Grow Your 2024 Grocery Budget

In light of Canada’s Food Report 2023, which forecasts a concerning increase in food prices for 2024, now is the time to find ways to soften these ongoing budget – and health – pressures. 

The report predicts a 6%-8% rise in vegetable prices and a 3%-5% increase in fruit prices, with an overall food price hike of 5-7% in 2024. This surge is attributed to several factors, including labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, and climate change-induced challenges that burn or freeze out crops, or massive floods that damage transport lines.

Here are nine strategies to cushion yourself against these rising costs:

  1. Embrace Seasonal Eating. Opt for seasonal produce to avoid the premium prices of out-of-season imports. Alberta Farmers Markets provides a handy list of what’s fresh and when.
  2. Local Sourcing. Learn about what is grown locally and buy local products, instead of depending on foods that are shipped in.
  3. Accept Imperfect Produce. Understand that misshapen fruits and vegetables are often just as nutritious and tasty as perfectly proportioned or shaped ones. Imperfect shapes have more to do with the temperatures when the plant was growing and nothing to do with flavour or nutrition.
  4. Support Scientific Research. Advocate for public investments in scientific research that will help us be more resilient to a changing climate. There are amazing research programs in western Canada that are aimed at stabilizing our food supply into the future, for example, breeding for heat tolerance in cattle, engineering for controlled environment agriculture (CEA) including greenhouses, selecting for crops that are disease and drought tolerant, new methods to handle and preserve food to reduce the rate of decay and prevent sickness, training future dietitians food preparation skills so they can be better patient educators)
  5. Master Food Preservation. Learn various preservation techniques such as dehydration, freezing, pickling, fermenting, and canning. (I freeze everything!)
  6. Visit U-Pick Farms. Harvest your produce directly from local farms. The Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association offers a helpful tool to find a farm near you.
  7. Grow Your Garden. Even in small spaces, gardens can be highly productive. Use raised beds to make the most of small space, add ease and organization.
  8. Invest in a Greenhouse. A hobby greenhouse can extend your growing season by 40-70 days, allowing for a variety of plants to be grown for about 10 months of the year in the prairies. Ours will cost you about $0.80/day to own.
  9. Creative Cooking. Use cookbooks like the award-winning Prairie to transform garden goodies and local foods into gastronomic delights, maximizing what you have at hand.

Try adopting a couple of strategies so you can not only navigate the impending price increases but also contribute to a more sustainable and resilient food system. Remember, every small step counts in adapting to these changes and supporting a healthier environment. And add wealth to your life through the activity of gardening.