The Grocery Game | Ultimate Grocery Shopping Guide

The Best Canadian Grocery Stores To Shop At : The Grocery Game Challenge 2016 #2 Mar 14-20

THE BEST CANADIAN GROCERY STORESTHE TOP GROCERY STORES IN CANADA ARE IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD

There are so many Canadian Grocery Stores that it can get a bit confusing trying to figure out where to shop to get quality products while saving money to stretch those grocery dollars.

Then there are shoppers who don’t care about saving money because they are committed to shopping at one grocery store even if they have to pay more money for products they can pay less for somewhere else.

Related: Are you a grocery store snob?

When I first 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 and with that comes differences in product quality and availability.

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. Just about every nationality has a market/shop that sells products from the homeland especially in Toronto which is great to buy hard to find products for new recipes.

Related: How to enjoy Gourmet Food on A Tight Budget

Outside any city, you will find farmers who are willing to sell their crops to customers who stop in to either pick produce and fruits themselves 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 the green thumb growing your own garden is the next best thing to organic produce when it comes to the best produce around Canada.

We are fortunate living in a country that offers us so many diverse options of where to get food but Canadians continue to make their number one shopping trips at traditional Canadian Grocery Stores many of which are chain supermarkets.

Canada is home to many new Canadians, landed immigrants and permanent residents many who are not familiar 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 made it a priority to learn 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 the grocery shopping and preparing the grocery list which I was fine with because it gave me the opportunity to explore what Canadian Grocery Stores had to offer.

Some of the questions I wanted answers to as a new resident to 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 own 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.

It took me about 3 months to grasp Canadian grocery shopping culture and about one 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 we could so we could put a large down-payment on a house.

The savings war was won since we managed to pay our mortgage off in 5 years flat.

Searching out food savings may not seem worth it to some people but for others like us, it was worth the effort because the rewards are long-lasting.

In the early years investigating Canadian Grocery Stores online I came across some Canadian Coupon sites where I could pick coupons that we may use and have them mailed to the house.

Back then it was Save.ca, Brandsaver, and Websaver that gave us the savings kick-start which we kind of got obsessed over.

Thankfully we didn’t have much room so there was hardly any stockpiling going on.

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 just like shopping at any other Loblaws store but without the higher prices and 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.

Most often we 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 is always going to be there.

If you opt for organic you know you already know that you’ll pay more no matter where you shop.

These days Loblaws stores sell the No Name “Naturally Imperfect” line of produce which are vegetables and fruits that aren’t perfectly shaped but edible.

You’ll pay less just to eat an apple that has an odd shape rather than a perfectly round apple.

Honestly, I don’t ever look for perfectly shaped produce but some of you may. Heck, the first place we hit is the reduced produce rack to find some bargains.

naturally imperfect apples Zehrs

So what are some of our favourite 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 which is 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 in and stock isn’t purchased in mass quantity like the larger Canadian Grocery Stores.

Still, Foodland is a great place to shop with homemade baked goods and top-notch produce and meat.

Most often we find ourselves shopping at these 5 grocery stores only because they are in our area and offer us products that fit our budget.

We hardly ever go to Freshco, RCSS, Sobeys or Walmart to shop since they further away from our home.

If we want products from those grocery flyers we’ll price match if we have to at No Frills.

  • Zehrs
  • No Frills
  • Food Basics
  • Metro
  • Shoppers Drug Mart *non-conventional

Every time we drive by Costco we can be certain that the parking lot will be jam-packed.

After a recent trip to Costco, we realized that getting good deals were hit or miss provided you know the regular retail cost at the big box Canadian Grocery Stores.

Costco is not considered a grocery store that is open to the public since you have to purchase a Club membership which is $55 a year. Canadians still enjoy shopping in bulk which means fewer trips to the grocery store.

Related: Is it really worth it to shop at Costco?

Loblaws Chain Stores

so easy to save PC stores LoblawsThere are many stores that fall under the Loblaws label also known as President’s Choice stores.

President’s Choice products and services have quickly become our favourite since we bank with PC Financial and have a PC Financial World Elite MasterCard which allows us to earn more PC Plus Rewards Points.

Rewards programs seem to have a big influence for financially alert shoppers in Canada because they know that the savings all add up.

We’re huge fans of  Loblaws stores simply for products and prices whether 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 just to name a few.

The Best Canadian Grocery Stores

If you want to learn about the full 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 are many of The Best Canadian Grocery Stores you’ll find.

These are some of the popular Loblaws Chain Stores across Canada

Metro Divisions

Metro is the higher end store who also offers online coupons and rewards along with Air Miles.

Most Metro stores have a wine shop, deli, bakery, floral shop, fish counter as well as an extensive line of health products.

Some Metro stores are now selling Beer as well.

Food basics is a grocery store division of Metro that sells lower priced items and many of the same items 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 cannot buy beer or wine at Food Basics.

Random Canadian Grocery Stores

Sobeys Chain Stores

FreshCo is a super saver 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 carries an array of fresh products and has an in-store registered dietitian.

Thrifty may all be in the name here so shopping the sales may be a smart move. 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 I did when I was learning about what Canadian Grocery Stores had to offer us.

Other non-conventional stores that sell groceries

These shops all sell grocery items but they also sell a variety of other items which means 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 offer 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 which means you can use more than one coupon per product as long as the UPC codes are different.

The savings here are huge if you are a stacker!

Both Giant Tiger and Dollarama offer food products with Giant Tiger having a bigger grocery selection along with 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 an abundance of homemade products 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 on.

Fan Feedback

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 favourites 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)

No matter where you choose to do your grocery shopping every Canadian grocery store will have their good days and bad days.

That means that you will equally find higher prices, lower prices, good produce, irregular produce, excellent customer service, crappy customer service, and convenience.

Related: Price Matching In Canadian Grocery Stores

Prices will always vary depending on where you choose to do your groceries or you can price match to cut down on travel time.

Unfortunately, many of the Canadian Grocery Stores don’t price match so you are pushed towards a certain shop even if it’s not your favourite.

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 coming back to grocery shop.

Related: How much should my grocery budget be?

The best Grocery Stores in Canada are the stores where you are willing to shop and that 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.

Discussion Questions:

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 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.

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 $10 Canadian.

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, just click on the “Grocery Game Challenge” tab on the blog side-bar to see past posts.

March Grocery Game Posts

Free Money Saving Tools

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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.

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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

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 over 4 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 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 the 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 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

Grocery Shop This Week

Food Basics

  • 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

Metro

  • Fennel $1.99 (previous week last-minute item)
  • Maple Leaf Ham (half) $6.99

Total Out-of-Pocket: $8.98

No Frills

  • Strawberries $1.77
  • Bananas $1.95
  • 4 x Granulated Sugar $1.47
  • 2 x Seedless cucumbers $0.88

Total out-of-pocket $11.36

Zehrs

  • 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

Shoppers Drugmart

  • 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 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 spend 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 $

Weekly Overview (your final thoughts)

There wasn’t much that 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 where grocery shopping isn’t in the cards and this week we almost called it a no-shop week.

Almost, but failed.
How was your grocery shopping week?

Coupons and Coupon Apps

Here are some great places you can find Canadian Coupons! T

These are your latest Checkout 51 offers which you can use to help save money. We’re finding fewer and fewer coupons in the stores these days. What are your thoughts?

Are coupon apps taking over the paper coupons?

Sign up for the Nielsen Canada Home Scan Program and you can earn rewards points fast to redeem for awesome products or gift cards.

I did this in the UK and loved it!!

Where can I find Canadian Coupons?

Plus check out these other hidden areas online to get more coupons!!

  • Clorox Coupons Sign up to print coupons in the Clorox family which include 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
  • Hidden Coupon Portals You Should know about – I found this over at Save a Loonie and you’ll want to sign up for notifications and check out the site so you get notified every time a hidden coupon is available from Save.ca, Brandsaver, Smart Source etc.

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 Save.ca that mailed coupons to households has gotten involved with the addition of a new mobile Save.ca 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 as many people do. This is why the grocery game challenge was created back in 2012 and is one of the most popular hangout 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 look at 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!

-Mr.CBB

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