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Five tips for coping with food inflation

For decades, Canadians have been pretty lucky — we’ve enjoyed a plentiful food supply at a relatively low cost. To see how far cheap food prices have taken us, take a moment to browse the aisles of your local grocery store and count how many kinds of cereals, yogurts, pickles, etc. you can find at any given time.

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For decades, Canadians have been pretty lucky —  we’ve enjoyed a plentiful food supply at a relatively low cost. To see how far cheap food prices have taken us, take a moment to browse the aisles of your local grocery store and count how many kinds of cereals, yogurts, pickles, etc. you can find at any given time. We’re spoiled by quantity, selection and price. In fact, the biggest problem many of us have with food is that we eat too much of it.

But the days of cheap food are about to come to an end. Soaring food prices are already leading to social unrest in North Africa and China, and higher prices are on the way in Canada — just last week baked goods giant George Weston Ltd. announced that it’s raising prices by an average of five percent to cope with the rising costs of oil, wheat and sugar.

Most economists don’t think this is going to be a temporary price hike, either. The high cost of fuel means that foods you’re used to enjoying pretty cheaply are going to get harder and more expensive to produce and ship.

To survive the coming era of higher food prices, we all need to shop more strategically. Here are a few tips for coping with rising food prices (more tips welcome if you feel like sharing below!).

Buy local: Tough to do in winter, I know, but there are still some fresh foods on the shelves that can stand the test of time: local apples, carrots, potatoes and turnips can still be found at the grocery store. (Hint: these are the same items your Grandma used to store in the cellar all winter.)

Cut down on your sugar: Now is a good time to cut out sweets. Sugar is one of the highest-priced commodities out there, so try sweetening your food with a substitute like honey.

Eat less meat: Meat prices are going up as well, so it’s a good time to find ways to make one piece of meat feed more mouths. Think stews, sauces and casseroles — or go meatless more often. This is also a good time to take advantage of any sales or specials you see out there — if pork tenderloin is on sale, pick up twice as much and put it in the freezer for later.

Avoid takeout: Pre-prepared food is more expensive at the best of times — get ready for even steeper prices in the months ahead as higher costs make it onto the menus of your favourite restaurants.

Keep your eye on the shelves: Prices are going up so you can’t just assume that the can of soup that’s been 99 cents for years is going to stay that cheap. Monitor the prices of your favourite foods to see which ones are getting more expensive — you might need to shake up your grocery list next time.

Have you noticed an increase in your grocery bills? Which foods are being affected by price increases where you live? Please let us know in the comments.