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Canadians cutting back on groceries due to inflation: Yahoo/Maru survey

A woman shops at a supermarket in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on Oct. 20, 2021. Canada's Consumer Price Index CPI continued rising to hit 4.4 percent on a year-over-year basis in September, the highest since February 2003, due to increased prices for transportation, shelter and food, according to Statistics Canada on Wednesday. (Photo by Liang Sen/Xinhua via Getty Images)
Canadians are changing their grocery shopping habits in the wake of rising food costs, a new Yahoo/Maru survey has found. (Photo by Liang Sen/Xinhua via Getty Images)

As inflation continues to put the squeeze on spending habits, the rising cost of food has forced a majority of Canadians to cut back to just the necessities, a new Yahoo/Maru Public Opinion poll has found.

The survey of 1,514 Canadians found that a majority (60 per cent) say the cost of groceries is rising by so much that they are having to cut back to essential goods only. Those living in Atlantic Canada are most likely to scale back grocery purchases to the necessities (71 per cent), followed by Manitoba/Saskatchewan (69 per cent), Alberta (64 per cent), Ontario (61 per cent), British Columbia (56 per cent) and Quebec (52 per cent).

That's not the only way Canadians are adapting to food inflation. The Yahoo/Maru Public Opinion survey found that over half of Canadians (52 per cent) say they are buying less food because of rising costs. Another 51 per cent say they are choosing to buy groceries at discount chains, while 56 per cent say they are cutting back on purchases of red meat because of the high price. Another 49 per cent say they search for "expiration date discounts" on meat products to save on costs.

"The findings lay bare the impact of today's high cost of living as an ever increasing number of middle-to-lower income households have to make trade-offs and concessions to accommodate their reduced buying power," Maru executive vice-president John Wright said.

"Cost increases for food producers, their transport and shipping, and supply chain blockages, are all combining to create a price pincer for the consumer."

The most recent data from Statistics Canada showed the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 5.7 per cent year-over-year in February, marking the largest gain since August 1991 and the second straight month that inflation topped 5 per cent. Food bought at stores jumped 7.4 per cent year-over-year in February, the largest annual jump since May 2009.

Canada's Food Price Report, published by Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph, predicted an overall food price increase of between 5 and 7 per cent in 2022, meaning a family of four will pay $966.08 more on groceries this year compared to 2021.

The survey found that lower-income households (making less than $50,000 a year) and middle-income households (making between $50,000 and $100,000) are the most likely to change their food shopping habits in the wake of inflation.

"Many Canadians did everything they could to survive the harshest days of the pandemic only to emerge into a new world where the choice is now between half a tank of gas to get to work in the morning or half a shopping cart to fill their family's stomachs in the evening," Wright said.

The survey of 1,514 Canadian adults was conducted on March 28 and March 29 and has an estimated margin of error of +/- 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.

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