Speaking in Edinburgh, Mr Miliband cautioned against relying on the fragile economic recovery to improve living standards for most people.
In a message designed to seize back the initiative after a troubled summer for his party, Mr Miliband said families were suffering from a "new phenomenon" in which economic growth only benefited "people at the top".
He said: "In the 1980s it was partly a problem of huge unemployment, and partly a problem of the tax and benefit decisions that were made.
"But we have a new phenomenon in this country which is actually, in a way, worse than the 1980s, which is the fact that you can have growth in the economy but the vast majority of people don't feel it because they are worse off.
"The link between growth and living standards has been broken. Prices are going up faster than wages."
The Labour leader was speaking publicly for the first time since internal criticisms of his leadership surfaced following a lacklustre summer for his party.
Mr Miliband dismissed criticism of his leadership, insisting he had maintained a clear focus on tackling what he called Britain's "living standards crisis".
In a bid to get Labour back on the front foot, the party leader said average wages in Scotland had fallen by £1400 since David Cameron became Prime Minister, though the "merry-go-round" of sky-high banking bonuses had started again.
He asked: "Where do the gains in our society go? Do they go to the people at the top or are they fairly shared?"
He added: "This will be the battleground of the 2015 election.
"The Tories think they are heading for a re-run of 2010: a referendum on the last Labour government. They're wrong."
Among Labour's plans for tackling falling living standards are measures to cut energy bills and train fares, a crackdown on payday loan firms, and encouraging employers to pay a "living wage" above the statutory minimum wage.
The party has also backed a mansion tax on £2 million properties in order to bring back the 10p starting rate of tax.
During a question session at the Eric Liddell centre in Morningside, Mr Miliband also called for the East Coast Main Line and Royal Mail to remain in public ownership.
He added: "I've been doing this job for three years and I'm now more confident than when I took over that we can make the Tories a one-term government. I don't think they stand where the British people are."