Pricey produce prompts some shoppers to turn to frozen food

Over the last year, the cost of fresh vegetables rose 11.7 percent while the cost of fresh fruit increased by 11 percent.
By Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press
Image of green frozen broccoli isolated close up Photo, iStock.

Some Canadians are snubbing expensive fruits and vegetables, instead turning to frozen produce and juice as less-pricey alternatives, a new survey by researchers from two universities has found.

Soaring produce prices have been a hot topic recently. Fresh vegetable costs rose 11.7 percent and fresh fruit prices increased 11 percent year-over-year in April, according to Statistics Canada's most recent consumer price index report.

Researchers from the University of Guelph's food institute and Dalhousie University surveyed more than 1,000 adults in Canada between May 12 and 24 to determine if these rising prices have changed consumer grocery shopping behaviours. The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

The results suggest low-income households, less-educated folks and young people are more vulnerable to produce's ongoing price volatility, said Sylvain Charlebois, the dean of the faculty of management at Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S., and one of the report's authors.

Why you might want to try the frozen food aisle

About one-quarter of respondents said they ate less fruits and vegetables over the past 12 months. Respondents with low incomes and lower education levels were more likely to have taken this measure than their wealthier counterparts, Charlebois said. Slightly more than two-thirds of respondents said they passed on purchasing specific high-cost produce.

About half of respondents opted not to purchase cauliflower at some point over the past year. Several months ago, cauliflower prices soared toward double digits a head thanks to a sliding loonie and drought in California. Some restaurateurs showcasing the cruciferous vegetable hiked prices or pulled the items from their menus. More than 15 percent of respondents also admitted to avoiding broccoli, lettuce, oranges and apples. Apples, for example, jumped 23.4 percent in price from April 2015 to last April, according to Statistics Canada. Tomatoes, cucumbers, bananas and carrots were snubbed in smaller numbers.

5 healthy reasons to eat more canned and frozen foods

Many respondents — about 45 percent — also considered buying or purchased frozen produce as a way to reduce their total grocery bill. Fewer of them — about 17 percent — did the same with juice.

These cost-cutting measures may be something consumers will continue to do as produce prices don't show any signs of easing. In the University of Guelph's 2016 food price report, Charlebois predicts this year's food inflation will outpace general inflation with vegetables increasing in price by two to four per cent and fruits by 2.5 to 4.5 percent.

It's hard to say exactly how produce prices will play out in the future, he said, but produce price increases are unlikely to go away.

"Because of climate change, we are expecting vegetable and fruit prices to become much more volatile than they have ever been in recent decades,'' he said.

Here's how to make the most of your frozen fruits

Frozen raspberries: Swirled raspberry cheesecake bars

The secret to the gorgous finish? Dollops of raspberry coulis in the batter, swirled in before baking. Get our swirled raspberry cheesecake bar recipe.

Swirled raspberry cheesecake barsPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Frozen raspberries: Power beet smoothie

A beet smoothie for breakfast? Absolutely! Blend them up with frozen banana and raspberries with a bit of Greek yogurt for a tasty start to the day. Get our power beet smoothie recipe.

power beet smoothiePhoto, Erik Putz.

Frozen raspberries: Peanut butter and jam oatmeal

Frozen raspberries make up the bright berry jam swirl we added to this retro PB & J take on breakfast oatmeal. Get our peanut butter and jam oatmeal recipe.

Breakfast oatmeal: Peanut butter and jam oatmealPhoto, Erik Putz.

Frozen raspberries: Raspberry and streusel coffee cake

The name’s a bit misleading: This casual, not-too-sweet cake isn’t coffee-flavoured, it’s meant to be enjoyed with coffee instead. Get our raspberry and streusel coffee cake recipe.

Raspberry and Streusel Coffee CakePhoto, Erik Putz.

Frozen raspberries: Bushberry pudding cake

Raspberries add a dose of antioxidants and give this dessert its sweet-tart taste. Drizzle whisky-butter sauce over warm cake and top with whipped cream. Get our bushberry pudding cake recipe.

Pricey produce prompts some shoppers to turn to frozen foodPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Frozen raspberries: Raspberry Cordial

A homegrown alternative to lemonade, this refreshing drink works just as well with frozen fruit as fresh. Get our Raspberry Cordial recipe.

A pitcher of ice-filled raspberry cordial and two glasses, garnished with lemons, on a newspaper backdrop(Photo: Erik Putz; Produced by: Sun Ngo; Food styling: Ashley Denton; Prop styling: Madeleine Johari)

Frozen raspberries: Avocado pound cake with raspberry glaze

This cake offers the health benefits of avocado and raspberries in a very pretty, technicoloured dessert. Get our avocado pound cake recipe.

Pricey produce prompts some shoppers to turn to frozen foodPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Frozen blueberries: Easy blueberry crumb cake

An ultra-simple crumb cake to serve after dinner with tea and coffee. Get our blueberry crumb cake recipe.

Easy blueberry crumb cakePhoto, Erik Putz.

Frozen blueberries: Streusel crunch blueberry muffins

With a crispy streusel topping, tons of berries and a hint of nutty whole wheat, these aren’t your everyday blueberry muffins. Bonus: They’re deliciously moist inside! Get our blueberry muffins recipe.

Pricey produce prompts some shoppers to turn to frozen foodPhoto, Jodi Pudge.

Frozen blueberries: Blueberry-lemon cheesecake bars

The berries, lemon and cream cheese make this the perfect East-coast inspired treat. Get our blueberry-lemon cheesecake bars recipe.

Blueberry lemon cheesecake barsPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Frozen blueberries: Berry bliss pudding

This tasty frozen blueberry and bread pudding can be made up to a day in advance, which makes it great for entertaining. Get our berry bliss pudding recipe.

Pricey produce prompts some shoppers to turn to frozen foodPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Frozen bananas: Best banana bread recipe

Save those over-ripe bananas in the freezer, then defrost them when you’re craving banana bread. (Hint: Over-ripe bananas give the bread that boost of banana flavour you want.) Get our banana bread recipe.

best banana bread recipePhoto, Erik Putz.

Frozen bananas: Chocolate-walnut banana bread

Our revamped recipe has everything you love about banana bread—and it turns out whole-wheat flour, flax seeds (and rum) make the original taste even better. Get our chocolate-walnut banana bread recipe.

Chocolate-walnut banana bread

Frozen bananas: Banana chocolate-chip ice cream

This may well be the creamiest (and fastest) ice cream you’ve ever made. Get our banana chocolate-chip ice cream recipe.

Pricey produce prompts some shoppers to turn to frozen foodPhoto, Roberto Caruso.

Frozen strawberries: Strawberry-rose sorbet

This sorbet is really easy to make: just whirl frozen strawberries in a food processor with sugar, rosewater and lemon juice until smooth, and voila! A simple, refreshing dessert. Get our strawberry-rose sorbet recipe.

SorbetPhoto, Sian Richards.

Frozen strawberries: Red berry smoothie bowl

Simplify your morning with an energizing smoothie bowl. This easy, eye-pleasing meal begins with a fruit and yogurt base and is packed with protein, fibre and vitamins. Get the red berry smoothie bowl recipe.

Red berry smoothie bowlPhoto, Sian Richards.

Frozen mixed berries: Apple berry brown betty

This sweet-tangy dish is loaded with fruits, making it a healthy (and tasty) treat for dessert. Best part: it’s really easy to make. Get our apple berry brown betty recipe.

Pricey produce prompts some shoppers to turn to frozen foodPhoto, John Cullen.

Frozen mixed berries: Berry blast smoothie bowl

This easy, eye-pleasing smoothie bowl will energize you and simplify your morning. It starts with a fruit and yogurt base and is packed with protein, fibre and vitamins. Get our berry blast smoothie recipe.

Berry blast smoothie bowlPhoto, Sian Richards.

Frozen mango (and banana): Superfood green smoothie

Loaded with spinach, mango, frozen banana, chia seeds and matcha powder, this superfood green smoothie is a breakfast time winner. Get our superfood green smoothie recipe.

superfood green smoothiePhoto, Erik Putz.

Frozen mango (and banana): Tropical sorbet

Transport yourself to an island paradise with our sorbet recipe. Made with frozen mango and bananas, it’s ready in just 5 minutes. Get our tropical sorbet recipe.

Instant tropical banana and mango sorbetPhoto, Sian Richards.

Frozen mango (and banana): Tropical twist smoothie bowl

This easy meal begin with a frozen fruit and yogurt base. It's the perfect pared-down breakfast to keep your mornings stress-free. Get our tropical twist smoothie bowl recipe.

Tropical twist smoothie bowlPhoto, Sian Richards.

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