve been making some adjustments for a very long time now,” Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, told CTV News on Wednesday.

“(The high food inflation rate) really has pushed people to make different choices. They’ve adopted different behaviors, they’re visiting different grocery stores, dollar stores as well,” he added.”

Food bank usage has also soared amid the pandemic as well as high inflation. Toronto resident Sue-Ellen Patcheson, who lives on disability support programs in a house with three other adults with disabilities, said she can only spend $300 per month on groceries to feed her household and is “forced to make due with whatever we can get from the food bank.”

“The expenses we have, rent, basic phones and internet, and insurance take all of our income to cover. There is nothing left to cut back,” she told CTVNews.ca in an email.

With files from CTV News’ Melissa Lopez-Martinez and CTV National News Correspondent Heather Wright

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