Which Grocery Store Has The Lowest Prices?

whichgrocerystorehasthe_lowest_prices.jpgWho doesn’t like to eat good food? Let’s face it: we all do!

Now, what I don’t like is spending a fortune on food.

If you keep a budget, you may notice that food is one of your biggest expenses. Whether you are a family of one or a family of twelve, rising food prices affects your finances.

So, with all the competition between grocery chains, which is the best one to shop at for the lowest prices?

The front pages of the weekly flyers have deals to entice you to visit the store, but what about the additional items that you need to complete your list?

Do you also need staples such as rice, flour, coffee that perhaps didn’t make the list of sales this week? Those may be priced higher, but until teleportation becomes common, we can’t get the lowest price all the time.

The consumer price index (CPI) is an indicator used to measure the change in the cost of a fixed basket of products. One of the product categories monitored is food. Below is a table of foods based on the market basket of foods listed on Statistics Canada’s website.

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Stacking Coupons And Deals On Groceries

Grocery Store Price Comparison

Grocery Item

Qty.

No Frills

Fresh Co

Walmart

Food Basics

Real Canadian Superstore

ground beef, lean

1 kg

$11.67

$13.30

$12.10

$14.08

$11.39

pork loin centre, rib, sirloin chops (combo)

1 kg

$6.55

$9.90

$8.80

$8.80

$6.99

pork tenderloin

1 kg

$11.00

$13.21

$15.40

$13.21

$13.59

chicken breast, boneless, skinless

1 kg

$13.87

$13.87

$11.20

$14.31

$8.80

ham

1 kg

$6.97

$6.59

$N/A

$3.28

$8.80

Maple Leaf bacon

1 pkg

$5.49

$4.99

$3.97

$6.99

$6.49

salmon

1 kg

$24.23

$19.82

$17.57

$26.40

$21.99

Clover Leaf tuna

tin

$1.69

$1.49

$1.68

$1.89

$1.69

2% milk

4 L

$3.97

$3.97

$3.97

$3.97

$3.97

butter

1 lb

$4.99

$5.17

$3.97

$4.99

$5.97

cheddar cheese

450 g

$6.77

$4.99

$5.97

$6.99

$6.99

dozen eggs

1 large

$2.64

$2.64

$2.64

$2.68

$2.68

bread

1 loaf

$2.87

$2.89

$2.28

$2.89

$2.99

rice

8 kg

$7.99

$9.99

$10.47

$9.49

$10.99

Catelli pasta

454 g

$1.84

$2.47

$2.47

$2.49

$2.49

Robin Hood flour

8 kg

$13.97

$13.97

$13.97

$13.99

$13.97

apples

1 lb

$1.27

$1.29

$1.27

$1.47

$0.89

oranges

1 lb

$1.27

$1.29

$1.27

$1.47

$1.27

bananas

1 lb

$0.57

$0.57

$0.57

$0.57

$0.57

Minute Maid juice

1.75 L

$1.97

$3.29

$2.47

$3.49

$3.47

tomatoes

1 lb

$1.00

$1.29

$1.27

$1.47

$1.27

lettuce

1 lb

$1.47

$0.99

$1.27

$1.47

$1.27

Green Giant frozen vegetables

750 g

$2.97

$2.97

$2.97

$2.99

$3.28

Del Monte carrots

tin

$1.45

$1.45

$1.44

$1.49

$1.57

sugar

2 kg

$1.97

$1.97

$1.97

$1.97

$2.27

extra virgin olive oil

750 mL

$7.29

$4.99

$7.97

$6.99

$7.99

coffee

920 g

$10.47

$10.97

$10.47

$10.99

$10.97

Lipton Green tea

100s

$5.79

$5.99

$5.98

$6.99

$5.79

Heinz vinegar

4 L

$3.79

$3.97

$3.77

$3.49

$3.99

Heinz ketchup

750 mL

$4.27

$4.27

$4.36

$4.49

$4.49

Kraft peanut butter

1 kg

$6.77

$6.77

$6.87

$6.99

$6.97

Average Price Per Item

 

$5.77

$5.85

$5.68

$6.22

$6.00

Which Store Is Cheapest?

You can see from the Average Price Per Item in the table above, Walmart ended up with the lowest average price of the bunch - but not by much! The difference between the lowest priced discount grocer and the highest was only about 8.7%.

It is also pretty obvious by looking at the data, no one store always has the best price on everything. There are quite a range of prices, high and low, across all the stores. Even Walmart had the highest cost on one item: pork tenderloin.

Ultimately, it seems like choosing whichever store is most convenient for you or that is having the best sale is probably the way to go. You also have to consider extra perks the store offers like price matching or the rewards program they offer like PC Plus.

How I Did It

This summer, I visited five stores: Food Basics, Fresh Co, No Frills, The Real Canadian Superstore, and Walmart. They are all commonly regarded as discount grocery stores. Each store was visited at least five times in an attempt to get the regular (non-sale) prices of the items.

For the costs listed in the table, attempts were made to compare the exact same item (brand, size, weight, variety) in all stores where possible. If the same item was not available, the lowest cost brand was chosen.

For example, Folgers coffee (920 g) was available at Fresh Co for $10.97, but not at Real Canadian Superstore. There, Maxwell House (925 g) was available for $10.99. Other brands, were found in all locations, such as Heinz’s ketchup or Kraft’s peanut butter. To find the largest amount of comparable items, no store brands were used.

Related: How To Spot Fresh In Season Produce At The Grocery Store

Some Notes About The Stores

Food Basics:

This store does not universally price match (some individual stores do though) but promises to have the items advertised in their flyer in stock. If they do not, you can get a rain check for the item, good for 30 days, for an additional 10% off the sale price. Limits may vary based on the size of the store. In stores with no customer service counter, you may have to request the rain check in the express aisle.

Food Basics now has some fixed price packages (ex. $10 per package) on meat, making a straight comparison more difficult.

Fresh Co:

Promises to be cheaper by price matching and will reduce the lowest price by $0.01 per unit or per kilogram. If you price match 10 items on your grocery list, you will have saved a whole dime compared to another store that price matches. Our local store will only price match two identical items or two kilograms worth, but limits can vary at different locations. If you intend to purchase more, only the first two are eligible for price matching and the others rung in at the current Fresh Co price.

Personally, I have saved more money by checking the carts in the parking lot for change. If Fresh Co is farther than your alternate grocery store, gas money alone will probably eat up any savings from their cheaper guarantee. No rain checks are issued for current sales.

No Frills:

Will price match up to a limit determined by the size of the store and offers PC points through their rewards program for your purchases. There are two local stores in our neighbourhood and they price match between 4 – 6 identical items. No rain checks are issued for current sales.

Real Canadian Superstore:

Our local store will price match up to a limit of six identical items. PC points are also available here and rain checks are issued for 30 days with a limit of two items.

Walmart:

The popular meats are commonly packaged as five pieces for $10 with varying weights in kilograms, making it difficult to comparison shop. They do price match, but the rare occasion years ago that I tried, finding an employee to do it was like looking for someone in the witness protection program. It took much too long, even after I had found someone willing to do it.

Asking at the customer service desk (only the second longest lineup in the store) for a rain check was almost as much fun as a trip to the dentist. There were so many conditions on issuing rain checks that I didn’t get one and haven’t tried since. As one example, I was told that if the word “Rollback” was on any item on the page, they would not issue a rain check for any item on that entire page and even the opposite page, even if the item I wanted the rain check for was not at a rollback price. Every rain check was subject to manager approval. More information can be found here:

http://www.walmart.ca/en/help/products/pricing

Is Changing Grocery Stores Worth it?

Keep in mind that stores further away will cost you more time and gas money. Busier stores will make you spend more time in line as well. Sometimes, the cost of saving a few pennies is not worth waiting a half hour in the snaking “express” line at your local discount store.

According to my pricing experiment, most of the prices for common groceries are similar among the stores. Many stores have secret shoppers they send around to keep watch on local competitor pricing.

To take advantage of more substantial savings, use price matching, coupons, store and credit card reward programs, and cash back offers to lower your bill. Another useful tactic is to stay away from the stores with the sale and price match elsewhere. You have a better chance of finding stock, without having to wait for rain checks or find employees.

For right now, here are some questions for you:

  • Do you compare prices?
  • If you don’t, what’s holding you back?
  • If you do, do you notice bigger price differences for products that are not on StatCan’s list?
  • Do you think are there items on your shopping list that should be included in StatCan’s basket of goods?

Leave a comment right here - the more detail the better.

And, if you know someone else who will benefit from this, please pass it on!

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Comments

paul
paul's picture

I used to shop at Walmart but in the last year the majority of my grocery shopping has been at the Real Canadian Superstore. They price match and provide PC Plus points once you redeem the points in 20,000 increments the overall cost is less than Walmart. The produce section is by far more superior than Walmart.

December 29, 2015 @ 6:40 pm
Marilyn*
Marilyn*'s picture

I completely agree! Shopping at RCSS gives 3% back on their World Elite MC, whereas I can only get 2% back with the MNBA Smart Cash MC or Tangerine MC. The personalized points offers make it my best option too, but it's much harder to include the value in the calculations when the deals vary from week to week and depend on your family's grocery list.

I rarely buy produce at Walmart, but when produce is in season, I am sometimes pleasantly surprised at the selection at 9 AM. Normally, I do shop elsewhere because I need more variety than they provide but, unfortunately, the Walmart nearby will price match a larger area than RCSS.

December 30, 2015 @ 3:50 pm
ChrisCA
ChrisCA's picture

Agreed! Real Canadian Superstore is awesome especially with their rewards and price matching.

I always save all my items on my alerts using Salewhale.ca

this way I have all my groceries in check when price matching at the cash!

February 22, 2016 @ 1:12 pm
Ken S
Ken S's picture

I'd love to see an article about how to buy the lowest priced ethically raised meats and local produce. Currently I'm forced to shop from more expensive stores because I don't want my meat and veggies to be carted across the continent (or the world!) just so I can have dinner and save a few bucks. Part of that is eatling in-season, but even in-season produce is often sourced from US, Central American, or overseas suppliers because it's cheaper than buying in Canada.

What grocery stores offer the cheapest, local and ethically sourced foods?

December 29, 2015 @ 7:37 pm
Marilyn*
Marilyn*'s picture

Ken, thanks for the suggestion! Lowest priced ethically raised meats and local produce vary from region to region, but I would get to know your local farmers. I was born and raised in a small town so I grew up on a first name basis with some of the growers of my food. The prices are sometimes similar, depending on the growing conditions that year, but my produce has no waxy coating to lock in their original freshness, and I'm allowed to taste before I buy.

Sometimes, I have to admit that my eyes are bigger than my stomach and I can pack a refrigerator full with just one product!

I would suggest visiting your local farmer's market and talking to some of the sellers. They can tell you if their farm has hours for purchasing directly. If that's not an option, you can also visit your favourite grocery stores and just look for your province on the price tag. Usually, if it's grown in your province, grocery stores will have sourced it locally, because they, like you, love to save money as well.

December 30, 2015 @ 3:59 pm
Emily
Emily's picture

For meats, I use nutrafarms http://nutrafarms.ca/ Our family of 5 have a deep freezer in the basement. It's as local as possible, good quality and I like that they AREN'T filled with so much water that the meat shrinks when cooked. You can also try one of these:
http://csafarms.ca/
And freshcity farms

The problem with going to farms directly yourself is trying to get the full variety of groceries. Going to farming co-ops and small businesses that operate locally, is typically cheaper than buying organic locally produced.

July 18, 2016 @ 3:00 pm
Frugal Guy with Balance
Frugal Guy with Balance's picture

I shop the flyers

1. The 4 stores are not far apart.

2. Buy fresh meat just before expiry date save an extra 25%

3. Stick to my shopping list.

4. I own a foods saver by meat etc on sale then freeze, I save like a bandit.

5. Watch prices at checkout I find errors then get the item Free (Makes my Day)

I work damn hard for my money so I make sure I get value for every nickel I spend.

December 29, 2015 @ 8:00 pm
Jill
Jill's picture

Further to the point made by Ken S, I too like to buy ethically produced, local and organic meat and produce. I also like to shop at stores where employees are treated well. For that reason you won't find me shopping at Walmart or stores with similar employment practices. I do shop at Costco (progressive employment practices) and use the savings there to offset some of the added expense of buying local organic produce. It may seem crazy to spend $5 on a small bag of organic greens but they are soooo good, and there are clear benefits for one's own health and the environment. Yes it costs more to shop this way, and I am lucky I can afford to do it; but I can afford it by saving money on all my other spending categories.

December 30, 2015 @ 9:11 am
Archie
Archie's picture

The question I would like answered is. Is Costco overall much cheaper than conventional grocery stores?
With the % payback I received a cheque for 198$, which more than paid for my family membership,but am I saving grocery money in the long run.
Costco does not have all my grocery needs therfore do shop at the discounted stores. My wife likes some of the items at Longo's.
So many stores to choose from in my area.

December 30, 2015 @ 10:42 am
Marilyn*
Marilyn*'s picture

Hi Archie,

I guess the answer is, it depends. It's not a definitive answer, but defining whether or not Costco is "cheaper" has many different factors. You do have to pay the membership fee and the lineups at my local Costco is insane. We're getting a second Costco, but I've often heard of customers parking in the lot of neighbouring businesses because it is just that packed! The quality is better for certain items, but since they don't price match and their selection changes depending on the costs and availability of their suppliers, it really depends on your family's shopping list.

We love some of the items at Longo's as well. They have a very friendly bakery section and they cater towards special needs diets!

December 30, 2015 @ 4:08 pm
su
su's picture

I shop for my higher quality produce at a small 'green grocer' but I shop almost exclusively at Real Canadian Superstore for the prices and diversity of products, I also hope it really is Canadian!
We are so concerned about prices- (to us) but what about the real cost of things?
I personally cannot ethically shop at Walmart. Food is 'cheap' but it is not local- too many GMO foods being transported by truck across North America in unnecessary packaging. Walmart and the 'cheap' way of thinking has undermined too many smaller grocers that can not compete.
I don't agree with their employment strategies, and I am pretty sure their environmental policies are also nil to non existent.
That being said, RCS also hires people for the minimum amount on a shift so they do not have to pay their employees benefits. I liked how RCS had no plastic bags available (grab a free box) but they have recently reinstated them. I also like the points program and the 30% off items.

December 31, 2015 @ 12:09 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

RCS is owned by Loblaws, which to my knowledge is a Canadian held company. I'm sure there are foreign investors, but it is based here and primarily owned and operated by Canadians. When we buy our groceries at a big store, that is usually where we shop as well.

Those are some good points you make about the "cheap mentality".

I've struggled with this myself many times and try to support local where I can (especially when buying food), but ultimately I've come to the conclusion that I need to do what is best for my family when it comes to my purchasing habits.

I keep being charitable and helping other mostly separate from that. It's much easier to see the difference you are making that way vs. hoping going out of my way to over-pay for something at a mom and pop shop will stop big corporations like Walmart from taking over and putting everyone else out of business. Honestly, my shopping habits alone aren't going to change that - only a global change in thinking can accomplish that.

The good news is I think the world is slowly changing its way of thinking and moving towards a more healthy and sustainable way of life.

December 31, 2015 @ 10:07 am
John
John's picture

One option that my wife and I use at our local Save On Foods store is their once monthly 15% off promotion. Save On Foods is not always the lowest price location, however, if you shop carefully, you can , at least for some items, double up on in store specials, in addition to the 15% off. It does help to reduce the food bill, and we still comparison shop at other times of the month. Our adult children never comparison shop for food, claiming they do not have time to do so, and they pay a high price for not doing so.

January 18, 2016 @ 1:55 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Sometimes a more expensive store can be the lowest priced option when you factor in sales and stacking multiple promotions together. Great tip on these Save On Foods sales John.

February 23, 2016 @ 10:24 pm

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