Which Fredericton grocery store is cheapest? This analyst says it's not clear
What started as one man's mission to find the cheapest raspberries in Fredericton turned into an extensive comparison of prices across the city, with no clear answer for which retailer is the most cost-effective.
Ray Harris, a Fredericton-based data analyst, went on a journey to find the best savings on food without having to visit every shop in the city.
To do so, he actually had to travel to almost every shop in the city — and what he found is that the best grocery store, cost-wise, really depends on what you're buying.
"There's not really one like single location that is going to solve this problem for us," said Harris.
Harris went to Walmart, Victory Meat Market, Co-Op, Sobeys, Atlantic Superstore, Peters Meat Market and St. Mary's Supermarket and bought 14 commonly purchased items.
He compared the prices of chicken breasts, lean ground beef, Ben's bread, 12 large eggs, carrots, russet potatoes, raspberries, grapes, brand-name cheese, unbranded cheese, Activia yogurt, original Oreos, Catelli spaghetti and Ruffles chips.
Harris said his findings showed that prices on non-perishable goods are better at the big-box stores like Superstore, Sobeys and Walmart.
"I think that's a testament to the buying power that those locations would have when they're Canada-wide, or even [across] the United States," said Harris. "They can make those deals and bring in lower priced goods."
For produce, he said the independent grocers, like St. Mary's and Victory, had better prices for the most part.
Harris said that's the problem: different items on a typical grocery list are cheaper at different places, but it isn't reasonable for some people to travel around to get the best deals.
Given the high cost of gas, he said driving to multiple locations for cheese, then bread, then meat, then produce isn't going to solve the affordability problem.
Prices for food purchased at grocery stores increased by 11.4 per cent in the year up to January, according to Statistics Canada.
And on Parliament Hill Wednesday, the heads of Canada's biggest grocery chains pushed back against allegations they are profiteering from high inflation, claiming razor-thin profit margins.
Valerie Tarasuk, a professor in the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, looks closely at food insecurity.
"The consequences of these high food prices are real," said Tarasuk.
She said despite "all the chatter" at the hearing in Ottawa, there is still a problem.
"People will go grocery shopping this weekend, and, you know, many of them, some of them at least, will be struggling to buy what they need."
After his trip to seven grocery stores in Fredericton, Harris did make a few observations that could help people struggling with rising prices.
His biggest tip is planning ahead and making a plan before heading to a store. If a lot of the list includes boxed goods or branded items, a bigger location might be the best choice. But if they're shopping mainly for meat or produce, he said, an independent might be best.
Every location Harris visited also had weekly fliers, he said, which could help people decide what grocery store might be more worth going to that week.
He also recommended mapping out a route, whether it be by foot, bus or car, that includes two stops in an attempt to get the biggest margin savings.
"If you can plan ahead a little bit, use some of the resources online without going to the store, I think that's really your best bet."