The Rising Cost of Food and How You Can Save at the Till

Is it starting to feel like everything you pay for costs more than it did the week before? Starbucks coffee went up a few months ago, gas prices are climbing as summer approaches, and food prices are setting new records.

After severe weather hit some of the world’s biggest crop exporting countries, in 2010, production of wheat, other grains, and sugar are low. Flooding hit the Canadian prairies, destroyed wheat and sugar cane crops in Australia, while drought and fires caused Russia to ban exports of any crops that survived. Because of these examples and more, grocery suppliers are having to pay more to purchase food crops. These costs are starting to be felt by local grocery stores which are expected to increase prices through March and April. Metro Inc. confirmed it will raise prices on items such as bread, pasta, rice, coffee and cooking oil, and soon Sobeys and Loblaw Cos. Ltd. will follow.

The average Canadian household spends 17 per cent of its income on food but economists believe that will reach 20 per cent, as food prices are expected to rise by 7-8 per cent annually on a year-over-year basis. With the cost of living already so high in many parts of the country, how are the rising food prices going to affect families? Since your income is not going to increase, to cover the increased bill, here are a list of ten tips to help you save on your grocery bill.

1. Shop the sales. Every week, the newspaper and your mailbox are filled with flyers. Before you put them all in the recycling bin, pull out the grocery store flyers and find out what is on sale. When looking at the sale prices, make sure you know what the regular prices are, so you’re not fooled into thinking something is a good deal.

2. Print, clip, and use coupons. Some people hate the process of clipping coupons, bringing them to the store, and handing them to the cashier, but if it will save you money at the till, isn’t it worth it? Visit these Canadian coupons and saving sites, to find extra ways to cut costs at your local grocery store:,,,

3. Price match. Did you know that, like the big box stores, some grocery stores offer a price match guarantee? If you don’t have the time, or if the extra gas isn’t worth it, to make trips to multiple stores, have other stores’ flyers with you to price match an expensive item. *Note: Most stores won’t price match, if the original store is out of stock.

4. Make a list and stick to it. Before you go shopping, plan a few days’ or a week worth of meals and make a list of everything you need. If you’re really organized, organize the list into the different departments. This tip has a higher success rate if you follow these other steps: Eat before you go, don’t bring the kids, and avoid checkout temptations.

5. Check the price per unit. If one package of spaghetti is 500g for $2.99 and another is 400g for $2.49, calculate which is the better price. (In this example, the 500g package is the better price.) Also, remember that if there is a sale sticker on one brand, it doesn’t mean it’s a better deal than the brands that are not on sale.

6. Stock up. If a non-perishable item you buy weekly (e.g. pasta sauce) is on sale for a great price, consider stocking up. But don’t hoard your cupboard space with a supply, because most sales recycle every 4-6 weeks, so the item will be on sale again.

7. Buy in-season. Have you ever wondered why strawberries are $5.99/lb in the winter but can be as cheap as $2/lb in the summer? It costs more money for farmers to grow off-season produce, than what is in-season. Consider eating more potatoes in the fall, squash in the winter, greens in the spring, and berries in the summer.

8. Go vegetarian for a week. Depending on how much and how often you eat meat, it can take up a huge chunk of your budget. Try substituting a few proteins (e.g. bean burritos instead of chicken fajitas) for a week and see if you notice the difference on the bill.

9. Watch the scanner. Most stores have a policy in place where, if the price an item is scanned at is incorrect, they will give it to you for free (usually up to $10). If the sale price doesn’t come up on the scanner, don’t be scared to say something; you may end up getting it for free.

10. Check your bill. Before you walk out of the store, or as soon as you get to your car, look over your bill. Make sure you weren’t charged for one item twice and really assess what your bag of grapes cost at $2.99/lb. If a price shocks you, consider buying an alternative next week or wait for it to go on sale before buying it again.

Saving just $10/week will end up saving you $520/year; $20/week adds up to $1040/year; and $50/week results in a total savings of $2600/year. If you weren’t a savvy grocery shopper before, let the rising price of food be your motivation to start now.

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