Food Prices and the Family Budget

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A Royal Bank study released recently draws attention to the cost of food. It’s hurting a lot of people. The Royal bank study suggests that the price of food went up 1.4% 3.8 % and 2.4% over the last three years. Eggs went up 20 -30% coffee a whopping 40%.

Their study reports a significant impact between these rising food prices and the family budget. This is definitely something I can vouch for. A while ago I complained about the price of chicken – a complaint that I continue to embrace.

There are many dimensions to the food forum. What kind of food you buy and where you buy it are two major elements. Processed foods are always more expensive than the real thing – and generally less nutritious and contain unhealthy levels of salt or sugar.

In many respects the family food budget reflects lifestyle. Busy families do not have the time to cook or carefully prepare lunches and supper. This just might be the hidden kernel of truth beneath the surface of the amount we spend on food. People can’t afford the time to save money on high quality home-cooked meals. They become dependent, unfortunately, on other very expensive fast food substitutes as they buzz through convenience outlets at warp speed.

It would be very helpful in understanding the real price of food for today’s families how much of the family income is spent on fast foods, restaurants, and then how much of this is put on the credit card. This is a pivotal piece of the economic puzzle. Credit takes the sting out of price. If we only had cash in our wallets, then the temptation to hold our noses and pay exorbitant prices without question for our essential food costs would be much less. We wouldn’t be so quick to rush over to the fast food line-ups either. We would count our pennies first before making the purchase (even though pennies are extinct.)

Another casualty to the rapid velocity of the modern day world is the time to comparison shop – to get the best value for your dollar. Many people only shop at one store. However, even the more thrifty grocery stores or warehouses are not particularly cheap. They do have certain items that are better priced than other places, but certainly not all of the items. They entice shoppers with their targeted specials but recoup from other not so cheap merchandise.

We should know we’re in trouble when the banks draw attention to the price of food. Experts throughout North America acknowledge that more and more people are living from pay cheque to pay cheque. The Canadian government has declared household debt levels to be troublesome. So, a good starting point is the family budget.

Statistics Canada has just released its annual publication on average expenditures for Canadians. I’ll leave these for your eyes to feast on. More on these expenses later.

Average household expenditures, by household type
(All households)
 

2010

2011

$

Total expenditures

71,282

73,457

Total current consumption

53,724

55,151

Food expenditures

7,823

7,795

Shelter

14,997

15,198

Principal accommodation

13,598

13,991

Other accommodation

1,399

1,208

Household operation

3,846

4,135

Household furnishings and equipment

1,957

2,027

Clothing and accessories

3,455

3,360

Transportation

11,059

11,229

Health care

2,214

2,211

Personal care

936

1,082

Recreation

3,576

3,711

Education

1,152

1,216

Reading materials and other printed matter

198

221

Tobacco products and alcoholic beverages

1,198

1,199

Games of chance

147

166

Miscellaneous expenditures

1,167

1,602

Income taxes

11,936

12,442

Personal insurance payments and pension contributions

4,013

4,191

Gifts of money, alimony and contributions to charity

1,609

1,673

Source: Statistics Canada, CANSIM, table 203-0023 and
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