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How To Survive Food Cost Increases in 2016 : Join The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 #1 Jan 4-10

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If you thought your grocery budget was tight in 2015 experts are saying to buckle up and expect to add $345 this year to your grocery expenses.

With the loonie taking a nose dive and the fact that most of our produce is imported, prices in the produce section are about to get scary.

Already we’ve seen cucumbers jump in price to $3.00 each from a cool $0.99 and celery that looks like it could use a bit of love with a shocking price tag of $4.99. Keep in mind, these are NOT organic prices either.

Prices are slated to rise from 2.0%-4.5% for fruit and produce in 2016 according to the University of Guelph’s annual Food Price Report 2016 English

For 2016, the Food Institute is forecasting food inflation rates across the
country to be anywhere between 2.0% to 4.0%.- UofG Food Price Report

In February 2015 Stats Canada released the consumer price index where you can clearly see prices aren’t moving down nor will they be anytime soon.

In 2016 food and utility prices are expected to increase so now is the time to get your budget under control.

Food prices advanced 3.9% in the 12 months to February. Prices for food purchased from stores were up 4.3% on a year-over-year basis in February, after rising 5.4% the previous month. Price gains for meat (+12.4%), fresh vegetables (+8.4%) and fresh fruit (+3.5%) contributed the most to the February increase, although these gains were smaller than in January. Prices for food purchased from restaurants rose 2.8% year over year in February.- Stats Canada

Cauliflower has the been the big talk around the web coming in at $8.99 like one CBB fan Judy in Hamilton, Ontario found out while doing her weekly grocery shop.

Some of my fans laugh at me because I keep going on about the cost of cauliflower but when you buy a large head in season for $0.99 and then it sky-rockets to $8.99 alarm bells go off in my head. I understand seasonal price increases but this more than just that. You’re darn right it worries me and this should worry all Canadians who grocery shop without doing a bit of prep work.

Related: You can read more of my cauliflower rant in last weeks GGC post.

cauliflower 8 99 ontario canada

I certainly would never pay $8.99 for a cauliflower even though my wife wants to make cauliflower mash as part of her new eating regimen of low-carb eating. Cauliflower does make a nice mash comparable to potatoes but not at that price.

Needless to say once Judy saw this she knew that things were about to change. When I asked Judy if she bought a cauliflower for $8.99 her response was exactly as I had imagined it might be.


Heck no!!! But did come home with two cabbages. I’ll tell you, I was so shocked and confused by the cauliflower that the rest of the shopping trip was kind of spacey.- Judy C.


Food Cost increases over the years


The Consumer Price Index December 2015 shares retail price movement, inflation rates and the factors underlying to them. This is just another reason it’s SO important to budget, especially when it comes to food.

If you have a look at Stats Canada food and other selected items from November 2010-November 2015 the price increases were certainly an eye-opener for me.

Click the Stats Canada link above to get the comprehensive list of items to compare prices over the years… here is just an example of a few meat products with price comparisons up to November 2015.

Related: How to save money buying meat

comparison stats Canada to 2015(1)

Our 2016 Grocery Budget


Like most Canadians who have read the flood of posts showering the internet over the last month we are somewhat worried about how we can afford to feed our family on a tight budget but we will monitor it as we go along. As long as we continue to follow the way we have shopped and saved over the years we’re hoping we can have another successful year of food shopping.

In 2015 my wife and I set out with our monthly grocery budget set at $235 a month just for food. This does not include health and beauty or cleaning supplies because we want to see exactly what we are spending on just food costs alone.

We also included a $25 stockpile budget ever month which was available to us just in case a really good flyer special or in-store special popped up that we wanted to buy. The purpose of the stockpile budget was to curb our extra in-store spending which increases the cost of our grocery shop every time.

We are far from perfect and trust me when I say we messed up a few times in 2015 and had to make up for it which is always tough. Some people ask why our grocery budget is so low if we have the money in the bank to afford expensive food or a bigger budget and my answer is, it works with our overall financial goals.

We could certainly add more money to the grocery budget but at this point we don’t think it’s necessary as long as we are buying all the food that we need. Most of the time when we do over-spend we can easily look back and say, “We could have done without”. Our pantry is far from dry and our freezer is full so we aren’t starving by any means.

Part of our grocery shopping success is because we are always striving to be better is by playing The Grocery Game Challenge. The other part is sheer determination towards financial success and reaching our goals.

We are now starting the 4th edition of The Grocery Game Challenge and over the years anyone who has successfully completed a full year will easily support me when I say that we have all succeeded in reaching our goals. Not one Grocery Game player has reached the end of the year spending more than they had set for their grocery budget. That deserves a round of applause. I’m so proud of the GGC players and every week when I see their shops I know the GGC is making a difference in their lives.


Our 2015 Food Cost Review


What was our food cost total for 2015? Below is the run-down of numbers that I calculated throughout the year every month by playing The Grocery Game Challenge.

  • Total Grocery Budget for the Month: $235.00
  • Total Gift Cards used to date: $32.40
  • Total Rewards Points used to date: $230.00
  • Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP) to date $0.98
  • Snap Groupon to date: $28.00
  • Zweet to date: $18.00
  • Checkout51 to date: $7.00
  • Stockpile budget 2015 : (Jan/Feb) $50.00 +$0 (Mar)+$16.94+$25.00 (April)+$25.00+ May $25.00+ June $25.00+July $14.44+Aug $25.00+Sept $25.00+ Oct $25.00+ Nov $25.00+ Dec $23.28=$281.38 ($18.62 under)
  • Total coupons used to date: $40.77
    Total in-store discounts to date: $718.82
    Total Spent To Date 2015: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $166.49+ Feb $261.51+ Mar $231.02 + April $258.44+May $218.12+ June $235.67+July $212.16+August $118.15+ September $130.37+ October $281.89+ November $249.04+ December $166.17= $2559.03 ($260.97 under)

What changes did we notice to our overall food cost numbers?

We hardly used any paper coupons in 2015 compared to the end of 2014 where we used $74.19. Clearly we are buying less with coupons or the coupons we need are no longer available. Keep in mind those coupon apps are taking over the coupon industry where we saved $52.00 for the year. If you do the math it sort of balances out for us.

Grocery shopping in 2015 with a baby was challenging but we survived. We have come up with ways to get through the shop without freaking out because he’s having a fit which forced us to the checkout or rapid shopping which can cost our budget dearly. If this does happen one of us takes him to the car and the other finishes the shop.

There are many times that I grocery shop alone for this reason. It may seem great to get the kids in the grocery store but sometimes it’s best to do when you have a small shop, that way they don’t get bored. Some parents play games with their kids which we will likely do once he understand a bit more.

As you will see we came under budget with our yearly food cost spending $2559.03 ($260.97 under) which was great considering we had $2800 to spend. Why the under-spend? If we had a month where our food cost was under we didn’t carry over the extra money to the next month. When we had a month that we had an overspend we would do a catch up which is why the number came up the way it did.

We certainly were impressed but know that without all the extra help via coupons, coupon apps, flyer sales and rewards points we potentially would see an increase in our grocery budget for 2016. In 2015 we were able to use $230 in rewards points which helped bring down our expenses. For the new year we will do our best to stick to the current grocery budget of $235 a month with a $25 stockpile budget.

In the event we see this is not working out we will re-evaluate but our goal is to see this through the year. Our stockpile budget in 2015 also came in under budget by $18.62 with $300 to spend. In this case if we don’t use it we don’t carry it over.

Where did we see the biggest food cost savings?

We saved $718.82 in 2015 buying reduced products. This was a big surprise for us and maybe for you too because most people pass by the reduced rack or forego buying any produce or meat products that are ready for fast sales. I hardly think we bought any meat this past year that wasn’t reduced and we will stick to that plan unless grocery stores no longer offer this option.


CBB fans share their food cost savings tips for 2016


Below are some comments Canadian Budget Binder fans said to me when I asked them how they would focus on food cost in 2016.

We will be planting a bigger garden this year and blanch and freeze more vegetables than ever before. We will shop the freezer first and make more meals from what we have on hand. We already make most of our own baked goods, so we will continue that. We will make more soup than ever during the colder months so that we can stretch the meals. We plan to buy less meat, not that we buy much as it is, and focus more on other sources of protein.- Angela M.

I watch for the sales so knowing the prices of the most common things you buy helps to know a good price when you see it. I have a small stockpile amount to spend in the budget for those sales so I can stock up if it’s a good price for something we will eat here. I love having leftovers to stretch the budget and make meals easier and quicker! I watch the prices and grab the sales as much as I can. Mind you I’m close enough that when they have the 3 day loss leaders I can go a couple of times.- Christine W.
I am going to work on per portion size. I cook large meals and we tend to overeat which is bad for us and our budget. I also plan to use less meat when I cook meals which is good for us and our budget. We will also be gardening different crops this year especially growing and canning what is most expensive during the winter. I will also make jellies & jams which are cheaper and so much better- Donna P
When planning menu, try dishes that have sauces. This way, the sauce gives a lot of flavours so you don’t need to eat a lot of meat. I also like to save those “Inedible” parts of vegetables such as the woody part of asparagus, cabbage cores, hard stems of kale, etc in a Ziploc bag and freeze.Once full, I make vegetable stock saving me money rather than buying store-bought. We also like to have eggs for dinner. I know some of my coworkers give me a look and ask “Aren’t eggs supposed to be for breakfast?” No such thing, eggs provide complete protein and are cheap. If you happen to live in a diverse town that has ethnic stores – try to check them out. We recently have an “International (more like Asian)” grocery store not too far from our house and decided to check it out. Last weekend we bought 3 cucumbers for 2.50, 1 lb of sugar snap peas for 2.99 and a bag of bell peppers (mixed green and yellow, about 10) for 2.99! Best deal ever….that feeling when you know you hit the score!- Juyenty T
This year I’m planning on getting a grip on expenses. I’ll try to learn how to budget. I know that we throw out so much food when I don’t pay attention to expiration dates. Thanks for the posts everyone.- Mona
Garden. Tonight we had green bean soup for supper. Carrots (still fresh), onions & potatoes (dry storage) & green beans (canned) along with summer savoury (dried), ALL from my garden. I don’t expect to buy onions or potatoes in the store until at least March & the carrots will last a few more weeks. Plus it’s not a 100 mile diet – it’s a 100 meter diet. We have lots of meals like that.- Faith
CBB fan Beth Anne shares a good point for all fans about buying and butchering your own meat to save money.
I’m feeling grateful for my butchering and cooking skills just now. Thrifty Foods had whole pork legs (minus the trotter) on sale for $1/lb. I bought the smallest one in the bin – just shy of 18-1/2 lbs – brought it home, boned it and broke it down myself. I cut one large roast, three small roasts, a lovely hock for osso bucco, and about a pound of trimmings I’ll use for stir fry for supper tonight (served over rice cooked in veggie stock). The bone is in the stock pot as I type and should yield me about 3 quarts of strong stock for the pantry. The skin is rendering in a pot on the stove. It looks to yield me between 1-1/2 and 2 pints of good quality cooking fat (savoury pastry anyone?) and a nice batch of cracklings. I figure that’s at least 40 meals for me from an investment of less than $20. I’m very pleased.- Beth Anne

Food cost tips to save in 2016


If you read the Grocery Game Challenge post every week you will know many of these tips already, however if you are new you may want to do some reading on this blog. Check out my Ultimate Grocery Guide where you will learn all about ways you can save money when grocery shopping.

Although food prices vary around the world and in some places food costs are through the roof insane the premise still stands that if you want to save you can save but you have to be motivated to so.

  1. Always use a grocery budget (If you’re not sure how much your grocery budget should be then you should read this post: How much should my grocery budget be?)
  2. Plan your meals
  3. Get to know prices of products at all the local grocery stores
  4. Price Match, Watch flyer sales, buy reduced, get Rain Checks, Scanning Code of Practice, Price Adjustments
  5. Use Coupons and Coupon Apps A good coupon app is Checkout51
  6. Points Rewards Programs– Sign up for Nielsen Homescan Canada – I did this in the UK and I was able to score lots of free groceries and gift cards. Many CBB fans have the scanner at home and it takes minutes to scan in your products and then you are rewarded with points which you can redeem. Saving money wherever you can.  Also, if you have a credit card or loyalty card that offers points make sure you load your points to the card and use them to your full advantage. Examples: PC Plus, Shoppers Optimum
  7. Cook at home
  8. Shopping plan
  9. Take inventory of your pantry and freezer
  10. Eat less by portioning your food

If you’re ready join The Grocery Game Challenge today!!!



January Grocery Game Challenge posts 2016


Join in the 2016 Grocery Game Challenge (GGC) fun and post your grocery shop in the comment section of each GGC blog post. Here are the rules to get you started and where you’ll also find a link for the updated 2016 GGC schedule. Please feel free to download, save and even print the schedule so it’s handy. Thanks to Mary for putting this together for us again this year. If you need any help please let me know.

New monthly prize: $10 President’s Choice Gift Card for Canadian residents only BUT If you want to play from outside of Canada and have PayPal and you win I will pay you $10CDN. I use a random online generator to pick the winning ballot every month.

If you missed any grocery game posts for the month I will post the line-up each week here for you so you don’t have to go looking for past GGC posts for the month. This makes posting a bit easier although all you need to do is click on The Grocery Game Challenge on the homepage sidebar and you will see them all.

Our December 2015 Grocery Game Winner goes to….. Ballot #16 Kathryn. Congrats! Please note: I found that I made an error when I did a reply to the post. I must have thought it was Mary’s post so I gave the ballot to Mary. I review all winning ballots and found that error. Please make sure to write your ballot numbers and read my comments in case this sleep-deprived dad, husband and workaholic screws up.


Free Money Saving Tools 2016


Click, Save and Print. It’s that easy!

This is the budget that brought us to debt freedom back in 2013 and now I’m offering to all of you for FREE. We still use this budget every month as it helps us to see our overall financial picture.

2014 Free Money Saving ToolsDon’t pay someone for these services, I’ve done the work for you along with some help from other amazing bloggers.

You can download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Excel…Grab it while you can… It’s FREE! We use it to budget and in large part a reason we could pay our mortgage off in 5 years, check it out!

Free Money Saving Downloads are awesome lists that were created to get us on track to work towards reaching our budgeting goals and now we are sharing them with you.

Get organized with a FREE freezer inventory, meal plan, shopping list, price comparison list and much more all for FREE.

CLICK HERE to download all the free lists and even our family budget spreadsheet. So many free resources at your fingertips.


Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide 2016


the ultimate grocery shopping guide cbbEverything you want to know about grocery shopping in Canada is packed into this amazing FREE grocery shopping guide that has taken 4 years to create.

The Ultimate Grocery Shopping guide is on-going with new informative money-saving posts added every month.

Even if you don’t live in Canada there are some amazing budget saving tips that will help put you on the path to more savings at the supermarket.

Share this guide with your friends and tell them about Canadian Budget Binder especially if they are struggling with their grocery budget.

The time is NOW to get started saving money on groceries so please enjoy the  many money-saving posts in the The Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide.


2016 Grocery shop results


Yearly grocery budget for two + 1 Toddler 2016: $2820

(The above total does not include the stockpile budget of $300/year or $25/month.

Points Overview (add any other sections you need to show us your savings)

  • Total Grocery Budget for the Month:$235.00
  • Total Grocery Budget with any carry-overs $
  • Total Gift Cards used to date: $
  • Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $
  • Total Rewards Points used to date: $
  • PC Points Plus Earned to date: 31,947
  • Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP)to date $0
  • Shoppers Optimum: Over 700,000 points ( I will update this twice a year)

Coupon Apps (add any other apps you use to save money)

  • Snap Groupon to date: $28.00
  • Zweet to date: $18.00
  • Checkout51 to date: $7.00


Grocery Shop This Week



  • Homo Milk $4.97
  • Coconut Flour $7.99
  • 2x Sealtest whipping cream Sale $1.99
  • 4 x Sealtest Half and Half cream sale $1.99
  • 2 x sugar-free Jello $0.99 each
  • 2 x Pork Rinds $1.49 each (used for breading)
  • 1 x cucumber sale $1.29
  • 3lb carrots $1.69
  • Baking cocoa $3.69
  • Xylitol $5.99 (Natural sugar substitute)
  • Dare baby cookies $0.97
  • 4 x compliments diced tomatoes sale $0.77 large can

Total Out-of-Pocket: $48.56

Shoppers Drug Mart

  • 4 x dozen eggs $2.49 each
  • 1 x Sealtest Milk $3.97

Total Out-of-Pocket: $13.93 plus 3000 bonus Optimum points for spending $10 on food

  • Total to spend this month $235.00
  • Stockpile budget 2016 ($25.00):$0
  • Stockpile budget used this month: $
  • Total coupons used this week: $0
  • Total coupons used to date: $0
  • Total in-store discounts this week:$0
  • Total in-store discounts to date: $
  • Total spent this week: $62.49
  • Total spent so far this month: $62.49
  • Total over/Under spend this shop: over
  • Total over/Under spend for the month: over : over
  • Total left to spend for the month: $172.51
  • Total Spent To Date 2016: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $

Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)

We didn’t need much this week but my wife stocked up on some foods she will use to make her Atkins diet low-carb meals. It may seem that we are spending more money buying coconut flour and other items but with my wife eating low-carb that will significantly cut back on other food costs so it hopefully will balance out. It will be easier to know once we are a few months into the year and have more data to review.


Canadian Coupons 2016


Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons! These are your latest Checkout 51 offers which you can use to help save money. We’re finding less and less coupons in the stores these days. What are your thoughts? Are coupon apps taking over the paper coupons?

January 2016 coupons Canada


Grocery Game Challenge 2016 FAQ’s


  • Grocery Game Challenge RULES: Read the rules first and if you have any questions email me or comment on this post with your question and someone will answer you as soon as possible. The rules have been updated for the 2016 challenge year.
  • Do I have to be Canadian to post my Grocery Shop?: No, you don’t have to be Canadian to post your shops. We have fans who post their grocery shop who live all over the world.
  • What is the monthly prize and who can claim it?- The monthly prize is a $10 PC Loblaws Gift Card and for our out of country friends it’s $10 CDN via Paypal if they win. As more people join I will add more money to the gift card or I will split it up and offer 2 prizes every month.
  • When does the Grocery Game close each month?: The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight of the last Sunday of the last post for the month but you will still get a ballot when you post your shops even if they are late but I encourage you to stay on schedule. If you choose to post monthly  or bi-weekly you will only get 1 ballot for that shop. It’s a proven fact the minute we stop doing something that is scheduled that we end up forgetting to do it altogether. Don’t let that be you! You can post your shops all month-long.
  • Does your Grocery Budget include health and beauty and laundry products?: No, our Grocery Budget includes such items as shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap etc. As of 2014-2015 we no longer include such items in our grocery budget so we can see actual food numbers at the end of the year in order to plan accordingly our budget.
  • Do you stockpile food? We don’t mind stockpiling items that won’t be affected by expiry dates or have long expiry dates but not so much food any longer as we found we weren’t eating it fast enough. Stockpiling is still great and just one way to help cut your budget to save money if you do find items that you can buy in bulk at a sale price.
  • Canadian Coupons:Where can I find Canadian Coupons?: Here are your latest  Checkout 51 offers that you can use to help you save money in the Grocery Game Challenge. There are many great Canadian Couponing websites online that share weekly coupon match-ups so you can plan your grocery list.
  • Best Coupon Apps: Coupons are slowly fading with mobile coupon apps being the big rave these days. Just recently the popular coupon site that mailed coupons to households has gotten involved with the addition of a new mobile app joining forces with the many other coupon apps available. If you find an app that I don’t talk about please let me know as they are always being added and I’d like to review them.
  • What is the Best Flyer App- We use Flipp on our Iphone so if you wan to have all your flyers in one spot download Flipp from the Apple Store or get it on Google Play.
  • What is an FPC?: An FPC is a free product coupon which means you can get a free product as described on the coupon.
  • What is GGC?– The Grocery Game Challenge of course!
  • How Do I Grocery Shop?: I can tell you about grocery shopping and what we do in terms of shopping to save money and how it works for us. There are no wrong or right answers, just smart choices.

Nobody is perfect, heck we struggle with this part of our budget like many people do. This is why the grocery game challenge was created back in 2012 and is one of the most popular hang out spots for people who want to save money on groceries in Canada.

If you’ve just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 get ready to examine your grocery budget by learning

  • Where you are spending money
  • How much money you are spending
  • How much money you are saving every month

If you want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide! It’s FREE!

If you know a topic that should be discussed send me an email. If I use your topic I will put your name in a draw for a prize at the end of the year.

You’ve made a wise decision to take control of your grocery budget now show me your shops and let’s get saving!

Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2016!


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Photo credit cauliflower : Judy. C

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