WINDSOR, ONT. -- The average Canadian family can expect to pay up to an extra $695 for food next year due to a number of factors — including COVID-19.

The pandemic, wildfires and changing consumer habits have driven up grocery bills to the highest increase ever predicted by the 2021 Canada’s Food Price Report.

“People can’t afford to buy groceries anymore, they’re losing their jobs,” said Maria Secreti, a widow in Windsor’s Via Italia neighbourhood.

Secreti wants to prices go the other way, saying tough choices shouldn’t be made at checkout.

“I’ve got to spend less. Buy less. Eat less I guess,” she said.

La Stella Supermarket owner Jimmy Pugliese believes fixed cost increases are what’s really driving up prices.

There’s so much competition that someone will always have something that they give away,” he said.

Pugliese tells CTV News he thinks shoppers can benefit if they search for deals.

“You know the way it is today with all the media around, people, they shop online, they look at the paper for specials so I think it’s good for the consumer,” he said.

Lead author of the 2021 Canada Food Price Report, Sylvain Charlebois agreed.

“If you’re prudent, if you’re very careful and you remain disciplined you should be okay,” Charlebois said. “I mean, yes, we are predicted higher food prices, but there are still deals out there if you actually look around, you can actually see some price tags drop momentarily.”

The food distribution and policy professor at Dalhousie University says prices on veggies, bread and meat climbed at record speed this year, and aren’t slowing yet.

“They all got more expensive this year and that momentum will continue into the new year,” Charlebois said.