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"Whole Foods/TJ" type groceries in Winnipeg

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Hi there

We are moving to Winnipeg probably early next year to live permanently (currently in NZ) and I'm really excited about moving to a bigger country with more food choices (and cheaper at that too!). I'm already doing a bit of researching in terms of where I should be getting my foods from. I have found the website for Farmer's Market, but I was wondering which grocery stores are similar to Whole Foods/Trader Joe's and if you can share the names that would be great.

Is it also quite easy to purchase Valrhona/Callebaut chocolates for baking? I love to bake and love going to restaurant specialty stores. :)

Thanks!!

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  1. First of all.... ahhhahahhaahaahaa. Not laughing at you, but with some wistfulness. There is, unfortunately, *nothing* like Whole Foods/Trader Joe's here in Winnipeg. I moved back here recently from the U.S. and sorely regret the lack of TJ's.

    That said, you can find good organic and local foods, just on a smaller scale (not really full-scale supermarkets) and with nothing like TJ's excellent prices. A good bet is Vita Health which has a really lovely location on Osborne Street and a good selection of natural health products/cleaning products in addition to food. Organza market at confusion corner is also centrally located and has a deli counter with some prepared foods, can't say I've frequented the deli but have heard good things. Organic Planet on Westminster is tiny, but I'm quite fond of it and they have bulk grains/beans etc. Humboldt's Legacy is just down the street and they have a very assorted selection of foods, housewares and natural beauty products, can't really go there with a long grocery list but definitely worth a browse to see what they've got.

    Away from the "organics/health foods" and more to the "specialty foods", I love DeLuca's on Portage and they have an attached wine shop which is lovely. Good selection of Italian/imported products, pasta, cheeses, etc, and some prepared foods (pizza dough is a favorite in my house. I am sure other cities can improve on it but in Winnipeg it's pretty much a star. Just know what you want when you hit the butcher/cheese counter and avoid Saturdays, it is nuts.

    I know some people love La Grotta on Taylor but I haven't been yet. I feel I may be too poor to shop there.

    Crampton's market (seasonal) is one I've been hearing a lot about lately as well for produce as well as (I think?) meat and eggs, I'm planning to hit them up for the first time this weekend.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Amadaun

      I thought of a few more things since the last post. I used to go to Vic's on north Pembina quite a bit and they always had some quite nice produce and some other assorted groceries - again, not somewhere you can go with a definitive list, but worth a look for sure. Haven't been in a few years though as it's not a convenient location for me, so not sure how it is these days.

      In terms of getting your "main" grocery shopping done (i.e., when you need to go to the supermarket), I'd suggest checking out Superstore. The other main options here are Safeway and Sobey's both of which are grossly overpriced IMHO. Superstore has pretty good house brands and organics and other stuff like fresh seafood, Asian foods etc. in more diversity than the other places. Not perfect - the baked goods section is abysmal - but the best of the lot I'd say. I like the grant and kenaston location for a tolerable shopping experience, the one on Ellice induces agoraphobia I think. FoodFare grocery stores are usually family owned I think and tend to have a better butcher than most of the other chains.

      Tall grass prairie bakery for sandwich loaves, cinnamon buns and cookies. Stella's bakery for "rustic" loaves.

      A bazillion Asian groceries and some other small ethnic groceries, definitely worth checking out. Young's is probably the most comprehensive/most navigable.

      I've subscribed to weekly vegetable and fruit deliveries from Fresh Option Organic Delivery for almost a year now and I'm a fan. They do as much local as they can and fill it out with organics from elsewhere... good variety and I mostly can't fault the price and freshness. Better in the summer for sure though.

      By the way, welcome to Winnipeg (and Canada)! I hope you enjoy it here!

    2. Too funny. I was also going to start my reply with "Ahahahahahhahaahhaahahaha!" Really, please don't get too excited. Winnipeg has a lot of great things regarding foods, but it's also in the middle of the prairies and Winnipegers are notoriously cheap, so we don't get a lot of things here. And in some ways, you'll be missing New Zealand more than you think you will.

      To add to Amadaun's suggestions. . .

      I actually prefer La Grotta (on Taylor) to DeLuca's. It's cleaner and while I have found items past the "best before" date on DeLuca's shelves, I've never found them on La Grotta's shelves.

      Crampton's is overpriced and they store their mushrooms (even their morels) in plastic bags!!! And although they promote "local" produce, last I checked, there weren't many bing cherries, mangoes, or red seedless grapes grown locally.

      Organic stuff--in addition to the ones mentioned, Eat It has a range of organic stuff (they're very overpriced). You can also get organic dried fruits and nuts at Bulk Barn and Scoop and Weigh.

      You can buy Callebaut chocolate here at places like Bulk Barn, Scoop and Weigh, and even the grocery stores like Sobey's and Superstore. But it's the lower quality Callebaut (the stuff at Superstore is pretty much the lowest, and at Bulk Barn some is maybe second from the lowest), and you can't get bittersweet, just dark (which is way too sweet if you're looking for bittersweet). I have not yet found Valrhona. For other baking stuff I usually go to Bulk Barn or Scoop and Weigh, so I can just buy what I need. You can also get Bernard Callebaut chocolate--no longer owned by Bernard Callebaut (a member of the Callebaut family), but I think they still use the type of Callebaut chocolate that was formulated for him, especially (or so they told me).

      St Norbert Farmers Market is the largest in the city, but keep in mind that it starts around the end of June (and the pickings are slim at that time of year), and it ends around the end of October (and the pickings are slim at that time of year, too). Still, I love it and I go almost every week, rain or shine.

      For bread:
      French-style baking--Le Croissant (limited hours and selection),
      German-style baking--Crusty Bun (excellent European-style rye and sourdough-type breads)\ homestyle baking--Stella's or Tall Grass Prairie. Keep in mind that Tall Grass Prairie uses margarine or oil in any of their baked good that require fats, so if you prefer butter (as I do), it might not be your best choice. (That being said, I still buy the occasional whole wheat cinnamon bun there, and I love their pecan caramel squares). Not sure what kind of fats Stella's uses.

      Other baking--Chocolate Zen or Lilac Bakery. Also Gunn's for bagels (and other Jewish goodies like knishes) and fergasa bread. Several Filipino bakeries around town, and think Maxim's, a Hong Kong-style bakery) is still around, too.
      Regular grocery stores--I usually buy my produce and proteins at Sobey's because they're better quality than at other grocery stores (yes, more expensive than Superstore, but with fresh foods, I go with quality over price. Plus Sobey's is a much more pleasant shopping experience). I buy canned goods and other similar foods at Superstore because they're cheaper. Of the major grocery stores, Superstore also has the best selection of ethnic groceries. I've been told the Superstore in the south end of the city is the most pleasant to shop at (if Superstore could ever be called pleasant), but ymmv (the south end one is my local one, so it's the only one I really know). Safeway sometimes has good sales, but I don't shop there much.

      Lots of ethnic markets around since Winnipeg has been (and is being) populated primarily by new immigrants.

      Chinese/East and Southeast Asian--large markets include Lucky, Sun Wah, Young's, smaller include Dong Thai, ING, and too many others to mention

      Indian/Subcontinental/West Indian/Caribbean--India Spice House, Dino's, Didar. . . many more in the northwest-ish end of the city

      Dutch--Dutch Meat Market in St. Boniface, The Bake Oven somewhere in North Kildonan? East Kildonan?

      Eastern/Central European--Wawel (butchers), European Meats and Sausage, Balkan Foods, etc.

      Persian--Tehran Market

      African/Middle Eastern--Selam, etc.

      Mexican/Latin American--Mercadito Latino, El Izalco

      Etc. etc.

      When you figure out in which area you will be living, it will help narrow down the field for places close to you.

      And about Whole Foods and TJ's, Minneapolis is just a 7-hour drive away. It may seem far, but it's really not that bad a drive. We visit once a year to stock up on TJ's stuff (and get our fill of Mexican and Middle Eastern foods).

      1. thanks Amadaun and Prasantrin on your recommendations! Will definitely keep my eye out on these places you have mentioned. I'm pretty sure Winnipeg will be a lot better than NZ in terms of food... :) Can't wait!!!

        2 Replies
        1. re: jalapenocheese

          I'm a bit late on the thread, I haven't been on in awhile.

          I was back in Winnipeg (grew up there) this Summer and found Vita Health to be the closest product mix to the other Whole Foods in Canada. I work for WFM in Vancouver and Vita Health is like a really tiny version. The produce was hit and miss, but I found a few good items. For fresh items I liked Crampton's. We grabbed a bunch of local produce (mostly veg) there and some great bison and venison sausage.

          prasantrin is right, there is nothing like TJ's in Winnipeg, unfortunately. Do one huge shopping trip to Minneapolis and stock your pantry for the year with TJ items!

          Hang tight, WFM is planning a huge Canadian expansion in the next five years, which includes Winnipeg.

          The winters are cold, but the people in Winnipeg are fantastic! And there are some great spots for dining (check out some of the other posts, or ask prasantrin) and shopping. Good luck jalapenocheese!

          1. re: Zesty Mordant

            What, whole foods here in the next 5 years? I can't not be excited about this even if my preference is to buy from local business.. My need is not entirely being filled by local retailers at this point.