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Canadians are spending about the same amount to eat each week as they were five years ago, but more of their dollars are being plunked down at fast food or family restaurants, a Statistics Canada study said Friday.

In 2001, consumers spent $124 a week on food in either stores or restaurants, the agency says, the exact amount spent in 1996 and only slightly more than what they spent almost 20 years ago.

When the total is divided up between spending on food purchased at grocery stores and spending at restaurants, however, the portion of food dollars spent eating out has been steadily rising since 1982.

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"Growing preference for eating out during this five-year period has changed how food dollars were spent," Statistics Canada said.

For every dollar spent on food in 2001, 30 cents went to restaurant meals, up from 28 cents in 1996.

However, spending on food bought at stores dropped to 70 cents in 2001 from 72 cents in 1996, Statistics Canada said.

In total in 2001, households averaged $38 a week in restaurants and another $86 on food from grocery stores, said the report, based on information from a Food Expenditure Survey of 8,400 private households in urban and rural areas of Canada done that year.

Single men were by far the most frequent visitors to restaurants, spending the highest proportion of food budgets eating out.

Families with children spent the most money overall on food bills.

The study also showed that no matter what a person's income level is, they are spending more of their money eating out than buying groceries and eating at home.

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Other findings:

  • People are buying more frozen and packaged goods. In 2001, frozen precooked dinners and baked goods accounted for 31 cents of every dollar spent on the category known as 'other,' which includes foods, materials and food preparations, compared with 26 cents in 1996.
  • Canadians love their yogurt. The proportion of households that bought yogurt weekly, jumped to 22 per cent in 2001 from 9 per cent in 1996
  • Beef purchases are down, to 38 per cent of households in 2001 from 43 per cent in 1996.
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