Canadian Habits

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Canadian Guilt

Canadian guilt in consumerism appears to be primarily tied to concerns about making eco-friendly decisions, healthy food choices and sensible overall spending decisions.


  • According to Shelton Group founder and CEO Suzanne Shelton, the core of Canadian guilt in consumerism is characterized by remorse or embarrassment over "all of the un-green" choices that Canadians make on a daily basis.
  • More specifically, Ms. Shelton asserts that environmentalism is at the "core of who we are as Canadians," given that citizens are taught at a young age that wasting resources equates to being a "bad person."
  • Consistent with these statements, an August 2020 survey of Canadians found that guilt over not taking care of the environment is experienced by many Canadians as they conduct routine lifestyle tasks and make related shopping decisions. Specifically:
    • 39% of Canadians feel guilty about wasting food
    • 27% of Canadians feel guilty about leaving the lights on after leaving a room
    • 27% of Canadians feel guilty about wasting water
    • 22% of Canadians feel guilty about not unplugging chargers/electronics when not in use
    • 21% of Canadians feel guilty about not recycling things
    • 20% of Canadians feel guilty about forgetting to bring reusable bags to the store
    • 20% of Canadians feel guilty about letting the water run while brushing teeth or washing dishes.
    • 9% of Canadians feel guilty about not buying CFLs or LEDs
    • 7% of Canadians feel guilty about not sticking to an energy-efficient thermostat setting
    • 6% of Canadians feel guilty about using chemical lawn or plant fertilizers.
  • Moreover, historic research from GfK corroborates Ms. Shelton's stance that guilt related to the environment is not a new or passing trend in the country, but a longstanding source of embarrassment and shame.
  • Specifically, GfK's April 2015 survey of 1,000 Canadians found that approximately half (53%) felt guilty when they did or bought something that wasn't environmentally friendly.
  • Moreover, GfK's analysis revealed that a large majority (73%) of Canadians believe that brands and companies also "have to be environmentally responsible."

Food Choices

  • Guilt about food choices is another consistent theme surrounding Canadian consumerism, both in terms of what Canadians choose to buy for their children as well as consume themselves.
  • Most recently, a survey of approximately 1,000 Canadian parents by Maple Leaf Foods revealed that many feel "pressured to make healthier choices" by the local news (49%) or social media (54%) when making food decisions for their children.
  • Additionally, while the large majority of Canadian parents (70%) feel the desire to provide their families with more healthy food options, many also feel associated guilt and frustration because they believe purchasing healthy food is too expensive (71%) or time-consuming (52%).
  • In parallel, slightly dated research (March 2017) by Mintel revealed that approximately half (53%) of Canadians feel guilty when they personally buy or consume foods that they "consider unhealthy."
  • Such guilt about purchasing or eating unhealthy food is particularly acute for young Canadian women (59%) and mothers (60%).
  • Not only do Canadians believe that poor food choices impact their physical health (84%), but approximately two-thirds believe that doing so "affects their emotional well-being."
  • As such, approximately half (45%) of Canadians are interested in trying new foods that claim to improve health, while a meaningful portion of the population (27%) are more likely to buy food times that claim to offer health advantages.


  • Meanwhile, the latest research by Capital One Canada and Credit Canada also reveals that Canadians have general shame and anxiety about overspending on "guilty pleasures."
  • Based on a survey of 1,510 Canadians, residents of the country are most likely to feel guilt about overspending on these key areas:
    • 72% of Canadians feel guilty about spending too much on dining out
    • 71% of Canadians feel guilty about spending too much on ordering out for food
    • 50% of Canadians feel guilty about spending too much on coffee beverages
    • 44% of Canadians feel guilty about spending too much on online shopping
    • 33% of Canadians feel guilty about spending too much on clothes
    • 23% of Canadians feel guilty about spending too much on beauty treatments.
  • Notably, one-fourth of Canadians report that overspending on these areas is not only is a source of guilt, but is also preventing them from meeting their financial goals.
  • Additionally, 27% of young Canadians stated that they "hid their spending habits from others" due to guilt and embarrassment.
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Canadian Optimism

Canadians are among the most optimistic people in the world. This optimism can be seen in their positive outlook concerning their longer-term financial well-being despite the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the Canadian economy, their expression of gratitude in the face of declining mental health caused by the pandemic, and their confidence in the ability to tackle debt.

Overview of Canadian Optimism

  • Canadians are among the most optimistic people in the world. According to the Global Optimism Outlook Survey of over 20,000 people, ages 18-64, across 23 countries, 62% of Canadian respondents were "optimistic about the future and know just what they want out of it, too," compared to the global average of 56%. This optimism is more prominent among Canadians that are over 40 years old, 65% of whom are optimistic compared to 56% of Canadians ages 18-39.
  • A new study from the Angus Reid Institute also suggests that Canadians are highly optimistic people as they have remained positive regarding their longer-term financial well-being. They have remained optimistic despite the negative impacts of COVID-19 on the Canadian economy, such as job losses, shrunken growth, and stock market wreckage.
  • The study noted a significant increase in the number of people who say they will be better off in a year from 15% in 2018 to 21% in 2019, and now 30% in 2020.
  • Still, on the effects of COVID-19, businesses across Canada are now slightly more optimistic about the rest of the year than they were earlier in the year. 24% of decision-makers now expect to increase the number of employees at the companies, up from 18% a few months ago.
  • In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, 50% of Canadians in a study reported that their mental health is worsening. Although the pandemic primarily left them feeling worried (44%), anxious (41%), and bored (30%) in recent weeks, 31% expressed gratitude.
  • Away from COVID-19, a study in 2019 showed that despite growing debt, Canadians were optimistic that they would be able to manage it. Although 60% of Canadians were earning the same or less than the previous year, 48% were spending more. On top of that, 32% had taken more debt (44% among millennials). However, 57% were meeting their debt-reduction goals, and 56% said they had a "money vision" for their finances in 2019.
  • Although 52% said that their financial realities had not improved year-over-year, 83% of Canadians "believe they have the tools, knowledge, and resources to get out of debt, and 44% say they will be debt-free in one or two years."
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Canadian Mealtime Habits

Approximately 50% of Canadians want to eat healthy. Consequently, many Canadians are consuming less animal products and more plant-based foods. A high level overview of Canadian mealtime habits has been provided below.

Home Cooking

  • Approximately 84% of Canadians find cooking at home enjoyable.
  • In addition, 65% of Canadians have noted that their favorite part of dinner is sharing meals with their family and friends.
  • A study by Hello Fresh revealed that “2 out of 3 Canadians find sharing the final finished dish with their loved ones to be the best part of cooking a meal.”
  • Conversely, 42% of Canadians spend 20 minutes or fewer daily around the dinner table with family and friends.
  • About 25% of people in Canada cook at home every day of the week.
  • Approximately 71% of Canadians prefer to prepare their frozen entrees in the oven while 60% use the microwave.
  • When it comes to dinner time, 51% of Canadians eat in the dining room while 49% eat in an area that has a television set.
  • According to CBC News, Canadians are consuming less beef, soft drinks, and milk and are eating more flour-based carbs.

Cooking Routine

Eating Aspirations

  • Canadians want to eat healthy and approximately 50% want to consume balanced meals, less junk food, and more vegetables.
  • About 65% of Canadians consume “a maximum of two portions of vegetables a day.” The lack of willpower and inspiration prevents many people in Canada from eating healthy.
  • Approximately 14% of Canadians are health sophisticates and prefer to cook for fun and experiment with foods from other countries. Conversely, 22% are foodies and love reading about food and recipes, cooking, and enjoy the culinary experience using their five senses.
  • Twenty-three percent of Canadians want to eat without making any effort towards meal preparation. They prefer minimized meal-preparation times, skip meals, and eat snacks instead of meals.

Cooking Skills

  • According to Hello Fresh, many Canadians are not skilled in the kitchen. Approximately 25% know five recipes or fewer.
  • On average, a majority of Canadians can cook up to 10 different recipes.
  • During food preparation, most people stick to the traditional meals they know how to cook best, such as stir-fry, meatballs, and burgers.

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Canadian Cooking and Snacking

Several studies have been done to assess changes in the cooking and snacking behaviors of Canadians as a result of the pandemic. The studies reveal that Canadians are cooking at home more often, they are snacking more often, they are eating more junk food, sugar, meat, and vegetables, they are drinking more alcohol, they are wasting less food, and they are baking more often. A deep dive of these findings has been presented below.

Cooking at Home More Often

  • 54% of Canadians surveyed reported that as a result of the pandemic, they have been planning to cook at home more often in the future.
  • Insights from Nielsen further corroborated this, reporting that 40% of Canadians say they are cooking at home more often as a result of the pandemic.
  • A third survey, which questioned Canadians about their intended grocery shopping habits post-COVID, found that 50% of those under age 55 said they would be cooking at home more often, along with 40% of respondents above the age of 55.

Snacking More Often and Changes in Food-Type Consumption (More Junk Food, Sugar, Meat and Veggies)

  • 45% of Canadians surveyed reported that their snacking frequency has increased.
  • A government survey found that Canadians have been consuming junk food and sugar in larger quantities as a result of the pandemic. Among respondents, 35% said this was true for them.
  • Additionally, this habit was reported to increase among 14.6% of those over the age of 50 and for 37.1% of those ages 15 to 49.
  • A survey of Canadians found that 50% said that they are eating more meat and vegetables as a result of the pandemic.

Increased Alcohol Consumption

  • A government survey found that Canadians have been drinking more often as a result of the pandemic. Among respondents, 19% said this was true for them.
  • Additionally, "one in five younger Canadians said they have upped their alcohol consumption, while just seven per cent of older Canadians said they were drinking more."

Wasting Less Food

  • A survey of Canadians found that, as a result of the pandemic, many are being more careful about how much food they are wasting. This was true for 43% of those surveyed.
  • This change in habit appears to be related to a decreased desire to head to the store along with a desire to save money, with 49% saying they are looking for ways to use the ingredients they already have at home, and 48% reporting that they are doing more financial saving and tightening their budgets. Another survey found that 64% of Canadians reported shopping in-store less frequently than they did pre-pandemic.

Baking More Often

  • As a result of the recent lockdown, baking as become a more popular hobby among Canadians. Sales from baking aisle products in Canada increased 26% during the lockdown, which increased sales by $88 million YOY.
  • The change in this habit appears to be spurred by consumers looking for alternative forms of entertainment aside from digital forms of entertainment.
  • More specifically, it appears that baking bread has gained popularity among Canadians, with an 88% increase in yeast sales in Canada during the lockdown.
  • By baking product type, flour saw a 54% increase in sales, 30% for sugar, 32% for baking chips, and 24% for canned milk, according to Nielsen Canada.
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Canadian Shopping

In late March, there was panic-buying by anxious shoppers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has led to more grocery shopping, mobile supermarkets, reduced in-store shopping time, and increased online shopping

More Grocery Shopping

  • A survey conducted by Angus Reid shows that Canadians are spending more on purchasing groceries, unlike before the COVID-19 pandemic. From the survey, 64% of Canadians are “comfortable with “cautiously” going to the grocery store, while 26% are “fine” with grocery shopping in-store.” Ten percent of the correspondents say that they are avoiding grocery stores.
  • 68% of Canadians are avoiding many trips to the stores, hence buying more food when they visit the grocery store. On the other hand, 43% are focusing on the longer-term budget by buying extra food. 15% of Canadians have someone else to do their shopping.

Mobile Supermarkets

  • Based on the survey conducted by Angus Reid, more Canadians are avoiding frequent store visits for their grocery shopping. Thus, businesses have come up with a new way to deliver groceries to their doorsteps by using supermarket-on-wheels.
  • Grocery Neighbor, a Canadian start-up, has come up with this solution where shoppers can buy their groceries while maintaining social distancing. This concept has ensured fresh delivery of food and grocery and is also connecting communities and local farmers. The mobile trucks are custom-built for the corona pandemic, with social distancing and sanitizing at center and front.

Reduced In-store Shopping Time

  • Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, people defined shopping convenience as spending less time in the store. With the pandemic breakout, however, convenience is now about safety and survival.
  • More grocery stores are changing their opening and closing schedules to meet the new standards. These stores are closing earlier than before to give employees ample resting time and ensure thorough cleaning of the stores, from carts to counters, self-checkout counters to cashiers’ machines. Grocery stores are now expected to “be as clean as a hospital operating room.”
  • The grocery stores are getting customers to do their shopping within a limited period while limiting the number of customers shopping at the stores at any given time.

Increased Online Shopping

  • Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only 1.5% of food sales in Canada were conducted online. With the pandemic outbreak, however, for the first time, 9% of Canadians are now buying their food online. This number is expected to grow bigger with the pandemic, and as people are advised to maintain social distancing.
  • In the past, restaurants received and delivered many tea and coffee orders from their customers. With the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurants are no longer delivering tea and coffee only, but they are offering the same or next-day delivery of meat, fresh produce, bread, cheese, and some pantry essentials. This kind of delivery is being done to reduce the number of visits to stores and ordering minimal products online, which consequently reduce the possibility of getting infected with the corona virus.
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Canadian Time Management

Most Canadians, if they had more time, wished to spend the same with their loved ones and families and relax. Canadians have changed their lifestyle during the COVID-19 pandemic and have used their time in isolation to pick up old hobbies or start new ones. We have presented below a high-level overview of the activities that Canadians wish to engage in if they had more time and the changes made by the COVID-19 pandemic to the same.

Canadians Time Management

  • As per a new survey by McDonald's Canada, nearly 65 percent of Canadian parents wished that they had more time to eat together with their family.
  • Additionally, nearly 27 percent of Canadian parents indicated that they didn't have enough time to prepare home-cooked meals for their families regularly and wished to do the same if they had more time.
  • According to a national survey conducted by President's Choice, nearly 92 percent of Canadians wished to spend more time enjoying a meal with their loved ones, such as friends and family.
  • As per the 2019 Savour Serenity survey, more than half (55%) of Canadians felt more stressed in 2019 as compared to 2018, and thus, nearly three in four Canadians (73%) wished that they had more time for relaxation.
  • According to Coleman Canada Outdoor Report, nearly 84 percent of Canadian adults wished to spend additional time outside if they had extra time but stated that work and busy personal or family schedules prevented them from doing so and kept them indoors.
  • A 2019 CIBC survey specific to Canadian small business owners indicated that if they had additional time away from work, 52 percent of them would like to travel as an escape, 38 percent would socialize more with friends/family, 35 percent would prefer to pursue a passion, hobby, or activity, 34 percent would like to dedicate more time to exercising and playing sports, 28 percent would like to get more rest, and 26 percent would use the extra time to relax or meditate.
  • As per the 2019 BookNet survey, 60% of Canadians prefer to spend their free time browsing social media/web, 56% spend the same watching TV/videos/movies, 51% use free time to listen to music, 47% prefer to cook during their leisure time, and 40% Canadians love to spend their free time with their families. Additionally, popular leisure activities that Canadian engage in weekly include shopping (35%), dining out (26%), and exercising/working out (20%). Hence, it is likely that if Canadians have more free time, they will increase their involvement in these activities.

Changes Due to COVID-19

  • According to a survey by the Narrative Research and the Logit Group, Canadians have changed their lifestyle during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 60 percent of them are spending more quality time with family members.
  • Additionally, nearly 60 percent of Generation Z Canadians stated that they were exercising more during the current pandemic than before, which is significantly higher than the national average of 34 percent.
  • Also, during the pandemic, about 52 percent of Canadians are engaging themselves in reading more than usual, and around 60 percent of Canadians are doing more cooking and baking.
  • Around 61 percent of the Canadians have used the extra time during the current pandemic to relax more than usual, and 45 percent have utilized the same to sleep more than usual.
  • Also, around 28 percent of Canadians have used their free time during COVID-19 to develop a new friendship or deepen an existing one.
  • According to a study by the e-commerce platform Picodi, at-home creative hobbies like needlecraft and calligraphy along with online and offline gaming, online learning, and home fitness have increased in popularity among the Canadians during the current pandemic.
  • On the other hand, social activities such as going to the movies, concerts, and the theater have fallen in popularity among Canadians during COVID-19. Additionally, hobbies like photography that often require mingling with people, and interest in learning foreign languages has also declined among Canadians, likely because of travel restrictions.

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