Edmonton Nutritious Food Basket: Introduction to the title

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What is a nutritious food basket? | Factors in selecting the food basket | Calculating Nutritious Food Basket Prices for each Age-Gender Group | How to use the Edmonton nutritious food basket prices | Publication of the survey | Acknowledgments

What is a Nutritious Food Basket?

A nutritious food basket is a food-costing tool that is a measure of the cost of healthy eating based on current nutrition recommendations. Nutritious food baskets have been used in Canada for half a century to assess the cost of an adequate diet in both health and social service contexts. One of Canada’s oldest food costing resources has been in use by the Montreal Diet Dispensary since 1948. The federal government became involved in food costing in 1974, more recently by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada who developed and priced the Nutritious Food Basket and the Thrifty Nutritious Food Basket. These food baskets provided benchmark costs for feeding 23 age and gender groups in 18 cities across the country until 1995. Edmonton Nutritious Food Basket Prices, first developed in 1995, was based on these standards. In 1998, a national nutritious food basket, revised to reflect current nutrition recommendations and food purchase patterns, was developed by Health Canada. Beginning in 2000, the Edmonton basket was updated based on Health Canada’s National Nutritious Food Basket – 1998. In 2004, a review of the Edmonton Nutritious Food Basket was undertaken to ensure that the latest information available from Health Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating and Statistics Canada’s Family Food Expenditure Survey was reflected in the basket of food items priced. As a result, in 2004, the contents of the Edmonton basket were updated. A further review and update of the national basket was conducted by Health Canada in 2008, resulting in the release of the 2008 National Nutritious Food Basket. Subsequently, the Edmonton nutritious food basket was updated in 2009 based on the 2008 National Nutritious Food Basket which reflects the latest nutrition recommendations.

Factors in Selecting the Food Basket

Analyzing the cost of a nutritious food basket is complex. It is not simply a matter of pricing a list of foods in various retail stores. Developing a realistic basket of foods involves balancing several important factors:

  • Quantities of food must meet nutrient needs.
  • The basket must reflect the food consumption patterns for most of the population in the geographic area.
  • Tracking food prices over time means that the items selected must be available in all the stores, all the time.
  • Limitations on resources (time, money) of those gathering price data.
These factors impose limitations on the brand names, package sizes and types of fresh foods chosen for the basket.

The 2009 Edmonton Nutritious Food Basket consists of 67 food items, which represent a nutritious food basket for Edmonton. These food items fall into categories, which contribute similar nutrients to the diet. Each of the items within a category is weighted to reflect the purchasing patterns of most Albertans. For example, within the meat, poultry and alternatives category, proportions have been assigned to the various items priced, which represent the percentages of meat, poultry and alternatives that a typical Alberta household consumes. The total weight or volume of food within the category will meet the nutrient needs of average Canadians. This weighting has been done for each of the food categories.

Every food category contains some items that are better sources of a specific nutrient than others in the same category, and the Edmonton Nutritious Food Basket Prices incorporates a realistic balance and variety of foods.

Calculating Nutritious Food Basket Prices for each Age-Gender Group

The 2009 Edmonton Nutritious Food Basket lists 22 age-gender groups and a reference family of four, and reports the weekly cost of each food category as well as a total weekly cost. This cost represents the weekly food basket prices and assumes that the individual is a member of a family.

The required number of servings of each food category is based on age and gender. Other items can be substituted for the ones priced in this report, but the cost of the food basket will change. No assumptions for “economy of scale” have been made, nor margins for food spoilage or waste.

How to Use the Edmonton Nutritious Food Basket Prices

The costs can provide benchmarks for families, individuals and agencies looking for guidelines for purchasing nutritious foods. Costs for an individual or family may be different than those in this report if different sized packages are purchased. It should be noted that the Edmonton prices presented in this report may differ from prices in other areas of the province. We suggest adding 10 per cent to the total weekly average cost to accommodate Vitamin D supplement (for adult men and women over 50 years of age), iron supplement (for pregnant women) and other miscellaneous items (such as condiments, baking supplies, tea and coffee), as these are not included in the total weekly average cost.

Care should be taken when comparing the cost of 2009 Edmonton Nutritious Food Basket Prices to previous years. It should be noted that the 2009 Edmonton Nutritious Food Basket consists of an updated list of 67 representative food items as compared to 51 in the 2008 basket. Additionally, the 2009 basket reports weekly costs for 10 food categories which have been updated to reflect the latest nutrition standards, as compared to 11 food categories in 2008 and prior years. It should also be noted that the number of age and gender groups and the reference family of four changed in 2009. More detail on the composition of the 2009 basket and weekly quantities of food required by specified age-gender groups, as compared to 2008, is provided in the Appendix section of this report.

Publication of the Survey

The publication of survey results is governed by the Statistics Act of Canada, which prohibits the disclosure of confidential information. Accordingly, the food costs shown in this report represent weighted average prices of several retail food stores, gathered on the same day. The prices from each store are weighted to account for an estimated market share. The weighted average retail food prices for Edmonton are converted to a unit price for each food category and then multiplied by the number of units or servings required to meet nutrient needs for each age-gender group for one week. The weekly average food costs for each age-gender group and the reference family of four are then averaged for each month, to determine the average weekly cost of the nutritious food basket for the month.


We wish to express our sincere appreciation to Health Canada and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, whose nutrition information, weights, quantities, consumption and expenditure data have been used as a reference in the development of our food costing methodology.

For further information on Edmonton Nutritious Food Basket Prices, please contact:

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Economics and Competitiveness Branch
Statistics and Data Development Section
#300, 7000 -113 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T6H 5T6
Phone: 780-427-4243
Fax: 780-427-5220

Note to Users: The contents of this document may not be used or reproduced without properly accrediting Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Economics and Competitiveness Branch, Statistics and Data Development Section.


Other Documents in the Series

  Edmonton Nutritious Food Basket: Introduction to the title - Current Document
Edmonton Nutritious Food Basket: Contents
Edmonton Nutritious Food Basket: Quantities
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For more information about the content of this document, contact John Paul Emunu.
This document is maintained by Rita Splawinski.
This information published to the web on May 3, 2002.
Last Reviewed/Revised on November 10, 2017.