Get money-saving tips in your inbox.

Stay on top of personal finance tips from our money experts!

News & Resources

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

March 24, 2011
4 mins
A man sits using his smartphone next to a woman using her laptop

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% of its income on food but economists believe that will reach 20%, as food prices are expected to rise by 7% to 8% 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 10 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 four to six 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 $1,040/year; and $50/week results in a total savings of $2,600/year. If you weren’t a savvy grocery shopper before, let the rising price of food be your motivation to start now.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

Latest life insurance articles

10 Life insurance myths debunked
Life insurance is for someone older or has kids, right? Wrong. Let’s debunk life insurance myths and learn why everyone needs some form of coverage.
6 mins read
Do you need life insurance? A primer for Canadians
Life insurance isn’t a one-size-fits all solution. But if you have dependents, it can be an important financial safety net for those you love.
7 mins read
Why life insurance should be part of estate planning for new parents
Life insurance is one of the best ways new parents can protect their family and help loved ones in the event of your unexpected death.
5 mins read

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay on top of our latest offers, relevant news and tips!

Thanks for joining!

You'll be hearing from us shortly - stay tuned.