Skip to content

Column: What are we to find under the tree these holidays?

An opinion piece on prices of groceries ahead of holidays.

It happened so that I didn't go for groceries for about two to three weeks in November, so when I finally made my way to a store, a quick and simple shopping trip turned into a real adventure. And unfortunately, not a pleasant one.

By now, even people who don't pay much attention to how much things cost probably noticed that prices on everything have been creeping up for a while. Like dough with too much yeast in it, our bills at the grocery stores have been swelling for quite a while.

But when you take a break from regular shopping, in three weeks the changes become even more shocking. On my first shopping tour, the updated prices had me paralyzed in front of a few stands.

The first one was romaine lettuce at about $9.50 for three hearts and regular lettuce at over $5 per head. The next one was butter – close to $8.50. House chemicals for window cleaning also got me stuck for a bit. After over an hour, still shocked, I got out of the store with one bag of something that I really needed, leaving behind anything I could classify as extra or just couldn't justify buying at a new price.

A co-worker also recently shared her story about two-coloured grapes shining like diamonds at almost $10 for a small container. The price was so ridiculously off its regular range that it had her frozen in front of the stand for a while as well.

I think for me it was more of a cultural shock. When you feel that you are absolutely overpaying for something that for years was in a different range, you feel cheated. I understand that there are reasons for some of the spikes. For example, lettuce in particular spiked up due to extreme shortages caused by low crop yield and dry weather in California this year.

I read that for butter, the price issues stem from a drop in global milk production. Major producers, including the U.S., E.U., Australia and New Zealand, have been reporting a decline in output for about a year already. Yet it still seems that soon we may need to reconsider what we categorize as valuable, and instead of jewellery and gadgets, focus on getting each other fruits, vegetables and dairy. After all, it should help us stay healthy.

But jokes aside, the situation with prices, and especially the cost of groceries, is beyond concerning. In October, Canada's Competition Bureau launched a study on competition in the grocery industry, aiming to find out if the cost rises are reasonable or if it's caused by a lack of competition in the Canadian market. We'll see what comes out of it and how fast any recommendations and findings are put to work.

Supply chain issues that have been affecting all areas for close to two years now are gradually getting under control, specialists say, and the supply chain is growing more stable. Once the global system is working smoother, it is supposed to help stabilize erratic spikes in prices. However, with an ongoing and further escalating war, it's hard to predict what will happen in the long perspective.

In the meantime, the latest Canada's Food Price Report suggests that the prices are to continue to climb at least in early 2023, and an average family of four could be paying about $1,000 more when compared to the 2022 food basket. And vegetables are predicted to see the largest price increase.

So what will be the most popular gifts under Christmas trees this year?

I'd take a punt on necessities, be it groceries, household chemicals, regular-use items or just simple gift cards to grocery stores and gas stations.

A good old Caesar salad is delicious, but it may end up on the delicacy side for now. And a full tank of gas feels comforting, but it's pretty close to becoming a luxury. So, I think there is nothing wrong with making it simpler this year, especially when you know that it's needed and will help those you care about.

After all, to me, holidays are about gathering with loved ones, having a good time together and caring about each other, rather than blindly continuing with traditions that leave us exhausted and broke. So, I'd rather do something that’s probably less entertaining, but is useful and needed for those that I love. Even if it looks a bit different from how it used to be.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks