HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >

Discussion

Grocery Chains - Favourites?

  • k
  • kbdid Sep 20, 2011 10:26 PM
  • 59
  • Share

After reading (but not participating in) the discussion on PC's Black Label products, and searching for best grocery store (I found a thread from '06), I am opening the jar of worms....

Because I am cheap (um, frugal) I find the best price tends to be NoFrills, but I find there's a big difference in selection between stores. I am in the west end near the Pacific location. but prefer Lansdowne. For "smaller" chains I like Highland Farms. FreshCo is a cleanup of PriceChopper (and not really inexpensive). I only shop at Loblaws, Metro, or Sobeys when they have a competitive sale. For other needs I'll go to PAT, Fiesta Farms or T&T. Thoughts?

-----
Fiesta Farms
200 Christie St, Toronto, ON M6G, CA

Highland Farms
850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. We carefully go through all the weekly flyers when they arrive, and plan accordingly. I agree with you on FreshCo, it just seemed to give Sobey's an excuse to raise prices on their "low cost" chain. I'm also not convinced that No Frills is consistently cheaper than the others.

    One store you should not count out is Shopper's Drug Mart. Sure, most of the crap they sell is high markup, but they often have good sales on cartel-controlled food items like milk, butter, and eggs. Sometimes SDM's sale prices beat Costco. The only business we do with SDM is the post office, and those loss leader grocery items. Everything else they sell you can get cheaper at Walmart.

    Asian supermarkets have ridiculously low prices on some things (especially produce) but beware of the meats, they're cheap for a reason. T&T is the exception in this.

    If you want the ultimate in cheap/frugal grocery shopping, cross the border and visit Aldi.

    2 Replies
    1. re: TexSquared

      You're right about flyers and Shoppers etc...cheap butter or milk anyone?

      1. re: TexSquared

        I agree about Shoppers Drug Mart. Over the years their sales have gotten super-competitive. I do probably 40% of my shopping on any given week at my local SDM, which I love love love. Throw in Optimum points and the deals are even better. My home base location in particular is fantastic in terms of their sales and the great and interesting local products they carry (Raani Foods, So Delicious, Bagel World, etc).

        I also love The Kitchen Table chain, although they are small and local, not national. Sure quite a bit of their stock is expensive. But they also have outrageously good deals every single day and you can walk away with some great product at crazy-good prices. I also like they carry baked and prepared goods from some good places around Toronto, like Gryfe’s and Haymishe Bakery. And any place that carries Buster Rhino BBQ sauce is ok by me….

      2. I will reply to my own topic to say I loved (and miss) the Valuemart on Underhill (former neighbourhood) - they were more expensive in many ways, but their butcher packaged stuff for single/senior population (and priced accordingly) for which I was grateful. When reading the PC Black label stuff I was interested to hear that some of the PC stores (like ValueMart etc) were franchises,

        1 Reply
        1. re: kbdid

          Oooooh, good to know, kbdid and what a great coincidence. I'm going to give High Street Fish & Chips a whirl this week. I'll check out the ValuMart while there. Thanks!

          -----
          High Street
          55 Underhill Dr, Toronto, ON M3A2J8, CA

        2. my favourite chain is longos...hands down. unfortunately, they're not the most conveniently located. but i will drive past loblaw, metro, galati, SDM on my way to longos in mississauga.

          1. I do most shopping at asian supermarkets. Not T&T...I find it overpriced. However for "western" staples asian stores are expensive, and I have loyalty to loblaws group so usually loblaws or no frills. I don't really get why people complain about them so much...I've tried IGA, Sobeys, Metro...all of them are much too expensive and I don't see the appeal.

            I also buy a lot of stuff from costco.

            Buying veggies/fruit from asian supermarkets (foodymart in particular) has saved me a lot of money.

            1 Reply
            1. re: szw

              I believe T & T is now owned by Loblaws (?)

            2. We love our Fortino's in Hamilton. It has an outstanding deli, meat counter and produce department. In addition they offer all of the best PC products, which is very convenient.

              They even have a pizza oven and make a decent pie to go.

              5 Replies
              1. re: bogie

                I'll second the motion for Fortino's. The three in Burlington are the stores of choice for my regular grocery shopping. They have a great selection of produce, meat, dairy as you've described. I also like the extended list of specialty items they stock, e.g. chinese, thai, mexican. I've found just about everything I need there. My fallback is Longo's should Fortino's not have a specialty product I'm looking for.

                1. re: cynalan

                  What's always puzzled me are the huge disparities among the NG stores, whether Loblaws, Superstore, Zehrs, Fortino's. Some rock, others suck, often in the same area.

                  1. re: Kagemusha

                    As much as I like to rip Loblaws, to be fair I don't think this problem is unique to them. We see a lot of posts here with people complaining about one Metro vs another, or more recently, one Highland Farms vs another. Inconsistency shows worse in retail chains than in other businesses (like restaurants).

                    Not even everybody's darling Costco is immune: the Scarborough Costco is the worst I've seen anywhere in North America. If you're a member, it's worth the drive to Yorkdale or Ajax to avoid that mess at Warden/Ellesmere. By comparison I find Sam's Club to be very consistent no matter where you are (when they were open, their 6 Canadian stores were very well run and enjoyable to shop at, unlike Costco -- and that consistency continues in the U.S.).

                    1. re: TexSquared

                      I have no beefs with Costco.They're huge stores and handle customers more intelligently than any grocery chain or other big box retailer I've shopped around the GTA. Sam's just didn't hunt here. The Sam's fiasco on the Queensway is best forgotten. Walmart obviously thought they were setting up in a totally underdeveloped market when they showed up here.

                      1. re: Kagemusha

                        Yes. Costco never lets me down.

              2. I like Highland Farms for produce, meat specials, and Mediterranean goods. Never had a bad experience there. Sometimes I'll check out Metro for a reduced Angus quick grill, and if they don't have the goods, I'll go over to Your Independent Grocer, which is well run in Pickering, but very quiet.

                -----
                Highland Farms
                850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

                4 Replies
                1. re: jayt90

                  Second that, always trekking to it from wherever we moved around Toronto.

                  1. re: jayt90

                    Add a third (well, technically fourth). Absolutely and without a doubt, Highland Farms is my very favourite grocery chain. I don't mind one bit that I pay a little extra to shop there. Scarborough isn't set-up for people who walk or transit. Highland Farms saves me from running place to place for hours hunting and gathering high quality goods. The only two things they lack are a fresh fish counter and Gelato Fresco. I can live with that. Diana's Seafood is on the way home. Stick that in your gas tank and tell me it doesn't pay off over time.

                    Now none of this beats the way the strip malls of suburbia were set-up in the past. When I was a little girl, I never realized just how lucky my mom was. Not the closest, but the second closest strip mall to our home had a butcher, baker, deli, and hardware store. Can you ever imagine suburbia reverting back to the days when the local strip mall served the tastes of the neighbourhood. Whether your Kobe beef or stewing beef, you can be served better.

                    -----
                    Diana's Seafood
                    2101 Lawrence Ave E, Toronto, ON M1R, CA

                    Gelato Fresco
                    60 Tycos Dr, Toronto, ON M6B, CA

                    Highland Farms
                    850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

                    1. re: Googs

                      Another vote for Highland Farms! After moving to Mississauga two years ago, I immediately started shopping at the T & T at Mavis and Central Parkway, but the sheer craziness of the place and the slow but steady increases in prices (is that Loblaws related?) had me considering some alternatives. I've tried Oceans on Hurontario but the surilness of the staff is a real turn off, although their prices are very good.

                      This led me to Highland Farms. Compared to Oceans and T & T, HF is a sea of serenity compared to those two spots. A huge store with wide aisles, never terribly busy even during peak hours, a very good bakery, a great meat counter and a friendly staff. Prices for produce might be a smidge higher than Oceans or T & T, but they're much cheaper for just about everything than Metro or Loblaws (not much surprise there eh).

                      Big thumbs up for Highland Farms.

                      -----
                      Highland Farms
                      850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

                      1. re: Brain of J

                        The only place where the crowds gather is at the butcher counter. Ah, real live butchers that will cut to order not as a special request, but as part of their job. Love it. Having recently had a AAA striploin from HF I have to say I'm impressed with the quality. While not as good as a boutique butcher such as St Jamestown Steak & Chops (could use better trimming) its still miles above any grocery store steak, That niche in between is commendable and plenty tasty enough for me most days.

                  2. Its not a matter of being cheap or even frugal, but rather the necessity to shop wisely. I shop at Metro Bayview and Eglinton. Nothing wrong, except the prices and I don't like their ''2 for $5'' advertisement when one item is 2,50. I like T&T at The Promenade : fruit, veggies, fish, meat (no veal) and poultry are very fresh and there is a large selection of reasonably priced frozen food. When they advertise ''2 for $5'', one single item is costing more than 2,50 because they attract large families and they expect to sell larger quantities to customers. Shopper's is really worth a visit on Senior's Day. Milk, butter, frozen meals etc. are good deals. Bring a Senior with you! Walmart at The Promenade has a limited selection of produce and meat but there are bargains to be had. I find Longo and Loblaws very expensive. Same with Sobey's but at least they sell a more expansive selection of items. Large chains are convenient but not always cheap and small outlets struggle to keep their prices low. No win-win situation.

                    13 Replies
                    1. re: lamaranthe

                      Love the Highland Farms near 401 and number 10. About every 3 months I drive there from Lawrence and DVP just get get access to all the non Loblaws products, Usually come away with Portuguese sardines, Polish pickles, fresh fish and various specials they have in store. Left alone I'd decimate the deli counter but seldom left alone.

                      -----
                      Highland Farms
                      850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

                      1. re: Herne

                        Is this HF better than the one closer to you (Kennedy and Ellesmere)? Seems like quite the treck.

                        1. re: kbdid

                          The 401 and 10 store is at least twice the size of the one on Ellesmere. Parking is better.
                          So there is much more selection and a Honda Civic makes it doable. Then there is the Heartland Mall nearby as well. So once a month it is a car ride to the west and every 2 weeks a Costco trip to Warden and Ellesmere.

                          1. re: Herne

                            I know people love HF, but I’m not as in love.

                            True, their produce and meats are spectacular. No doubt.

                            People complain about Loblaw and Metro’s prices but I find HF to definitely be more expensive in terms of the standard aisle products.

                            And their sales are awful. When things go on sale, they’re still expensive.

                            Also the meat counter at Hurontario/401 is a travesty. Amazing selection. But the counter runs probably 1/5 of a kilometer long and there’s maybe 3 or 4 people servicing it!!! It’s impossible to get help! They need to triple the staff at that counter - at least. They have a confusing pull ticket system which people don't seem seem to follow in any case. So I just gave up on that location eventually. Don’t work in the area anymore anyways.

                            1. re: magic

                              magic, all of what you sau is true and Highland Farms should address every last one of them. What? It should take them years to realize the pull ticket system should be supplemented with colour-coded zones too? Sheesh. Despite all this, I still find them head and shoulders above the others especially when my alternative is to spend hours running around. I prefer letting them do the legwork and I'm perfectly willing to pay extra for it.

                              -----
                              Highland Farms
                              850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

                              1. re: Googs

                                Absolutely. I still think it's a very good option and they offer a great range of wonderful product that is very difficult to find under one roof. I love the support they give to Ontario farmers and suppliers!

                                But I think there is room for improvement in some areas, yes : )

                              2. re: magic

                                HF and Longo's aren't price leaders on most grocery/non-grocery items. Their produce rocks--probably the best price/quality quotient in the western GTA+far more local merch than Longo's.

                                I only see line-ups at HF/Miss on the weekends when the store is generally busy; otherwise, the place is tomb-like on weekdays/nights.

                                1. re: Kagemusha

                                  My crappy experiences at the meat counter were on a weeknight! Only a few people in line and I was STILL unable to get service! :(

                                  Was like looking down a HUGE stretch of counter with no one there or offering to help. It was ridiculous.

                                  1. re: magic

                                    YMMV. More staff than customers most times I'm there during off hours. Frankly, there are so few surviving full service supermarket meat counters that people appear to have forgotten about wait times. Sorry but I've seen customers at HF get po'd after a very short wait. Try Brandt sometime for a patience work-out!

                                    1. re: Kagemusha

                                      I'm one who never shops if I'm in a hurry. Grocery hunting is enjoyable to me. However, if I'm standing there waiting and realize that I can solve much of the confusion with 4 rolls of coloured gaff tape, I get a wee miffed.

                                      1. re: Googs

                                        I agree, it’s not the wait that bothered me, it was the senseless disorganization and poor attention to the customer that irked me. That location does such a great job at providing a wonderful range of meats but doesn’t think about how to get it in my hands easily.

                                        In the end I’d just rather go to my small, easy local guys and not deal with an enormous counter with few people helping and an ineffective ticket system.

                          2. re: Herne

                            Lots more in the supposed "wasteland" of Mississauga. The HF here is worth an hour's snooping around.

                            1. re: Kagemusha

                              may check it out; now that I am in the west end it might be the closest HF. It seems the previous poster's objections to the Scarborough location were to do with parking (which is pretty terrible)

                        2. Well I like Longos in the downtown core area especially the Maple Leaf Square location. Other main stores like Metro, Loblaws and Sobeys are mainly shopped for what is on special there. For ethnic stuff its a trip to T&T and for the bigger purchases of meat, cheese, bread etc. a monthly trip to Costco will suffice. Also recommended is Galleria (I guess we can call them a chain since they have two locations now) as their cuts of meat for Korean BBQ are among the best in the city.

                          1. I have developed a love for Sunny Supermarkets. They are Asian, but the selection of western/asian/everything else is great. The prices are reasonable. They have a halal butcher and an asian butcher section as well as an amazing fish section which is closed off by sliding glass doors and does not make the store smell fishy. Just love it.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Balibaba

                              Agree with Sunnys. good prices, fresh produce and store is always clean.

                              1. re: syoung

                                The Don Mills Rd store isn't always clean.

                            2. Interesting no one mentions the re-vamped Longo's or Michael-Angelo's??!! Summer time, I rely almost solely on the latter for hard to get 'exotic?' fruits such as velvet purple apricots, Californian golden plums...etc, all at reasonable pricing. Furthermore, they are one of the few chained stores that carry 'Ontario wild blueberries'!

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                I dunno. I was having no problems at all stocking Ontario Wild Blueberries from Highland Farms. They were of excellent quality and freshness as well.

                                -----
                                Highland Farms
                                850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

                                1. re: Googs

                                  No Highland Farms in my area!! Closest one on Woodbine/Hwy7 closed years ago!

                                  -----
                                  Highland Farms
                                  850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                    Clearly a tactical error on their part.

                                    1. re: Googs

                                      I admit to being a "Loblaw's" devotee but only 'my' store which is on Dupont (at Christie) , under extreme measures if I absolutely have to get something not at 'my' store I'll go to the Forest Hill branch but I hate it with a passion...I do use Fiesta Farms some times (Bubbie's Pickles), sometimes Sobey's (Shaw & Dupont) great Mac n' Cheese at the 'hot' counter. "MY Butchers" (Craig, & Carmelo) at Dupont Loblaws do their utmost in service and friendliness...can always rely on them. I would try "Highland Farms" just because everyone on this board seems to think they are terrific...where is my closest one? I'm at Davenport & Dupont and do you think it's really worth it for me to go 'far' out of my neighbourhood? (forgot to say, I also use the No Frills at Dufferin Mall for some amazing buys in the summer..berries, peppers, tomatoes etc.).

                                      -----
                                      Fiesta Farms
                                      200 Christie St, Toronto, ON M6G, CA

                                      1. re: pearlD

                                        The short answer is there isn't a HF near you. Here's the webpage of locations:

                                        http://www.highlandfarms.ca/index.php...

                                        I can walk to Metro, No Frills, and Bulk Barn from my home. I justify taking 2 buses to my closest HF because it saves me from running to (I believe I was up to) 6 locations in order to find the quality and selection I find in their one store. I still have to go to Diana's Seafood, but that's mainly because I've been spoiled with extremely high quality seafood in the past.

                                        You'll have to do your own math to see if it's worth it.

                                        1. re: Googs

                                          Thanks Googs.....since time is not generally of the essence for me I will take a trip up to the Highland Farms on Dufferin in the near future...I checked out the website you so generously provided and it doed, indeed look 'promising'..I am an easy mark for good ads ..lol.....
                                          thanks again....

                                          -----
                                          Highland Farms
                                          850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

                                          1. re: Googs

                                            Thank you from me as well! Unfortunately closest one is still half an hours drive from my home!! Sigh!! Guess I'll just stick with Longo's.

                                          2. re: pearlD

                                            You echoed my thoughts completely, I'm at Bathurst &North of Bloor

                                  2. Highland Farms is our main grocery store, and I'm lucky enough to have one right on the corner of my street. I can easily walk to it or pick something up on the way home. Now the one near me is the smallest of the locations, so it doesn't have a bakery like the larger locations. I like the fact that I can pick up items that come from Europe that I can't really find at a No Frills or Loblaws. Also their meat department serves regular ground beef (great for burgers) which I can't find at the other chains. Everyone seems to have gone to lean. For PC products I go to No Frills.

                                    1. Longos wins hands down for fresh meat & produce. buy your dry goods/non-perishables from the cheapest supplier. I usually take everyones weekly flyer and get my things price matched at a walmart for one-stop shopping.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: justinisthebest

                                        Longo's Mississauga locations are a definite "meh" for meat--the only place I've bought "ripe" meat that was days before its stale date. They've also lost my $ to HF on produce: pricey, quality slippage, too many imports when great local stuff was piled high at HF. Not what they used to be.

                                        1. re: justinisthebest

                                          I tried Longos at York Mills and wasn't impressed with their produce. For a store with a supposedly good rep I was disappointed with the quality. The vegetables looked wilted and limp. Fruits were bruised and many imported Iwith many of the varieties available locally). I didn't try the meat, but even though it may have been an off day for them (new produce shipment hadn't arrived, etc.) I don't think I'll go back.

                                          1. re: scarberian

                                            Yeah, that was my impression. Congested traffic and parking hell does not help. I have even avoided going to Galleria because of traffic , while P. A. T. or Diana's and Highland Farms are more accessible.

                                            -----
                                            Highland Farms
                                            850 Ellesmere Rd, Toronto, ON M1P, CA

                                            1. re: jayt90

                                              I am surprised that there have been several comments about the effect parking has on choice of supermarket. I stopped going to HF on Ellesmere but I think I would start again if the parking spots were a foot wider. Costco has it right but then they depend on customers with cars.

                                              1. re: Herne

                                                It also depends on what day and time you go. My brother always goes to the Highland at Ellesmere and hasn't complained about the parking. He usually goes during the day.

                                                1. re: Herne

                                                  Costco may have the size right, but I hate having to park a mile from the doors, wait in line for 10 plus minutes, and trying to squeeze through here and there to get what I came for. I will only shop at Costco during off-peak hours.

                                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                                    I agree with your complaints about Costco. I would add that there are many grocery items that they don't have. But the parking is way a head of the HF at Ellesmere and Kennedy.

                                          2. Michael-Angelo's Marketplace at Highway 7 and Woodbine in Markham, or Erin Mills Parkway north of Burnhamthorpe in Mississauga, was founded primarily as an outlet for the freshest prime produce. From its inception, it grew to serve the community with the best meats, seafood, poultry, and especially prepared foods. You will find that both Michael-Angelo's have far more staff on the floor to assist you.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Big Kahuna 1

                                              I was hooked on Michael Angelo's Cappuccino and dessert deal while working a project nearby. In Addition their range for espresso beans was very nice. Staff is friendly. As for the produce I found it reasonable when it was on special as otherwise it was very pricey.

                                            2. Here in Richmond Hill, we have two NF's - one at Yonge and 16th (which is huge), and one farther north at Yonge & Levendale. The Y&16 store has many things you don't normally find at a NF, such as live fish and shellfish, a huge array of Asian foods, an actual butcher, etc. The Y&L store is much smaller, but when I compare prices there to the Loblaw's a bit farther north, I find the exact products (e.g. Ziggy salads, PC products, many name brands) are 20-40% less expensive at NF. I tend to shop there most often, although as others have pointed out, the SDM around the corner is an excellent option for milk, butter, eggs and other sale items.

                                              But I also have to give a shout out to Bruno's. It's expensive, yes, but the quality of their meat is superb. If I'm planning a summer grill, I might go to NF for the produce, sauces, breads, etc., but make a special trip to Bruno's for their steaks, chops, and sausages.

                                              1. I too miss the Lansdowne No Frills and am now nearer the Pacific (or the Bloor & Runnymede) one :(

                                                I look at flyers too, and will shop mostly along the lines of what's in season and cheapest. Sobeys, Metro, and Loblaws by turns all have really great sales on things, but I admit I'm underwhelmed by the FreshCo at Bloor & Dundas (I haven't been to the other new one out here).

                                                I get some things at Costco, where I also sometimes take friends to split meat purchases because we're just two in this apartment. Since I have dietary restrictions, I also frequent health food stores -- but that's off-topic.

                                                More randomly, I work downtown and the Longos underground at First Canadian Place consistently has avocados that are perfectly ripe as advertised -- when I'm craving avocado, I don't want to wait three days for one to ripen. These are not cheap, but I cannot discount the convenience and I've never gotten one that was less than stellar. They have had pretty great green beans lately, and this summer I found fresh currants there! In general, they are priced strangely reasonably on some things and outrageously on others, so I pick and choose when browsing.