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Eating closer to home, wiser use of food helps curb the food bill

By choosing Canadian-grown food most of the time, 
we’re not as vulnerable to exchange rate increases and volatility

Your grocery bills may be making you wince a little right now. The sticker shock could last awhile. The sinking loonie is expected to keep the price of food, particularly imported foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts high this year. A recent report out of University of Guelph’s Food Institute estimates the average Canadian household will spend about $345 more for food in 2016.

But before we start complaining, let’s remember food remains very affordable for most Canadians. Next Tuesday — February 9 — is ‘Food Freedom Day,’ annually calculated by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture to remind us of how many days the average income earner must work to pay the entire grocery bill for the year. Last year Food Freedom Day was February 6, so yes, we’re working a little longer for our dinner this year. But we’re still in a country that ranks among the top five places in the world for lowest cost of food.

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We’re also not locked into paying the grocery bill like a mortgage either. We’ve been reminded lately of many ways to keep right on eating nutritiously and affordably in a year of rising food prices, by changing some of our food-buying habits, cooking more meals at home, improving meal planning to avoid impulse grocery purchases, and using leftovers more creatively.

That helps lessen the amount of food we waste too. Canadians waste an appalling amount of it when we buy what we don’t use. More creative use of leftovers, separating ripening produce so natural gases given off don’t cause spoilage, and cooking perishable foods to freeze for use later all save extra trips to grocery stores.

Buying less imported food saves money too. By choosing Canadian-grown food most of the time, Canadian households aren’t nearly as vulnerable to exchange rate increases and volatility.

There are many great cookbooks filled with recipes to help us eat closer to home this way. A recent release is Homegrown: Celebrating the Canadian Foods We Grow, Raise and Produce, (Whitecap Books) featuring 160 recipes from the Ontario Home Economics Association (OHEA).

“Local means Canada,” says the book’s author professional home economist and author Mairlyn Smith.

“I want Canadians to put Canada on their plate when they go to the grocery store. When there is a choice between a local food and an import, I encourage Canadians to choose the local,” she says.

Homegrown’s recipes are all triple tested by home economists, with a nutrient breakdown plus a carb counter (for those living with diabetes) with each recipe and is found in Chapters bookstores and available online OR through Amazon.

Wild Rice and Vegetable Pilaf

Home economist Wendi Hiebert describes first tasting wild rice while living in Cranberry Portage, Manitoba. “I quickly learned to love the chewy texture and nutty flavour of this aquatic grain (it’s not actually rice) and appreciate its versatility,” she writes.

  • 1 c. wild rice
  • 2-1/2 c. no-salt-added chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 medium carrot, scrubbed well and diced
  • 1 rib celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small red sweet pepper, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 c. thinly sliced cremini mushrooms (approx. 3 large mushrooms)
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Combine wild rice and broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is tender but slightly chewy and split open, about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for five minutes. Drain any remaining broth, or reuse later if desired. A few minutes before rice finishes cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add carrot, celery, onion and sweet pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, oregano and thyme. Continue to cook, stirring frequently until vegetables are tender, about three to four minutes. Stir cooked rice and parsley into vegetables and season with salt and pepper.

Makes 3 cups (1 serving = 3/4 cup).

Per serving: 219 calories, 4 g Fat, 0.4 g Sat. Fat, 0 g Trans Fat, 210 mg Sodium, 39 g Carbohydrates, 4.7 g Fibre, 5.9 g Sugars, 0 g Added Sugars, 8.2 g Protein.


  • Don’t throw out the broth drained from the cooked rice. Save it and add it to homemade soup or stew. If desired, water can be substituted for the broth in the recipe. Turn this dish into a salad by letting the cooked rice and vegetables cool, then adding a few splashes of your favourite vinaigrette.

Recipe courtesy of Homegrown: Celebrating the Canadian Foods We Grow, Raise and Produce

Whole Wheat Seed Bread

“This wholesome loaf is a perfect accompaniment to soups and salads, not to mention freshly made preserves in the summer,” says home economist Jan Main.

  • 3 c. lukewarm water (approx. 100 F/38 C)
  • 2 tbsp. traditional active yeast
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/3 c. liquid honey
  • 1/4 c. canola oil
  • 1 c. natural bran or wheat germ
  • 1 c. quick oats
  • 3/4 c. sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbsp. iodized salt
  • 6 c. whole wheat flour (approx.)
  • Additional oats or seeds to pat on to surface

Lightly oil two 9×5-inch (2-l) loaf pans or line with wet parchment paper, well wrung out. Set aside. Rinse a very large mixing bowl with hot water to warm it up, then add the lukewarm water. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the water. Let stand about 10 minutes or until yeast becomes frothy.

Whisk in honey, oil, bran (or wheat germ), oats, sunflower seeds and salt (do not omit!). Using a wooden spoon, beat in flour one cup at a time, making sure you beat until the batter is smooth before adding more flour. When all the flour has been added, beat vigorously until well blended. Dough will be heavy and moist.

Divide dough in half and pat into the prepared pans. Sprinkle unbaked loaves with additional quick oats and sunflower seeds, pressing into the surface of each loaf. Cover loaves with a clean tea towel and let stand in a warm place for about 45 minutes or until risen. Note: this is a heavy bread so it won’t rise as high as a regular yeast bread. About five minutes before the dough has risen, preheat oven to 375 F. Bake loaves for 40 to 45 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Loaves should produce a hollow sound when tapped. Cool loaves on racks for 10 minutes before removing from pans. Cool completely before storing.

Makes two 9-inch loaves, 16 slices per loaf.

Recipe courtesy of Homegrown: Celebrating the Canadian Foods We Grow, Raise and Produce

About the author


Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.



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