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What's NEXT for groceries (it's not great!)
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What's NEXT for groceries (it's not great!)

Last week, an Ontario Reddit user posted a photo of their latest grocery shop and captioned it “This was $95.”  

The post was ostensibly to illustrate how expensive food is now, but it went a bit viral for a different reason (and eventually ended up in the Toronto Star). The Reddit user, you see, dared to spend some of that $95 on a few name-brand treats, such as fancy Lindt chocolate bars (for the human) and Temptations (for the cat), among other things. The haul definitely looked small, and definitely not like $95 worth of food.

Fellow commenters, predictably, went from zero to "How dare they!?" in record time; apparently the fact that this person bought name-brand products was an affront. Another Redditor posted a $34.86 grocery haul — “a juxtaposition to the ridiculous $95 post” — that appears to be ingredients for one crockpot recipe, but I digress.

An Ontario Reddit user’s photo of their latest grocery shop.

There are two things happening here that I’d like to address. First, there’s a distinct “people on a budget don’t deserve nice chocolate” vibe to many of these comments, which I take umbrage with. Food shaming is pervasive on social media, whether it’s people yucking other people’s yums on a recipe post, commenting on what or how much they are eating, or acting like spending money on a pre-chopped salad kit is tantamount to burning down an orphanage.

And while I agree learning to cook is an important life skill and the best form of self-care you can engage in, there are lots of reasons people lean on convenience food — chief among them being convenience, which is right there in the name. Time is our most valuable finite resource, especially in a world that demands a lot of it.

Second: both the $95 and the $35 hauls look too expensive to me, quite frankly. 

To fixate on exactly which items the original poster bought is to miss the point. The point is that people’s groceries have been climbing steadily amid the pandemic and, per Canada’s Food Price Report — an annual report published by Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph — a typical family could be paying $996 more a year for groceries in 2022. 

Of course, a pandemic isn’t the only thing that affects food production. Climate change does, too. Envisioning our “next normal” necessarily includes thinking about food security.

For the privileged among us, higher food prices may result in sticker shock at the grocery store and little else; people who have the means to continue to pay for their groceries — whatever they cost now — likely will continue to do so, albeit with some grumbling.

For people who are navigating the grind — and full-time job — that is living in poverty, contending with higher food prices is an added layer of extreme stress. (It’s worth noting here, too, that the number of Manitobans using food banks is on the rise, too.)

Meaghan Erbus, Harvest’s senior manager of community food network and advocacy, said over 80,000 people are accessing the food bank’s services every month. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

With rising food prices, there will no doubt be a desire — or need — to radically change how we shop, cook and eat. Maybe that looks like downloading an app and scouting out deals. Maybe it looks like learning to cook, or planning and executing a grocery list that mitigates food waste. Maybe it looks like growing a vegetable garden. Maybe it looks like putting your freezer to work. 

But it’s also important to acknowledge that all of these things require some combination of space, time and skill.

All this to say: no one should be shamed for trying to figure out how to feed themselves in a more expensive world, nor should they feel bad about splurging on some mid-fancy chocolate. And perhaps having more friction in one’s grocery-shopping experience will serve as a reminder that, for far too many of people, there’s always been stress in the aisles.

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti, Columnist

Jen Zoratti

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

A few issues ago, I wrote about watching all the Bob’s Burgers Halloween episodes in the lead-up to Oct. 31. Well, at the behest of exactly two of you, I put together a handy-dandy guide to some of my favourite sitcom holiday episodes.

As I wrote in the piece, the holidays are loaded with comedic potential — but they’re also a chance for a sitcom to show its heart. The list is alphabetical, but I actually recommend watching them in this order.

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