How this small-town market is helping customers stay ahead of sky-high lettuce prices

When the price of lettuce skyrocketed and people stopped buying other salad ingredients, a grocery store in small-town Ontario decided to offer the green stuff at cost.

The Market north of Peterborough, Ont., hopes prices will level off by Christmas

Several heads of iceberg lettuce, stacked and wrapped on a shelf. The lettuce is being sold for $4.99 a head according to a tag.
Iceberg lettuce prices shot through the roof earlier in November due to drought and disease in California. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

If you haven't noticed, lettuce prices have been higher than normal — extraordinarily higher.

A head of iceberg lettuce that normally sold for $1 now has a price tag of $5.99 in some stores. Chopped romaine? $6.99. And a bag of three romaine hearts? Get ready to pay $9.

Drought conditions and disease in California, where much of the lettuce sold in Canada comes from, affected supply and drove up prices.

But there's no need to skip your salad if you're near The Market, a grocery store in Selwyn, Ont.'s community of Lakefield north of Peterborough.

A sign at its lettuce stand, which the store shared on its Facebook page to much praise, reads: "Dear customer, we have decided to sell our lettuce at cost. Hopefully lettuce prices should level out before Xmas."

A grocery store in Selwyn, Ont., shared this photo of its sign offering lettuce at cost on cost on Nov. 23, 2022, amid high prices for leafy greens. (The Market/Facebook)

Owner Lee Galley told CBC Radio's Ontario Morning on Monday that a case of 24 field lettuces costs the store about $146, "easily double" the price this time last year.

The sticker shock caused customers to stop buying lettuce, and then lettuce toppings were affected. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, even salad dressings weren't selling, Galley said.

So, the store decided to forego the small margin it was making and sell lettuce at cost.

"Since then everything is moving at a normal pace, which is awesome, even though November for us is quite a slow time of year," Galley said.

"Customers are coming in and thanking us. So I mean, that's worth [more than] making $1.20 on a head of lettuce, right?"

WATCH | The National's Nov. 10 segment on high lettuce prices

Lettuce prices skyrocket due to crop disease, supply chain issues

5 months ago
Duration 2:05
In parts of Canada lettuce is in short supply — and costing a lot more than usual — after drought conditions and disease affected supplies from California.

Prices are beginning to drop. Galley said he secured next week's lettuce shipments for about $18 to $22 less per case than in recent weeks, though romaine heart and iceberg costs are "still really high."

He's hoping that lettuce prices will level out by Christmas — but with fruits and vegetable prices up about eight to 10 per cent overall in the past three years, and with thinner margins than five or six years ago, business will continue to be all about survival and keeping things rolling.

With files from CBC Radio's Ontario Morning