Originally appeared in North Shore News – October 1, 2010
Read on for real-world figures for inflationary grocery costs exposing the phoniness of the official ones, and learn how to eat and grow richer through plain cheating and exploitation.
Following my yarn here about our own family grocery bill, North Vancouver reader Peter Schaerer graciously permitted me to cite his own costs.
Schaerer is worthy of a separate profile. He was born in Switzerland and came to Canada in 1957. He is a professional civil engineer with a long career with the National Research Council, an expert on a vast range of problems with snow — protection against snow avalanches, an adviser to government and industry on safe practices, a teacher of ski guides and maintenance personnel in snow areas. He is a member of the Order of Canada.
He is 83 and thus on the threshold of old age.
“I have noticed a dramatic increase in food cost since 2008,” Schaerer writes. “In the years 2000-2007 the average cost was fairly uniform. I am a single male . . . and I am not eating extravagantly, except drinking wine with dinner.”
Now follow the bouncing ball: In the years 2003-2007 his average monthly costs were $204 for groceries, $93 for liquor, and $87 spent in restaurants and coffee shops.
In 2008, his costs for groceries rose to $248, for liquor to $109, and for restaurants/coffee shops to $136 — substantial increases.
In 2009, the respective figures were $257, liquor steady at $109, and $108. Note that the latter figure was considerably down from the previous year’s average monthly cost.
Now, up to date: In January-August this year, Schaerer’s average monthly grocery bill was $301 — almost 50 per cent higher than the 2003-2007 average, and almost 20 per cent higher than the previous year’s. Meanwhile his average liquor bill dropped to $97 and his outlay for restaurants and coffee shops fell sharply to $74.
“As you may see,” Schaerer notes, “I tried to compensate for the increase of expenses in grocery stores by cutting back in liquor store purchases and eating out, though the prices of these establishments have also increased.” In short, soaring grocery costs have impacted expenditures on strong drink and eating out.
This experience — what the economic professionals often scorn as “anecdotal evidence,” as opposed to the cooked figures of the cost-of-living index and such that they rely on — by a man trained in scientific principles, strongly bears out the plight of screaming restaurateurs squeezed by declining business and rising taxes. Currently, the Harmonized Sales Tax.
The restaurant associations have softened their earlier HST complaints, obviously under huge pressure by Gordon Campbell’s unpopular B.C. Liberals and their media footmen, who have raised the terrifying bogeyman of a New Democratic Party government, led by the unlikely bogeywoman Carole James. Which, we are well aware, would destroy civilization as we know it.
Typically, the editorials of a well-known downtown Vancouver daily not only have (heavy-handedly) finessed the effects of the HST, which they and their dully dutiful financial columnists support, but have turned to dire warnings of what would replace the HST’s revenues if it were scrapped. The cynical strategy of the premier and his acolytes is to offer taxpayers a choice between the rack and the mere thumbscrew.
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Now another take on how to beat rising costs.
A reader writes: “Regarding your monthly food bills ($916 excluding spirits), I have the perfect solution for you: Give up the pets and take in foreign students. Not only do they eat less, they each pay $700 monthly draw-down fee.
“We have five students for a total of seven in the household. (August’s) total was $1,067 for all groceries, paper and cleaning products, fruits, veggies and meat. It does not include meals out (once a month) or booze. I shop Costco weekly. . . . I never use coupons, but I do check the produce store for specials.
“My wife is an excellent cook and often will make a very tasty dish with only $4 in meat. (Interjection: I’ll do the arithmetic for you — that’s 57 cents per person for meat.) We do eat steak, chicken or fish at least twice monthly. The students make their own breakfast and lunch.”
More arithmetic: The five students kick in a total of $3,500 a month, and the grocery bill for all seven in the household is $1,067. Does this man know how to make money, or not?
Oh, this also helps. He ends his letter: “As I do not wish Revenue Canada knocking on my door I will remain anonymous.”
Yes, if you cheat other taxpayers it’s remarkable how easily you can afford 57 cents a serving for meat for students, and there must be considerable leisure for this couple if the students helpfully make their own breakfast and lunch.
To be fair: I’d feel more sympathy if this gent had no other income, an ailing wife needing expensive medication, or whatever. A grocery bill isn’t all of a life. As they say in the other official language, “Tout comprendre, c’est tout pardonner.”
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What smarmy political hypocrisy. Publicly, Jack Layton righteously announced that his New Democrat MPs were free to vote their conscience on the long-gun registry bill. In the politically correct smokeless back rooms, Layton twisted the arms of rural members like pretzels to persuade them to vote against scrapping the registry — born in corruption and bureaucratic waste for about $1 billion. That’s how the party system that distributes preferment and perks to the faithful works: Brownie points in public, brown-nosing in private.
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“What were they smokin’?”
So I genially jested to Peter Chapek, the Stanley Theatre’s superb guest services manager, after witnessing the dazzling Tear the Curtain!
No jesting here: This grand creation of the Electric Theatre Company is the stage equivalent of a page-turner. Never mind the puzzling story (there is one, isn’t there?). It’s brilliant theatre, technique, acting, entertainment.
Yes, you’ll appreciate it more if you have rubbed elbows with surrealism, attended the 1913 Armory Show, and read Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness in the original. And the first act, 80 minutes, is too long. A trifle. Go see. Till Oct. 10.
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West Vancouver Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones is still going on about vandalizing Argyle Street, and beyond, with a cross-town bicycle/pedestrian path. She, councillors, bureaucrats pushing this idiocy should check the “first phase” from Park Royal to 13th Street.
I’ll save them the trouble. Confounding the planners, many pedestrians choose to travel on the automotive vehicle side. And also a substantial percentage of cyclists — abjuring the sparsely used $1.2 million roadway built for them. I motioned toward the bike path to one keener who was storming along at high speed toward my van. He gave me a cheery wave and sped on.
Why? Because people behave rationally. Rationally, travelling in the car lane is far safer — for all concerned — than unseparated mixing of pedestrians and dog-walkers with silently-approaching bicycles. Expect accidents, not necessarily minor. See for yourself, mayor, and get familiar with the real world. And have you noticed the sharp fall — to zero, on my drive Monday — of bicycles past your own Marine Drive house when the bicycle’s fair-weather friends encounter actual rain?
© Trevor Lautens 2010