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Which grocery store in Prince George has the best prices?

The Prince George Citizen decided to do another comparative shop to see what's changed from June 8 to Sept. 23 at the grocery store. You might be surprised by the outcome.

The Prince George Citizen decided to do another comparative shop Friday to see which store has the best prices from Walmart, Costco, Save On Foods and the Real Canadian Superstore.

Arthur Williams did the first one June 8 and staff thought we should revisit do see what happened between then and now.

According to Statistics Canada’s Consumer Price Index, grocery prices in August were on the rise at the fastest pace since 1981. Yikes!

Prices for food purchased from stores continued to increase in August (up 10.8 per cent), rising at the fastest pace since 1981 (up 11.9 per cent). The supply of food continued to be impacted by multiple factors, including extreme weather, higher input costs, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and supply chain disruptions.

Food price growth remained broad-based. On a year-over-year basis, Canadians paid more for meat (up 6.5 per cent), dairy products (up 7.0 per cent), bakery products (up 15.4 per cent), fresh fruit (up 13.2 per cent), non-alcoholic beverages (up 14.1 per cent), condiments, spices, and vinegars (up 17.2 per cent), sugar and confectionery (up 11.3 per cent), and fish, seafood, and other marine products (up 8.7 per cent).

I followed in Arthur’s footsteps to Costco, Save On Foods (Spruceland location), Real Canadian Superstore and Walmart, which are the four major retail grocery stores in Prince George.

I used the same 12-item list which includes:

1 2L jug of 2% milk

600g block of medium cheddar cheese

1 dozen eggs

Bunch of 6 bananas

6 gala apples (Arthur chose red delicious but there wasn’t any at the first store so I switched and all four stores had gala.)

3 medium yellow onions

3 lb. bag of carrots

1 pack of bacon

500g lean ground beef

1 loaf of white bread

500g pack of spaghetti noodles

1L of orange juice

My comparative shop took place Friday, Sept. 23 between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and I followed the same rules Arthur did.

Arthur’s rules:

For each item, the cheapest option available on the shelf at each store was selected, including sale items, generic store brands and membership discounts. However, no member points were used to obtain free or discounted items.

Reusable bags were used to avoid being charged for plastic bags.

If the size or quantity specified in the list wasn’t available, the closest available size or quantity was chosen. This was especially a factor at Costco, which specializes in bulk sales. To make this an apples-to-apples comparison, I listed both the total price and the price adjusted for quantity.

After the comparison shop The Citizen donated all the food to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s downtown drop-in centre to help feed people in need in Prince George.

Reporter Arthur Williams did a price comparison on June 8 to discover the Real Canadian Superstore beat the rest by at least 42 cents with a total price of $50.10 for the 12-item list, Save On came in at $50.52, Walmart was $51.65 and Costco for the bulk items was $131.53 and reduced to reflect the amounts of food on the list it came to $43.08.

I revisited the stores Arthur shopped at and purchased the items he did. That way we can all see what the cost difference is from then until now and which store currently has the lowest prices on 12 basic food items.

Who has the best deals?

Walmart

The 12-item list of groceries came in at $46.54. When Arthur shopped in June it was $51.65, so that's a decrease of $5.11.

I knew Walmart was in the running when the giant bin of gala apples was on sale for 97 cents a pound. That was a significant savings over the other apples available at $2.49 to $2.99 a pound in their produce department. But when trying to compare prices on bacon, which is quite expensive right now, be aware that Walmart and Save On had packs that were only 375 grams. I don’t know about you but every slice counts in my household so I was much happier to see the Real Canadian Superstore and Costco had the 500 gram packs.

Save On Foods

Save On came in right after Walmart with the 12 items costing $49.44 That’s a difference of $2.90 from Walmart. When Arthur shopped in June his total was $50.52, and this is the only shop that cost less than the June 8 shop by $1.08.

Again it was the apples that were on sale for $1.27 per pound that seemed to make the difference along with their 375 gram pack of bacon that was on special from $7.49 to $5.49. I used my points card to get the deals but declined the offer of getting any item for free but if you’re at that stage of your points and got something at no cost then this game would’ve been a slam dunk for Save On.

There are so many things to consider while deciding where to go shopping. Your location might be the deciding factor as gas is so expensive right now. But that’s another story.

Real Canadian Superstore

I was a bit surprised to see that Superstore’s total came to $55.22. That’s a difference of $8.68 from Walmart and when Arthur shopped in June his total came to $50.10 so StatsCan is right about food price increases. At Superstore groceries have increased $5.11 from June 8 to Sept. 23.

What happened to Superstore? I thought for sure they’d dominate in the bargains. It seemed like everything was just a little bit more expensive but not by much. There’s no deal to be had for their gala apples that were $2.99 a pound. Some of the other items were just a few cents more and that added up. Superstore does have a lot of deals that reduce the price if you buy multiples of something. The white bread came in at $2.99 for one loaf but if I got two they were $2.50. So that is one way to save and at least you know that option is out there.

Costco

Costco sells almost everything in bulk so the cost of the 12 items was $142.13 and when reduced to equal the other store’s amount of food it came to $46.83. When Arthur shopped in June his total was $131.53 and $43.08 after he did the math to get the quantities to match the rest of the stores. And here we are again with an increase from June 8 to Sept. 23 of $10.60 and a difference of 29 cents when you knock it down to comparative shopping amounts of the other stores and directly compare to Walmart.

I was relieved I could get six bananas for $1.99 so that’s one less math calculation I had to do to offer a price for the items when I reduce them down to comparables to the other stores.

I had to buy twice as much milk, cheese and apples as on the list; 2.5 times as many eggs and about the same for the onions; three times as much bread and about the same for the carrots; about four times as much bacon and 3.75 times as much orange juice; 5.5 times as much beef; and a whopping 8 times as much spaghetti – glad it has a long shelf life.

So the question is does bulk purchases really equal bargains?

Not all the time. So I guess that’s when buyer beware warnings come in for the shopper. Be careful as you pick and be sure to choose carefully. On the flipside there was a great deal on the spaghetti at Costco, which came to $1.11 per 500 gram pack as compared to $1.99 for the next best price at Superstore. Good luck as you do the groceries and it might be worth it to take a minute to do the math on some of these items' prices versus sizes to stretch that dollar as far as it can go.

The limits

This test compared prices on a limited number of items, all purchased on a single day, and may not reflect the broader price trends at each respective store. Grocery prices change regularly and sales or other promotions could change the results.

The Citizen is not in a position to measure the quality, taste or nutritional value of the food purchased. Differences in these qualities may account for the price differences.

 

 

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