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Why saving money on food is ‘definitely a challenge’ for millennials

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When Leslie Hacker began taking a closer look at her finances recently, she noticed she was spending about $1,000 on food each month.

“It seems like a lot, but when I did the math, that’s about 35 dollars a day, which doesn’t seem that crazy anymore to be honest,” she says.

Eating out, ordering in. Throw in a bagel here, a coffee there, and it all adds up.

“It’s definitely a challenge for people my age to save on food.”

At 28, Hacker is a millennial, defined as anyone born between 1980 and 2000. Saving money is a problem for her generation and experts say a big reason is how much millennials spend on eating out and ordering in.

Hacker works in social media marketing, which makes it even harder, she says, to save on food.

“All day I’m seeing these food pictures online and I’m like, ‘I want to try this and I want to try that!'” she tells CBC Toronto.

Leslie Hacker, a millennial foodie living in Toronto, says besides convenience, food apps like UberEats and SkipTheDishes allow her to try a wide range dishes from many great restaurants in the city. (Kelda Yuen/ CBC News)

In the age of smartphones, access is easier than ever with popular food apps like UberEats and SkipTheDishes bringing a hot meal to your door in minutes.  But the convenience comes at a cost.

“There’s the delivery fee — $5.00 to $7.50, I find, is the usual delivery charge. And then you have to tip the drivers.”

Despite that, Hacker says she still uses the apps at least a few times a week because “as a single person, it’s harder to cook, I find. There’s less motivation. Maybe when I have a family, things will be different.”

Paycheque to paycheque

Jessica Moorhouse, a Toronto-based millennial money expert is noticing many of her well-paid millennial clients are living from paycheque to paycheque because they are overspending on food.

Some, like Hacker, are spending  $500 to $1,000 dollars a month.

“Most of the time when I’m talking to clients, I’m like, ‘So you’re spending $500 on eating out every month, are you happy with that?’ and most of the time they are like, ‘No! I wish I could use that money towards my emergency fund, paying off debt, or go on an amazing trip!”‘

She says the first thing she tells her clients is to track their spending for three months to identify patterns and problem areas, then they can “start taking steps to fix it.”

Moorhouse says there is no “right or wrong answer” when it comes to how much you should be spending on food, but “10 to 20 per cent of your gross income… is a good starting point.”

Millennial money expert Jessica Moorhouse says many of her clients opt for the more expensive options of ordering in or dining out because they don’t have time to go grocery shopping and cook. (John Grierson/ CBC News)

A millennial herself, Moorhouse, 32, says she definitely notices her generation is spending more money on food than their parents, but she understands why.

“I think it’s because our lifestyles are very different. A lot of us are working full time and we have a side hustle, or we’re busy on the weekends,” she said. 

“We’re just go, go, go all the time. We’re in that crunch time in our lives whereas Gen Xers and baby boomers, the kids may be out of the house (and) they’ve got a little bit more time.”

No time to cook

“I feel like I’m always worried about not having time to cook,” 21-year-old Parnian Dolati said.

As a full-time student, Dolati says she’s often too busy for the kitchen. 

“I should be spending the money on making my own food but I don’t.”

Richard Banyard, 32, is a millennial who does cook, and says it saves him a lot of money.

He told CBC Toronto he spends about $20 to $30 on food each week, which adds up to between $80 and $120 a month.

“It’s the value of knowing how to make simple meals. I know people who don’t even know how to cook an egg. [They] don’t cook at all, so they spend most of their money on take-out.”

Finding a middle ground

For time-starved millennials who don’t have time to grocery shop or prepare food, Moorhouse suggests meal-kits as a good option to cut costs.

“That’s where those kind of delivery service meal kits come in… They do the hard lifting for you. They have all the ingredients and all you have to do is put it together. If you have 15 or 30 minutes, which everyone does, you’ll have time to make your own meal.”

And the cost?

“It’s way cheaper. For instance, with Chef’s Plate (an Etobicoke-based meal kit company), a kit starts at $8.99 (including delivery). It’s really good in terms of being a middle ground if you’re looking for something to help you with your budget, eat healthy, and help you with those time constraints.”

Hacker says she can’t see herself deleting food apps as Moorhouse suggests. But she is looking for ways to save money, such as cooking more often and dining in or ordering from less expensive restaurants. (John Grierson/ CBC News)

Hacker says she opts for the meal kit option once in a while.

 “I don’t use it every week, but I find it helps.”

She also says she is trying to cook something every other day in order to save money.

For those who really want to save though, Moorhouse suggests going cold turkey.

“Seriously, if you want to save money, delete those apps.”

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Future of Ottawa: Chefs with Kathryn Ferries

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Kat Ferries on the future of chefs, or read posts from Quinn Taylor on bars or Justin Champagne on fine dining.

Kat Ferries is Sous-Chef at Stofa Restaurant and a 2020 San Pellegrino North American Young Chef Social Responsibility Award Winner.

Apt613: What is the current landscape for chefs in Ottawa?

Kat Ferries: There is such great talent in Ottawa with so many chefs either being from here originally or have returned after traveling and have since opened some incredible restaurants. Many chefs have focused menus that really highlight their strengths, their heritage, and their passion for food. Dominique Dufour of Gray Jay, Marc Doiron of Town/Citizen, Steve Wall of Supply & Demand, Daniela Manrique Lucca of The Soca Kitchen, and so many more are all cooking up beautiful and delicious food in this city.

If you care to make a prediction… Where is the food industry in Ottawa going for chefs in 2021?

The industry right now is, unfortunately, in a really tough spot. The pandemic has been so devastating on mental, physical and emotional levels for so many and I know that many of my friends in this industry are burning out. There are many discussions happening on work/life balance and what is healthy for everyone. Some may never return to the long, hard hours we are expected to put in day after day and instead opt for a more flexible schedule or hire more staff to lighten the load on everyone, with some even leaving the industry indefinitely. Some may throw themselves back into this industry 10x as hard and create some of the best restaurants and concepts we’ve yet to see. I think all that will happen after the pandemic though.

For this year, it’s mostly about survival and finding happiness in creating what we can in the spaces we have while following all the laws and guidelines from public health officials. I think we will see more chefs creating experiences for guests that we otherwise wouldn’t have: think pop-ups, virtual dinner clubs, cocktail seminars, collabs, etc.

Where in your wildest dreams could the Ottawa culinary community grow in your lifetime?

I would love to see the Ottawa community support more small, local restaurants so our streets are bustling late into the nights like they are in Montreal, New York, or Europe. Having a local restaurant to frequent should be so much more commonplace, where you can enjoy a night out more often than just Friday or Saturday night. I would also love to see many more of our local chefs highlighted for the amazing food they create!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

Turning all our restaurants into mini-markets for customers to enjoy the food and wine of their favourite places at home. We have bottle shops for all your wine, beer and cocktail needs as well as menus that reflect what each restaurant does best. Some have even pivoted to a point where they are 100% a store and have paused any type of “service-style” dining.

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Future of Ottawa: Fine Dining with Justin Champagne

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This week in the Future of Ottawa series, we’re taking a deep dive into the bar and restaurant industry—what it’s like now and where it’s headed. Read on for a guest post from Justin Champagne on the future of fine dining, or read posts from Kathryn Ferries on chefs or Quinn Taylor on bars.

Justin Champagne went to culinary school at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver. He got his start in fine dining restaurants at C Restaurant under Chef Robert Clark, then at Hawksworth Restaurant under Chef Eligh. He staged at three-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn under Chef Dominque Crenn before moving to Ottawa and spending five years at Atelier, working his way up to Sous-Chef. He’s now the Head Chef of Bar Lupulus.

Apt613: What is the current landscape of fine dining restaurants in Ottawa?

Justin Champagne: Ottawa punches well above its weight class when it comes to quality restaurants in general. Fine dining is no exception to that—we have some amazing chefs here that are doing really great things. We also have some phenomenal sommeliers in town that are a huge factor when it comes to a guest’s experience in a fine dining restaurant. While there are some fantastic fine dining restaurants in town I do believe there’s room for more, and definitely room for more creativity and unique styles of cooking! I think we’ll see more small fine dining restaurants opening up, “micro-restaurants” where there’s maybe 20 seats. This will be over the next few weeks as the industry did take a big hit financially with COVID-19, but we still have a lot of great young chefs who have the fire inside of them to open their own location!

If you care to make a prediction… Where is fine dining going in Ottawa in 2021?

I’m not sure it’ll be 2021 or 2022 with the way the vaccine rollout and stay-at-home order is going, but I do expect there to be a wave of people looking to go out to fine dining restaurants. We’ve been cooped up cooking for ourselves or ordering takeout for over a year now. People are getting antsy and ready to go out and have fantastic meals again with exceptional wine and not have to worry about doing all the dishes afterwards!

Where in your wildest dreams could fine dining go in Ottawa in your lifetime?

That’s the fun part about “fine dining,” it can go anywhere and it can mean many things. Fine dining is about amazing service and well thought out, unique food that the kitchen spent hours fussing over, being meticulous in execution. Outside of that, you can have a lot of fun and be creative in different ways. My wildest dream I guess is that fine dinning restaurants begin to thrive and are able to charge without backlash the kind of prices that they need to charge in order to keep the lights on and pay their staff a proper living wage!!

What is the best innovation to take place in your industry since the pandemic started affecting Ottawa?

I’m not sure if I would really say there’s been a best “innovation” in my industry during the pandemic, but I will say that seeing the “adaptability” by all the restaurants in Ottawa has been incredibly inspiring. Ottawa’s food scene has always been a tight-knit community, “everyone helping everyone” kind of mentality. And this pandemic has really helped show that—restaurants helping restaurants through all of this!

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Ottawa’s Giant Tiger chain celebrating 60 years in business

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa staple, along with what might be the most famous cat in Canada, are celebrating a milestone Monday.

Giant Tiger is 60 years old.

“It all started with a very simple idea,” says Alison Scarlett, associate VP of communications at Giant Tiger. “Help Canadians save money every single day. Bring them products that they want and need. When you focus on those core principals, it really is quite simple to succeed.”

In 1961, Gordon Reid opened the first Giant Tiger in Ottawa’s ByWard Market. The company now has more than 260 locations across Canada and employs roughly 10,000 people.

“If you were at our store on opening day 60 years ago, the in store experience would be a little bit different from your local Giant Tiger store today. So that’s changed. A lot of our products and offerings have changed or expanded as Canadian consumers wants and needs have changed or expanded,” says Scarlett.

The homegrown department store continues to be a favourite for many shoppers looking to for the best deals on everyday products.

Helen Binda has been shopping here for decades.

“Many years. I can’t remember when. I’ve always loved Giant Tiger. It’s always been a good store for me.”

“I think its amazing and I think that we need more department stores,” says shopper Fay Ball. “And if it’s Canadian, all the better.”

The Canadian-owned family discount store carries everything from clothing to groceries, as well as everyday household needs. They’ve also expanded their online store and like most retailers provide curbside pickup during the pandemic.

“Doing what is right for our customers, associates, and communities. That has enabled us to be so successful for all of these years,” says Scarlett.

To celebrate, Giant Tiger is hosting a virtual birthday party at 7 p.m. Monday with live musical performances from some iconic Canadian artists.

You can visit their Facebook page to tune in. 

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