Estimated reading time: 17 minutes
There are so many Canadian Grocery Stores that it can get confusing to figure out where to shop to get quality products while saving money to stretch those grocery dollars.
Then, some shoppers don’t care about saving money because they are committed to shopping at one grocery store.
Even if they have to pay more for products, they can spend less elsewhere.
Related: Are you a grocery store snob?
Canadian Grocery Stores In Your Neighbourhood
When I moved to Canada 8 years ago, I had no idea about Canadian Grocery Stores, let alone where to begin shopping.
Grocery store prices differ from shop to shop, resulting in product quality and availability differences.
Depending on where you live in Canada, you may be blessed with local markets like the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto or St. Jacobs Farmers Market in St. Jacobs.
Almost every nationality has a market/shop that sells products from the homeland, especially in Toronto, which is excellent for buying hard-to-find products for new recipes.
Outside any city, you will find farmers willing to sell their crops to customers who stop in to pick produce and fruits or buy ready-picked, which typically costs a bit more.
The great thing about picking your own is that you can bring the family, which tends to be an educational experience for the kids and one they likely won’t forget.
If you’ve got a green thumb, growing your garden is the next best thing to organic produce when it comes to the best produce around Canada.
We are fortunate to live in a country that offers many diverse options of where to get food.
Still, Canadians continue to make their number one shopping trips at traditional Canadian Grocery Stores, many of which are chain supermarkets.
First Time Shopping At Canadian Grocery Stores
Canada is home to many new Canadians, landed immigrants, and permanent residents unfamiliar with grocery shopping in a new country.
I was one of those shoppers who, for a while, looked like he was a lost boy with a shopping cart.
As a permanent resident, I prioritized learning about Canadian Grocery Stores while my wife was at work and I had spare time.
I miss those days when there was nothing to do when I came home from work.
Being a homeowner and a renter are two very different experiences, that’s for sure.
I was in charge of grocery shopping and preparing the grocery list, which I was okay with because it allowed me to explore what Canadian Grocery Stores had to offer.
Some of the questions I wanted answers to as a new resident of Canada:
- What Canadian Grocery Stores are best to shop at for budget-conscious shoppers?
- What Canadian Grocery Stores were in my area?
- What does each of these Canadian Grocery Stores have to offer?
Since we were renting the lower level of a house and didn’t have our kitchen, we hated going upstairs to cook where our landlord lived.
It always seemed odd cooking in someone else’s kitchen and going through their stuff.
Saving Money At Canadian Grocery Stores Paid Off
It took me about three months to grasp Canadian grocery shopping culture.
Then, another year to understand product prices and the best places to grocery shop that would save us the most money.
Our priorities back then were to save as much money as possible to put a sizeable down payment on a house.
The savings war was won since we paid our mortgage in 5 years.
Searching out food savings may not seem worth it to some people, but for others like us, it is worth the effort because the rewards are long-lasting.
In the early years of investigating Canadian Grocery Stores, I came across Canadian coupon sites that would mail them to the house.
Back then, Save.ca, Brandsaver, and Websaver gave us the savings kick-start, which we obsessed over.
Thankfully, we didn’t have much room, so hardly any stockpiling was happening.
We managed to save lots of money by shopping at the lower-end grocery stores where prices were the best that a chain grocery store would offer.
For example, shopping at No Frills is like shopping at any other Loblaws store, but without higher prices, you can price-match—Win-win in my books.
The downfall is you may not get the best quality produce, but if you have time to be picky, you can easily find the good stuff.
We often buy our produce at Metro or Zehrs if it’s cheaper than Food Basics and No Frills only because they offer Grade A products.
When not on sale, though the prices are enough to scare your budget away, the quality will often be there.
If you opt for organic, you know you’ll pay more no matter where you shop.
Buying Reduced or Imperfect Produce
These days, Loblaws stores sell the No Name “Naturally Imperfect” line of produce: vegetables and fruits that aren’t perfectly shaped but edible.
You’ll pay less to eat an apple with an odd shape than a perfectly round apple.
I never look for perfectly shaped produce, but some of you may.
We first hit the reduced produce rack to find some bargains.
Reduced Food Apps In Canada
There’s also the FlashFood App that Loblaws stores use to sell reduced products up to 75% off, sometimes more.
We use this service often, and if you refer a friend, you both earn $3.
See the code in my blog post, and if you use it, we both get cash to spend.
If you don’t mind reduced product, you’ll love FlashFood as we do.
Favourite Grocery Stores To Shop At
So, what are some of our favorite Canadian Grocery Stores to shop at?
Location dictates what Canadian Grocery Stores will be in your area to shop at, so you won’t find every grocery store in each city or town.
Most small towns in Ontario have Foodland, a division of Sobeys Inc.
Prices are always higher at Foodland; for example, as the shop will service a smaller area, costs are higher to transport food, and stock isn’t purchased in mass quantity like the giant Canadian Grocery Stores.
Still, Foodland is a great place to shop for homemade baked goods, top-notch produce, and meat.
We often shop at these five grocery stores only because they are in our area and offer products that fit our budget.
We hardly shop at Freshco, RCSS, Sobeys, or Walmart since they are far from our home.
Always Price Match When You Can
If we want products from those grocery flyers, we’ll price match if we have to at No Frills.
- No Frills
- Food Basics
- Shoppers Drug Mart *non-conventional
Every time we drive by Costco, we can be confident that the parking lot will be jam-packed.
After a recent trip to Costco, we realized that getting good deals was hit or miss, provided you know the regular retail cost at the big box Canadian Grocery Stores.
Costco is not considered a grocery store open to the public since you have to purchase a Club membership of $55 a year.
Canadians still enjoy shopping in bulk, meaning fewer grocery store trips.
Related: Is it worth it to shop at Costco?
Loblaws Chain Stores
Many stores fall under the Loblaws label, also known as President’s Choice stores.
Rewards programs seem to influence financially alert shoppers in Canada because they know the savings add up.
We’re huge fans of Loblaws stores for products and prices, from the lower-end No Frills shop to the higher-end Zehrs, Fortino’s, or mid-range Real Canadian Super Store, Provigo, and Atlantic Superstore.
Best Canadian Grocery Stores
If you want to learn about the complete list of Supermarket Chains in Canada, you will be shocked to see just how many grocery stores fall under each banner, many of which you may not ever hear of.
The list below only scratches the surface, but these are many of The Best Canadian Grocery Stores you’ll find.
These are some of the popular Loblaw chain Stores across Canada
- Zehrs Markets
- No Frills
- Real Canadian Superstore
- Atlantic Superstore
- Your Independent Grocer
- Maxi (Quebec)
- Extra Foods
- Provigo (Quebec)
Metro is the higher-end store offering online coupons and rewards along with Air Miles.
Most Metro stores have a wine shop, deli, bakery, floral shop, fish counter, and an extensive line of health products.
Some Metro stores are now selling Beer, Food Basics, and Zehrs.
Food Basics is a grocery store division of Metro that sells lower-priced items and many of the same things you’ll find at Metro.
There is no deli, floral shop, fish counter, etc., but you can buy limited amounts of these products at Food Basics.
You can buy Beer or wine at Food Basics. Update 2023
Random Canadian Grocery Stores
Sobeys Chain Stores
FreshCo is a super-savvy grocery store, so if you’re looking for savings, this is a grocery store that you will want to hang out in. Plus, they price match.
Foodland and Sobeys are the higher-end grocery stores in this division, as can be Safeway.
Thrifty Foods has an array of fresh products and an in-store registered dietitian.
Thrifty may all be in the name here, so shopping the sales may be competent. Use your Air Miles card!
Your best defense to learning about grocery shopping is to click the links below and read about each store, like when I knew what Canadian Grocery Stores had offered us.
Other Non-conventional Canadian Grocery Stores
These shops sell grocery items, so they aren’t a dedicated grocery store.
Walmart such as is the ultimate all-in-one shop where Costco and M&M meats are for bulk shoppers.
M&M Meats offers a Max rewards program, so the more you shop, the more you save.
IKEA has a small grocery selection where you can buy International products after you shop for your home.
Shoppers Drug Mart, a Loblaws-owned pharmacy, is also home to a beauty boutique, electronics department, and grocery on a small scale.
The best part about Shoppers Drug Mart is the ability to get Shoppers Optimum Points, similar to PC Plus Points.
London Drugs is not in Ontario, but if you’re lucky to live out West, this Canadian Pharmacy also offers food items, and you can stack coupons.
Stacking coupons means you can use more than one coupon per product as long as the UPCs differ.
The savings here are huge if you are a stacker!
Giant Tiger and Dollarama offer food products, with Giant Tiger having an enormous grocery selection and produce, dairy, and bakery items for less.
You can also buy clothes and home-related items at Giant Tiger.
Explore your city to see what little shops you can find that are not associated with the big box grocery stores.
Many of these shops are family-owned and sell many homemade or international products.
Shop at the corner convenience stores, and you’ll find limited grocery items, and you’ll pay almost double what you would in a grocery store unless they have a sale.
- Giant Tiger
- Costco Wholesale
- Jean Coutou Group
- Shoppers Drug Mart
- M&M Meats
- London Drugs
- Local Asian markets
- Various other International grocery stores
- Convenience Stores
I don’t claim to know everything about all the Canadian Grocery Stores since I’ve only lived in Ontario, so I asked a handful of my Facebook fans what their favorites were.
Most of what I’ve learned about grocery stores outside of Ontario comes from websites, the Grocery Game Challenge, and you, the fans!
This is what some of my awesome fans say:
Beth Anne– Costco for quality in bulk, Thrifty Foods (a division of Sobey’s) for service, quality and specialty foods.
Christine W– I would have to say No Frills or Food Basics for price. For me Foodland is the store for location but that is because it’s across the road.
Pat C– My favorite stores are Giant Tiger for basic groceries and clothing and No frills for the rest.
Mary C– I don’t get to shop there very often as it’s an hour away but I do absolutely love Whole Foods for the freshness and diversity in their produce section.
When I was in Atlantic Canada, I adored the Halifax Atlantic Superstore and shopped there for the entire duration of our trip.
Locally, I pick up my fish and seafood or bison at Bruce’s Country Market in Albion for fresh items. We use M&M Meats for frozen fish supplies.
In the summer I trek out to Howard Wong’s Farm Market in Abbotsford for my locally grown produce.
I don’t have a favorite chain of stores but if I am buying meat, I prefer either Safeway or Thrifty Foods when they have a good sale.
Our local RCSS is regularly out of stock on advertised specials so it frustrates the living daylights out of me to try to shop there plus they don’t give rain checks.
I will shop at Save Foods but not for meat – I don’t care for their supplier.
I will get ham on their BOGO sales but never purchase their beef or chicken.
The pork tenderloin are fine if they are on a good sale but I can do just as well at Walmart.
Della F– My favourite store is RCSS due to price matching and it being a mid-price store.
Juanita P– Sobeys, Walmart and Superstore are my staple stores here in Edmonton.
But I also shop the sales at Co-op, Shoppers, Save on foods, No frills, London Drugs, McGavin’s bread basket and our local discount produce store.
Everything is within a ten minute drive so we are lucky enough to have a selection to choose from.
I always recommend for people to not shop during peak hours or days especially if they hate shopping.
Christine T– I unfortunately like the stores that are more expensive as I cannot usually find products in regular stores due to what I can eat.
In Toronto I like the Big Carrot and I Recently found this store Herbs and Nutrition.
For vegetables I usually go to either No Frills, Adonis (middle eastern store), Al Premium (Asian market), St Lawrence Market and Metro to get cat grass.
(It’s a good price and most importantly my cat loves it) and Costco for staples (only a few things I get there)
All Canadian Grocery Stores Are Unique
No matter where you choose to do your grocery shopping, every Canadian grocery store will have its good days and bad days.
That means you will find higher prices, lower prices, good produce, irregular produce, excellent customer service, crappy customer service, and convenience.
Prices will always vary depending on where you choose to do your groceries, or you can price match to reduce travel time.
Unfortunately, many Canadian Grocery Stores don’t price match, so you are pushed towards a specific shop even if it’s not your favorite.
Loblaws stores allow price matching at No Frills and RCSS but not Zehrs Markets. Listen up, Zehrs… we want to price match!!
Overall, what I’ve learned about Canadian Grocery Stores is that everyone who shops at them does so for a reason.
I also now know that each grocery store offers me something different, likely part of the marketing plan to keep us returning to the grocery shop.
The best Grocery Stores in Canada are where you are willing to shop, which works for your grocery budget.
That means shopping where you get the best savings and quality products, even if that means shopping at a few Canadian grocery stores to get what you need on your grocery list.
Which Canadian Grocery Stores do you prefer to do your grocery shopping at?
Did I miss any important points about the grocery stores I listed that I should add?
Let me know, and I’ll add in the details.
March 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 you’ll also find a link for the updated 2016 GGC schedule.
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 below for you so you don’t have to go looking for past GGC posts for the month.
Alternatively, click on the “Gro”ery Game Challenge” ta” on the blog sidebar to see past posts.
March Grocery Game Posts
Free Money Saving Tools
I blast you every way I can on this blog about my free money-saving tools because I want you to take advantage of them being FREE.
So many people pay for budgets and tools on the internet to help them save money. Honestly, you don’t need to. Even a paper and pen will do the trick.
This budget brought us to debt freedom in 2013, and now I’m offering it to all of you for FREE.
Don’t pay someone for these services; I’ve done the work for you, along with some help from other fabulous bloggers.
You can download the FREE Canadian Budget Binder Budget Spreadsheet in Exce.
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 fantastic lists created to get us on track to reach 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.
Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide
Everything you want to know about grocery shopping in Canada is packed into this fantastic FREE guide that has taken over four years to create.
The Ultimate Grocery Shopping guide is ongoing, with new informative money-saving posts added every month.
Even if you don’t live in Canada, some excellent budget-saving tips will help put you on the path to more savings at the supermarket.
Share this guide with your friends and tell them about the Canadian Budget Binder, especially if they struggle 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 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: $217.05
- Total Gift Cards used to date: $50
- Total Rewards Points redeemed this week: $0
- Total Rewards Points used to date: $0
- PC Points Plus Earned to date: 106779
- 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 cash out: $6.50
- Zweet to cash out: $18.25
- Checkout51 to cash out: $7.00
- Cauliflower $1.88
- 1lb Mushrooms $1.88
- 2 x 1lb Butter $2.88
- 2 x Astro Coconut Yogurt $1.99
- Radishes $1.27
- Spinach $4.97
- Red Onion $1.75
Total Out-of-Pocket: $21.49
- Fennel $1.99 (previous week’s last-minute item)
- Maple Leaf Ham (half) $6.99
Total Out-of-Pocket: $8.98
- Strawberries $1.77
- Bananas $1.95
- 4 x Granulated Sugar $1.47
- 2 x Seedless cucumbers $0.88
Total out-of-pocket $11.36
- Nielsen Cream $2.99
- Nielsen Whipping Cream $2.99
- 2% Milk $4.27
- Homo Milk 4L Sealtest $5.27
Total out-of-pocket $15.52
- 2 x dozen eggs $2.49 each
Total out-of-pocket $4.98
- Total to spend this month: $235.00-$32.41 over Jan = $202.59
- Stockpile budget 2016 ($25.00-$1 overage= $24.00)
- Stockpile budget used this month: $26.64 (over $2.64 per month)
- Total coupons used this week: $0
- Total coupons used to date: $4
- Total in-store discounts this week:$0
- Total in-store discounts to date: $155.97
- Total spent this week: $62.33
- Total spent so far this month: $111.27
- Total over/Under spend this shop: over
- Total over/Under spent for the month: $ under
- Total left to spend for the month: $91.32
- Total Spent To Date 2016: (does not include stockpile budget) Jan $252.95+ Feb $249.46+March $
Nothing much interested us in the grocery flyers this week, so we didn’t purchase too much apart from produce and a few other bits.
Sometimes, there are weeks when grocery shopping isn’t in the cards, and this week, we almost called it a no-shop week.
How was your grocery shopping week?
Coupons and Coupon Apps
Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons!
We’re finding fewer and fewer coupons in the stores these days.
Sign up for the Nielsen Canada Home Scan Program, and you can earn rewards points fast to redeem for excellent products or gift cards.
I did this in the UK and loved it!!
Other Coupon Portals
Plus, check out these other hidden areas online to get more coupons!!
- Clorox Coupons: Sign up to print coupons in the Clorox family, including Greenworks, Glad, etc.
- Kraft Canada: Sign up and receive recipes and coupons by email
- MySavings.com Printable Smart Source Coupons
- Walmart Canada Printable Coupons
- Proctor and Gamble PandG Sign up for printable coupons
Grocery Game Challenge 2016 FAQ’
- When does the Grocery Game close each month?: The Grocery Game Challenge closes at midnight on 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.
- Does your Grocery Budget include health, beauty, and laundry products?: No, our Grocery Budget includes shampoo, conditioner, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap, etc.
- Best Coupon Apps: Coupons are slowly fading, with mobile coupon apps being the biggest rave. Just recently, the popular coupon site Save.ca, which mailed coupons to households, has gotten involved with adding a new mobile Save.ca app, joining forces with the many other coupon apps available.
- What is the Best Flyer App- We use Flipp on our iPhone, so if you want to have all your flyers in one spot, download Flipp from the Apple Store or get it on Google Play.
If you’ve just joined The Grocery Game Challenge 2016, get ready to look at your grocery budget by learning.
If you want to learn everything I know about grocery shopping in Canada check out my Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide!
You’ve decided to take control of your grocery budget.
Now show me your shops, and let’s get started!
Welcome to The Grocery Game Challenge 2016!