Cheapest Grocery Store Comparison

by Mike Holman

I’ve heard from many people that certain grocery stores are much cheaper than other ones. Loblaws in particular is usually named as one of the more expensive ones whereas No Frills is considered one of the cheapest. I’ve always been doubtful that there is a huge difference between stores but since I’ve never compared prices before I didn’t really know. Our average grocery bill for this year is $591 per month so it’s worth seeing if we can save a bit. We shop exclusively at Loblaws because it’s the most convenient store from my house although there is a Price Choppers which is almost as convenient. Food Basics and No Frills are not too far but much less convenient.

Which grocery store is the cheapest?

After reading about various other bloggers reducing their food bill,I decided to carry out some research of my own. I planned to do a price comparison of the four nearby grocery stores using a basket of goods made of up items which our family buys regularly. What I want to see is if there really is a big difference between Loblaws and the other stores and also to see where the best prices are for various items since the cheapest goods probably won’t all be at the same store.

Cheapest grocery store experiment

To perform the experiment I found an old notebook which I could use to write down the data and then set off to the various grocery stores with wife & son in tow. First stop was Price Choppers – since I didn’t have a list of items yet I wandered around and just wrote down items and prices of goods that I know we buy frequently since I figured they should make up a significant part of the food bill. I only wanted to make a sample list, it would be too much work to compare every item we buy over the course of several months. I ended up with a list of 24 items including all the normal staples. Next stop was Loblaws, followed by Food Basics and then No Frills.

You’ll notice in the spreadsheet below that I’ve used a multiplier on all the items to try to estimate how many of that particular item we use in a month. This was done to try to create a proportional basket of goods, based on market capitalization if you will.

Cheapest groceries result

The results were quite interesting. Loblaws was indeed the most expensive but not by a whole lot. Food Basics was 5% cheaper than Loblaws and Price Choppers was 10% cheaper than Loblaws, No Frills was the cheapest at 16% less. Some of the items had huge discrepancies in price while other items were priced similarly at all the stores.

The other basket of goods I created was to add up all the cheapest prices for each item. This basket which would require a lot more effort since it would involve shopping at all four stores, priced in at 20% cheaper than Loblaws which is a significant savings.

Now that we’ve seen the results from this experiment we will definitely make the effort to buy items where they are the cheapest. It’s unlikely that we’ll be able to save the full 20% saving that we could achieve by only buying the cheapest item at all four stores, but I’m hoping that we can save somewhere between 5-10% off our bill without having to go through a lot of extra effort. The spreadsheet with all the data is linked below.

Other ways to save money on groceries are:

  1. Cut down on wastage. This is hard to do but by keeping the fridge clean and looking around in it once in a while you should be able to keep wastage to a minimum.
  2. Buy cheese blocks instead of slices. I love cheese slices but I compared the prices of some recent purchases and it was $1.29 per 100g of block cheese vs $2.09/100g of sliced – 62% more! I think if we can buy a block then slice it up and store in tupperware in the fridge it will still be pretty convenient to use.
  3. Watch the packaging – those squeeze bottles of ketchup, mustard and mayo are apparently more expensive than the regular containers.

If you have any other suggestions for me then I’d love to hear them!

Shopping Experiment Spreadsheet

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