Canadian Food Prices - cheapo

This being Bike Week, I have decided I will shop less at Costco (where it doesn’t really work to shop by bicycle, because most merchandise won’t fit in a rucksack) and more at the neighborhood supermarkets. On a bicycle, it makes sense to look at the flyers than go to whichever store has the lowest prices – you get to pedal the most this way and shopping is cheapest!

(If you’re looking for the flyers only, all the links are at the end of the article.) 

Few people blog about buying food at major chains and in the case of Costco it’s often in a foreign language. A look at food prices in Canada would not be complete without presenting regular, cheap supermarkets (such as the NoFrills this guy does a number in). This time, we’ll look at the supermarkets in and around what should be the cheapest area of North York: Jane & Finch. Rosedale (or whatever that southern drug-infested neighborhood is) may be cheaper, but that’s too far for me.

The thing with Asian (Vietnamese?) supermarkets is that they’re very cheap, but they have a problem: they stink. There’s a lot of seafood, salted fish as well as live fish and as a result it always smells like a fish market which I presume is very confusing to blind lesbians. That’s not the worst thing in the world, but in my experience it sometimes feels as if they don’t want non-Asians there: they often give preference to Asian people over others in the cashier line-up – they visibly (reverse-)discriminate. White or black customers look resigned whenever that happens as I witnessed several such situations (when about 60% of the times you go there you see Asian people being served in front of a line-up consisting of non-Asians, that seems more like the rule than the exception). Also, the one at Jane & Sheppard (Win Farm) has higher individual prices for items marked as “2 for $x” which is rather annoying.

Alright, boys and girls, here’s what the Asian connection has in store for us. We’ll start with the WinFarm Supermarket, located at Jane & Sheppard. They don’t have an online flyer Flyermall has their flyer, soand here’s this week’s copy:

Win Farm Supermarket Page 1 Win Farm Supermarket Page 2

There’s another one at Keele & Sheppard, Long Fa, but it’s so similar I can’t help thinking it is under the same management. There is a difference, though: Long Fa has its flyers online (page 1, 2), while WinFarm does not (by itself, directly) so maybe there is a principled competition at work here. OTOH, I noticed the worst discrimination at Long Fa. But maybe that was my personal experience alone and not common to most other customers; it’s possible that I’m too sensitive to such issues.

Asian stores are great if you don’t mind the smell and the fact that many labels are unreadable and when you can read them, you still don’t know what they are (as it happens even with the flyers above), so you’re left with Price Chopper (a Sobey’s brand), No Frills and Food Basics. No Frills, a Loblaws child, has even gone to the lengths of comparing its prices to the competition at WontBeBeat.ca (WBB, below). According to that website, its stores do better than the competition in most of the leading produce and products people buy. It fails however for what may seem as “more exotic”: avocado, avocados and even avocadoes returned no results – it’s not in the database. As a “pedaling” strategy, it pays to get produce in the WBB database from NoFrills (and, possibly, Asian stores when they have it advertised for lower, as they are not in the database). Get additional produce from the flyers (linked below) on sale, whenever advertised. Here’s where the big ones are located:

Food Basics
2200 Jane St
North York,
M3M 1A4
416-241-5732
open daily 8-8

Vince’s nofrills
1 York Gate Blvd,
M3N 3A1
No Frills stores around Jane St

In the end, for the first purchase since starting writing this article I did not practice what I preached. The PriceChopper flyer had everything I wanted on sale so I did not bother checking the competition. Here’s what I ended up buying:

PriceChopper receipt  PriceChopper bounty
4 x Punch Mango @ $0.49
- not the healthiest and probably too sweet, but convenient to use in summer smoothies rather than the real mango, which is quite labor-intensive
Mango Punch
15 large Bananas 2.99 kg @ $1.48 = $4.43 I use bananas mostly in smoothies. I also eat them raw – they’re awesome. A gift from my ancestors :)
18 Gr A Eggs (Carton) @ $2.97

possibly the cheapest protein ever
18 Grade A Eggs
2 X VH Thai frozen dinner

I don’t eat it often, but sometimes there’s no food & no time to make some
Thai Chicken & Shrimp - VH Steamers
Strawberries 1 lb @ $1.79 [see the photos above]. I love strawberries, even though they’re the 3rd most toxic produce one can get, as shown in the [EWG Pesticides Guide]. I grow them in my backyard, but they’re not done yet.
4 Sweet Bell Peppers 1.33 kg @  $2.18/kg As they are the 8th most toxic produce, I try to use generally less than the recipe requires (for instance, in Gazpacho soup (video) but this was a sale and the price was low.

As written on the recipe, I could still do the comparison shopping and return this stuff if the price is lower elsewhere, allowing me to bicycle around again, but I won’t do that. I will instead go through the flyers below as well as the NoFrills comparison shop engine, as follows:

Product WBB lowest price
1x12 Eggs $2.89 NF & FB(also: $3.29, $3.39) – higher price/egg than PC
1 lb strawberries $1.44 NF / $1.67 FB – cheaper at NF, but not by much
Green S Peppers $3.24 NF & FB (other sweet peppers not listed)
Bananas $1.48 / kg seems to be an universal price

Except for the strawberries, where the difference is insignificant considering the quantity purchased, I did quite alright. Though I had not done the full “research” prior to buying I did quite alright going by the flyers alone. However, if the intention is to pedal more, it may be worthwhile doing this type of search beforehand. It should be much faster when done a second time and also by buying the cheapest, I reward and encourage the supermarkets that go the extra mile in slashing prices to keep doing so.

Don’t forget to have a look at EWG food guide and buy more of the “Clean 15” – they came to these results by analyzing decades of EPA pesticide testing results.

Sources / More info: [PriceChopper (stores)] [form] Fresh, WBB, NoFrills: 3930, 3936, 3925, LongFa [1, 2], WinFarm, FoodBasics, Walmart-L, Walmart-V, costco.ca – [ON + summer 2012], recallsEatTheWeeds, EWG [EWG Pesticides Guide]

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