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Making sure barbecue season doesn’t break the bank

A sense that one’s grocery bill is going up might be confirmed by the latest Consumer Price Index report from Statistics Canada, which shows a 17-per-cent increase in the cost of vegetables and 3-per-cent increase in the cost of meat from this time in 2018.

Food cost are up making it harder for Canadians to manage their grocery budget. Stay on track with these five strategies.

The latest data on food prices amidst COVID-19 revealed that the cost of veggies, meats and more are on the rise, and most Canadians haven’t seen any kind of increase in their paycheques (many have experienced the opposite, in fact).

Due to global demand pressures, there are few signs that food prices will start declining; which means barbecue season is about to squeeze your wallet in a major way. Not surprisingly, when food prices rise as sharply as they have this year, the hardest hit groups are those with fixed or low incomes, such as seniors and single-income households.

Here are five strategies to combat the grocery pinch.

Buy just enough of what’s in season: When various foods are in season, it means there is greater supply available, thus prices are more competitive. Whereas, if you try buying cherries in the off-season, not only do they taste bad, but they can be triple the price because supply is limited. Stick to the bins (physical and digital) at the front of the store or market (or on the home screen), which is where the in-season inventory is typically displayed. And don’t overbuy, as this creates food and financial waste. Proactive meal planning can help.

Stock up on freezables and non-perishables when they’re on sale: Flash frozen meats and veggies can be just as healthy as buying raw and fresh, and they still taste great on the barbecue. I recommend checking the per unit price (this is the tiny label on the price tag that says $xx/unit). I now know what’s a good per unit price for salmon, pork, chicken, frozen Brussels sprouts and the like, which means I know when I’m getting a great deal, or if it’s just mediocre. On-sale items can be found in paper flyers (don’t be afraid to clip coupons) or you can use a flyer app. We will see more sales promotions as the economy reopens.

Cash in your points: Last year The Star featured a piece on loyalty point hoarding. A recent national survey conducted on loyalty program satisfaction by PC Financial Mastercard showed that on average, people are holding onto $832 worth of loyalty points. Hoarding points is a bad financial practice because they become less powerful over time! Cash these in over the course of the summer toward groceries to offset rising prices.

Keep your barbecue budget in check using a secured credit card: It used to be that secured credit cards were solely used for repairing one’s credit, or simply establishing credit as a newcomer to Canada. More and more, I’m seeing our clients, some who are on very tight budgets, use these styles of credit cards from companies such as People’s TrustCapital One and Home Trust, to contain their grocery spending, avoid going overboard and build up better credit. These cards require a security deposit (which is most likely the credit limit to start) and users make payments against the card balance. Reporting is made back to credit bureaus on payments allowing people to build or rebuild credit. Secured cards can be compared on Ratehub.ca.

Reallocate the savings on other budget categories: Not every food category has risen in price this year. Though it probably doesn’t feel like it, fuel prices have actually come down, saving the average family at least $10 per month relative to a year ago, and internet costs are also down. As you realize savings in certain areas, you can reallocate these dollars to building up a rainy-day fund or simply to offset your increased grocery costs.

Have a financial question or topic suggestion for our eNewsletter? Our team would love to hear from you! Submit your financial questions today by emailing us info@mevest.ca