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Canadians spending more on food, data shows

Canadians spending more on food, data shows

The typical Canadian family is spending more currency, including polymer notes, to keep their pantries packed and their refrigerators replete, and grocer and restaurateurs' cash counters may just end up feeling the volume effects of rising food prices.

In January, food prices in Canada increased 2.3 per cent from the same period in 2017, according to the most recent Consumer Price Index analysis conducted by Statistics Canada. That's the largest year-over-year uptick in the cost of food in nine months and follows a December when prices rose 2 per cent. December tends to be a month in which consumer spending as a rule increases. Retailers during the month experienced nearly $50 billion in sales, based on separate government data. That was down slightly from November but up compared to a year earlier.

Family of four spends $220 on food each week

The typical four-person family in Canada devotes a rather substantial chunk of their weekly income to keeping food on the table. As reported by Global News, a week's worth of food costs households around $220, using the Government of Canada's Nutritious Food Basket to crunch the data. Teenage boys account for the largest portion of the average family's weekly food bill (33 per cent), even more than the typical father at 28 per cent. A combined 40 per cent of what a family spends on food in a given week is for the mother and daughter.

Exactly what share of an average family's weekly income is going toward food varies, depending on how much they're earning, parents' work situations, where they live and how many children are at home. Ideally, about 15 per cent of a household's annual net income should go toward the cost of food, according to Alberta Health Services.

Restaurant menu prices climbing

While families in Canada may be spending a bit more on food in recent months due in part to rising costs, price increases haven't been altogether significant over the last several years, according to Global News. However, restaurants are charging more, up nearly 3 per cent in 2017 from 2016. That's two times more than asking prices among retailers, according to Sylvain Charlebois, dean of faculty management at Dalhousie University. Restaurant food sales surged nearly 3 per cent in 2016, but were largely unchanged at retailers over the same 12-month period.

Economists attribute price increases at restaurants to rising demand, as time-starved families opt for takeout for convenience. Restaurateurs' money counters may continue to experience the windfall as Canadians' food budgets expand.

February 27, 2018