Ashleay: Welcome to iA Financial Group's “In Your Interest!” podcast, where we aim to share with you the essentials of economic news and its impact on your finances. My name is Ashleay, and this week we're talking about food inflation with Sébastien Mc Mahon, our Chief Strategist and Senior Economist. Hi, Sébastien.
Sébastien: Hello, Ashleay. So, this week we thought we would switch roles. It's been a while, I wanted to be the interviewer and ask you some questions, young lady. We have a new common friend: Isabelle Morin, a nutritionist. And, of course, I know your husband, who's a cook. So, you must know a thing or two about food and nutrition. I thought maybe I'd ask you a few questions, and we can reference Isabel too, because I know that she's very influential. So maybe a first question for you: We talked about food inflation, about the geopolitical reasons behind it, we talked about all of these things, but how can we save more at the grocery store? What makes a big difference in our pockets while ensuring that our kids are well-fed and allowing us to have fun eating?
Ashleay: Yes, absolutely. To give credit where credit is due, I think we should also mention that Isabelle Morin is a sport nutritionist, but she also worked on the Healthy iA meals (because we have a healthy option at our cafeteria). So that's pretty impressive. She was telling us about the new food guide that came out in 2019—which replaced the one from 2007, so we were really due for a new food guide—and how it focuses more on portions rather than really calculating everything that goes into your plate.
Sébastien: So it’s not about the quantity of vegetables, it's the proportion of vegetables?
Ashleay: Exactly. Just aim for half of your plate and you'll be good. So, it's not math, it's, you know, eating properly. In terms of saving a bit more, some of her suggestions were as simple as following the sales. Some people were also asking, “well do we need to forgo meat entirely?” We do not. We can also choose a plant-based protein, instead of an animal protein. There are a lot of options there. And she was explaining that if you exchange only three of your weekly meals of animal protein for something that's plant based, you can save almost $600 a year. So that's very interesting.
Sébastien: So that's $10 to $15 a week out of a basket that's on average $200. So, you know, that’s not insignificant.
Ashleay: Yeah, exactly. It's very interesting.
Sébastien: And one question that we've discussed with her in the past was: Can you eat too much soya?
Ashleay: Yeah, that was exactly one of my questions because, you know, okay, yes, we want to go for vegetable proteins, but then we think of tofu, which is soy based. She explained that, no, you cannot. Well, I mean, I suppose you could if you were really motivated! But no, in theory you can't. The thing that worries some people is the amounts of estrogen. But the estrogen found in tofu is a specific kind: it's not the hormone; it's the estrogen that's found in the plant, which is also not absorbed in the same way. So male, female, child, you know, whatever: there is no problem at all in eating more veggies and anything that is a vegetable protein. The only difference, though, is that sometimes people want to remove the meat protein, but fail to properly replace it. That's where people have to be careful. A distribution of food and variation is really necessary. Another thing that she suggested for saving money was to go local, buy the necessary, look for things that are on sale at the grocery store. And when she mentioned that last point, we looked into a few tips and tricks. One option was finding discounts on platforms like Too Good to Go, Flashfood and Reebee. These are interesting tools. For example, you can—I don't know if everyone listening has a Maxi around their place, but they offer a price check: so if, for example, on Reebee you see a specific item that's priced for less, you can show it to them and they'll match that discount. So that's very interesting. Another option that I personally find really fun is things like Food Hero and Too Good to Go, which are sites that will offer things that are just about to go past their best before date. Now that being said, it sounds doesn't sound appetizing, does it?
Sébastien: Yeah, but, you know, it can be if cooked right.
Ashleay: Exactly, there you go. And, you know, sometimes it's frozen items or things like that. But you can end up really saving big, items can even be up to 50% off. So, it's really interesting and it's very simple to use. Another thing is to make proper choices. For example, junk food sounds and tastes great, but there might be a better option because of the cost and obviously the physical cost on your body.
Sébastien: Ya, and for a typical family when you go the junk food route, I mean, it's because you want to do something that's quick. And, you know, in the end, there are other options: if you're creative enough, you can do something very quick at home, too. But the idea is to cook as much as possible at home, to eat whole foods and as little processed food as possible. And you save by putting some time into it and cooking can be a fun activity with the kids and the family.
Ashleay: Yeah, no, it sounds terrifying to me, but that's why I married a cook.
Sébastien: You just need to—there is a hurdle to get through when starting out. I went through it during the pandemic, and now I like to cook. But before, cooking for me was a big waste of time.
Ashleay: Oh, see, it’s not a waste, it's just scary, it’s just scary! But no, I get it.
Sébastien: And I was always worried that I would ruin the whole thing. But now you realize that, you know, I like to barbecue, which is which is interesting, too. But, again, lots of meat there. So maybe I should be thinking about, you know, vegetable proteins on the barbecue. That could be fun.
Ashleay: There's a lot of nice options. I must say that I have eaten, not cooked, but I have eaten them!
Sébastien: Yeah. And when you said Reebee, how do you spell Reebee?
Ashleay: Yes. So Reebee is R-E-E-B-E-E, so it's really Reebee.
Sébastien: Okay. Okay.
Ashleay: But you should be able to find it online. It should be pretty simple. And, you know, you mentioned cooking. It’s so important. Like, for example, sometimes it’s easier to just grab that precooked barbecue chicken at the entrance of the grocery store, but if you can manage to—like some people are working from home right now, maybe you want to start up your chicken in the afternoon or on your lunch break and then you’ll have a nice fresh chicken that you will have cooked yourself and you’ll have saved a good amount on. So, another option is maybe to start your garden. You see, that’s where you get me: I'm liking the garden. I think I'm getting older. But yeah, gardening can be fun and then you can go ahead and use items that are more in season. For example, we're coming up to your favorite: strawberry season.
Sébastien: Yeah, love that.
Ashleay: And you can freeze them! That's what's fantastic: you can have them all year round. So, we like that. Another thing I would note—and you would probably be the best person to tell me if I’m dreaming here—is that restaurants are getting a lot more expensive. Is it just me?
Sébastien: Yeah, the plates are getting smaller, the prices are going up and the options are becoming more and more limited.
Sébastien: Because labour shortages and all of this. Let's just say that a lot is put on the back of labour shortage, honestly—this is the consumer talking and not the economist here. But yes, sometimes if, you know, you want to explore and eat new things, it could be better to try it at home rather than going to the restaurant because the menu is getting so limited, it seems.
Ashleay: Absolutely. Absolutely. And yes, the prices are going up. I'm also assuming that, you know, salaries are going up, too. For example, if you want to go work in a restaurant now—you know, if I think of my husband when he first started, I mean, salaries in kitchens weren't that great, but now they're making, you know, pretty good money. They're still not driving around in Rolls-Royces, but, you know, there’s progress. I think there's also weather problems, right? We can't make everything organically because of climate change.
Ashleay: And there is also a big stigma around food that Isabelle Morin was mentioning: Eating less. This is not necessarily good, right? Because some people are like, “oh, I'll just eat less and it'll be better for my body.” But that's not always true. So, if we want to either gain muscle mass or, you know, take care of ourselves and eat properly, she was mentioning that it's very important to do something that you'll be able to sustain long-term, right? So, if you're doing something and you're thinking, “I'm going to get my beach body in and then bop, stop that in the fall,” that's not good. We want—
Sébastien: And if you're interested in health in general and you go on social media—I'll look at, you know, training plans or whatever—very quickly you get ads for new diets, new fads, saying, “you’ll lose weight and build muscle by eating this, that and the other thing.” But of all these options, usually keeping it simple, eating the right things at the right time in the right quantities is what gives you results in the end. I mean, if you do something extreme and give up after three months because it's nonsense, well, you're not going to be making lots of progress there.
Ashleay: No, exactly. And I think what the new food guide is trying to help us learn and help us see is that—as you were mentioning—cooking all together as a family can be fun, learning new techniques or whatnot can be fun. So, it’s just as important to enjoy making the food as it is to enjoy what's in your plate and eating properly.
Sébastien: So, Ashleay, what are three tips that we could give our listeners to help them save money according to Isabelle, our nutritionist friend.
Ashleay: Absolutely. First of all, we should prioritize vegetables. Also, time is money, so make food at home and prepare meals in advance. Meal prep is actually a big trend right now, so it's very easy and very fun to look into. This also helps you not waste any food: you don't go out and buy something for just one recipe, you can kind of plan it in advance. And finally, use platforms for online discounts. For example, as we were mentioning, Too Good to Go, Flashfood, Food Hero, Reebee: It's important to use these resources that are sometimes not very well known.
Sébastien: All right. I think these are very good closing words. So, I guess I'll perform my new role right up to the end. So, thank you very much, Ashleay.
Ashleay: My pleasure.
Sébastien: And to all our listeners, thanks for being here. If you like this episode, we invite you to share it with your friends or give us your opinion on the listening platforms Apple, Spotify or Google Podcasts. So, as you would say, Ashleay: Thanks everyone, and we'll see you again next week.
Ashleay: Love this podcast? Want to know more about economic news? Follow our “In Your Interest!” podcast available on all platforms. Visit the Economic News page on ia.ca or follow us on social media.