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Posthaste: Rising food costs forcing some Canadians to overhaul Thanksgiving menus

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Good morning!

Don’t be surprised if your Thanksgiving dinner is missing a turkey this year. Nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of Canadians are planning on changing their menus this weekend due to the rising cost of food, according to a new report.

The Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, in partnership with Angus Reid, found that higher food prices are making a big impact on dinner tables this year, especially in lower-income households. Those who earn less than $50,000 a year make up 30 per cent of those changing their menus.

“Higher food prices are clearly changing plans for many people this year,” Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, said in the report. “This is our first time measuring intent of Canadians for Thanksgiving, but you can sense that food inflation is putting some pressure on dinner tables these days.”

The report estimated that the per-kilogram price of turkey has increased by an average of more than 15 per cent since last year. Turkey is a Thanksgiving staple, with 62 per cent of Canadians ranking it as the most important food for the holiday, and 77 per cent ranking it among the top three.

“Turkey clearly remains the food of choice in Canada, but a more fragmented, diverse food market is making things more interesting,” Janet Music, research associate at the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, said in the report. “Even though turkey is popular, we were expecting higher numbers.”

Stuffing and potatoes, respectively, came in as the second- and third-most important dishes, both of which have also skyrocketed in price. The cost of potatoes has increased by 22 per cent from a year ago, while the price of bread to make that stuffing is up 13 per cent.

The report said that people living in British Columbia (29 per cent) and Alberta (25 per cent) are the most likely to change their menus this year, while 70 per cent of those in Saskatchewan and Manitoba said they will be eating the same foods they normally do.

The survey interviewed 1,244 Canadians on Sept. 30.

Another recent survey also indicated Canadians are having trouble with the rising cost of living. Roughly half (52 per cent) of those surveyed for insolvency firm MNP Ltd.’s quarterly Consumer Debt Index said they are finding it less affordable to feed themselves and their families.

“Canadians are putting more of their paycheques towards paying for basic necessities as the cost of living rises, which in turn is leaving less of a financial buffer to manage the impacts of current and potential future interest rate hikes,” Grant Bazian, president of MNP, said in a press release.

The index found that the average Canadian has less money left to spend at the end of the month — down $37 from the previous quarter to $654 — because they are paying much more for necessities.

“With less overall room in their budgets, any future increases to interest rates or the prices of everyday items could push individuals closer to insolvency,” Bazian said.

The index interviewed 2,000 Canadian adults in September.

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Today’s Posthaste was written by Noella Ovid, with additional reporting from The Canadian Press, Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg.

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