This Is How Canadians Survive The Rising Cost Of Everything

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The skyrocketing prices are forcing more Canadians to make tough decisions, forcing even middle-class families to choose between buying the food they need and paying their bills.

A recent survey from Food Banks Canada found that nearly one in five Canadians reported feeling hungry in the past two years.

With the war in Ukraine contributing to the biggest cost of living crisis of the 21st century, a United Nations report released this weekeven families in wealthier countries feel the pressure.

Inflation in Canada hit a three-decade high in April, almost seven percent reached

“The war in Ukraine has trapped the world’s people between a rock and a hard place,” United Nations briefing Global Crisis Response Group states.

“The rock is the severe price shocks in the food, energy and fertilizer markets caused by the war… The hard place is the extremely fragile context in which this crisis arrived; a world facing the successive crises of the COVID-19 19 pandemic and climate change.”

Middle-class families barely pass by

The current situation makes it difficult for people like Dave Arsenault from Moncton, NB

He said before the COVID-19 pandemic, which was declared in early 2020, he would have described his family of four as middle class. Now, he said, they live from paycheck to paycheck.

“It feels depressing,” Arsenault said. “It’s frustrating because it’s no fault of your own that your whole lifestyle is changing.”

Feeding his family, which includes 11-year-old twins, is difficult, even with double income, says Arsenault, who works at a newspaper printing company and chairs his local union.

Both he and his wife, an office administrator, have union jobs with standardized annual increases, but he said it’s still not enough to keep up with rising costs.

“It’s an obvious battle,” he said.

Rising energy prices, as evidenced by this gas station in Windsor, Ontario, is hitting Canadians at a time when food costs are also rising. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Arsenault said the family used to be able to afford to stock up on extras when shopping, but now they can afford only the necessities — despite hunting for bargains.

“We barely get by to get enough for what we really need,” he said. “We’ve cut out a lot of meat… Instead of buying steaks, you buy chops.”

Arsenault said that while he noticed a price hike early in the pandemic, it has gotten much worse in the past six months.

“We are short of a lot of stuff,” he said.

Survive on oatmeal, eggs and tuna

Johnnie Barlow, a native of rural Prince Edward Island, knows that reality all too well.

“In the last few months with the price of everything going up, there’s nothing left. By the first week of the month, I’m out of money,” he said.

Barlow is currently dependent on income support because he has a brain tumor that affects his thinking, making it difficult for him to work.

Because the financial support he receives is not enough to cover the rising costs, he said he had to start limiting his diet.

This Is How Canadians Survive The Rising Cost Of Everything
PEI resident Johnnie Barlow says living on a steady income now that prices are rising means he’s eating less to cover the cost of other necessities. He is dependent on income support because of a health problem and he will have to pay for car repairs to get back to work. (Submitted by Johnnie Barlow)

Lately, Barlow said, he’s been surviving on oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs and tuna.

“I try to stay healthy as cheaply as possible,” he said.

Barlow joked that “it’s great to lose weight” and said he tries to keep a positive outlook.

He also had to cut back on the nutritional supplements he used to buy to help treat the symptoms caused by the tumor.

Barlow, who lives 20 minutes from Charlottetown, said he hopes to return to his job selling residential heating and cooling systems soon. But to do that, he has to pay for repairs to his car, the only available mode of transport where he lives.

“You have to spend money to make money,” he said.

Costs continue to rise, but wages remain the same

Even families with more disposable income say they are taking a hit.

Christine Taylor, who lives in southern Ontario, said she finds it difficult to pay all her family’s bills, and worries about those less fortunate.

“This direction is not economically sustainable. It will break people – not only financially, but also emotionally and mentally,” she said.

Taylor, who has a job in the fuel and energy industry, said she and her husband, who work in household and mobile electronics, have a combined annual income of about $85,000. Still, keeping track of all the costs associated with owning a home and raising two teenagers isn’t enough.

This Is How Canadians Survive The Rising Cost Of Everything
Christine Taylor, right, pictured with her husband, says that while her middle-income family is making ends meet by excluding extras, she worries about those on fixed incomes who struggled before costs started to rise . (Submitted by Christine Taylor)

“We’re just passing by,” she said. “And the costs continue to rise and our wages remain the same.”

Taylor said they have postponed paying some bills to cover the cost of vehicle repairs.

She has also been shopping for bargains at the grocery store and planning more meals that yield leftovers.

Additional expenses — such as an annual family trip to Thunder Bay, in northwestern Ontario, or horseback riding lessons — are some of the cuts they’ve had to make.

VIEW | Food banks in Canada brace for hungry summer as prices rise:

This Is How Canadians Survive The Rising Cost Of Everything

Food banks brace for hungry summer

Food banks across the country are bracing for a summer of famine as rising inflation pushes more Canadians to turn to charities.

“As a middle-class family, we feel” [the] struggle and can’t afford to add simple things to it,” she said.

Taylor said as they tighten their belts, she worries about those on a steady income who don’t have the extras to cut back.

“My heart breaks for them,” she said.

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