HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >

Discussion

No Frills vs. Food Basics vs. Loblaws vs. Valu-Mart vs. Sobeys vs. Dominion vs. Other

  • 79
  • Share

This question has been asked once before, but I'd like to get an updated opinion.
I want to have these stores (and possibly others... I remember there was a grocery store on Leslie between Finch and Steeles, for example, but I don't remember the name... i think it had an italian name to it) ranked BY PRICE, and then BY SHOPPING EXPERIENCE, SEPARATELY. I'm talking about average price and average shopping experience: If you bought bundle X (which includes, for example, 50 items) every week from all of these stores, which one would turn out to be the cheapest or the most expensive over the long run? And which one gives you a better shopping experience (service, availability of products, quality of produce, etc.)?

IMHO (and a very inaccurate opinion, as I shop almost exclusively at either Valu-Mart or No Frills and sometimes Sobeys):

1) Price (from cheapest to most expensive): Food Basics and No Frills < Loblaws < Valu-Mart < Sobeys < Domion.

2) Shopping experience (from worst to best): Food Basics < No Frills < Loblaws and Valu-Mart < Dominion.

Please write passionately, and include other stores if you are familiar with them! Cautionary example: If you know there's walmart groceries but have only shopped there only once, then please think twice about stating any opinion on walmart (or any other store, for that matter).
Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. news segment i caught last month - a price comparison was recently done for some supermarkets, i don't shop at most of the stores mentioned, but it was interesting to read anyway

    http://www.citynews.ca/news/news_1880...

    1. I think part of the difficulty of this exercise is that there is variation not only between chains, but also between different locations of the same chain. Service and restocking efficiency can vary drastically, in my opinion. Prices at downtown groceries stores seem much higher than those in the suburbs.

      Based on the three grocery stores I frequent (Sobeys @ Front and Princess, Dominion @ Front and Church, and Loblaws @ Queens Quay and Jarvis) I would rank as follows:

      1) Price (from cheapest to most expensive): Dominion< Sobeys < Loblaws

      2) Shopping experience (From worst to best) : Dominion < Loblaws < Sobeys

      But there are many exceptions to these generalities. For example, Dominion in general seems to be out of everything all the time, but they are the only one that stocks a nice cream cheese I like in the deli. Loblaws is in general very expensive, but the allergy pills I buy are $10 cheaper there than elsewhere. Most of all, though the service at Dominion is so abysmal that I will often happily pay more elsewhere to avoid crossing their threshold.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Gary

        your comment is bang on. As a market researcher I can attest that there is variation amongst locations. In fact, a colleague at another research firm once told me that Queens Quay Loblaws is one of the most expensive grocery stores in the country.

        Both Dominion and Loblaws have different "level" stores and you will find the prices vary amongst these levels. For instance, the Dominion at Kenedy Commons in Scarborough in much more expensive than the Loblaws at Agincourt Mall (I think its a No Frills now), yet the Dominion at Liberty Village is cheaper than the Loblaws on Queens Quay.

        With this pricing structure, it would be hard to rank by price.

      2. I shop mostly at Loblaw's at Leslie and Lakeshore, NF on Carlaw, Price Chopper across from Loblaws, Sobey's on Broadview, and Dominion on Gould or at Yonge/Eg.

        1) Price (from cheapest to most expensive):
        No Frills < Price Chopper < Loblaw's < Sobey's < Dominion

        2) Shopping experience (From worst to best) : Dominion < Loblaws < Price Chopper < No Frills < Sobey's

        The No Frills on Carlaw has tonnes of Asian ingredients and is quite clean and well stocked. Dominion on Gould is bare bones, and the fish counter is rarely open before noon. The one in the Yonge/Eg Centre is a joke. Sobey's is good, but $$ and despite the reno, poorly laid out at the Broadview location. The lakeshore Loblaw's was frightening some time ago, but is marginally better, now. I do like the PC products and that location also has a Bulk Barn, which add points, even if unfairly. Price Chopper on Lakeshore is clean and well-stocked, but has less variety and choice than No Frills which is close by.

        1 Reply
        1. re: thenurse

          I use the same stores except for the Dominion. I find myself using No Frills for 75% of my basic stuff because the prices are so good and the place is clean, bright and well-kept. Produce is always fine early in the day and before the weekend crush. If you get there much past noon on Saturday, you won't find much.
          On the down side, No Frills has no deli, no fish and a weakish meat counter. Also misses some of the brands you get at Loblaw's. But a quick once-a-week to Loblaw's and the Market takes care of all that.
          Not fond of Price Chopper except in desperation. Kinda sketchy. Sobey's is a bit far but when I've been there I don't find it the equal of No Frills/Loblaw's.
          I hear the new Sobey's on Front St. E. is really nice and it's on my way to and from work, so I may check it out.

        2. My major concern when shopping relates to quality. Does the store have a broad selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, seafood, groceries, etc. I also like a store to have unusual, exotic ingredients as I like to experiment in the kitchen. I live in Burlington and there is only one choice... Fortino's. Definitely not the cheapest but is has the best selection and variety. Given your criteria, I rate Fortino's number 1 for shopping experience followed by Sobey's, Longo's, Ultramart. Never been to the No Frills or Food Basics - don't think we have one in Burlington but probably wouldn't go anyway. Not a member at Costco so cannot include that one in the rating.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cynalan

            I live over Dominion (Dundas/Church) -- but I prefer T&T on Cherry Rd. Dominion is reserved for emergencies only.

          2. K so maybe I should add this: I live on Yonge and Bloor. I often go to Vince's No Frills on Parliament, but stocks over there are not that great (especially for yogurt). Valu-mart is right next to me, so I do the little shoppings there (just a 5-7 minute walk) but I don't know how it fairs in comparison (price wise) with No Frills or other stores for me to do my big shoppings there. Then there's the Sobey's at Yonge and St. Claire, which seems to have much more expensive prices than the loblaws on Bayview and Moore.

            1. I totally agree with Gary...My Dominion (Yonge and Lawrence) is always out of everything!! If I ever bring a list, I usually don't get 25% of my items. Anything that's on sale, forget about buying it unless it's the first morning of the sale (like Dr. Oetker's pizzas, which magically re-appear once the sale is over). But I live across the street from it, so I go pretty often.

              The best service is at Longo's. There are always soooo many people working restocking every item in the store. If you ask one of the workers where something is located, they actually walk with you directly to the item. I love Longo's!

              4 Replies
              1. re: illy

                I agree, Longos rocks! I go to the one at Hwy 7 & Woodbine. There's a Starbucks inside as well. I can't say the prices are the best, but the quality of their prepared salads, produce, etc is fantastic. I'm willing to pay a few more dollars for the shopping experience there.

                And my biggest pet peeve at supermarkets is waiting in line. At Longo's, I've never waited behind more than one person in line, and the service is super fast.

                1. re: SMOG

                  have you shopped at Michaelangelo's across the street from that Longo's? i've generally liked Longo's but for similar price points, Michaelangelo's has different (or better) deli meats and produce (from what i've noticed anyway). rarely lineups either.

                  1. re: auberginegal

                    I have, and have found it to be pretty good. I like the size and layout of Longo's and guess I'm just used to it. I don't buy meat at the supermarket, rather go to a butcher, so my main concern at the supermarket is the produce. But if I had to shop at Michaelangelo's, I certainly would not be unhappy.

                2. re: illy

                  This is the first time in years that I shopped at Longo's (Bayview near Steeles) and I was quite impressed. The prices are comparable to Loblaws + Brunos, and they do have a nice variety of good quality products. It's also refreshing to shop at a place not dominated by in-house brands, and I was pleasantly surprised they have a decent stock of organic produce, with prices that are comparable or better than the competitors in the area.

                3. I live in Richmond Hill, and we have a lot of shopping options - No Frills, Dominion, Price Chopper, Loblaw's, and the independent Weston Produce.

                  The Dominion is open 24 hours;as a result, their prices are generally the highest, but it is convenient when you get home late, and the cupboard's bare! Loblaw's comes next in the expensive category. One advantage to both stores is they have fresh seafood and deli counters.

                  For the other three, I shop at different stores for different reasons. Weston has the best fresh vegetables, and their meat is reasonably priced (although I go to Bruno's when I have a special occasion planned - pricey, but the best meat you can buy!). Price Chopper is owned by Asians, and besides low prices, they offer a wide selection of Asian products, including a BBQ shop, fresh fish and shellfish, and some insanely priced meat specials (a vacuum packed rib eye for $3.29/lb?!), so I go there a lot. Finally, No Frills offers reasonably low prices, and I find the PC brand products there are much higher quality than the "Compliments" house brand at Price Chopper. But, No Frills doesn't have fresh seafood, a deli, and the selection is limited. However, the Loblaws at Yonge and 16th is converting to a No Frills and it is a huge store, so I'm looking for that to enhance my shopping experience.

                  Does it cost more time to shop at different stores? Absolutely. But when I want fresh tomatoes, instead of the horrid green cardboard they sell at No Frills, I go to Weston. BBQ pork for a stir fry? Gotta go to Price Chopper. No Frills has great deals on canned and frozen goods, and they usually have one good meat special each week ($0.49/tin for 12 oz of canned corn? That's half the price of Dominion.)

                  The one thing that bothers me is that the same product - like PC brand Tropical Orange juice - is always 10-20% higher in price at Loblaws than it is at No Frills. Tends to keep me out of there unless they have a really good deal on. I think it's the place I shop the least.

                  1. When getting a weeks worth of groc, It's cheaper for me to rent a car for an hour or 2 and drive to Lansdowne No Frills than to walk 5mins to Loblaws on St. Clair

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: philly cheeze

                      That's gotta be the best NF in Toronto. Live fish (cleaned upon request), awesome ethnic food selection, good prices.

                      It's not near where I live, but it is on my way home from work, so I sometimes stop there.

                      I find the NF in my local area (the one in Bloor West and the one at Royal York and Queensway) to be dirty and horribly understocked.

                      I frequent the Sobey's at Queensway and Parklawn, but only because of convenience. Veggies and friut are hit and miss, and very often they don't have what I need. i.e. I needed medium cheddar cheese yesterday. None available. What store doesn't have medium cheddar??? Needed rapini last weekend. Nope. They had it the following day when I no longer needed it.

                      My favourite is Loblaws on Dundas, just west of Jane. Great selection, clean, etc, but out of my way. I would guess prices are comparable to my local Sobey's, but even if they're higher, I much prefer the Loblaws experience.

                    2. I go to three supermarkets in downtown Toronto, most often No Frills at Dufferin Mall, then Dominion at College & Shaw, occasionally Loblaws at Dupont & Christie...

                      I would have to say No Frills is my favourite, I can usually find what I'm looking for, the produce is decent, we don't eat a lot of meat but that seems OK, the service at the Dominion is abysmal, particularly when I'm there at night after work, there's a woman who works there I like to refer to as Dominion B**ch, as she obviously hates her job and people in general. I find Dominion to be way too expensive and try to avoid going there if at all possible. Also, I find the merchandising of all supermarkets here to be confusing, probably to confuse people into impulse buying... I can never understand why liquid stocks are with the soups and stock cubes are with the spices/baking ingredients...Here's my rating:

                      1) Price: No Frills, Loblaws, Dominion
                      2) Shopping Experience: No Frills, Loblaws, Dominion

                      1. i'm a teacher, and last summer i made it my mission to comparison shop in my neighbourhood, since i had time, and always buy things as cheap as possible, given the choice between Dominion (yonge/eg), Sobey's (mount pleasant/eg), Loblaws (St. Clair/yonge) and Shopper's (mount pleasant/eg). i also did valu mart (davisville/bayview) from time to time.

                        some findings:
                        Loblaws and Dominion are often out of things because they are on the subway line, so they are commuter destinations.

                        dominion randomly puts things on sale that no one else does, like 3 packs of red/yellow and orange peppers, or haagen daaz yogurt.

                        loblaws/valu-mart are worth it for certain PC brand stuff that is superior is quality and value to all the other house brands. plus at various times in the summer (with the insider's report i think) their burgers or chicken breasts were on sale, great for the bbq.

                        milk in bags is up to $1 cheaper at Shopper's. if you have one of the new renoed shoppers near you, buy milk there.

                        yogurt, activa brand, is cheaper at sobey's. they also have liberte brand apple pie yogurt, which the others do not.

                        all the stores put rasp/blue/strawberries on sale for anywhere from $1.99 at various points in time. they almost like rotate it through. keep your eyes on the flyers!

                        that's my 2 cents!

                        1. I really like this post and agree that different locations of the same supermarket can vary a lot. With that said I visit the following stores fairly regularly:
                          No Frills : Duffering Mall
                          Food Basics: Wellesley (rarely shop there)
                          Sobeys: Mount Pleasant
                          Fortinos: Lawrence (@ Allen)
                          Loblaws: North York Centre or St Clair
                          Dominion: Yonge & Eg

                          I'm a big fan of No Frills at Dufferin Mall. It's a huge store. Always clean and well stocked. I love that they have a fish counter and a butcher. Prices are very low and they have great diversity in terms of what they carry. I can get random mexican, indian, west indian ingredients at one place at good prices. This is where I do the bulk of my shopping.

                          Dominion at Yonge and Eg is awful. Their produce section is rarely properly stocked. When they have items on sale they run out on the first day and then don't restock until AFTER the sale. And for some reason they haven't had a full supply of canned beans since last year. It's expensive but I shop their out of convenience since I pass it at least two times per day.

                          Loblaws and Fortinos I visit occasionally. Loblaws is "fun" because it's so bright and shiny and they have appliances. BUT their prices aren't great. They do have good produce and I like all of their fresh counters but I would never buy all of my groceries there. Fortinos has good instore specials.

                          Sobeys is my Dominion back-up. If I go to Dominion for something very specific and think they are over charging I will check out Sobeys and Sobeys will often have the item for cheaper. But it's a bit further away and overall not THAT cheap so I don't do all of my shopping there.

                          PRICE: No Frills/ Food Basics < Sobeys < Fortinos < Loblaws < Dominion

                          SHOPPING EXPERIENCE: Food Basics < Sobeys < Dominion < No Frills < Fortinos < Loblaws

                          WON
                          http://whatsonmyplate.wordpress.com

                          1. I have learned to ignore the old line markets, except for specials on meat and seafood.
                            I do a major shop, once a month, at Costco. They have all the staples, good meat, cheese, creamery/dairy, and fish, and always some new temptations, such as slabs of 'Dunns' smoked meat, $5/lb.
                            Once a week I visit Highland Farms, for a unique Euro-shop. The family is from Puglia, and they have a central Euro influence, as well as Italian/Mediterranean.
                            And once a week, Soon Lee, P.A.T., or other Asian stores, for produce, pork, far east packaged goods, fresh ducks, and some seafood.
                            I'll drop into Dominion for last day Angus rib eyes, but not much else.
                            I get T&T's flyer on the net every week, and read it avidly, but they are not close.

                            The ratings: Price (best to worst)
                            ... Costco, Soon Lee, P.A.T., Highland Farms, Dominion

                            Shopping experience (worst to best)
                            ...Loblaws, Dominion, Soon Lee, P.A.T.,Costco, Highland Farms

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: jayt90

                              I agree with all the complaints about Dominion.-- and of all the Dominion's i've been to in the downtown core, the one that takes the cake is College Park... but wait, they would surely BE OUT OF CAKE anyway!!! Every time i go there they do not have something basic i want. The last time i tried to shop there i went specifically for cucumber and Dempster's bread. They had neither. I asked the cashier who i could complain to and she could barely give me the time of day to say she didn't know. Most of the staff there are surly and difficult. Many of them don't know what watercress is. It is rare not to have to wait in line for half an hour while you get bumped around by condo dwellers in their pajamas.

                              1. re: cherrytreegirl

                                I think the main problem with this Dominion location is the fact that they are FAR too small to support the amount of business they do. Everyone in there (staff/customers) is angry because there's not nearly enough space or stock. Ever. I've never been there and not seen it packed with people and a total mess. The last time I was there it was 10:30pm on a Friday night in early December and every register was open, with a line of at least 6 people in every one. When another employee came over to ask if one of the cashiers could cover the deli for a moment, the cashier said she'd already missed her break by an hour and was trying to get someone to take her place so she could use the washroom. When the woman ahead of me in line got to her turn, she berated the cashier for the fact that she'd had to wait 10 minutes to pay for her groceries and demanded to speak to a manager. I'm not saying that the customer shouldn't have complained necessarily, but she really laid into that poor girl (made only slightly hilarious by the fact that while the customer was losing her mind she was wearing a Santa hat), and of course slowed up the service by another 5 minutes. I've also received really bad service there but I do feel bad for the staff. It's an ugly situation for everyone. I pretty much hate shopping there and avoid it as much as I can.

                                1. re: Manybears

                                  No Frills, I find, depends on the individual store. Some are like flea markets but the one near me, in Thornhill, is pretty great. Very clean and surprisingly good produce - but no deli counter or fish counter.

                                  In general, I find Price Chopper and Food Basics to be much weaker or produce and other "fresh" prudcts.

                                  Dominion, everyone agrees, the most expensive and really has little going for it aside from the hours. I used to live near Bayview/Eglinton and it was my default shopping place but I never loved it.

                                  Loblaws is pretty damned good but can be expensive.
                                  Longo's IMHO, has the best produce and great prepared products but tends to be a biiiit expensive. As someone said above, it's often worth the extra $.

                                  Sobey's seems to bridge the difference, being not quite as fancy shmancy as a huge Loblaw's but also a bit cheaper. I don't think anyone can dispute that PC is the best house brand, putting Our Compliments etc. to shame on most products.

                                  And, to go back to the original post, Gelati Bros. is the place on Leslie Street. It's a bit like Longos with good produce and prepared food. Expensive, but not tooo expensive.

                                  1. re: fleisch

                                    As someone mentioned, when I shop for groceries - the price is not the big thing that I am worried about (a little higher, little lower) - I want quality produce, quality meat and fish, and variety. This is the reason why I prefer T&T over Dominion/Lowblaws etc. The meat tends to be better, and there is absolutely no comparison on the fish side. I find the selection of produce to be very limited at the Dominion. If it does not have everything that I need (and sometimes want), then I might as well go elsewhere. Dominion keeps advertising about their freshness - but often that is lacking as well.

                            2. The prices and the shopping experiences vary tremendously not only between chains, but also within each chain. This makes it really difficult for me to offer meaningful comparisons. At some stores, the shopping experience varies within a store from day to day or at different times of the day.

                              I can rarely get everything on my shopping list at any one store. Of the major chains, I can sometimes find everything I need at Loblaw's or Dominion, but it's only sometimes and only at a select handful of these stores.

                              The other chains are hopeless in that regard. It might be possible to get most of what I need at Highland Farms or Fiesta Farms, but these stores are not convenient, and are therefore irrelevant to me.

                              I don't think it's possible to generalize about prices between chains, since it depends so much on what you are buying. They all try to be competitive on things like 2% milk in bags, packaged white bread, and medium size eggs, none of which I ever buy. I can't really say that No Frills or Food Basics is cheaper than the "full service" stores, since they sell so little of what's on my shopping list. Given all of these considerations, it probably isn't all that meaningful, but...

                              Price (lowest to highest): T&T, No Frills, Wal-Mart, Superstore, Loblaws, Dominion, Sobey's

                              The experiences reported in other posts are sometimes quite different.

                              No grocery chain operating in Toronto pays much attention to creating a consistent shopping experience, much less a consistently good one. For shopping experience, I would definitely rank Food Basics at the very bottom. Newer Food Basics stores in the suburbs may be better, but those I've shopped at have been universally bad. I'm in the Staples and Home Depot at Gerrard Square at least once a week, but I don't bother going in to Food Basics any more. Given that Food Basics' business is based on minimum wage, minimum benefit employees working for "owners" who have little actual control over their businesses, perhaps my poor experience isn't surprising. What IS surprising to me was the finding that Food Basics' prices are not necessarily low.

                              Beyond that, I can't rate the shopping experience overall because it varies so much from store to store within a chain.

                              For example, No Frills' prices seem to be consistently at the low price end, but I can't get enough of what I need at any one time to justify shopping there very often. They don't stock much of the PC line, which I find surprising, and they seem to stock the brands I generally DON'T choose for products on my list that they do actually sell. The No Frills in Riverdale Plaza, my local store, is a decent place to shop. The "union shop" decal on their window was a surprise. But the No Frills stores on Parliament and on Coxwell are truly foul.

                              The Loblaws stores at Queens Quay, and on Victoria Park & Gerrard, are pleasant places to shop, though they are profoundly out of stock on too much too often. The quality of the meat, the produce, and (especially) the fish at Queens Quay are well above the Loblaw's norm. Others indicate that the prices here are higher, but I'm not really sure. It certainly isn't cheap. The real rotisserie chickens here, and on Millwood, are better that the combi cooked chickens at other Loblaw stores I frequent. But my local Loblaws at Leslie and Lakeshore (though currently under a renovation that seems to be taking forever) has bad service, self-bagging, staff attitude issues, frequently poor produce and fish, and worse stock problems than those that currently plague Loblaw's across the board. The Bayview and Moore Loblaw's is a folksy, friendly, old fashioned store that suffers from lousy fish and limited space. Broadview & Danforth is both small and terrible.

                              The Superstores seem to be cheaper than regular Loblaw stores on some items (produce and staples in particular), but priced similarly to Loblaws on the majority of the things I buy. I find the size of the Don Mills Superstore excessive for convenient shopping and the layout incredibly awkward. The out of stock situation there has often been out of control.

                              Dominion is much like Loblaw's. Danforth & Victoria Park and Kennedy Commons are good places to shop. However, prices seem higher than Loblaw's prices across the board. These stores often have great bargains on "last day of sale" meat and produce. The Dominion at Bayview and Eglinton is nice, but very small by today's standards and, as such, offering limited selection. Most of the downtown Dominions, are awful, as described in other posts.

                              Sobey's has been a real disappointment, with a limited selection, high prices, weird layouts, dubious fresh meat and produce, and poor service. And they seem SO proud of their "USDA Select" graded beef - perhaps they found that customers perceived this to be a premium product rather than the poor stuff it actually is. I tried the new Sobey's in Leaside last week, and it was appalling. Staff seemed largely untrained. The very nice man (I'd guess a retired Leasider) in the deli had no idea what he was doing. It took him about ten minutes to figure out how to slice some meat. The cashier was utterly incompetent. When she asked what my potato was, I said "russet", but it turned out she didn't know it was a potato. She had problems with procedures, with her register, and with my payment card. It took at least 15 minutes, plus management intervention, to check out and pay for a small order. It then took more time, and another management intervention, to get my register tape, which was found in her trash. While management handled the problems, they really didn't seem to care. (OTOH, Sobey's in Parry Sound has been a good place to shop for years. Go figure...) I've found Sobey's to be even more expensive than Dominion on the things I tend to buy.

                              Wal-Mart surprised me. There's a wide selection and good prices, and the quality of what's on offer is really quite high. There's not much fish and the baked goods are banal, but meat and produce are fine. While the Golden Mile store is huge, most of what you'd buy at a supermarket is concentrated at one end. I have an aversion to Wal-Mart for many reasons and I won't be going there often, but Loblaws really does need to worry. As a supermarket, the Wal-Mart Supercentre isn't a low end store.

                              I've been to Longo's at Woodbine and 7, and I was reasonably impressed. They occupy the ground to which Sobey's, falsely, lays claim. Highish prices on mainly food, but really good service and no empty shelves on my visit. I have no idea whether this is normal, since I haven't been to another location and all the other chains differ so much from day to day. Their salad bar looked so good that I ended up having lunch. It tasted good too, but it cost much more than I was expecting.

                              I've found T&T to be a great shopping experience, with lower prices on just about everything that's fresh. However, despite the size of the Cherry St store, this is very much a specialty shop. The fish selection puts everyone else's to shame, though the quality isn't consistent. The meat quality is also very good, though they don't seem to age their beef (not an issue with Asian cooking, but problematic with a thick steak).

                              17 Replies
                              1. re: embee

                                I have to agree 100%. When I make a special trip to T&T it's definitely a treat, but the question is, why aren't there "mainstream" supermarkets around that have T&T's combination of size, selection, service, cleanliness, and price? Go to Dominion, Loblaws, Sobeys, or (worse) their low-cost/independent clones and you're lucky to get 1 or 2 of those 5. The only thing the mainstream grocers here are consistent in, is being consistently bad.

                                If you've never been, take a day trip down to Niagara Falls, NY, just 90 minutes from Toronto. You need only visit two supermarkets there to see how it should be done. Go to Tops "International Market" on Niagara Falls Blvd and Wegmans on Military Rd (across the street from the Fashion Outlets). These guys have those 5 things I listed above. These stores are huge, have wide selection of everything (not just 1 national brand and 1 store brand like Dominion), very competitive prices (the two chains won't have exactly the same items on sale every weekend like you see in Toronto), they're clean, and the service is excellent -- all staff are willing to help, and you never have long checkout lines as they always have enough open for the demand. They make their weekly flyers available for download on their website so you can plan your attack before you head down the QEW.... Go the week before Canadian Thanksgiving as Wegmans will often put turkeys on sale for 19 or 29 cents a pound with min $30 purchase. Beat that, No Frills...

                                For the ultra-low-cost experience, visit ALDI (there's one on Porter Rd right after you exit I-190). Mostly house label, not a wide selection, but ridiculously low prices (same guys that own Trader Joes). Their Red Bull clone (which is a pretty good copy) is 4 for $2.99. Box of regular salt 19 cents. 12 pound Butterball turkeys $10. Yes, these are regular prices, not specials. Warning: ALDI only takes cash and American debit cards, no credit cards.

                                Groceries are tax and duty free to import into Canada so go on and stock up while you're down there. We like to focus on things that the cartels ("marketing boards") keep artificially expensive here, like beef, poultry, and dairy products. The savings on those items will more than cover the cost of fuel to drive there... We haven't bought turkey, chicken, milk or eggs in Canada in over 3 years.

                                1. re: TexSquared

                                  I have to second the Wegmans recommendation. I was there a few months ago and was surprised by their selection. In terms of packaged goods it seemed that they carried every flavour in every brand, period. Their produce also looked really great and I think they put a special emphasis on local goods.

                                  1. re: wontonfm

                                    Wegman's is extraordinary. They are based in Rochester and their stores in the Buffalo/Niagara are actually among their oldest, and worst. It is a family business, and the younger generations have succeeded in building the company rather than (as with Eaton's, or Steinberg supermarkets, or Seagrams) killing it.

                                  2. re: TexSquared

                                    Tops also has a massive beer section, including a fridge with kegs.
                                    (And, of course, all those delicious American products we just don't get up here - crazy cereal flavours, more Ben and Jerry's flavours, Hebrew National hot dogs...)

                                    Point taken - I doubt any Americans cross the border to hit the Ft. Erie Dominion, or whatever.

                                    Badbhoy's post reminded me how many Dominions are perched right on the subway line, like College Park and Yonge/Eg. Basically, they are the most convience store-like grocery store, right?

                                    Late hours, bad prices, mediocre selection, good locations...

                                    1. re: fleisch

                                      You can't really hold out Tops as a great example of what supermarkets should be. The Tops Supercenter on Niagara Falls Blvd, which was once actually called the Top's "International Bazaar", is one of their very best stores. Beer aside, there are some Loblaw and Dominion stores that are reasonably comparable or better.

                                      As noted above, the Wegman's stores in the area are among Wegman's worst stores. The newest Wegman's stores are really incredible. I believe a Consumer Reports survey rated them the best place to shop for food in the US (and they are a small, regional operation). There are other local chains, such as Byerly's in Minneapolis or Gelson's in southern California, that will blow you away.

                                      1. re: fleisch

                                        The only Americans to cross the border into Canada to shop for food are British ex-pats, but that's a whole 'nother thread :-)

                                      2. re: TexSquared

                                        There was at least one ALDI here in the 1980's, at Oakwood and Eg., but it didn't catch on. I think Trader's would do better if they decide to come in.

                                        No one has mentioned Sam's Club, but I would consider them if I lived close by (I do) and not a Costco member. The clubs are very consistent store to store, and Sam's is virtually empty, as they are up against a well-run competitor.

                                        I haven't been to T&T but I hope they have picked up the North American habit of routinely steam cleaning the fish display. Some Asian markets smell of old fish as soon as I enter, but I haven't encountered this at other stores with a good turnover in seafood.

                                        1. re: jayt90

                                          I've pushed Sam's Club in here numerous times which is why I didn't mention it in this thread. A major plus for Sam's is that they have 2 locations in the Buffalo area. There are no Costco's unless you go all the way to Detroit or New York City. We stock up a lot at the Sam's in Cheektowaga near Walden Galleria mall.

                                          1. re: TexSquared

                                            There are at least a dozen Costco's and 3 Sam's between Oshawa and St. Catherines, no need to go to Detroit, and put up with border hold ups.

                                            1. re: jayt90

                                              We live near the Sam's Club in Pickering which is where we usually go. But if we're going to Buffalo anyway, we'll go to the ones there which have twice the selection and much lower prices than either Sam's or Costco in Canada.

                                              You mentioned Aldi in Canada, you sure you aren't referring to "Valdy" which was a whole different chain from the 1980's? I remember the Eglinton at Bermondsey location.

                                          2. re: jayt90

                                            At least at a glance, T&T has hygiene practices as good as or better than the mainstream stores. Everything sparkles and food handlers seem to wear gloves and hair nets. I don't know whether this is consistent, though. You can certainly smell some fish, but it's no worse than Pusateri's fish counter. It doesn't smell anything like the stores along Gerrard.

                                            1. re: jayt90

                                              Are you sure you don't mean Valdi? Valdi was the survivor when the Steinberg empire collapsed (largely because the corporate management had essentially disowned it as too low class) and it hung around for a few years. They were cheaper than anyone else, but their limited selection (as I recall, NO perishables) and grim surroundings did them in. One of the last to close was in Leslieville. I just couldn't bring myself to shop there, though they were located within walking distance of my house.

                                              1. re: embee

                                                Yeah, I think it was Valdi. I never went in, as the general traffic around Eglinton and Oakwood was (and is still) a deterrent.

                                                Tex., the Costco warehouses are the same size and have the same number of products, from Winnipeg to Yucatan. Your regional preference is showing, and I don't necessarily disagree, but a gas guzzling trip across the aversive border is not something to look forward to.

                                                1. re: jayt90

                                                  I meant compare a Canadian Sam's Club with an American one. No comparison. Two Pickering Sam's Clubs would fit inside the Niagara Falls, NY club, which was recently expanded.

                                                  1. re: TexSquared

                                                    Thanks for the clarificaton. I have just edited my post to say that I have noticed the same products, similar staffing, and same size Costco warehouses, from Mexico to northern Alberta, with regional varaiations. Sam's is a different operation, and unlikely to expand here until the Wal-Mart superstores settle out.

                                                    1. re: jayt90

                                                      That is my concern, that Wal-Mart might consider giving up on Sam's Club in Canada (there's still just the "original 6" locations), and convert them all to Supercenters....

                                                      It still boggles my mind how the Ajax Costco is still a zoo while just 2 exits west on the 401 the Sam's Club parking lot is half empty. I always expected the two to even it out (with Costco taking a net loss of customers) but that just didn't happen.

                                            2. re: TexSquared

                                              Oh well, now Loblaws owns T&T

                                          3. While we're talking about grocery stores...

                                            The Star has an article about Fiesta Farms: http://www.thestar.com/living/article...

                                            WON
                                            http://whatsonmyplate.wordpress.com

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: wontonfm

                                              I've had similar poor experiences at the College Park Dominion with the lack of selection and stock. I don't mind the Front Street location though. It serves its purpose anyway.

                                              My problem is that outside of the big weekend grocery trips in the car, I am often just popping in to grab some ingredients on the way home from work on the subway. I work at Islington station and live at Queen station so as far as I know my options are limited to College Park Dominion and the Bloor and Spadina location which is equally bad.

                                              Does anyone have an suggestions for grocery stores on my stretch of the subway line? Reasonably priced and decent quality and selection?

                                              1. re: badbhoy

                                                Front St is certainly better than the other downtown Dominions, but it still represents a failure. This store was supposed to be a high end boutique operation, originally dubbed the "Great Atlantic & Pacific Co. Front St Market". But it never transcended being just another small, oddly designed Dominion.

                                                1. re: badbhoy

                                                  The No Frills at Dufferin Mall is very large, well stocked (busy tho!) store. For me, they've always had what I've needed and the prices are, of course, lower than most of the competition. Dufferin Mall is one block south of the Dufferin Subway station.

                                                  1. re: torontogal

                                                    I like that NF too, but "busy" is a serious understatement.
                                                    It's a crazy zoo with lineups of mountainous carts going up the aisle. That alone, prevents me from going.

                                              2. As far as shopping experience goes...

                                                I don't think anyone beats Whole Foods among the full-sized supermarkets.

                                                Now, they're unquestionably the worst on price...

                                                Though getting a bit better with the change in the dollar and increasing number of house-brand products.

                                                But its always impeccably clean, fully stocked, incredible selection in such a tiny place, really nice staff and they not only offer tons of samples, they let you taste almost anything in the store.

                                                I once saw they carried some new British chips that were pork-flavoured (they also had Asparagus flavour!). To be honest, it didn't sound very appetizing, but it did have me curious. But at $6.99.....

                                                There are staff all over the store, and I just asked one to come over and could I please try these chips.

                                                They just cut the bag open on the spot and said try as many as you like!

                                                Hard to beat that service!

                                                *********

                                                Among the majors:

                                                I would rate Longos the best; very good service/staff attitude, nicely presented stores, very good organic produce and some really original items like the Beef Tenderloin stuffed with Chrizo Sausage.

                                                After that I would put Sobeys. The new/renovated stores are nice, more organic selection is needed, meat counter service is terrible (or absent), but still, its improved enormously the last few years.

                                                T&T is great for carrying just so many 'neat' things like the make your own soup packages (raw chicken, fresh herbs, peeled garlic cloves, onion, noodles, celery and carrot (peeled) all in one pkg in their convenience fridges!

                                                Loblaws used to be great, but is having huge issues keeping things in stock, and I've noticed a real deterioration in produce quality. Plus I just don't want to walk the length of a football field when I shop!

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Northern Light

                                                  Whole Foods without a doubt has the best service but the prices keep me far far away for items that I can get elsewhere. They don't even pretend to have any sort of competitive pricing whatsoever. Even amongst the "regular" brands that you can find at other supermarkets Whole Foods is always significantly more. I often find that prices at Noah's tend to be cheaper than Whole Foods.

                                                  When I was living in NYC I used to do most of my grocery shopping at Whole Foods because prices were on par with local supermarkets, but here it's a total joke.

                                                  WON
                                                  http://whatsonmyplate.wordpress.com

                                                  1. re: wontonfm

                                                    And, obnoxiously, Whole Foods won't carry Diet Coke due to "artificial" ingredients. (I think the same policy is true for most common sodas.) Get a life ! Why would I make two stops because nanny doesn't want to sell me some pop ? And that in a store chock-full of highly-caloric cheeses, brownies, mousses, cream soups, ice creams and carb-laden baked treats ! They are hypocrites - successful and attractive to be sure, but full of bs as far as I am concerned.

                                                    1. re: Bigtigger

                                                      Can't you tell the difference between real junk food and artificial junk food ;-)

                                                2. I try to do the vast majority of my shopping in Chinatown East. It's conveniently located for me, and as I love Asian foods of all different types, it generaly has about 90% of the items I need. Furthermore, the prices there are extraordinary; I'm always shocked when I get to the cash and see how low the total is for my purchases. They also tend to have major sales on items at a moment's notice: for example, I'll be picking out some fruit when suddenly an employee is screaming in Chinese and marauded by a throng of shoppers. Checking it out, I've gotten fantastic deals like a massive bag of green beans, 12 green peppers, or 10 navel oranges for $1. You'd never find anything resembling that in any of the major chains.

                                                  I know that some people have concerns about the cleanliness and the smell, but I find that you learn to tolerate the smell very quickly. As for the cleanliness, I've never experienced any health issues and the shoppers there all look healthy enough.

                                                  As for chains, when I must, I tend to visit the No Frills at Carlaw. They're generally decent in terms of the selection of items and they seem to keep their store well stocked. The prices are often reasonable, although still much higher than Chinatown. The service is terrible, but that seems to be the case for most grocery stores these days.

                                                  Occasionally, when I want specialty items that No Frills doesn't offer, I'll hit up the Loblaws at Leslie and Lakeshore, but I loathe the shopping experience. The most basic of items (e.g. dried oregano) are often out of stock. Everything is overpriced absurdly compared to the other two. The service is utterly nonexistent: the fact that I'm paying such ridiculously high prices and then even have to bag my own groceries just boggles my mind. I avoid as much as possible because the whole experience leaves me feeling agitated and unhappy.

                                                  Overall, though, Summerhill Market is my preferred store, but unfortunately for me, the fairly high (but justifiably so, given the wonderful quality of the food) prices allow me to only shop there a few times a year. It's just such a pleasant experience overall between the excellent and largely natural food and the wonderfully helpful and friendly staff.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: vorpal

                                                    Gerrard St is a mixed bag for me. Yes, the produce prices are very, very low. I'll pay something like $1.69/lb, not on sale, for sweet red peppers that are $3.95 at Loblaws and $4.59 at Dominion. Bargains do abound. However, much of the available produce is obviously what's left after buyers for other stores have picked it over.

                                                    What's more unnerving is that the Big Carrot has been undercutting the major chains on at least some produce. I just paid about $1.49 for a "clamshell" of organic cherry tomatoes ($4.95 at Loblaw's and Dominion for the same size) and $1.49 for four organic lemons ($.99 each at Loblaw's and Sobey's for the same size). Many other produce items were priced at or below the supermarket price level at this normally very expensive store.

                                                  2. I'm a No Frills gal. I just can't afford Dominion or Loblaws. I have two No Frills stores within 15 minutes' walking distance of my home (Pacific Avenue/Dundas and Bloor/Runnymede) but I almost always go to the one on Pacific because it has better produce and the layout of the store is MUCH better. I would try Price Chopper or Food Basics if there was one near me but I don't think there is one.

                                                    I also like No Frills because I use PC and it's easy and fast to rack up points towards free groceries.

                                                    Any time I do go to Loblaws or Dominion it's because I'm on my way home late and No Frills is closed, and I'm in a bind for ingredients. Otherwise I just never go there because the price is sometimes DOUBLE what it is at No Frills - $3.99 for a box of Wheat Thins vs. $1.97 at No Frills.

                                                    1. I have the luxury of having Sobey's, Dominion, Loblaw's, and the St. Lawrence Market all within easy walking and gathering distance. I will note two things:

                                                      None of the chain stores seem to have any real advantage in terms of price, service, or floor plan. A homogeneous gathering of mediocrity is more like it.

                                                      Steaks at the chains are of a higher price and much lower quality than Di Liso's at SLM. Not sure how the chains pull that one off given that the quantity they go through should afford the customer a price break over small places, but there it is.

                                                      6 Replies
                                                      1. re: Googs

                                                        There's no price advantage between the chains because of price-fixing/collusion. That's why everything costs more in Canada. It's not just the gasoline, which everybody (rightfully) complains about.

                                                        The food cartels (euphemistically labelled "marketing boards") keep prices artificially high for beef, pork, poultry, and dairy products, and they use the law to make it expensive to import, so you're forced to buy overpriced local product. Notice how it seems like every cheese in the supermarket comes from Quebec or Ontario, and you're hard-pressed to find one that isn't? Compare with Wegmans where you'll see a broad range of cheeses including many you likely won't find anywhere else in the GTA other than the SLM, with much lower prices than the SLM vendors.

                                                        The butchers at the SLM likely have special deals with farmers (or the butcher shop is owned by the farm itself) which allow them to charge less. The chains have to buy from the cartels... This is in no way defending the chains, but exposing the whole system for what it is, price-fixing.

                                                        In an early post I mentioned what items I haven't bought in Canada in 3 years. I will admit we will buy steak here, but only at the SLM if we happen to be downtown, which is rare (as we're out in Durham Region).. Otherwise we stock up at Wegmans, Tops, or Sam's Club in the US. On principle we refuse to pay cartel prices.

                                                        1. re: TexSquared

                                                          Oh, foo. My local Price Chopper and No Frills regularly have rib eyes for $3.29/lb. My wife shops at Sam's in Buffalo frequently, and I have never seen anything near this price.

                                                          And for dairy products? Go to the "General" topics board; Americans are complaining about paying $4-5/gallon for milk, while I'm paying $3.99 for four litres.

                                                          Cheese? I go to the Grande Cheese in Richmond Hill, and they have over two hundred brands, many of which are Canadian, but many of which are from Holland, Switzerland, France, England, Italy, Denmark, etc. (Not much Belgian cheese though - there's a conspiracy you should investigate.)

                                                          And if you really want to complain about a "marketing board", why aren't you taking on the Canada Wheat Board? Why should farmers in Western Canada be forced to sell their wheat to a single buyer, at prices much lower than US prices for similar wheat, while farmers in Ontario and Quebec can sell their wheat to anyone for whatever they can get? Doesn't sound free, democratic, or fair to me by any standard.

                                                          1. re: KevinB

                                                            Nice try.

                                                            I was in Niagara Falls on February 6. Milk was going for $2 a gallon, not $4-5 like you were quoting. What state has milk for $5 a gallon? Certainly not New York.

                                                            Price Chopper and No Frills beef? You'd buy that crap? UNGRADED beef or if you're lucky Grade A? Find me Grade AAA beef at a regular supermarket in the GTA for the same price Sam's in Buffalo charges for U.S. Choice (which is the equivalent grade). Not happening.

                                                            Cheese: So you have to go to a SPECIALTY GOURMET place out of the way to get the same selection as you'd get at any Wegmans, and probably paying double because of the cartels. Next...

                                                            Wheat board -- ok, so one cartel out of several isn't getting it right. Let's look at the dairy, beef, and poultry cartels first. These guys make OPEC look good.

                                                            Bottom line: if you're buying cartel groceries in Canada you're paying too much.

                                                            1. re: TexSquared

                                                              Where do you live TexSquared?

                                                              It is not true that everything is cheaper in the US, though it sometimes seems that way. But the time, border crossings, gas, and wear and tear make shopping there regularly a preposterous economic proposition for me.

                                                              I go once a year to stock up on things I can't get at home. For this trip, lowest price isn't even on the radar.

                                                              1. re: TexSquared

                                                                We have been through this before. The low cost cryovac specials at No Frills, Price Chopper, and Food Saver are marked USDA Select, on the packaging. That's equivalent to Canada Grade A, or lower.
                                                                Here is a comparison of U.S. and Canadian beef grades. Not everything is equivalent: http://www.cbef.com/images/beefqu7.jpg
                                                                Canada AAA is available at similar prices to Sam's USDA Choice, but at a local Costco. Their price for Parmesan Reggiano ($24/kg.) is lower than U.S. sources. I have had good buys on French Brie $14/kg., and blues from U.K. and Denmark, ($18-$20/kg.), good enough to keep me away from the border routine.

                                                                Yes we have cartels, for a constant supply at fair prices, and most of us are as willing to put up with this just as we prefer to live with OHIP, or pay wine taxes that benefit others.

                                                                1. re: TexSquared

                                                                  First, I again encourage you to read the "General" board; you'll find many Americans, from NY to California complaining about the price of milk. If you need help to find out to use that board, please let me know.

                                                                  Second, Grande Cheese is about a 10 minute walk from my house; it's not some "specialty gourmet" place - it's right nearby, and I don't have to go one minute out of my way to access it.

                                                                  Grade of beef? Everything I've quoted is Grade AA or better; and I have the flyers to prove it.

                                                                  Finally, I live in Richmond Hill; a trip to Buffalo is 250 km roundtrip; that's about $15 in extra gas, $5 in tolls, endless questions and mistreatment at the border, and 2.5 hours of my time. If your time is worth nothing to you - well, that's you, isn't it? - but I have much better things to do than spend half a day driving to save $10 on food. I looked up Wegman's on-line flyer - 3 oranges for $1, while my No Frills is offering 3 lbs/$1? Believe what you want; I'm going to stay home, save my time, gas, and aggravation, and if I have to pay marginally more for my food, it's worth it to me. You might want to google "opportunity cost"; I'm sure it would be enlightening for you.

                                                          2. It's difficult for me to arrange chains by price because I rarely pay attention to how much things cost (unless it's truly extraordinarily cheap or expensive). What matters to me the most is the quality of food, and service/shopping experience also count for something. Unfortunately, I haven't found one single mainstream grocery store that has good produce - sometimes you get a surprise hit, but it's very rare, and very random. It's a really sad reality: North America doesn't have real fruits and veggies. Maybe if you grow your own...

                                                            So I'll just evaluate the shopping experience as well as the quality of some non-produce foods (meat, fish etc.) Here are some of my observations of nearby stores.

                                                            Dominion (Yonge & Eglinton)

                                                            Ugh, terrible place. Too small, too busy, always out of this and that. Unfortunately that's where I shop most often because it's the closest store to my house, by a big margin. Its only advantage is that it's 24/7 - if you get a craving for something at 2 a.m. (I do sometimes) - it's nice to know I can get a munchie there.

                                                            Sobeys (Mt. Pleasant & Davisville)

                                                            Don't go there very often, but I wasn't all that impressed when I was there. Ok, I guess.

                                                            Loblaw's (Yonge & St. Clair)

                                                            Smallish, as far as Loblaws stores go, but fairly decent.

                                                            Bruno's (Yonge & St. Clair)

                                                            Excellent selection of meat and many "upscale" groceries. Pricey, but worth it.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: chephy

                                                              Honestly, I find all of these stores be relatively marginal. We too prefer to shop at the store that provides the best quality and tasting meats and produce. We also have a strong bias toward organic or at least naturally raised foods and knowing what's on our plates. I know too much about the meat industry (I am in it) and simply won't eat the meat at our local Dominion, Highland Farms, No Frills, or Loblaws unless there is no alternative. The quality is highly variable, the selection is very limited, and they are completely unable to tell you the source. In addition, none of these stores has more than a paltry offering of organically raised fruits and veggies. As a result, but for dry goods and some real basics, even though they're further away we purchase most of our food from the local butcher and the small organic produce store that is fortunately in the same small plaza. As for pricing for dry goods and basics, the stores around us are pretty much the same.

                                                              1. re: chephy

                                                                The local stores for me are:

                                                                Valu-Mart on Bayview & Davisville
                                                                This store is O.K, service is below average and the store sems old and run down. If your in a Pinch it's alright and gets the basics done

                                                                Dominion Bayview and Eglington
                                                                This used to be the destination shop in the area, but has really dropped the standard. they are always out of something I need and staff couldn't bother to help you if there life depended on it!

                                                                Dominion Yonge and Eglington
                                                                This has to be the worst shopping experience in the city. Out of EVERTHING, not enough staff, and the ones they have seem to find ways each visit to make me want to shop elsewhere. Prices are Always WAY out of wack with everywhere else

                                                                Sobeys Mount Pleasant
                                                                This store used to be right up there with Dominion Yonge and Eglington. but.... I went in there about 3 months ago because I was in a hurry and they really impressed me. Staff were polite and went over the top to help me find what I wanted.... the Produce was fresh and large sized, The Sterling silver steaks were out of this world. This is where I shop now for 80% of my stuff (it helps that they deliver as well)

                                                              2. We rely fairly heavily on the Fortino's in our Hamilton-area neighbourhood. I've tried and been disappointed with Sobey's and The Barn.

                                                                The first time I went into a Wegman's I was so excited I almost peed my pants.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: foodiemommy

                                                                  Good news for you, the restrooms at Wegman's are conveniently right next to the entrance :-)

                                                                2. Hey I have a question: is costco worth it? I know it varies for different people, so here are my factors: 2 guys in their 20s living in an apartment. So we do eat a lot of food, but we don't have that much space. The fridge is always packed as it is, and let me not get started on the freezer....

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: sepandee

                                                                    It is easily worth it if it is convenient, or close to you. But most people tend to over-buy: so go with a list and don't pick up found treasures (books, clothing, kitchenware) unless you need them.
                                                                    My small freezer is full, with mostly Costco and beefconnections items, and I really have to think about using them up in six months, so I have had to cut back on purchases.
                                                                    The $50 yearly membership is worthwhile to me for staples, furnishings, cheese and meat, even fish, as long as the trays are not too large.

                                                                    1. re: jayt90

                                                                      $50 aint that bad I guess. I just can't buy bulk stuff and my perception of costco is bulk purchases. I don't have room for 24 rolls of toilet paper, or frozen mixed vegetables the size of Arnold's quads.

                                                                    2. re: sepandee

                                                                      I have the same problem with shopping at Costco. I live downtown in a condo so space is an issue and unless you are buying items in bulk the saving aren't really there.

                                                                      My parents shop there regularly and will pick up a few things for me like meat and cheese for which the quality is great for the price.

                                                                      1. re: sepandee

                                                                        If you're close to a Sam's Club (sadly there are only 6 in Ontario) I'd recommend them over Costco. Membership is cheaper, prices/selection are the same, but the stores are a LOT less crowded. On weekends you won't be in line for an hour like you can be at a Costco. That and (as discussed above) if you're a cross-border shopper, there are Sam's in the Buffalo area (Niagara Falls and Cheektowaga) while you won't see a Costco unless you drive all the way to Detroit or New York City.

                                                                        1. re: sepandee

                                                                          The quality of the meat is much superior to the grocery store stuff, so for that alone, it's a great deal. We don't stock up on household items really, unless we're sure we'll use them and have space. I also have an apartment with limited space.

                                                                          Heavy Cream is $4.99 for a litre, VS $7.something at my local dominion, so that's nice.. Also you can get your staples like eggs, milk, etc without "buying in bulk" there..

                                                                          I walked through a Sams Club recently just to see if there was a reason to have 2 memberships, and sadly, most of the things were exactly the same.. Even the store was laid out the same, it's almost an exact copy.

                                                                        2. I've read through this link and it is astounding how much has changed in the past year when it comes to grocers in Ontario. Dominion and A&P has been replaced (or are being replaced by Metro stores); Loblaws continues to battle again Walmart Supercentre (who have been opening more stores - weird that Sam's Clubs just disappeared) and Costco; Longos have opened a new store; you've got Whole Foods with two locations and I'm surprised by how many T&T stores and other Asian retailers are now in the GTA.

                                                                          1. Yes very interesting to see how much the supermarket landscape has changed over 1 year. Metro tries to come off as high end, but the quality is definitely still sorrowfully Dominion. My wife and I do most of our shopping at Highland Farms since it's right on the corner! As someone noted it has more of a Eurocentric flavour - lots of European canned goods. It seems most of the posters are either central Toronto or northern GTA, hence the lack of any mention of Highland Farms. You guys really have to experience what Highland has to offer. They consistently have, on the whole, very good produce (the garlic heads are quite fresh, their basil is fresh cut and very fragrant) and their meats are always fresh. As well the variety is excellent i.e. fresh Ontario lamb, fresh rabbit, Ontario pork, Cdn. beef, fresh offal, etc. Our Highland Farm is very small, but it still carries a great selection and hands down of the major chains, Highland has the best deli. Try the one in Mississauga, it is immense.

                                                                            We will frequent No Frills (Port Union) on occasion to get our fix of PC products, but Highland is where we get most of our groceries. For the rest of our meat and produce we use the Green Earth Organics service, the St. Lawrence Market (north) and Tiano's (Pickering).

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: scarberian

                                                                              I haven't been to Highland Farms in awhile but what I remember of them is how clean and bright (well lit) it is compared to Loblaws (which I always find dark and depressing). I hope they haven't changed there. No Frills on Port Union at Island Road is excellent, I agree -- we live in Pickering but we prefer that one over the one at Kingston/Brock Rd (which is smaller, more cramped inside, and has a tiny parking lot that is hell to get in and out of) . Used to go to Tiano's but find them overpriced. Foody's bulk store in the same plaza is a treat -- better quality and service than No Frills.

                                                                              For LemonSalt, we discussed the Dominion to Metro transformation here:
                                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5602...

                                                                              To summarize -- they raised a lot of the prices (some here argue no, but if you read my post there I gave some concrete examples; if the prices have come down since then it's because they must have lost a lot more customers than just me). But they at least made the bagel snobs happy by importing St-Viateur weekly (you have to go Tuesday or Wednesday to get them, in Pickering anyway).

                                                                              Losing Sam's Club was a disappointment, but I wasn't surprised as Wal-Mart rolls out more Supercenters in the GTA. As I said numerous times in here, it still boggles my mind how Ajax Costco continued to be a zoo (crowded aisles, long checkout lines, full parking lot) while you could be in and out of the Pickering Sam's just 2 exits west on the 401 with a full cart of what you need in 10 minutes or less, and pay $5 less for the membership too. (and you can cross-border shop in Niagara Falls or Buffalo at Sam's Club, no Costco's there). We kept our membership (runs out in late October) since we go to the U.S. on business frequently enough we will get to use it.

                                                                              1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                Tex2 - thanks for the link - I'll check it out. I had read about the change over in the press but was a little surprised to arrive in TO and discover the Metro banner everywhere. And I agree on the prices - kiwi was something like 3/$1.99 and it wasn't even the good stuff. I so much like stopping into St. Viateur to get fresh bagels (drives everyone crazy on the plane I'm sure as the aroma does waffle out). And I'm a little surprised that Sams did shut down and that Walmart didn't move right into those locations. I think a lot of people don't like to pay for two memberships - that might be one reason.

                                                                              2. re: scarberian

                                                                                Lucky you. I know that the Highland produce buyers are at the OFT everyday it seems. It is great to walk into their departments and see floor staff! I do need to check out Tiano's.

                                                                              3. In another thread, someone suggested that the large Loblaw's at Yonge and 16th Ave in Richmond Hill that converted to a No Frills might have good quality stuff initially, but then go downhill.

                                                                                I was there last week, and I have to say, everything looked great. Huge selection of food products - even more than Great Canadian Superstore, since they're not selling furniture, clothes, etc. The produce looked superb, the fish tank was full of lively looking fish, the meat selection was huge (what do you do with a beef heart anyway?! Give to a captain?), and the selection of Asian products rivaled T&T's. It's been a year, and I don't see any slippage in quality or selection. If it's convenient to you, I recommend it.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: KevinB

                                                                                  Thanks KevinB - Actually I think most of the No Frills are not corporately owned - I often find the quality changes so much from No Frills to No Frills. And in that area they really need to address the ethnic mix of people. Since I left Toronto in the early 90s it seems the profile has changed quite dramatically. Toronto often feels like Vancouver to me now (people wise only)!