The Cheapest Grocery Stores in Canada in April 2024

WRITTEN BY Dylan Callaghan | UPDATED ON: April 5, 2024

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The situation is becoming increasingly challenging for Canadians currently. The mortgage crisis has significantly driven up housing and rental costs, while the swift inflation experienced in late 2021 and 2022 has led to an unprecedented rise in prices, unlikely to decrease any time soon. Generally, the cost of living in Canada has surged considerably.

In times like this, finding cheap grocery stores is often a top priority for shoppers. Affordable groceries can significantly ease the financial burden for many families and individuals trying to balance their budgets. 

In Canada, a number of grocery chains have built their reputation on offering consumers lower prices without compromising the quality of their products. 

Nearly every province has some sort of discount option, and the difference in grocery prices between particular stores can be mind-boggling.

Discount Canadian grocery stores are becoming increasingly valuable to shoppers, who can leverage competition among retailers to find the best deals.

By prioritizing shopping at stores known for their cost-effectiveness, Canadians are able to significantly curb their grocery spending, which can allow them to contribute more to their savings.

In this article, we'll review ten of the cheapest grocery stores in Canada so that you can start saving money today.

The 8 cheapest grocery stores in Canada today

  • No Frills
  • Food Basics
  • Wal Mart
  • Costco
  • Giant Tiger
  • Real Canadian Superstore
  • FreschCo
  • Dollarama

No Frills

No Frills operates under Loblaws and provides competitive low prices primarily for shoppers in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. They have a PC Optimum program for further savings.

The way the company saves money is in the name. There truly are no frills at this grocery store. Their model is very basic, meaning they don't have custom delis, bakeries, or butchers. You even have to bag your own groceries.

It is this model that allows them to simplify the business, hire less staff, and generally have less overhead. As a consumer, you benefit from the cost savings of this as the company doesn't need to mark up its products as much.

I would argue that No Frills was one of the pioneers of the discount model of grocery stores in Canada.

Food Basics

Food Basics is another grocery retailer that boasts lower prices, primarily in Ontario. They offer weekly deals and do not have a reward card system but maintain a focus on value.

The store is owned by Metro, one of the largest grocery chains in the country. One could say that Food Basics is Metro's direct attempt at mimicking a no-frills store.

Much the same as No Frills, the stores are bare-bone basic and typically do not have things like delis or bakeries.

The store instead focuses on the basics and also includes a lot of self-serve options to reduce staffing levels, which in turn allows them to offer lower prices via regular-priced items and items in their weekly flyers.

Wal Mart

Walmart is renowned for its 'Everyday Low Prices'. You'll find Wal Marts practically across the country, and the company was one of the first to adopt a model of thin margins, creating a high volume of sales.

The only knock on the company from a grocery perspective is that I find it can vary wildly from Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart.

You may find some that provide outstanding produce and a top-notch bakery, and you may find others that provide poor produce and no bakery at all. It all depends on the initial development and overall plans for the store.

Although it's a little pricier than No Frills in most cases, it is still rock-bottom cheap compared to major grocery stores like Sobeys and Metro.

Costco

Many people may think I'm crazy for including Costco on this list because it certainly isn't cheap. In fact, it's not all that difficult to go into a Costco and walk out with a shopping cart full of goods and a $650 bill.

However, there is no question that if you utilize this store, you will save extensive amounts of money on groceries. You'll just need to buy them in bulk and plan things out.

Costco operates a very simple business model. Because of its rock-bottom prices, it orders an extensive amount of goods from suppliers. Due to the volume they order, suppliers can offer them even cheaper prices, making the goods even cheaper for consumers.

And, to take advantage of these lower prices, consumers must hold a membership, which is where Costco makes the bulk of its profits. Often, the membership will pay for itself in just a single visit.

If you shop often, their executive membership can even earn you cash back over and above your membership.

Giant Tiger

Giant Tiger stands out in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes for its discounts.

However, I have noticed a few here in Alberta, so they certainly do exist; they're just not as popular.

The GT VIP program offers exclusive savings, and they're recognized for frequent sales.

The company provides groceries, clothing, household goods, and toys. It is similar to Wal-Mart, but Giant Tigers are much smaller.

Their business model is similar to Wal-Mart's. They operate a low-margin business and drive a significant amount of sales to make up for the low profits on each item. You'll often find the store in smaller, more community-driven areas.

Real Canadian Superstore

Loblaws is the king of discount stores in Canada, and Superstore is another one. You'll find them all over the country.

It's not as cheap as No Frills, but it also offers a wider variety of products and typically more brand-name products.

The stores are gigantic, often the biggest on this list. 

They routinely eclipse 100,000 square feet, which allows them to offer a multitude of products at rock-bottom prices. 

The store's main strategy is to create a one-stop shop to increase foot traffic. It does this by offering clothing, food, electronics, pharmacies, photo labs, and gas stations.

FreshCo

FreshCo is Empire Company's attempt at a discount grocer. If you don't know who Empire Company is, their main grocery store operation is Sobeys, which is one of the more expensive grocers in Canada.

They launched FreshCo in 2010 as an attempt to enter the discount space. The bulk of the stores will be located in Ontario. 

However, they have begun aggressive expansion into Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and British Columbia.

The chain is much cheaper than Sobeys and Safeway, so much so that the company is converting many of these stores into FreshCos, as Canadians are gravitating toward grocery stores that offer lower prices.

Dollarama

Although not a traditional grocery store, Dollarama carries low-cost grocery staples and can be found in every Canadian province, making it a convenient option. 

Because it isn't a traditional grocery store, I've put it a bit farther down the list. You won't find food items like bread, eggs, yogurt or dairy here. However, you'll find basic goods like ketchup, noodles, some canned meats, salt and pepper, boxed lunch goods, and more.

Food aside, you'll find plenty of household items you typically buy when you're shopping for groceries: toilet paper, cleaning items, paper towels, etc.

You'll often notice significantly lower prices on items sold at Dollarama than at Wal-Mart, for example.

It's not the best grocery option, but if you're looking to do a bit of driving to save on some key items, pay Dollarama a visit.

Maximizing savings even further with reward programs

Most of these discount stores offer a rewards program to encourage repeat shoppers and create an element of brand loyalty. Wise spending on store-related credit cards and loyalty cards can have you saving quite a bit of cash.

I was even surprised, visiting the grocery store last week, that I had enough PC rewards points to get $50 in free groceries.

Loyalty Points and credit cards

Loyalty Programs: Customers should consider enrolling in free store loyalty programs. By shopping at participating locations, customers accumulate points that can be redeemed for discounts on groceries or other rewards.

It's important to track these points diligently as they can translate into substantial savings over time. But it's also important to read the fine print and make sure your points don't expire. If they do, set a reminder to use them up before they disappear.

Credit Cards: To enhance savings further, one can opt for credit cards linked to grocery rewards programs. An example is the PC Financial Mastercard, which allows shoppers to earn points not only on grocery purchases but also on everyday spending.

Another would be the CIBC Costco Mastercard, which can get users up to 3% back with an executive membership at Costco. The key is to pay off the balance in full each month to avoid interest charges, as it won't take more than a few weeks carrying a balance to negate any positive impact.

Coupons and deals

Coupons: Savvy shoppers should use reputable coupon apps. These apps aggregate coupons, making it easy to find discounts on commonly purchased items.

The most popular app I use is Flipp, which allows me to see grocery deals in my area before I head out shopping. Depending on the deals, it could change what grocery store I head to that day.

Deals: It's wise to stay informed about weekly deals offered by grocery stores. Such deals might include targeted offers that enable shoppers to accumulate more reward points on specific products. Engagement with these offers requires attentive planning around weekly grocery shopping to ensure that deals are utilized effectively.

Smart use of rewards programs is an essential strategy for customers aiming to get the most value out of every grocery trip. Utilizing both loyalty points and credit card rewards, in conjunction with coupons and strategic shopping for deals, are powerful tools in a shopper's arsenal for maximizing grocery savings.

Just a reminder again, however, that credit cards are really only beneficial on the rewards side of things if you don't carry a balance.

Strategies to help you save money buying groceries

Buy your items in bulk

Buying in bulk often leads to significant savings. In fact, a major warehouse like Costco practically lives off this type of business model. Buying in bulk means items can be secured at a lower price.

Shoppers should target non-perishable goods or items with a long shelf life. Grains, dried beans, and canned goods are excellent candidates for bulk purchases. Many stores offer discounts for larger quantities; for example, if you buy 5 of the same item, you will save 15%.

  • Advantageous bulk buys:
    • Rice, pasta, and cereals
    • Toilet paper and cleaning supplies
    • Canned vegetables and fruits

Understand how the sales work

Grocery stores typically operate on predictable sales cycles. Certain items typically go on sale every six to eight weeks. Smart shoppers track these trends and plan to stock up accordingly. For example, if a shopper notices that olive oil is discounted every other month, they'll wait to purchase at that time.

Understanding these cycles not only allows for strategic shopping but also minimizes the need for more expensive, last-minute purchases.

How to get fresh produce and meat deals

Last minute buys

Many grocery stores offer a double fresh guarantee on their produce and meat. This means that if the product doesn't meet the consumer's standards of freshness, the store will offer a refund or replacement.

As a result of this guarantee, they'll typically mark down items that are close to their expiry, which wouldn't allow the company to sell them anymore. 

You can take advantage of this for short-term meal planning. I've gotten steaks more than 50% off at some points because the grocery store's freshness guarantee wouldn't allow them to sell it the next day.

Sure, you don't want to buy these items and keep them in your fridge for a week. But for immediate consumption, you can save a ton of money and still get an outstanding product.

Purchase in-season produce

Purchasing local and in-season produce often results in better prices and superior quality. When fruits and vegetables are in abundance, stores may reduce prices to encourage quick sales before spoilage.

A warning: Grocery costs across provinces can vary wildly

Grocery prices are often impacted by the cost of transporting goods and particular sales taxes. For example, in Alberta, gasoline is often the cheapest in the country, and the province only utilizes a 5% GST sales tax.

As a result, grocery prices tend to be cheaper here than they would be in, say, Quebec, where gasoline prices are exceptionally higher than in Alberta. The government has a significantly higher sales tax.

Technology is key when it comes to grocery savings these days

Grocery shoppers are turning to digital solutions to find the best deals and minimize their spending. In my opinion, it is the main way to save money on groceries moving forward.

Utilize digital flyers and mobile apps

Consumers are increasingly using applications such as Flipp to access digital flyers from various grocery stores. These apps consolidate sales information, offering an up-to-date overview of the current discounts and promotions.

Flipp not only aggregates all of one's local flyers into one digital location but also allows for shopping lists that highlight the best local deals on desired items.

  • Reebee: Provides personalized flyer content, giving users the ability to create a customized experience that targets their preferred stores and product interests.

Price comparison apps

Price comparison platforms are instrumental for consumers looking to stretch their dollar further. These platforms have evolved to become more user-friendly and detailed, providing shoppers with the ability to compare prices on individual items across multiple grocery stores.

  • Features of Price Comparison Platforms:
    • Real-time pricing updates: Ensuring users have the most recent information.
    • Barcode scanning capability: Allowing for instant price comparisons while shopping.