Inflation rate cooled to 6.8% in November as gas got cheaper — but food keeps getting more expensive

Canada’s inflation rate cooled to 6.8 per cent last month as prices for gasoline and furniture went down, but the cost of food and rent went up.

Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that gasoline prices across the country fell by 3.6 per cent during the month. They’re still up by 13.7 per cent compared to where they were a year ago, but that’s down from the 17.8 per cent annual increase clocked the month before.

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The price of a fill-up may be inching down from record highs, but the cost to fill up a belly continues to increase at an astonishing pace.

Grocery bills increased at an 11.4 per cent annual pace last month, up from the 11 per cent increase seen in October.

A variety of food items have seen above-average increases in the past 12 months, including:

  • Edible fats and oils, up to 26 per cent.
  • Coffee and tea, up 16.8 per cent.
  • Eggs, up 16.7 per cent.
  • Cereal products, up 15.7 per cent.
  • Bakery products, up 15.5 per cent.

Prices like that are causing many Canadians to take more and more extreme measures to put food on the table. Dianne Debarros of Sarnia, Ont., has managed to slash her grocery bill this year but she warns that her methods are not for everyone.

Dianne Debarros of Sarnia stands in front of her pantry full of grocery items she bought on sale.
Sarnia resident Dianne Debarros uses extreme measures to slash her family’s grocery bill. (Joe Da Ponte/CBC)

“It does take some time, I’m not going to lie, but it doesn’t take as much time as you would think,” she says of her system, which sees her use multiple apps to compare shop and find deals, stock up on sale items when available and maximize reward points as much as possible.

“You’ll get as much as you put into it out [but] the price of food is ridiculous and I don’t see it getting any better,” she says. “If you are just shopping your regular shopping habits, you’re going to see an increase on your bill drastically and I think Canadians have already seen that.”

Christmas dinner is often a very expensive outlay, but this year, by her calculations she’ll have spent just $26.78 out of pocket to feed the entire family. The main change was substituting chicken for turkey, but besides that she’ll have all the fixings one might expect, from cranberry sauce to potatoes, vegetables, a salad, stuffing, dessert and even a cheese board.

“In years past for Christmas dinner, a lot of the times I’ve been making two or three different kinds of dishes but this year we really decided on a menu and stuck to it,” she says. “We don’t need three different kinds of potatoes. We don’t need three different types of vegetables.”

Rent going up at fastest pace in 30 years

The cost to keep a roof over one’s head is also increasing at a rapid clip, with overall shelter costs up 7.2 per cent in the past year.

Within the shelter category, mortgage interest costs have risen by 14.5 per cent in the past year, while rent has increased by 5.9 per cent. That’s the fastest pace of increase in rents we’ve seen since the early 1990s, Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter noted.

Beyond the grocery aisle, Porter says prices for items such as furniture and vehicles are still increasing, but at a much slower pace than before, which is why he says it’s becoming clear that the route for inflation to come back down to a more normal level will be an “achingly slow process.”

“While lower pump prices will help chop next month’s rate, the fact that many measures of core inflation are still nudging higher is a clear warning sign of persistent underlying pressures,” he said.

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