Canadian grocery bills : LUSENET : Country Families : One Thread

After reading Tracy's answer to the grocery bill thread, I thought it would be helpful for those of us in Canada to have a separate thread. There is no way that I know of that I could feed our family of 8 for $50/week Canadian. The last time I checked, the conversion factor was $50 Canadian equals about $30 US. (This was before 9-11.) So, Canadians, What do you spend for groceries? This is no time for lurking, as I think we are in the minority here. Jillian, make sure your mom answers this one. She's the most frugal person I know up here.

-- Cathy N. (, October 31, 2001


Good idea Cathy. I wondered if you shop in the US at all? You mentioned Aldi's, do you have them in Canada. Maybe tell some of your normal prices. It sounds like one of your dollars is worth about 60 cents US money? So to spend $50 in US money would cost you about $83.33 Maybe you could post some common prices and stores you shop in, just for fun!!

-- Melissa (, October 31, 2001.

We shopped Aldi's when we lived in New York. Some people do shop in the states, but I haven't had time to do the figuring to see if I save anything after paying toll to cross the bridge into the U.S. and duty coming back over. If you fill your tank, I think you save going across to buy gas in spite of the toll bridge; no duty on gas.

One of the things I have had to get used to is the metric system: we buy things in grams, kilograms, and liters instead of ounces, pounds, and gallons. 4 liters is roughly comparable to 1 gallon; a liter is a little more than a quart. 454 grams equals 1 pound. 1 kilogram is 1000 grams, or 2.2 pounds. Some things are sold by the pound; some by the kilogram. I have not found anything sold by the gallon. I found one fabric shop which sells yard goods by the yard or by the meter; your choice. Wal-mart sells only by the meter. A meter is a little more than a yard.

Stores: A&P, highest price. I never shop there. Super C; next one down--shop only for convenience. No Frills--a bag-your-own store, good selection, cheap. Food Basics--another bag-you-own, cheaper than No Frills, but not so good selection. I do most of my shopping at No Frills, and some at Food Basics. I think they call or spy on each other, because there are always signs up saying which things the one has cheaper than the other. These signs are generally on the produce (pronounced with a short o sound, as in "hot") and are generally accurate.

Sample prices: butter, 3.33/lb.; milk, 4.19/4L (usually in bags, but some convenience stores sell in plastic jugs which have a 25-cent refund), I get milk for 3.79 at a tiny little shop on the way home from town; gas right now is 58 cents/liter (that's equal to 2.46/gal.); eggs are anywhere from 1.39-2.19/dozen, depending on size, color, and store; fabric is not to be had for less than $5/yd, I got some nice denim for 7.99/meter, at a store that sells half price (perhaps you can understand why I have pretty much stopped making my own clothes!); cheese is 5.49/600 grams for hard cheese, more if it's pre-shredded; oatmeal is 1.25/kilogram.

If I crossed the border regularly for shopping, I would still get food in Canada. Fabric is cheaper in the states; shoes are cheaper here, but the selection is better in the states. If we stay in the states longer than 24 hours, we can take back $200/per person duty free. Each item has to be $200 or less, though; we can't use our $1600 for the 8 of us to get one high-priced item. Here it is cheaper to buy clothes brand-new than to sew them, so I shop thrift shops for most of the clothes we get. The problem for me is that my daughters and I do not wear pants, and it is almost impossible to find dresses for the girls that are not too short.

I can't say what we would normally spend for a week's worth of groceries, because one of the men in our church helps us out with food. I will say that Tom gives me $80/wk which I use for any groceries I get plus cleaning supplies, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc., plus children's allowances, Christmas shopping done on the sly, and other miscellaneous spending. I try to save some; I recently got Tom some new dress shoes for his birthday. He had worn his old ones for at least 4-5 years, but he needed better ones for preaching as his legs have been going numb standing in the pulpit. We paid $60 (before taxes).

Speaking of taxes, we pay a high sales tax, sometimes twice, for some things we buy. GST (Goods and Services Tax) and PST (Provincial Sales Tax); I forget just now what the percentages are; something like 6-7% each. Several years ago, an astounding thing occurred: the Ontario government, faced with a SURPLUS in revenue, GAVE IT BACK to the citizens!!!

That's about it from me; time for some other Canadians to get in on the act.

-- Cathy N. (, October 31, 2001.

Cathy at $80 a week Canadian, I would say you are spending less than $50 a week for groceries and extras, which is less than I spend. I knew you could teach me a lot!

Now I have a question about wages, are they comparably higher than in the US? For example our school district sent out a brochure saying the average income in our school district is about $22,000 a year (regardless of family size), now our income is usually a little lower than that, but this year due to no work in my husbands normal job (heavy highway construction) we will be at about $16,000 for the year.

However we are still doing OK financailly and I don't notice too big of a differene in our quality of life! Actaully it is better because he usually works out of town and comes home on week-ends, and now he has been home for over a year and a half.

-- Melissa (, October 31, 2001.

Melissa, that's without all the groceries I would normally buy!! As I said, there is someone in the church helping us with food, and in a big way! He has given us so much every week, that this week I told him not to get anything; we can't eat it that fast.

As to wages, I would have to find out--but where are all the other Canadians who are supposed to be responding here? TRACY!!!!! Tom is paid $500/wk, or $26,000/yr. That's about $15,600 US, so I was mighty glad for the Tightwad Gazette my sister gave me! We are earning about the same as you, with 2 extra mouths. You have the enviable advantage of heating with wood; our latest electric bill was 154.55! And we haven't even started paying for this winter's fuel oil. Electricity here costs 8.775 cents/kilowatt hour, plus GST.

-- Cathy N. (, October 31, 2001.

Hey Cathy, we are taking over the thread! I am glad we can burn wood for sure! OUr electric runs us between $80-$100 a month here. Maybe I will start a thread on average bills throughout the country.

-- Melissa (, October 31, 2001.

Wages in Canada, as a rule, are lower than the States. My husband is an IT executive with an oil company which is based in Houston, and gets paid the same wage as the Houston execs, but in Cdn dollars.

However, wages vary across the country. I remember when we lived in Toronto, I was making close to $40,000 (this is about 8 years ago) a year as an office manager. When we moved to Saskatchewan, I was offered a similar position for $18,000. I was shocked and insulted. It was only after I spoke to a headhunter that I learned that was the going rate in the province.

In Alberta, a lot of money is made in IT and, of course, oil. However, I know we could have a higher family income if we moved to the States.

I believe our gasoline is more expensive (right now it's hovering around the 60 cents per liter mark (approx $2.40 a gallon, if my conversion is accurate), and in general, groceries are more expensive. I tend to shop for what I need at Costco or Co-Op (A cooperative grocery store chain here). I find Safeway, A&P and the Superstore chain to be more expensive. As in the other post, I tend to spend closer to $100 a week on groceries and count myself lucky. That includes my cleaning supplies, etc.

Canada has a national sales tax called the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which is 7% on all non-essential items -- but the government gets to decide what is essential -- and I find it sometimes hilarious. A baby outfit -- licensed by Disney -- with Mickey or Goofy, etc., costing close to $50 is NON-taxable (children's clothing), but feminine hygiene products are (I guess we're supposed to just make do...sorry guys!).

Each province then has a provincial tax (except for a couple like Quebec which have some sort of weird blended tax thing going on). For instance, I believe Ontario's Provincial Sales Tax (PST) is around 6% (Cathy, correct me if I'm wrong, I haven't lived there in a few years!) -- while Alberta doesn't have a provincial tax at all (the province is working with a surplus and doesn't need the revenues!)

The GST is reimbursable to families living under a certain income level. This is assessed with your annual income tax return statement and then you receive (I believe) four quarterly cheques calculated from your reported income. It doesn't come close to what you pay out. This is reassessed every year.

I can't think of much more -- but I'd be happy to answer any specific questions.

-- Tracy (, November 01, 2001.

Wanted to post last night when I read this, but I got hungry and had to eat. Wonder why?? : )

Here in northern (ok, really central) Ontario, we spend roughly $100 cdn a week. We are two adults, and two girls 6 and 3. We don't skimp, but we don't buy much in prepared foods. Occasional jar of spaghetti sauce, box of Rice Krispies cereal every few weeks. I bake all of our treats or goodies. Our meat is about $40 / 2 wk or $80 / mo. Dairy is the next largest group. About $30 / 2 wk for cheeses, yogurt, sr. cream, etc. Don't buy much in paper products (taxable 7% GST, 8% PST), except for tp. I could probably knock another $100 off per month, but we struggled for so long when we lived in BC, that right now it's a real treat. The lower mainland of BC (Vancouver area and Fraser Valley) have crazy food prices. We were 3 then, and spent about $300 a month, including Costco. If it wasn't for Costco, we wouldn't have been able to eat meat or cheese. Used to buy BIG cheap roasts, and slice up for steaks. Bought cheddar in $20 blocks, cut and re-wrapped it. One block would last almost a month. We're a "meat and potatoes" kind of family, but also substitute pasta or rice for the potatoes. We shop at "franchisee name here", Your Independent Grocer. Nice big store, lots of bulk, President's Choice products, good prices. A Price Chopper opened a few months ago here, but after checking it out, I won't shop there. Limited selection, no bulk, dairy products ONE MONTH past best before date, and prices no cheaper. We also have a Costco membership, but they're an hour away, so it's not too convenient. Also find I buy a lot more prepared stuff when there. Bread is always $0.99 here, 900g pasta usually under $1, butter about $2.79 usually, but up to $3.19 recently. Whole milk here about $4.89 for 4 litres (local dairy). I've found that if the meals are basic or monotonous, nobody will complain if I've got some baked goodie in the fridge (choc. cake, cookies, lemon meringue pie, cinnamon rolls...), and home baking can be pretty inexpensive.

-- Rheba (, November 02, 2001.

OK guys I am in Northern NY by Massena .When I goover shopping I pay nothing coming back over as long as it was US or Canadian made . Is that the same for you ? I saved a bundle on building supplies and tires for the truck too.

-- Patty {NY State} (, November 03, 2001.

Patti -- I haven't bought building materials across the border, but you've hit on pretty much the main reason why half the country hates Brian Mulroney and the other half just want him dead.

Free trade wasn't so "free" up here.

-- Tracy (, November 03, 2001.

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