By Chris Day

Banks and bankers seem to think Canadians have it pretty good right now.

At the end of last year, there were all kinds of media reports – all citing Canada’s big banks – that Canadian households had bulging savings accounts thanks to generous COVID supports.

But, just as bankers see inflation as an economic concept not a pocketbook issue, such media coverage only fuels a myth that we’re all getting richer. That we’re all getting fatter because of government handouts.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Right now, inflation is at its highest rate in a generation.

Prices for shelter are higher than ever.

And gas and grocery bills are higher than they’ve been in recent memory.

All of this is happening as hundreds of thousands of families across Canada have seen loved ones get their hours cut or be laid-off.

It’s happening as people are losing their businesses or struggling to stay open.

Not many people would say they’re doing better than they ever have.

For them and others, there has been no windfall.

For most Canadian families, money’s just as tight as it’s ever been.

And far too many people are having trouble keeping pace with rising prices.

Working moms and dads, seniors on fixed incomes, people just starting out in their careers – they’re poorer than they were before the pandemic. And we will likely be dealing with the effects of that long after it’s over.

Food Banks Canada’s most recent figures show that more than 1.3 million people per month are visiting a food bank to feed their families. That’s up 20 per cent from 2019.

(Sadly, there is still a stigma to that. Even though people need to do what they can to feed their families.)

Thankfully, there are a whole series of things we can do to keep our food bills down. Some of them involve acting more like millennials.

What do we mean by that?

  1. Ditch the notion of brand loyalty. Ketchup is ketchup. If one price is cheaper, go for it.
  2. Go where the deals are. Be prepared to choose a different grocery store than the one you may go to out of habit. Use points/rewards cards from all stores so you can save more everywhere.
  3. Use coupons printed or on line, more money in your pocket is the goal here.
  4. Wherever you shop, look up and look down. Food companies pay for their items to be at eye level on store shelves. And those products are typically more expensive as a result. Ramen noodles, peanut butter, cans of soup – cheaper options typically exist.
  5. Shop Canadian. Fresh, local food will likely last longer because it didn’t spend days or weeks on trucks or trains to get to you.
  6. Make a list. It helps to prevent unnecessary and impulse purchases.
  7. Make your trip to the grocery store as short as possible. It means less time for in-store marketing to influence you.
  8. Use grocery apps on your phone – for coupons, for your list, for price comparisons.

So, how are your household finances doing?

If you’re not living the rosy savings story that bankers are, what is the impact of the pandemic and price increases on your bottom line?

If you’re feeling the pinch or worse, there is at least some good news: you’re not helpless. There are buying options you can control, and there is help if you need it.

Do you have any food saving tips to share? We’d love to hear from you!