When it comes to grocery shopping, if you have money and don’t care about the prices – you can shop anywhere you want!
For the rest of us who can only watch in dismay as grocery prices creep higher and higher, and our income doesn’t, we need to be on the lookout for places to buy cheap groceries.
There are expensive grocery stores that I avoid, like Safeway, but if there’s a deal on something, I might be tempted to go in and buy. Safeway’s not really that convenient for me anyway. There used to be a Safeway at the Cloverdale Mall when it was built in 1974. Almost immediately the roof leaked. Safeway had buckets everywhere catching the drips. They didn’t have a bakery at this Safeway. What can I say? Me and my lifelong love affair with bakeries!
There weren’t many choices to shop at in Cloverdale, especially after the Co-op closed down in the mid seventies. Many residents headed to Langley to shop. When Save On Foods opened in Langley, that’s where I shopped for cheap groceries.
Got a little sidetracked there!
Safeway is no longer in Cloverdale. Neither is the rest of that leaky mall. It was knocked down a few years ago and townhouses have been built on the property.
If I want to shop at Safeway, I have to go out of my way to get there. There are closer grocery stores that sell cheaper groceries.
Which brings us to the question: How do we choose what grocery stores we shop at? Generally, it comes down to price and convenience.
One or two items
Some grocery stores might be a bit higher priced, but they carry products you can’t find anywhere else. For example, Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacement. For some reason I can only find that at Save On Foods. Although other grocery stores carry Bob’s Red Mill products, they don’t stock the egg substitute. What’s up with that?
The Bulk Barn also has products that I can’t find anywhere else. Here’s looking at you buttermilk powder. They also stock Alter Eco quinoa crunch dark chocolate bars. I can find different Alter Eco chocolates at other grocery and drug stores, but not my favorite flavor.
For this post I’m mostly focusing on Canadian stores. I don’t have a lot of experience shopping in American grocery stores. Oh, sure we have Cost Cutter just across the border in Blaine, Washington. They used to be open until Midnight, so really handy to drive over later in the evening to buy gas when there’s not much traffic at the border. I used to get California Ranch tortilla chips there. Yum! I think Cost Cutter is mostly a Washington chain, but I have no idea how they compare to other grocery stores.
When I’m on holiday in the states and I need to pick something up at a grocery store, I’ll just go into whatever store is handy, though I do prefer Walmart if there’s one in town. Go with what’s familiar to me!
I found the groceries at Trader Joe’s reasonably priced.
I also hear ALDI has cheap groceries. There aren’t any Aldis within 1500 miles of me, so I can’t confirm that. Just noticed other bloggers and podcasts mention this store.
There’s a vlogger who posts videos on YouTube and she does a lot of grocery shopping at Fred Meyer.
Dollar stores in Canada and America sell cheap groceries, but in the states they also sell perishables. So far I haven’t seen any dollar stores in British Columbia selling dairy, bread and frozen products.
But I’m waiting for it!
There are many well-known brands at dollar stores that are cheaper than at the grocery stores. A can of Campbell’s soup is going to taste the same no matter where you buy it.
Years ago, on hot summer days, I used to stop at the dollar store near my workplace to buy two cans of pop for $1. Coca Cola tastes the same no matter where you buy it, too!
My preferred shops
Generally, my go to stores for cheap groceries are Walmart and the Real Canadian Superstore. I buy some groceries on Amazon when I see a great price. Likewise, I might pick up a few items at No Frills or even London Drugs.
London Drugs isn’t competitive with Walmart or Real Canadian Superstore, but they only have two aisles dedicated to food products. Sometimes they get really great deals from their suppliers that they pass on to their customers. Recently I’ve picked up coconut oil and quinoa on sale. London Drugs used to be my go-to store for buying tuna, but unfortunately their price is no longer competitive with grocery stores.
Sometimes I go to Costco. I used to have a membership but let it expire around ten years ago. Costco is one of those places where I go in to buy four or five items and walk out a hundred dollars later. Most Costco items are large bulk size, so although they’re higher priced, when you work the price out by the pound or item, Costco has great prices. I’m now a secondary Costco card holder on my landlord’s account, but I still rarely shop there.
We had a Co-op grocery store when I was growing up in Cloverdale. Mostly this chain is in rural areas, and also sells hardware, lumber, and livestock feeds. There’s a Co-op about a forty-five minute drive away. The Otter Co-op has groceries, hardware, clothing, gardening center and a separate building for livestock feed and supplies. One of my old neighbors had a family farm – raised chickens for egg production – that was close to the Co-op. She shopped there all the time, and swore the prices were the best around.
No Frills is another brand owned by Loblaw’s. In smaller towns they’re a great place to shop at. In larger cities with many grocery stores, like where I live, No Frills is just OK. They carry many of the President’s Choice brand (the Real Canadian Superstore brand name) but I find No Frills has them priced higher. On the other hand, I went into No Frills a couple of weeks ago and spotted grapes on sale and bought them. I also like to cruise their frozen section, sometimes find great deals there. For me, this is the type of store that I run in to buy a few things. And not recently. This store was damaged from flooding in January due to all the rain, and is undergoing renovations.
I am NOT a Vitamart affiliate. I’m just a happy customer! I love the prices and selection and want to share the savings with my readers.
Do you buy vitamins and supplements? Vitamart is in Edmonton, Alberta and I discovered them a few years ago when I was looking online to see if I could buy Purica Recovery for my dogs cheaper than at the store. I discovered Vitamart selling Recovery about $20 cheaper than the retailers around me. In Canada, Vitamart has free shipping if you buy over $49. If you’re in the US, $149 for free shipping. They also have a mailing list that tells me when products are on sale. Purica often goes on sale at 20% off, luckily, usually around the time I need to restock.
I might have started with the dog’s supplement, which I highly recommend by the way if you have an older dog with joint issues, but I’ve bought many other supplements from Vitamart. I even buy MSM for my horses there!
Vitamart also sells health food products. You know that Bob’s Red Mill egg replacer that I have trouble finding? Well, I can’t find it at Vitamart either! But I recently bought Bob’s Red Mill nutritional yeast for a couple bucks cheaper than Amazon.
They also do free online webinars. Ladies, if you have hormone questions, there’s a webinar on March 18, 2020 with Lorna Vanderhaeghe of the “Smart” vitamins. Sign up on their site.
Know your prices
By shopping at different retailers and buying when they have sales, I can save money. I’m always cost comparing Vitamart and Amazon. A couple of months ago I bought a jar of PB2 (powdered chocolate peanut butter) from Vitamart, a buck cheaper than Amazon.
It’s good to know your prices, and when you’re in a store you can always pull out your phone and check Amazon. If it’s not something you need immediately, buy from Amazon instead of inside the store.
If you live in an area that has many grocery stores, here’s a little experiment you can do to figure out which is the cheapest store.
Make a list of ten items that you buy frequently. You can compare more items if you want, but for now, let’s call it ten.
- jug of milk.
- dozen eggs.
- loaf of bread
- can of soup
- jar of peanut butter
- bag of rice
- sack of potatoes
- can of tuna
- frozen pizza
OK, you get the point. Your list might include hamburger and chicken and a bag of salad.
Take the time to hit up five or six grocery stores in your area, even stores that are new to you, and use your phone’s camera to snap the prices of each item on your frequent buyer’s list. Later on, write them down in columns, or use a spreadsheet, and compare the prices. That Co-op you’re driving past or the grocery store with the strange name – their prices could surprise you.
Tally them up and you should have your answer to the best place to buy cheap groceries.
Sometimes you’ll find one store is much higher priced than others, but on some products they’re lower than the other stores. You just have to know what the prices are on things you buy frequently and to recognize whether or not a sale is a good deal.
For example, the ranch flavor Dare crackers I like are usually priced under $2 at Walmart or the Real Canadian Superstore. I was in Save On Foods one day and saw them on “deal”. The regular price at Save On Foods is $4. If I bought one, the deal was to buy a second bag for half price. That’s two bags of crackers for $6. If I bought two bags at either Walmart or the Superstore, that would cost less than $4.
If I didn’t know I could buy those crackers much cheaper elsewhere, I might have got sucked into that “special deal”.