Easy Grocery Savings – Part 1

Saving Money on Groceries

This post is all about grocery savings. How much do you normally spend on groceries each month? According to an OSEC report Canadians spent about 84 billion on groceries in 2010. On average that’s roughly $205 a month per person. 🙂 According to the US department of Agriculture, the average American in 2009 spent around $150 a month from food stores. That’s because food is generally cheaper to buy in the States.

To save money on food we have to change our spending habits, not our eating habits. What we buy is not as significant as where and when we buy them. I eat just as much food as the average person, but I only spend about half the amount as the average Canadian on grocery shopping. How? It’s as easy as pie.

For fresh produce and grown foods most consumers buy them at large grocery chains (Save-On.., IGA, Superstore, Safeway, Sobeys, etc) But these mainstream stores are more expensive than those smaller, local markets you sometimes see around town. How much can you save if you buy food from a smaller store rather than a big retailer? I carried out an experiment earlier this month to find out.

First, lettuce look at the following items I bought at Safeway. I picked Safeway because it’s an international name that most people would recognize (I hope.) Click images below to enlarge them.

The total for 1 full bag of food came to $16.73. Close up of receipt on right.

Okay, not very cheap as expected. Welcome to Vancouver. You might find a better deal from IGA or a Loblaws but it still wont cut your monthly grocery bill in half. So now let’s see what happened when I bought the same goods from a small, independent produce store.

The total for 1 full bag of food came to $5.64. Close up of receipt on right.

I know the items aren’t exactly the same. But I did my best to create a fair comparison. I tried to keep the weights the same. Looking past the minor inaccuracies of this experiment it’s easy to see that the smaller independent store is cheaper, much cheaper, like literally 1/3 of the price of a large franchise. I’m not big on brand loyalty when it comes to food. As long as there’s nothing wrong with it, celery is celery to me, no matter where I buy it from. Sometimes the quality of goods in smaller stores aren’t the best, and you have to eat them quickly before they go bad, but if you make frequent trips to the store this isn’t a big deal. The other issues some people may not like about shopping in smaller stores, is the lack of choices, lack of sanitation, and lack of customer service. But if you know exactly what you want, don’t have to ask for directions, and wash your food before eating it anyway, then be a smart cookie and support your local small food businesses. Besides, their cheap prices just can’t be beet.

This is the small store I went to for the experiment. They’re called “Consumers Produce”

The Safeway I visited is the one on 3410 Kingsway. What’s interesting though is that the small produce market, Consumers Produce (above,) is located at 3388 Kingsway. The address is actually on the receipt if you look closely.  Yes, the two stores are literally on the same city block. And yet the goods in one store is 3 times as expensive as the other and they are still able to compete with each other. Either there are a lot of loyal customers who value Safeway’s shopping experience, or they don’t know about this little store just a few buildings down the street.

WTF? Huge price difference.

So now you know my secret. Saving money on your next food bill is literally as easy as walking into a cheaper store. I’ve heard other ideas like clip coupons, plan multiple trips, price match, or prepare a list, which all takes time, commitment, and energy. But by just going into a smaller independent grocer you automatically save more than all those other shopping tips put together, without even having to think about it. Piece of cake.

Examples of a couple other independent markets around town. They exist in other cities all across North America too. There’s probably one near you!

Of course I don’t mean to turnip my nose at large grocery chains. They still have a purpose after all. They may not offer the best deals on produce or groceries, but I do sometimes buy meat products from them, especially when they’re on sale.

The DVD is to show scale only. It did not come with the food.

The best part about most meat is they can be frozen and will last a long time. But I digest. The point is by buying food from the right places, and waiting for certain things to go on sale, we can already spend less than 50% of what most people are paying for food in this country. In part 2, I’ll write about how I buy other types of groceries for cheap and share some simple meal ideas with everyone. Continue reading part 2…



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06/01/2012 7:55 am

I never realized there was such a big difference! I keep track of grocery costs between Superstore and Safeway, and I know there is definitely a decent difference between the two, so I usually only buy stuff at Safeway that I can’t find at Superstore (mainly organic veggies), or if I’m making something and I just need one item that doesn’t warrant a drive to Superstore (I live across the street from a Safeway). It would be interesting if you did an analysis between those two big chains. I’ll keep an eye out for any local markets around me as well. Great post!

06/01/2012 8:09 am
Reply to  Vicky

That’s a good idea. I would be interested to do a Superstore comparison as well.

Jeremy @ Modest Money
06/01/2012 8:29 am

It’s funny to see stores you know featured on a blog. I’m literally a 5 minute drive from those stores. I usually just walk over to superstore though. They are definitely cheaper than stores like safeway, saveon and iga. I have started buying more and more of my produce from a small produce store though. I am always amazed when I get a bunch of stuff and the total is under $10. The owners at this particular store are always very friendly too. So I’d gladly avoid the craziness of superstore to support these people and save some money.

06/01/2012 9:26 am

Way to go for supporting the community. It’s great for the local economy.

06/01/2012 10:15 am

This is something we’ve been doing for years… although with a chance in family dynamic (baby boy) it’s hard to get out the cheap stores where we live… So yes, we’re stuck paying for the convenience of one-stop shopping.

06/01/2012 10:34 am

That’s too bad. But it looks like you’re making the best out of your situation.

Steve @ Grocery Alerts
06/01/2012 2:09 pm

Good job at shopping around. One good trick is to price-match your local stores flyer with Walmart to get the lowest price – saves you driving around. Also, we find their quality of produce to be excellent (at least in Victoria).

06/01/2012 10:47 pm

Would be interesting to compare the prices between Victoria and the lower mainland. Price match programs are great. I believe Futureshop does that with electronics.

06/01/2012 10:33 pm

Nice comparison piece! Safeway is probably the most expensive grocery store around. People shop there for Air Miles I think. I live within a 5 minute walk to Safeway… yet I would only go there if I ran out of something. Usually, I shop at Walmart (close to work), Superstore or Price Smart. But I should definitely check out local stores to see if I can save a few bucks!

My mom likes to shop at Chong Lee at 29th/Rupert 🙂 They have pretty cheap take out food and groceries.

06/01/2012 10:53 pm
Reply to  PC

I forgot about Walmart. They have pretty good deals too for the quality. Would be interesting to see if they can drop their prices even further when Target opens up it’s doors in Canada next year to compete.


[…] is not enough, but it all depends on where you shop. A few years ago I blogged about buying some staple foods from Safeway for about $17. That’s enough produce to last me for probably 1 or 2 days. Then I walked […]


[…] $250 a month on groceries. This is in line with the average for the city of Vancouver. I visit discount produce markets where food is often 50% cheaper than large grocery […]

Sweha Hazari
04/28/2023 11:28 am

I resonate with this article so well!

I initially used to shop at the Safeway near my house. But my grocery bills shot up incredibly.

Additionally, I am Indian and having an Indian diet is pricey in Vancouver.

Since then, I have shifted to SaveonFood near my place for emergency groceries. Walmart is another excellent place to get stuff like rice and lentils in bulk at decent prices, and it also carries Indian groceries.

I also make monthly visits to local Indian grocery stores in Surrey to get some stuff like spices that aren’t available near my place.