How to Save Money » Frugal Living

How avoiding the big supermarkets in Canada can save money

When I first moved to Montreal I decided out of habit that it was probably most economical to load myself up with a backpack and a few plastic bags and head to the large supermarkets for a big box bulk shop. From my very first shop I felt like something wasn’t quite right, the costs just seemed a little too high compared to my home country (UK) prices.
This went on for a while but on the way home one evening, walking from downtown to my home in Westmount along Boulevard Maissoneuve, I noticed Marche Almazan on the corner of St Mathieu. It caught my eye because had some interesting bread outside. I love bread, so I popped in expecting just to pick up some new kind of bread. I walked around the store and noticed they had a ton of cool goods and they were not expensive, in fact, as far as I could tell they were cheaper than the box supermarkets I had frequented.

After that I started to check out some other smaller stores and supermarkets, I found more and more that I could find items in them at cheaper prices. I used to find some places would have cheaper canned goods and dry goods, such as Fruits Rocky Montana near DADs Bagels in NDG, and some cheaper for vegetables, such as Fruiterie Mont Victoria in Westmount on Rue Sherbrooke. Many places from the McGill Ghetto to Cote De Neige exist and have great prices.
When you start digging under the surface of a Montreal a lot of off the path deals can be found such at the goods at the Frigo Vert organic supermarket, next to Concordia downtown, and the donation-based canteen-style People’s Potato of Concordia downtown campus, yes you can get a lunch meal for nothing there!

But that’s Montreal?

I can’t say for sure that every city in Canada works like this but I have found some success using similar techniques back home in London, UK and have been told that it works like this in Vancouver too and some other places in Canada too. My best friend is also finding luck with this in Auckland, New Zealand.
The point is that by stepping outside of what is considered the normal thing to do you may find yourself finding better deals, better quality goods and you will also have the added benefit of supporting smaller more locally-based businesses. You can create a shopping route and bulk shop (where possible) once a month or so, or if it’s on a route you tread daily just pop in when you need stuff.
Food is something that is needed so when we can work out a way to cut back on its cost it’s worth pursuing. In some cases, it may be more work for you but you’ll actually find you feel more a part of your city and you’ll learn about places and people you never knew about.
After all, this is how people used to shop until the big box supermarket came into existence and it helped harbor a sense of community amongst everyone.
Do you have any experience with small store shopping over bog store shopping and do you find it saves you money?


  1. Marcia

    I have shopped at the Co-op here in Calgary, even though it is a bigger player in the grocery market here. I’ve found that the prices are often, as you say, less than I’d expect to find at the “big” names in town. What I find more important is not necessarily the price of goods, but the amount of money I go home with. At Co-op I don’t have to buy a certain number of items to get the deal. I can buy one and still get the deal. There are less distractions – and less product choice. This is good, because I don’t have to make so many decisions as I shop. I also don’t spend as much time shopping because I know where everything is. And it’s a smaller store. I’ve also found it to be true of other types of stores as well. I’m glad you’ve found the same to be true. Plus smaller stores can have interesting products from local businesses that we can support as well!

  2. Saving My Toonies

    It’s hard to find those little places that will save you money. I’ve gone to some smaller stores that charge a lot more. I’ve had a lot of luck buying things at small cultural stores that carry food for a specific region. For example, the Asian supermarket seems to have very good prices on fish and seaweed.

  3. troglodyte

    I’ve seen the same in my Villeray neighborhood where a mom and pops fruit store sells avocados .99$ each while IGA has them for 3/5$…

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