Want cheaper groceries? Shop across the border, locals say

·2 min read
Cross-border shoppers are hoping to get better deals on groceries in America. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Cross-border shoppers are hoping to get better deals on groceries in America. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)

As prices rise due to inflation, some people are heading back across the border to shop in Michigan.

Some are filling up their gas tanks, others are filling up on groceries.

"I just know I'm getting more for my money," said Brian Thompson, an experienced cross-border shopper.

"When you use your credit card there, you pay a 15 per cent interest. So there is a bit of an offset. But the sales over there are — well, they exist. They don't really have them here," he said. "You might get a dollar off something one day, but there's not that many sales on Canadian grocery stores... Getting my gas alone over there offsets whatever I pay for the toll."

Thompson has found there's a lot better selection in American stores.

"I feel like the grocery stores over there have to compete with each other more than they have to here in Canada. So they're forced to put sales on and try to bring in customers. Like better selection on clothing or discounts."

Sylvain Charlebois is the senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University. He said cross-border shoppers can also benefit from the American coupon culture.

"You can actually save serious money using coupons in America. In fact, it's not rare to see someone walk away from the grocery stores without paying anything and even getting a credit because the coupons that they that the person had was of greater value than the actual price of the product."

Any shoppers driving over from Windsor to Detroit have to remember the additional costs, such as toll fees or taxes. There's no tax exemption on goods brought back into Canada by shoppers who are on day trips. Those returning to Windsor must be away for at least 24 hours to bring back $200 worth of goods without paying taxes.

But even with these costs, Charlebois said it may still pay off to shop for groceries in Detroit.

"The Americans have access to the cheapest food basket in the world by far. So it's not surprising to see lower prices for main staples like eggs, cheese, milk. Many of their products are cheaper. I don't believe Canadians should be worried about food practices in America, they are very similar to Canada."

As the weather gets warmer, Charlebois is reminding border shoppers to invest in coolers to protect dairy or freezer products from going bad on the way back to Windsor.

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