Alternative food options in Ontario - MoneySense

Alternative food options in Ontario

There are plenty of great food sources beyond the supermarket



Think the big grocery store or the yuppie farmer’s market is the only place to trade your hard-earned cash for some apples? You’d be wrong–especially if you live in an urban area.

It’s time to let go of your supermarket shopping cart, drive out of the parking lot and discover alternative places to buy produce that are often dramatically cheaper.

If you’re willing to be a little flexible—and open to trying produce off your usual shopping list—you can get some great deals.

In addition, all of the following options are an excellent opportunity to learn new recipes. If you need inspiration, go to, type in whatever produce you have and a list full of recipes containing that ingredient will appear.

Food boxes
For between $15 and $40 a week you can have a big box of fresh, local (and sometimes organic) produce delivered either straight to your doorstep or a community centre in your neighbourhood. Either sourced directly from a farm or run as a co-op by volunteers, prices on healthy, fresh food are lower than what you’d pay at the grocery store since much of the middle-man is cut out. Contents vary based on what’s in season and you can get deliveries throughout the winter. In some boxes, you can even get the veggies pre-cut like you would in the grocery store.

FoodShare is one such company that operates all over Canada, in both small communities as well as cities.

For $18 every two weeks, you could get a box from FoodShare or buy it at Metro for $28.31. That’s weekly savings of $10.31, not including the price of the gas it costs you to drive there.

*based on a package of 5 corn for 3.99
** based on prices 2 weeks ago
***based on navel oranges
****based on a 5 lb bag of US potatoes at 4.99

Ethnic grocery stores
If your town has an ethnic shopping area such as a Chinatown or Little India, it’s probably a great place to pick up cheap produce, as well as noodles and rice. The prices are often half of what you’d be paying at a chain grocery store—and again, you’re helping to support local businesses. If you really like the grocery shopping experience and want to buy groceries at your convenience, finding ethnic grocery stores in your community could be the best alternative option for you.

You can easily get enough produce to feed one person for a week on $9, and that’s if you’re a produce-a-holic like me and you eat 3 fruits and 3 cups of veggies a day.

Since I always do my weekly shopping at the Lucky Moose Food Mart in Toronto I’ve provided a receipt for my weekly produce shop:

At Lucky Moose Food Mart I spent $10.57. At Metro I would have spent $26.12. That’s a difference of $15.55. You need that $15.55 more than Metro does, so head down to an ethnic area to scout out deals.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in Ontario
If you live in Ontario, there’s an option to pay CSA farms a set fee at the beginning of a season, which allows you to pick-up a box of fresh produce directly from the farmer every week (don’t worry, you don’t need to visit the farm). Think of it like you’re buying a share in the farm, so you get weekly dividends in the form of food.

Like any investment it has the potential of risk. If there is drought or disease, your dividend could decrease.

Although there are cheaper options, you can pick up a box of organic produce every Tuesday in Toronto from a group of Mennonite farm families for 19 weeks during the summer that they say will feed a family four. Similar options exist during the fall and winter. The box is full of [it varies] lettuce, cooking greens, zucchini, beets, carrots, peas, corn, broccoli, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, onions, cauliflower, melons, raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, root vegetables, squash, radishes and some exotic heirlooms for a total of $685. That’s $9 a family member/ week for fresh-as-can-be organic produce that also helps support local farmers. They also offer a meat share program.

Here are the listings of all the participating farms in Ontario. They have participating farms everywhere from Thunder Bay to Ottawa.