Eliminates most of the guesswork required when balancing healthy choices and affordability

Sylvain CharleboisEverybody is trying to figure out ways to save at the grocery store these days.

The average grocery store will carry over 20,000 different products. Add in daily specials, flyers, coupons, and confusing rebates, and it gets complicated. Designing menus for your household based on what’s more affordable that day, or that week, is complicated.

With a food inflation rate of around 10 per cent, Canadians need all the help they can get. A new tool that cuts through all the noise to help you set menus based on the most affordable food, depending on where they live, is now available.

It’s called the Inflation Cookbook. SkipTheDishes and its rapid grocery and convenience delivery service, Skip Express Lane, has launched the very instinctive digital cookbook that changes weekly. It is believed to be Canada’s first-ever AI-powered meal-planning tool designed to help Canadians source affordable and nutritious food items and optimize their weekly grocery budgets.

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Recipes are inspired by a trained chef and dietitian but also fine-tuned by AI. Even pictures showing up on screen are digitally created through AI. The tool constantly mines data online from retailers all over the country.

Dalhousie University’s agri-food analytics lab was involved in designing and creating the tool. Food Banks Canada was also involved in the project as a partner. The tool is free, intuitive, and very simple to use. No matter where in Canada you live, this tool is now accessible to you. And nothing obligates you to sign with any online services, including Skip Express Lane. No strings and no postal code or phone number is needed.

The tool conveniently indicates the top 10 food categories trending upwards and downwards in price each week. Nutrition is also a priority for the tool. Food on both cheap and expensive lists will include whole foods, fresh produce, grains, dairy, and protein. The tool is brand agnostic and won’t push one specific brand, food category, store, or company.

Using the power of AI, the digital cookbook curates seven healthy recipes that consumers can generate using the best-priced items from that given week. After selecting your province, your budget, and how many people are in your household, recipes are generated within seconds. All recipes are typically quite different from one another, which will satisfy any palate or even dietary preferences or allergies.

The tool is not overly specific, but it gives you an idea of what food items to go for and which to avoid. Canadians will likely be able to find better deals that the tool could miss, but the Inflation Cookbook gives you a sense of market trends so that you can show up at the grocery store more informed.

Knowing which food category to look for will also save you some time. Most importantly, you get all the inspiration you need to bring more variety and quality to your menu design skills. It is, essentially, your financial compass for food purchases while compiling a menu ideal for your household. Frankly, such a tool should have been launched a long time ago.

The Inflation Cookbook eliminates most of the guesswork required when balancing healthy choices and affordability. There is no guarantee that prompted recipes are the best deal possible for anyone’s area. You can always find better daily deals here and there. But it will give you a sense of what is possible and achievable based on your budget. Not sure a simpler tool is possible.

The tool is so practical that it wouldn’t be surprising to see other companies create something similar within the next few months. This is likely the first of many to come. And for Canadian shoppers, the more, the better.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.

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