KNOW YOUR OPTIONS WHEN DECIDING WHERE TO SHOP
Coast to coast I don’t think you will find too much variance in prices when it comes to high-end or the cheapest grocery stores in Canada when comparing apples to apples.
By this I mean grocery shopping and comparing prices high-end to high-end or the cheapest to cheapest grocery stores in Canada.
You’ll also find that where you save $1.00 on 1 item you will spend it on another unless you choose to shop only sales, price match if available or shop various stores for the best deals. (See grocery comparison chart below)
One of the most popular grocery posts on CBB is titled The Most Expensive Grocery Stores In Canada and rightfully so if you’re looking to pick and choose from that batch of stores.
What about those of us who want to save even more money on groceries? I wanted to explore this option a bit more for those of you who may be new to Canada or simply new to the world of grocery shopping.
Money In Your Pocket or Your Mouth
The answer to that question was to find the Cheapest Canadian Grocery Stores to shop at. What I found interesting about the list of cheapest Canadian grocery stores that I compiled was that almost all of them price matched other grocery stores.
Now, if you have a look at the most expensive grocery stores in Canada you’ll find that many of them do not price-match. Why? They can’t afford to price match, that’s why.
With all of the frills, packaging, marketing and hydro they use to spruce up their stores for customers who want the frosted touch shopping experience, they pay for it.
I believe that every grocery store has a certain clientage that will always shop there come hell or high water. If prices go up they will still go. Others may not have an option based on location and transportation so they are stuck shopping wherever a store is available.
Then there are the shoppers who are not store loyal rather they are budget loyal which means if they can save money, they will.
Do I blame them?
Not one bit and you can pitch me in that bunch of Canadian grocery shoppers because saving is smart investing in my opinion. Invest in your budget you invest in your future.
With the cost of living in Canada constantly going up (or it seems) we must find better ways to save our money so unless you have surplus you should probably get on the savings wagon.
Are you a grocery store snob? They exist and to be honest I can do without hearing about why certain grocery stores disgust them which has more to do with keeping up with the Grocerydashians than it does price. My opinion, if you can afford it and you don’t care about price then shop wherever you want.
I know some people may complain that the cheapest Canadian grocery stores also have the worst produce and meat and go without the frills but this isn’t always the case. We’ve found on occasions better produce at Food Basics than we have at Zehrs one of the most expensive grocery stores in Canada.
The ONLY reason we shop at Zehrs is for deals and it’s close to our home. We hardly ever do a regular grocery shop at Zehrs as it’s far too expensive for our grocery budget. Over the years our grocery budget has been questioned since it was so low but it was doable for us.
Increased Grocery Budget
This year however we’ve seen an increase to just over $400 for the 3 of us from $350 in 2018 which was a stretch most months. I was never the guy who said that living on a tight grocery budget was the challenge it was what worked for us.
There were many months where we struggled to stay on target because we got lazy and didn’t follow our own advice. It happens. You will never have the perfect grocery shop month after month.
With that in mind we also spend a bit more on purchasing items such as Nu Pasta which is a zero carb pasta that runs us $3.99 per package and feeds 2. When we did eat regular pasta a pack for $0.99 would feed 4-6 people so our grocery budget also reflects the Keto diet that we choose to enjoy.
On the other hand buying less of one thing meant we had more money to spend on others. For example not buying big bags of flour any longer transitioned over to purchasing a bag of almond or coconut flour instead. There is a price difference however so part of our budget tracking meant finding the best deals for meals we enjoy.
How do Canadians choose which grocery stores to shop at?
It really boils down to first and foremost PRICE, proximity followed by packaging and environment as to how consumers view the products that they purchase to be good, better or the best.
No one wants to buy a bruised apple or a mushy tomato which is why they end up on the reduced rack for those people who can make pots of soups, puree, baked goods, jams or to prep and freeze for later use.
Even the meat department has awesome deals on meat, fish and chicken that is close to expiry in just about every Canadian grocery store. Buy it and you may catch a deal (always check reg price or current sales).
Let’s not forget that many consumers want excellent customer service on top of this no matter where they shop. It can be high-end grocery shopping or at any of the cheapest grocery stores and the overall experience including customer interaction and service is vital.
Grocery Store Hopping
Over the years we’ve been the couple who would shop at various grocery stores just to find the best deals in Canada but only those that were in close proximity to each other. Like most cities you’ll find there are at least 2 grocery stores in the same area if not more but that depends on where you live.
It didn’t bother us to grocery store hop to save some money and perhaps scoop up some reduced sales or unadvertised deals but you still have to consider your grocery list because it’s very easy to get off track shopping this way. If you know you are already going to a particular store that is a great time to tap into what sales are happening.
For example, if we go to Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up a prescription which happens often we always check our PC Optimum app to see what points and promos are available and scan the flyer for the week. One of the biggest deals that we always take advantage of is the milk for 20x the points.
You essentially get 1 bag for free back in points when you buy 4 bags which is what we do for $17.56 and 4845 back in Shoppers Optimum Points. That’s a total of $4.85 back which is slightly more than the cost of one 4L bag of milk. Win!
They often have deals on bread, eggs, coffee, cereal, cookies, bacon, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese….well you get my point. The idea is to check before you shop and compare prices so you kill two birds with one stone sort to speak.
However if you shop the sales and watch for in-store deals, reduced items and use coupons and coupon apps you can save money.
Also tap into our Grocery Price Book where you can price and compare so you know you’re getting the best deals.
Top 10 Cheapest Canadian Grocery Stores
My Top Picks in Ontario for the cheapest Canadian grocery stores are;
- No Frills (Price Match Yes)
- Food Basics (Price Match NO) Come on Food Basics get with the program.
- Walmart Canada (Price Match Yes)
- FreshCo (Price Match Yes)
The others on the list below are what I consider some of the cheapest Canadian grocery stores to shop at if you are watching your grocery dollars.
- Giant Tiger (Price Match Yes)
- Extra Foods (Price Match Yes)
- Real Canadian Superstore/Atlantic Superstore (Loblaws chain) (Price Match Yes)
- Coop (Price Match Yes)
- Save on Foods (Price Match Yes)
- Thrifty Foods (Price Match No)
A few ‘other’ cheapest Canadian grocery stores to target are;
- Dollar Store (Not a grocery store but a popular place to find inexpensive grocery items)
- Costco (pick and choose based on price and size as there are great deals)
- Shoppers Drug Mart (watch deals and pair with PC Optimum and coupons)
- Small independent shops which vary in each city
- International stores (Indian store, Chinese store, Asian grocery, Italian Store etc.)
Grocery Store Comparison
Super Store, Wal-Mart, Save On Foods
I found this grocery comparison posted on Reddit 6 months ago interesting because again the prices weren’t too far off each other and what was pricey at one store was cheaper at another and vice-versa.
The user stated that prices were pulled from online sources only which means in-store prices could be different. I’m also not 100% sure if these were all regular price comparison which is what you would be looking for. It was still interesting to see how a dollar here a dollar can all add up.
Keep in mind most people shop the sales so regular prices mean nothing to them these days unless the item is a MUST.
Grocery stores hold their own and prices change like gas prices in Canada apart from their big sellers, price freeze or “won’t be beat” prices.
Overall, we’ve had no issue shopping at some of the cheapest Canadian grocery stores but are happy that summer is around the corner. Summer savings on groceries go beyond even the cheapest Canadian grocery stores and into the farmer’s markets and gardening at home.
Save where you can folks and compromise when necessary. You get what you pay for.
Discussion: What do you feel are the Cheapest Canadian Grocery Stores to shop at and why? Leave me your comments below.