“Have you ever seen the price of canned beans go up 10 per cent?”: How inflation is changing the way these Torontonians shop for groceries

“Have you ever seen the price of canned beans go up 10 per cent?”: How inflation is changing the way these Torontonians shop for groceries

Food prices are absolutely bonkers right now. In fact, they’re a full 10 per cent higher than they were this time last year. As if that weren’t bad enough, they’re set to rise another five to seven per cent in 2023. Inflation is shaping the way we shop—what we buy more of, what we cut back on—and how we eat. For instance, beans are an affordable substitute for beef, but even the price of legumes has spiked. We paid a visit to Fiesta Farms to ask Torontonians how inflation is affecting them.

Masayuki Tamaru, restaurant owner

“I usually shop five times a week for my restaurant, Maison T. We opened during the pandemic, and we needed business, so we kept the prices as low as possible. But I can’t afford to do that anymore. The cost of everything at the grocery store is going up. Romaine lettuce, strawberries. Cooking oil went fucking crazy. Earlier this year, a 16-litre bottle was $24. Now I’m seeing the same bottle for $48. And, when stuff like that happens, we have to raise prices at the restaurant too. It impacts everything. I might consider shopping at other stores, like Costco, if things are cheaper. We cut down on romaine recently because of the price increase. I’ll recycle the cooking oil. It all makes me very sad. What can I do? I deal with it, being polite on the surface, but I cry on the inside.”

Jayne Dunsmore, private chef

“I shop for groceries daily. I work with mostly high-end clients, so I go to stores all across the city, trying to pick really high-quality food. Prices are ridiculous right now. For a typical shop, I’m probably paying 25 per cent more than I would have three months ago. Everything has gone up—beef, in particular, is crazy. I don’t really have to change my spending habits, though, I just charge more to my clients. They understand. I have a price, I give it to my clients, they accept it. But I don’t know how some people survive, I honestly don’t. Not everybody is wealthy, right?”

Lorne Mitchell, retired retailer

“The prices are nuts. I usually come here twice a week. Every time I do, something is more expensive. Meat is higher, dairy is higher, fruit is higher. Vegetables too. Today, I paid $125. It would have been closer to $100 about six months ago. I’ve changed my buying habits a little bit. I don’t buy such expensive meat anymore. I buy more chicken, less beef. When food prices go up, it puts a strain on a lot of people. My wife and I are retired, and we lived on a fixed income. So we’ll have to make things stretch a little further. We won’t travel as much, drive as much. But you need to eat. And I don’t want to give up what I like to eat.”

Max Christie, clarinetist with the National Ballet Orchestra

“I come to Fiesta Farms once or twice a week, shopping for my family of three. My son actually works here as a cashier. A lot of the items—packaged goods and stuff—they seem to be way more expensive. Even canned beans—something you might buy to keep costs down—are more expensive. It’s $5 for a bag of corn chips. The cost of vegetables? Holy crap! Broccoli and lettuce seem to have doubled in price. I buy raspberries and blackberries because they’re still affordable. I don’t usually keep track of my total bill, though. I’m extremely fortunate, but even I’m starting to feel pinched, for a variety of reasons, including the increase in mortgage rates. Nobody really expected that. It might be quelling the rise in house costs, but it puts a strain on homeowners. There’s a little less slack for us. And I think shipping costs have gone crazy because of fuel prices. As for more increases in 2023, my reaction is resignation. What can we do?”

Kyrell Grant, sales manager at a publishing company

“This is my go-to grocery store. I probably come here two or three times a week. Just now, I was going to buy a pack of bacon, which usually costs $10. It was $23. That feels a bit crazy. I bought a bottle of olive oil that would usually be $6—it was $10. I’m definitely spending a lot more than I was, say, six months ago. For the most part, I still buy the things I want. I’m just going to suck it up. If it continues to get worse, I’ll have to change what I buy. But, for now, it is what is.”

Mick Horner, retired TDSB schoolteacher, and Marly Kadak, former real estate agent

Mick: “We shop here once a week, and we can barely afford it now. We’re both in our 80s, on pensions. A year ago, it was $200 to buy food for the week. Today, our bill was $270. I think that Loblaws and Metro—all of the big supermarkets—are taking advantage of the situation. They used to charge $0.99 for a can of beans. Now it’s $1.09. Pensions only go up two or three per cent. Have you ever known a can of beans to go up 10 per cent? There’s no need for it. Is Loblaws paying Heinz 10 per cent more for beans? I’m upset that the government is not taking action to keep food prices down. I think they should monitor prices, and if anything is going up more than two or three per cent, the company should have to justify it.”

Haley McMillan, nurse

“I shop for groceries about four times a week. I just bought some fresh produce and some fish for me and my boyfriend, and it was $50. I’ve had to change my spending habits. I try to shop only for what I need in order to reduce food waste. I noticed that, if I’m buying something to make a recipe and then I don’t end up using half of it, it just goes in the garbage. It’s a waste. I feel better about spending the extra money if I know I’m using everything that I buy. I really like to cook. But I feel like I’ll have to start making different decisions when I shop if prices keep going up. Instead of making a nice meal, I might have to do a big pasta, which can stretch over a couple of days.”