Updated: May 29, 2020
"So many stores, I have no idea where to start - it's so overwhelming!" Yes, I hear you. I remember when we got to Toronto, the closest store to me was Loblaws, around the corner, Wholefoods and just further along was a NoFrills store. I had Google Maps open and would search for "grocery stores closest to me". I know where you're at or where you will be soon!
A few South Africans have asked me to grade or rate stores from top to bottom in terms of price and quality. I remember asking Canadians when we got here to do the same for me which was a great help but honestly - you will find your favourite store quite quickly - it all depends on what you are looking for, what is important to you (e.g. artisan bread versus standard ready sliced bread) and how close the store is in relation to your route home!
Here's a list that might help you along! (Groceries & Household items)
Similar to Woolworths SA. High end and I feel it is very pricey. It is nicknamed "whole pay check" because many will tell you basket for basket it is a good 30% if not more, more expensive than if you purchased the same items elsewhere. Groceries, household, pre-made meals, deli and sit down, coffee bar, deli type products. (Best quiche ever though!!!)
New store just opened in Oakville (they have been around for 36 years). The idea is that the buyers source products from local markets. It is all about fresh. Chefs on site make ready-to-go meals for their beautiful deli. Well priced for these fresh products. Excellent "Farmboy" home brand. They have fresh lovely pestos. Love their sales on salmon and meat - load up people!
3. FORTINOS/LOBLAW - same group - my favourite store. I shop at Fortinos online and collect at the allotted time slot and pay $3 for the service (great when you can drive underground when its snowing and have someone pack your trunk (boot) for you. You can also have your groceries available to collect at your selected GO Station on your way home. What (or as the Canadians will say: "Are you kidding me right now?"). Yes. Amazing. Best ready-to-go Tuscan roast chicken in town. They have Sikorski Grampa Ham - nicest one I've had (has the least fat and tastes really good).
4. LONGOS - same category as Fortinos and Loblaw. Nice to know: Often you will find a Starbucks inside Longos stores. Longos has the best ready-to-go lasagne (closest to the Woolworths one I can find!). Great bakery (sourdough loaf is amazing).
5. SOBEYS - feels like it is one level down on Fortinos/Loblaw and Longos. All groceries and household goods. I shop here for quick purchases since it is close to my school route. They also have great birthday cakes, the girls love them. Design your icing topping with pictures! Georgia spoilt her sister by having Drake on a Cake for her sister Madison!!!!
6. METRO - this store is a dark horse! I find the pricing good and depending on which store you go to - the service is great and a happy place to shop. The newly renovated stores (1100 Upper Middle / 8th line) and Third Line store, are both bright and happy stores somehow. They have excellent Artisan breads and brilliant chocolate muffins (try them).
7. FRESHCO - Very similar to NoFrills, but they are larger and have a greater variety. The store on Third Line, Oakville is also a 24hr store which is a plus. The price point is the same as NoFrills.
8. NO FRILLS - don't shop here if you are looking for aesthetically pleasing shop fittings, & chic till points!! They are all about price point and absolutely no frills. This is where you get the same product for a lot less. They are a smaller grocer, so will not have everything you might be looking for. I buy things like garden refuse paper bags and good deals on cauliflower for all my keto friends.
9. HASTY STORES!!!! - These are very much like our 7 Elevens we had dotted all over South Africa - with just the basics. These are often the only stores open on public holidays! It's a real bummer when you wake up on Canada Day and everything is closed, everything. Then, you remember my words and you rush over to your local Hasty and of course, they have the last of the firecrackers, milk and fresh bread available and doing their best turnover ever! You're welcome.
OTHER STORES TO KNOW ABOUT:
This is not a grocery store. I could not leave this one off the list. You need to know about it. The store blew my mind. It's worth a trip just to stare at all the colours (see my pics below). From every type of candy, chocolate and liquorice - they even have almond flour and any flour you can dream up. Xanthum gum, every kind of seed that exists, xylitol, erythritol (alternative sugar) for all my keto/LCHF friends out there! You can make your own peanut butter in store! Their prices are excellent, well, because it's bulk!
Whoah, high end deli! Lovely, but you will pay ou maat (old friend)! There is a sit down option to have cake and coffee and taste from their insanely fabulous deli. Oops don't spill your coffee on your Versace jacket darling!
Great little place to get all your baked goods (not cakes though). Seasonal stuff they do very well, Hot Cross Buns, croissants, scones, cinnamon buns, cheese breads, buns/rolls....arggg! Warning: this place smells incredible. It is not carb free but hey, this place is where it's at when you have PMS. You will find this gem of a store at one of your local strip malls for sure.
FLORENCE MEATS / "SOUTH AFRICAN STORE"
Yes, the famous "South African Store" - as it has been tagged by our friends. Not only do they have a great butchery (and the best boerewors in the world), you will find your favourite South African curry paste and powders, herbs & spices, Ouma Rusks, Oros, Peppermint Crisps, Chocolate Logs, Bakers Biscuits, AllGold Tomato Sauce and Grapetiser to name a few. Such fabulous finds in this treasure trove - its a massive emotional experience for us expats, every time. Do try their English sausages, really good.
TIPS ON SAVINGS:
FLIPP - ONLINE APP
My friend told me about FLIPP. Free download. This app is pretty amazing because it does price matching. You can select a product such as "toilet paper" and it will give you prices across 25 or more stores! How cool is that? You can also select a specific store and look at their flyer deals individually.
REEBEE - ONLINE APP
Here you can find deals on Groceries and more. Free download. It has most stores listed with their flyers and specials. So many stores are on there, not just groceries - go look!
We started using Amazon Prime because the delivery fee is free. They have a cool program that says the more you buy, the more discount you will get. So we bought all our household items from Amazon: Bounce sheets, dishwashing liquid, dishwasher tablets, Swifer items, toilet paper, roller-towel, tissues, facial cotton swabs, toothpaste, razor blades... etc. You can stagger the deliveries as often as you like. This option is great if you need to save time, and prefer to shop just for groceries and not worry about these items. (I hate shopping for cleaning items!). You also get Amazon TV (like Netflix) included in the annual fee.