Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Interesting story regarding the price of groceries in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood of Toronto. For those who don't know this is one of the more "economically challenged" areas of Toronto. While being far from a ghetto it has a reputation as a high crime area, home to many recent immigrants, and has lots of families living on social assistance.

You would think therefore that groceries would be cheaper then in more well-to-do areas of town, but in fact a recent study showed that prices for staples (bread, milk, flour, rice, beans, etc.) was higher in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood then anywhere else in Toronto.

The biggest reason for this is that the major chains have long since pulled out, leaving only smaller chains or independents to fill the void. They lack the wholesale purchasing power of the likes of Sobey's and Loblaw's which control the Canadian grocery marketplace.

Making the situation even worse is that studies have shown that one of the biggest challenges for people living on social assistance is that they lack basic cooking skills. They end up spending what little money they do have on pre-packaged foods that are lower in nutrition, higher in fat, and much higher in price then what they could prepare themselves.

British Chef Jamie Oliver has talked about this frequently on several of his television shows and in his books. For the price of a single meal for a family of 4 at McDonalds you can purchase fresh vegetables, rice or potatoes, a budget cut of meat and feed the same family of 4 for several days. Personally I credit Oliver for if not teaching me how to cook and least giving me enough basic skills and confidence to fumble around in the kitchen and occassionally produce something special. I learned from Jamie that the secret to cooking is 3 simple things:

1) Fresh Ingredients
2) Fresh Herbs
3) Olive Oil (and lots of it)

You stick to the above three basics and you pretty much can't go wrong unless you either burn or undercook whatever it is you are making.

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