Yrene lives in Lumby British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover. I write about things I love. Mostely.
Shop Like a Canadian – Shopping in Canada
I’m the worst shopper there is, I simply don’t like strolling around big malls looking for bargains. If I do go shopping in Canada, I have a good idea of what I need and know where to go before I head out.
When you travel to a new country and everything is different from home, shopping can be an excellent experience. Not many people visit a foreign country without checking out some local stores and probably spending some money while doing it.
Actually, Canada is a shopper’s paradise with a selection you can’t even imagine. If you’re like me and you don’t care about shopping, at least drop in at a Canadian Superstore and check out their selection. Need some shampoo? You have a whole aisle to choose from. What about breakfast cereal, it might be junk food, mostly, but you will be stunned looking at the large selection.
A while back, I took a European guest for a typical shopping in Canada day. We went into Walmart but she left the store after only ten minutes. She was overwhelmed by the store’s size and she couldn’t handle it.
Of course, we also have souvenir stores and many independent boutiques and small shops, but in this article, I want to tell you about our big stores where most Canadians do their shopping.
Please note, the stores I mention here are only a small selection of the ones we have in Canada. You can find many other brands across the country. Some of the Retail stores are Canadian owned, but the majorities are from the US.
Canada is known for excellent camping equipment or sports items. If this is what you’re interested in, I have the stores for you!
Canada has many grocery stores for your food shopping needs. For a first time visitor to Canada, it can get confusing to figure out where to shop for good quality, reasonably priced food. If you’re trying to save money and stretch your travel dollars I suggest that you do your main grocery shopping in larger towns. Some supermarkets in small towns have shocking high food prices because of the lack of competition. In my case, it’s cheaper for me to drive an hour to the next city to stock up on food than shopping at the local supermarket.
A good selection of organic food as well as gluten-free items is available in all of the large supermarkets. Most cities and many smaller communities have Farmer’s markets where you will find fresh produce, homemade baking and a variety of other local foods. Supporting local communities and buying fresh seasonal food is the best option, so look for opportunities when you travel.
Driving along country roads in Canada you will come across farmers who are willing to sell their crops to customers who stop in. Depending on the type of farm you can either pick vegetables and fruits yourself or buy ready-picked produce. Not only is this the best way to get fresh food, but you also get to talk to locals.
All of the large stores where we do our grocery shopping in Canada are more like retail stores and don’t just sell food. Most of the large stores also include a Pharmacy.
These stores are huge and it’s easy to get lost while browsing the shelves. You might enter for some groceries and end up in the “Joe Fresh” clothing section looking at the latest fashion at affordable prices. There is a Pharmacy section, household goods and whatever else you can think of.
TIP: Look out for the yellow packaged No Name line of products to save money. If you buy in bulk, prices are cheaper.
This store is owned by the same company (Loblaws) as the Canadian Superstore but has a smaller selection of items, the store is less appealing but the prices are lower.
You definitely will spend less time in this store and it’s a good choice if you don’t have a lot of time. Dress warm when you go to the Wholesale Club, it’s always freezing inside. The store caters especially to restaurants and has a large section of restaurant supplies. You don’t need a membership to shop at the Wholesale Club.
For shopping at Costco you have to be a member and pay a yearly fee. If you’re one of the lucky ones and you have a chance to go along with a Canadian friend who is a member, don’t miss out. Costco stores are located only in larger cities and to travel two hours to get to one is totally worth it.
First of all, my stomach starts rumbling in the grocery section every time I walk across isles stocked with an amazing selection of food; European cheeses, excellent baked goods, meats, and on and on. Because of the wholesale part, everything is sold in large packages, adding up to a large bill when you finally arrive at the cash register, where only cash and debit cards are excepted. President’s choice is Costco’s own brand.
Groceries are only one of the great things about this store! but that’s a small part of it! At Costco, you can buy electronics, computers and furniture. The store has an outdoor living section, appliances, great quality brand clothes, jewellery, books and much more. Costco is the cheapest place to buy eyeglasses and has an auto centre to get you car tires changed. Costco also sells large containers of vitamins or Ibuprofen in its pharmacy section.
On the way out, grab a cappuccino and a slice of their famous pizza, or a large hot-dog for $1.50. (For me it’s only the cappuccino!)
Who doesn’t know Walmart; at least you have heard of it, the big giant in North America. “Save money, live longer” is the slogan of this megastore. Walmart is one of the largest retailers in the world. It doesn’t really matter what products you have on your mind, Walmart probably will have it.
Some of the stores are considered Super Walmart’s and they typically provide a grocery store and an automotive repair shop in addition to everything else. You can buy pretty much everything at Walmart: clothes, shoes, food, electronics, and camping equipment. Check it out if you’re in town.
Walmart Photo Centre is a good place for passport pictures and other photographic needs.
Canadian Tire is one of Canada’s iconic retailers and most admired and trusted company. If you want to shop Canadian, this is the store to go to.
The Canadian Retail company sells a wide range of automotive parts, hardware, tools, sports and leisure and home products. Canadian Tire is also known for its car repair garage at each store. Did you buy a car in Canada that needs repairs or service done or you’re shopping for new tires? Try Canadian Tire, it’s an old trusted Canadian company and you can’t go wrong with them.
Canadian Tire has a large selection of camping equipment and sells great brands like Coleman.
Shoppers Drug Mart
Shoppers Drug Mart is a retail pharmacy chain providing pharmacy products and services. The stores can be found in most cities and larger towns. Although most small towns in Canada have a local drug store (pharmacy) but if you need medicine outside of regular store hours you are out of luck. Shoppers Drug Mart, on the other hand, is open seven days a week and until 10 pm.
As you might guess, this huge pharmacy giant not only sells prescription drugs, they also have a large selection of over-the-counter medications, health and beauty products, cosmetics and fragrances, seasonal products, milk, yoghurt, bread and everyday household essentials. They also have memory cards for your camera if you need an extra one.
London Drugs is a Canadian retail store chain, 100 % Canadian owned and its primary focus is on pharmaceuticals, electronics, computers, cameras, housewares, toys, books, skincare, and cosmetics, with a limited selection of grocery items. It is a friendly place to shop and I often find good deals on camera equipment at London Drugs. Each store has an excellent photo lab and friendly staff.
Best Buy is the store to go to for the latest technology and entertainment products. If you are shopping for camera equipment, a new laptop or software, this is the store with the largest selection. Best Buy is also one of the places I suggest to go for a Canadian SIM Card for your cell phone. They offer all the different brands and can suggest the best cell phone carrier and the best deal for you.
Bass Pro Shop
The best in fishing, hunting and boating gear! At the time of writing, there are five Bass Pro Shops in Canada, two in Ontario, one in New Brunswick, one on Vancouver Island and one near Calgary, Alberta. The Calgary store is the one I visited a couple of years ago and I was so impressed, I had never seen something like it. The selection of hunting, fishing, camping, and outdoor gear, as well as outdoor footwear, was out of this world. Stuffed bears and other wild animals greet you while strolling through the store.
A visit to a Bass Pro Shop should be on your Canada road trip Itinerary.
Cabelas is the outdoor store for quality hunting, fishing, camping and outdoor gear at competitive prices. Cabela’s was bought out by Bass Pro Shop and therefore has similar products.
There are around 80 Cabela’s stores in Canada and if you get a chance, drop in for an awesome shopping experience. I use the online store quite a bit for purchasing camping gear.
Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC)
This is a great store for the outdoor adventurer. But unlike Cabela’s, Mountain Equipment Coop doesn’t carry any guns or fishing gear but you will find pretty much everything else. You have to be a member to shop here; a lifetime membership for $5 can be purchased online by anyone. MEC is known for its commitment to environmental protection and other causes.
Mountain Equipment Coop’s are located across Canada in larger cities.
Mark’s (Work Wearhouse)
Mark’s specializes in casual and industrial wear with stores spread all across Canada. At Mark’s you can buy rugged, industrial work clothes like Carhartt overalls, steel-toed boots, fleece-lined flannels and all the other fundamentals of the Canadian blue-collar closet. If you come to Canada to work, this is the place to shop for “clothes that work”.
For an affordable treasure hunt, visit one of the dollar stores spread all over the country. If it’s a roll of duct tape you need, writing paper, some glue, a few storage containers to take along on your road trip, or any other odds and ends, shopping in Canada at a Dollar Store will save you money.
The main ones around are Dollarama, Dollar Tree and The Great Canadian Dollar Store.
Are you planning to do any shopping in Canada when you come and visit? Please leave a comment below.