As 2023 starts off, things don’t look much better. Groceries are forecast to increase another 5 % to 7 % in the first six months of this year on top of the 10.3 % they increased last year. Plus the Bank of Canada has increased the overnight rate by another 0.25 % placing home ownership even further out of many people’s reach.
By the number of groups advertising help and/or advice, mental health is still a major concern for a large part of the population. Unfortunately those causing much of it, especially on Canadian farms, are doing absolutely nothing to help reduce it, such as cutting paperwork, record keeping and reducing new regulations. How much better to attack the cause instead of trying to patch people up afterwards.
With so many requesting mental assistance, the waiting list is many months long, if not a year or more, so the usual plan is to offer help by way of a pill. Many self-medicate and turn to pot shops. A friend’s daughter manages one and says she can tell when the government cheques (mother’s allowance, family allowance, etc.) arrive by the huge increase in business — $2,000 to $3,000 an hour! No money problems for a day or two!
My concern is the ever increasing grocery costs. No wonder so many are turning to food banks to make ends meet.
We are three adults here and have noticed the steady increase in food prices over almost three years despite being fairly self sufficient.
We supply our own milk, make our own butter, jams, jellies, pickles, relishes and baked beans. We operate three 14-cubic-foot freezers, one full of home-raised and butchered beef and turkey, one containing frozen fruits and vegetables, mostly from our own garden and the third contains frozen sliced bread, ice cream, cheeses, pie crusts (I can not make edible crusts for love nor money) and home baking. I make our own dinner bread, cakes, cookies, puddings, etc. In a normal year (not last year) we have enough potatoes, onions, beets and carrots until late March and into April. This year we are just about out of them.
Our daughter includes our paper and cleaning goods in her Costco order to keep prices down and just about everything else we buy when it is on sale and stock up.
We don’t smoke or drink, although we do have a stocked liquor cabinet and beer and wine in the cold room. Our only extravagances are a 5 kg box of prime bacon every four months and soft drinks and chips on Friday and Saturday evenings.
So, why are we still spending just over $200 every 10 days or so plus $80 to $100 at Costco and $60 monthly on Amazon? That is about $750 per month for three adults to eat! It doesn’t make sense.
Too many are eking through each month, waiting for food prices to drop. A lot of the hike is due to transportation dollars. Everything has to be shipped from the farm to the processor then to a warehouse and on to the stores. When diesel and gasoline prices drop there should be a substantial grocery bill decrease…. but will it?
Higher wages to help people face higher rents, mortgages, electricity, home heating and food are another cause of higher prices.
And, of course, our lousy exchange rate. When probably 80 % of what we buy is not produced in Canada but in foreign countries, including the US, it quickly gnaws at our pocket book.
Will food and fuel ever drop to what it was? I doubt it, without a pile of people, including all farmers, taking a big pay cut. No one is prepared for that.
So it looks as if the status quo is the new normal. Time to get used to it, re-budget and figure out how to make it work. After years of hard work, everyone is back to square one.
Angela Dorie is an agricultural writer and a Jersey farmer near Cornwall.