Many Canadians are spending half their income on food, and prices continue to soar. An economist tells how to stave off both hunger and bankruptcy


IN LESS THAN four years the price of food has gone up an incredible sixty percent. In the past year alone it has risen twenty percent. A market basket of a week's food for four, which cost $15.50

early in 1948 and $21 in 1951, now costs $25. Things are so bad that even the famous bushman’s eatery in Sudbury—the North Cafe—has jumped its five-cent meal to a dime. (The meal: soup with vegetables and dumplings and all the bread and butter you can eat.)

That twenty-five dollars for food is now exactly half the average wage for industrial workers in Canada. Before World War II food took only about one quarter of a family’s income. Food has soared faster than anything else you buy or use.

This is enough to make any family sit down and hold its own council of strategy. One Montreal civic official, Frank Hanley, recently charged that families in his district (St. Ann’s) were being forced to stint on food purchases to the extent of “impoverishing human stock,” with many “living on the fringe of starvation” even though not necessarily suffering actual hunger pangs.

Mr. Hanley’s language is dramatic, and no doubt exaggerated, but nutritionists say he has a point. They say there’s a hollow hunger and a hidden hunger. The hollow one is what, you feel in the upper part of your stomach when there’s no more food in it. The hidden hunger occurs when you don’t have proper nourishment even though your stomach is full. But you don’t feel it. Since it’s pretty hard to spend half your income on food for very long, most families now have three alternatives: to cut down on food values, to keep eating

enough of the right kind of food but sacrifice holidays, clothes, etcetera, or to sit down and plan to trim their food bills.

Most families have been following the first two alternatives. A recent Gallup poll found nine out of ten of the Canadian families interviewed were cutting down on one or more other necessities —57 percent on clothing, 52 on holidays, 48 on house furnishings, 43 on movies, 26 on food.

But there is the third alternative. It isn’t necessary to forfeit all to keep up with food costs. It is possible for the average Canadian family to cut its food bill by one fifth and to get back to at least the twenty or so dollars a week for food it spent in 1950 without sacrificing nourishment or palatability.

Here then is the experts’ advice on how to cut the high cost of eating. Some of it, you’ll notice, requires a little personal self-analysis as well as planned buying and meal preparation.


One frequent reason why families spend more than they need to for food is the insistence of various members of the household that they must eat this or can’t eat that. “There’s nothing quite so wrapped up with emotion as food,” points out Dr. Robert Hockett, a U. S. food scientist.

In the Far East, for example, there are riots when there’s a shortage of rice, even though other foods may be available. In Canada it’s meat hunger that wrecks our budgets. The cod goes begging at thirtyfive cents a pound while people pay as much as two dollars for the same weight of edible meat (without waste).

Meat, notably beef, has become the costliest single item in the average family’s food expenses. As a result of competition beef jumped sixteen cents a pound in the first half of 1951 alone. Many families now spend a good ten to fifteen dollars a week for meat and poultry, almost half of their food money and as much as the average family spends for rent.

But is heavy meat eating that necessary? Nutritionists say no, it isn’t. Scandinavians eat only about half as much meat as Canadians and yet have excellent health records.

Nutritionists report that the two groups who get most emotional about food are men and mothers; the mothers on behalf of their younger children, the men on their own behalf. Recently at a women’s club lecture in which the speaker advised serving alternative protein foods, a weary-looking lass got up and said, “But what if your husband wants steak, butter and cream on the table?”

“That’s easy,” the speaker replied. “Simply tell him if he wants them to bring home more money. That will keep him quiet.”

There are three facts mothers ought to know about children and food:

0 All the animal protein foods are interchangeable with meat—eggs, poultry, fish, cheese and other milk products.

0 Trying to overfeed a child won’t make him any bigger. In fact, food coaxing may actually lead to loss of appetite, a widespread malady among the young of this continent, which rarely occurs elsewhere in the wor^i where food is scarcer.

0 The best-quality foods provide no more nutrition than the lower grades, despite the insistence of some mothers that their children need grade A of everything. As a matter of fact, Dr. Henry C. Sherman, a famous food expert, points out that the lower grades of beef, which come from pasture-fed animals, provide better nutrition than the best grades which come from grain-fed steers. In canned goods, eggs and other foods, lower-priced substandard foods have exactly the same nutrition as standard, grade B the same as grade A. There is a fifteen

to twenty percent price difference

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between grade A and grade B fruits and vegetables and a ten percent difference between different grades of canned meat.


Many families are prejudiced against certain nutritious foods. One of the best cost-cutters is dry skim-milk powder. Add water and you have fluid milk with all the food value of whole milk except the butterfat, at about one third the cost of the whole milk. But Dr. L. B. Bett, chief of the nutrition division of the Department of National Health and Welfare, reports it’s a tough job to get Canadians to use much milk powder.

Then take the margarine prejudice. Many people still think in terms of the meat fat from which margarine was made decades ago. But modern margarine is a highly palataTfle food made from refined food fats such as soybean and other vegetable oils blended with pasteurized skim milk.

And mothers who insist on feeding their children only butter should know that in the winter mont hs, when but ter is low in vitamin A, margarine is actually more nourishing since its vitamin A content is constant.

Other common food prejudices which add to eating costs: against pink

salmon, which is as nutritious as red and not much more than half the price; against canned vegetables, which under modern canning processes do retain most of their nourishment; against canned meat — and modern canned meat happens to be both flavorsome and nutritious and in the summer months less costly than fresh meat.


Another budget robber is fads. Certain foods become fashionable for a time, mostly because special health or curative powers are attributed to them. Yoghurt is a current example.

Actually, says Dr. Pett, there is no difference in food value between yoghurt and other forms of milk. The protein in yoghurt or other special (and cost ly i milks is probably predigested to some extent, but this seems no advantage, says Dr. Pett, when ordinary milk is readily digested even by newborn babes.

But isn't it true that we should eat special “health” foods (some people are even eating dried alfalfa nowi and possibly take synthetic vitamins and minerals to supplement our regular diets, since the soils in which our foods grow are being depleted of minerals?

Not really, says Dr. Frederick J. Stare, Director of Harvard's department of nutrition. If we got all our food from a single acre, we might develop some mineral deficiencies. But in these modern times our foods come from far and wide.

The way to make sure of an adequate diet without buying special foods and vitamin preparations, Dr. Stare advises, is to eat a variety of foods. Then

you’ll be sure your family gets the sixty or so different nutrients it needs.


It’s not how much meat you eat that’s important as its distribution during the day. It’s important to eat meat or other animal-protein foods at each meal, but a quarter pound of lean meat is enough.

This winter pork has become a lifesaver to families flexible enough in their appetites and thinking to switch from beef. Pork is usually lower than beef this year because with meat in brisk demand, farmers are able to bring hogs to market maturity more quickly than cattle. Between August and November pork prices dropped twenty percent. In pork, smoked hams and shoulders currently are better buys than loins, which are only fourteen percent of the hog but are most wanted as a replacement for beef.

In shopping for meat it’s not price alone that counts but the percentage of lean. Flank steak, for example, is one hundred percent lean meat while rump roast is only fifty-nine percent lean. Bacon is less than half lean. Taking into account the amount of lean meat and the price per pound, the best three meat buys are tongue, frankfurter and hamburger. Among the worst buys are sirloin steak, rib roast and leg of lamb.


The heart of any moneysaving food plan these days is this: your daily

“meat” really doesn’t have to be meat itself. One egg, a glass of milk, an ounce of cheddar cheese or three ounces of fish are each eoual in protein to five ounces of round steak. But the cheese dish will cost you four cents and the fish eight cents while the round steak will run to about twenty-five cents. (All prices in this article incidentally are for mid-November 1951 and are based on a check of groceteria prices in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. They will vary slightly »in different localities.:

Meat admittedly is our most savory food. The real trick is to give meals the expensive meat flavor without buying much of it—-through combination dishes and meat extenders.

One of the best moneysavers in the months immediately ahead will be eggs, now coming into their flush season and dropping in price. Last November they sold at about ninety cents a dozen. They’ll be down to seventy by April. Meat dishes can be extended by the use of eggs.

You can use meat’s succulent flavor to make more use of cheese too, one of the best protein buys these days. This year cheese has gone up less than most other protein foods—and it’s one of the richest. Your two best buys are generally cottage cheese and natural cheddar. Cheddar cheese at around 49 cents is a better buy than process cheese at 65.

For example a serving of cheddar cheese will only cost you six cents while a serving of rib roast can run you between 42 and 63 cents. A serving of three eggs or a pound of sole will only run to 16. or 17 cents but a leg of lamb runs between 29 and 58 cents per serving. Cod fillet at 13 cents a serving and pork butt at 18 cents are comparatively low-priced. Roasting chicken at 38 cents and sirloin steak which runs between 36 and 46 cents a serving are much higher. These days if you buy main dish items at 25 cents or less per portion you’ll be keeping a tight rein on your food bills. Pork sausage, pork shoulder and frankfurters all fall into this category, Plate beef and shoulder of lamb don’t.

You can also add meat’s flavor and nutrition to the vegetable proteins like beans and cereals. By themselves these are incomplete proteins and nobody wants them for a main dish. But a small piece of ham with a buckwheat pancake “completes” the protein in the buckwheat. Of the plant and cereal foods, beans and legumes are most complete.


You can cut your food costs substantially by timing your buying. Many families buy by habit: some use only canned vegetables, others only fresh, others frozen foods. Actually each of those three is a best buy at different times of the year.

To save money collect the groceteria ads near the week end and plan a week’s menus in advance based on the features and specials, rather than decide each day what to buy. That way you cut down on the number of times you must shop and on cooking (because you can prepare two main dishes or desserts at one time); you cut down on costs because you use more of the current best buys. Also, when you walk into a groceteria with a prepared list you’re less likely to collect things you might use but often don’t.

Here’s a buying calendar:

Meat: Pork is at its lowest price

of the year right now; beef will be cheaper in February and March but not necessarily as reasonable as pork this year. All fresh meats are most expensive in the summer.

Eggs: Large eggs are best buys in

winter and spring; small eggs in summer and fall. In those seasons large eggs cost fifty percent more but contain only twelve percent more food.

Poultry: Fairly stable in price all

year but a little more reasonable in fall and late winter.

Produce: Costs of fresh fruits and

vegetables vary enormously according to their seasons. Fresh tomatoes, for example, cost almost three times as much in February as in midsummer. Canned, frozen and dried fruits and vegetables are more stable, although the dried foods are a little cheaper in midwinter than the rest of the year. Dried fruits are abundant and a real moneysaver this year in particular.

Frozen produce is now a real bidder for your food dollar. Here’s a general clue: if there’s much waste in a vegetable, as there is in fresh peas, the canned or frozen variety is often a better buy.

Some people are prejudiced against canned and frozen juices; they’re afraid these don’t have as much food value. Actually, food chemists report, both frozen and canned juices have almost the same amount of vitamin C as fresh. You can compare concentrate and fresh juice this way: a six-ounce can of concentrate is equal to three pounds of oranges. If it costs less than this amount of oranges then it’s a better buy.


Since grades A and B foods differ chiefly in appearance, occasionally in tenderness and flavor too, but not in nourishment, you can save by selecting the grade for your special purpose. Buy better-grade fruits and vegetables for the table but lower grades for the pot. Buy top-grade eggs for boiling or poaching, lower grades for omelets or cooked dishes. Use bottled whole milk for drinking, hut milk powder or evaporated milk for cooking and bak-



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ing. Use butter for the table, if you like, but margarine for cooking. Use bacon for meat taste, but not as a meat in itself; it’s over half fat. Use pink salmon and bonita in cooked dishes like casseroles and croquettes if your family still insists on higher-priced red salmon and tuna fish on the table.


Our grandparents didn’t buy two pounds of apples, a couple of pork chops, a quarter pound of sliced bacon or a little pack of cheese at a time. They bought by the bushel, the slab, the loin and the loaf. That’s one big reason why they didn’t pay as much for food.

You save substantially by buying large sizes of packaged foods, the larger cuts of meat, the whole basket of apples, the bigger specimens of poultry. A large fowl has almost twice as much meat to the pound as a small roaster. If you buy canned goods by the case you’ll save five to eight percent. If you buy beef by the hindquarter you’ll save fifteen to twenty percent.


But planning does no good if you toss much of your nourishment down the sink, and that’s what many housewives are doing.

When you throw out the fluid portion of canned vegetables, one third to one half the vitamins and minerals in the can goes with it. You can use that juice in soups, gravies and sauces or serve it with the vegetable itself by concentrating it. (Simmer it to half or even a fourth of its original fluid, then heat the solid vegetables in the concentrated fluids. You lose some nutrients in condensing, but save most. )

Old-fashioned cooking methods kill nourishment. The more water you use to cook foods and the longer you cook them, the less good they retain. Some of the valuable vitamins and minerals in both meat and vegetables are soluble in water—they get washed away. You need heavy pots for waterless cooking. And too many women still start vegetables in cold water.

Food stands around in many kitchens and loses value as it stands. Lettuce noticeably loses its vitamin value as it hangs around. Fruits and vegetables need to be kept covered and refrigerated until served.


A home freezer can be a help in cutting food costs, but only if you eat enough out of it to turn over the contents rapidly. Remember it costs about $100 a year to operate a family-size 16 foot freezer, including amortizing the investment, power, packaging and repair costs. If you use it merely for storage—say using 300-400 pounds a year out of it—your costs can run as high as twenty to thirty cents per pound of food stored.

You’ll find it much cheaper to rent a locker if there’s a plant nearby. It will cost you only $10 to $15 a year plus the expense of the trip to and from the plant. You can also get help from the plant in cutting meat, blanching produce and packaging although you pay extra for such services.

For preserving fruits and vegetables, freezing costs more than canning but is much less work, and frozen food does have a little better flavor and retain more nutrients.. But the big value in freezing these days is the possibility of cutting the costs of meat by buying in bulk when it’s cheap.