Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Real Canadian Superstore

Aka:  Cheese costs how much?!?!?

Some adventures come along with a move, regardless whether domestic or international.  Once you have lived somewhere for a while grocery shopping becomes second nature.  You know which place has the best prices, best selection, is on the way home from work, etc.  Maybe you spend a few moments prior to leaving or making your list, checking the circulars to see what is on sale, but for the most part you know where to go and you have your routine.

New place means new stores and new routine.  London has Price Chopper, Valu-Mart, Loblaw Great Food, Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills, Walmart, just to name a few.  Many of these are a short drive/ride/walk away from our neighbourhood.  We are fortunate to have friends in London who could give us the low-down on all the stores, letting us know where we could expect to get the best prices and selection.  Also, they gave us a heads up on the price difference on things in Canada, so there wouldn’t be too much sticker shock.

So the Monday after move-in day found me heading to the Real Canadian Superstore with my parents.  Let me tell you what, this store was HUGE and overwhelming.  We walked into a large open area with the ready to eat dinner section, fresh produce, bakery, deli, and seafood all together.  Dazed, I wandered around taking in the selection as well as the prices.  I decided to start over in the grocery section, just take it aisle by aisle, and then head back to the open area to get my produce.

I am so glad I had my parents with me!  Mom went off to the other side of the store to check out the home/beauty/pharmacy/clothing/etc. side of the store, and report her findings.  Dad stayed and helped me compare brands and prices, not to mention figure out some of the metric system things that threw me off! 

The first thing you’ll notice about buying anything in Canada, all the packaging is in English and French since both are national languages here.   Sometimes it’s a mix of languages all over the box, other times one side is English and one side French.  Three weeks in, I hardly notice it anymore, but at first it was a bit confusing.

Next thing I noticed was the difference in dairy.  It is much more expensive here.  Doug and I used to frequently buy cheese shredded, sliced, and in blocks depending on what we wanted to use it for.  Now, it is all blocks to save money, and we are getting skilled with the grater and cheese slicer!  The next major adjustment is we now buy milk in bags.  Four liters of milk comes packaged in three bags.  There are specially designed pitchers to hold the milk, and you snip the corner of the bag to pour.

Milk in a bag!

These are just a few of the surprises I ran into on my first shopping trip.  In all the moving frenzy, I had forgotten to bring my reusable shopping bags, which are pretty important here.  While many places in the states will give you a discount if you have your own bags, all the places here will charge you for plastic bags.  I haven’t made that mistake again.

After taking my time going down all the aisles, picking up the essentials, and getting a feel for the differences, I started to feel more at ease.  We may make a few changes to the way we shop and eat, and there may be some things we always pick up when we are visiting the states, but I am still excited about the new experiences!


  1. It is so fascinating to hear about your Canadian adventures! I've always wanted to live abroad at some point in my life, so it's nice to see how your experience is going.

  2. We don't have milk in a bag in Alberta either. I think it is a terrible idea!

  3. I always thought milk in a bag was the NORM in Canada and the US! haha That was a really interesting read. :) Last time I shopped in Target, I was shocked to find in the same aisle as the cosmetics the beer, including six packs of Canadian for only $6.25!!! Such a steal...too bad I'm too scared to try and sneak any over the border. :P

  4. Sara, I intend to devote a post to the difference in alcohol sales here. That (along with dairy prices) has been one of the big adjustments!