Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Nearly one-quarter of Canadians worried about how to pay for groceries: study

Women shop at a small Indian grocery store in Little India in Toronto, in this file photo.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

A new study suggests nearly one-quarter of Canadians are worried about how to pay for groceries, with more than 50 per cent shifting their shopping habits amid fluctuating food prices.

The findings were called surprising by lead researcher Sylvain Charlebois, dean of the faculty of management at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

The analysis surveyed more than 1,000 adults in Canada online between Oct. 8 and Oct. 31 to determine if price swings prompted shoppers to rethink how they choose pantry staples.

Story continues below advertisement

Charlebois said it's significant that 24.3 per cent of the respondents were concerned about food security for their families.

Related:Indigenous people in Northern Ontario spend more than half of income on food: report

Opinion: Hold the cheering about Canada's falling food prices

Notably, lower-earning, less-educated women were likely to worry more over the past year, the survey found. Households with dependants were also more likely to feel less food secure than a year ago.

"Vulnerability will have an impact on behaviour," said Charlebois.

He said it's been a unique year for food prices, in which food inflation rates started above normal before entering into a period of deflation. In September, for example, the fresh vegetable index – a selection of produce that Statistics Canada tracks the price of monthly – was down year-over-year for the first time since January 2013.

Charlebois, who is currently working on the annual food price report in conjunction with the University of Guelph's Food Institute, said meat and produce have seen large shifts in price, while dairy has seen more fluctuation than usual as well.

Story continues below advertisement

His survey found that more than 53 per cent of respondents said they had changed the way they shopped for groceries over the past 12 months because of fluctuations in the price of food.

More than half of respondents also said they've looked for deals on groceries (59.5 per cent), stocked up on sale items (56.9 per cent) and planned their purchases before going into the store (50.9 per cent) as a result of increasing food prices. About 41 per cent said they were finding alternatives to foods they would typically buy that were suddenly too expensive.

A different survey Charlebois and other researchers conducted earlier this year found some Canadians were substituting frozen produce and juice for expensive fruit and vegetables.

The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

Report an error

The Globe invites you to share your views. Please stay on topic and be respectful to everyone. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

We’ve made some technical updates to our commenting software. If you are experiencing any issues posting comments, simply log out and log back in.

Discussion loading… ✨

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at