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Grocery prices in Canada: New Canadian from UK wonders — 'Why is this place so soddin' expensive?'

A British newcomer has taken to Reddit to decry Canadian grocery store prices after comparing the cost of some items here vs. their home country.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks through the produce area during a visit to a Fruiticana grocery store in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, November 14, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks through the produce area during a visit to a Fruiticana grocery store in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, November 14, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck (The Canadian Press)

A British newcomer to Canada has taken to Reddit to decry grocery store prices after comparing a few items to stores from their home country.

In the post titled "Supermarket food is so bloody expensive vs. the UK," user NoOutlandishness6976 details buying two limes for 99 cents each and a head of broccoli for $3.99 from the grocery store Metro. The total for both items was $5.97.

Appalled by these prices, the poster decided to check out the same items on Walmart's website, as well as the U.K. supermarket chain, Tesco.

At Walmart, the limes cost 77 cents each and the broccoli was $2.97, for a total of $4.51.

Across the pond at Tesco, limes were 39 cents each and the broccoli was $1.33, after converting to Canadian currency, for a total of $2.11.

The poster says they’ve heard all the reasons for the high prices of food, including lack of competition and monopolies owned by the same families. However, that didn't do anything to ease their frustration and confusion.

“But WTAF, seriously,” the poster decried. “Why is this place so soddin' expensive for literally everything? Are we just mugs?”

(Mugs is British slang for a person who is unintelligent or easily deceived.)

Commenters agree: 'Actually a very Canadian thing'

In the comments, some people felt that increasingly high grocery prices were a reflection of Canadians’ general demeanour.

“There’s a clear grift happening with food in Canada and we aren’t mad enough yet about it,” CrumplyRump wrote.

“Being complacent and accepting getting run over by the government is actually a very Canadian thing to do,” Barnicus57 added.

Some noted that produce in Canada is more expensive than in the U.K. because of how far it has to travel, especially in the offseason.

“It is simply down to distance, it costs money to move the product and refrigerate it,” roflcopter44444 wrote. “And also is why the freshness of the product we get isn’t as good.”

“In Canada most of our limes come from Ecuador over 5,000 kilometres away,” bigdaddyhame wrote. "In the U.K., limes come from Spain, which for example, London is just over 1,000 kilometres away from Madrid.”

Some commenters commended European deep discount supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi, which can be found in some U.S states, but are not located in Canada.

“Their prices are uniquely cheap because they sell only a tiny fraction of what other supermarkets sell, they don't have regular inventory of many things, they have smaller stores, and the things they do sell are usually of their own brand,” bureX says.

“If they come to Canada, [Loblaws, Metro, Sobeys] will be soiling their pantaloons, I assure you!”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pauses to look at items in an aisle during a visit to a Fruiticana grocery store in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, November 14, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pauses to look at items in an aisle during a visit to a Fruiticana grocery store in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, November 14, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck (The Canadian Press)

Tips to get good prices on groceries: Asian supermarkets and bulk buying

Other commenters in the Reddit post shared their shopping tips for saving money on groceries.

User little-bird detailed getting all their essentials at Costco, which added up to significant savings, although admittedly took up more space.

Some also recommended shopping at Asian markets for higher quality produce for much lower prices.

"May I suggest shopping at an Asian grocer like Nations or TNT?" user mukwah suggests. "You will find the fruit and vegetable products to be much cheaper and often superior quality."

Why so many things are so much more expensive in Canada

A similar criticism recently went viral on TikTok, when a man compared the prices of chicken bought in the U.S., to chicken bought in Canada. In the video, the man showed a package of four pieces of organic boneless, skinless chicken thighs from Loblaws priced at $13.65, while a pack of chicken thighs bought from a Target store in the U.S. cost $3.55.

However, one expert noted that certain industries in Canada, like poultry, dairy and milk, fall under supply management, which impacts how much suppliers are allowed to produce in the country, along with how much importers can transport into the country. The higher price of chicken is maintained as a result of severe restrictions on what can be brought back from the U.S. into Canada, or imported.

Grocery prices in Canada continue to shock customers

Users on Reddit and other social media have posted about their experiences at Canada's grocery stores in 2023.

Last month, a customer warned others about chicken that was possibly re-labelled to extend its shelf life. Metro responded by apologizing for the "handler error."

Over the summer, a TikTok user posted a video of a half-filled bag of chips that Loblaw also had to apologize for.

Some shoppers have even taken to getting dry and pantry goods from stores like Dollarama, as many discover identical items there for a fraction of the cost at larger retailers.