Revelstoke’s food basket prices are still tops in the region but Southside’s a winner

Food Editor Leslie Savage

Last May 24 we did a comparison of food costs in and out of Revelstoke. As of September 9 and 10, Southside Revelstoke is just 3.5 % higher than Askew’s. Not worth the price of gas, unless you have other things to do in Sicamous. Cooper’s Revelstoke is 10.5 % higher than Askew’s and 4 % higher than Safeway in Salmon Arm.

This is considerably less dramatic than the differences we found in May, although we have not included Superstore Vernon in this comparison. We’ve heard a rumour that the Revelstoke Cooper’s store is the most profitable (per sq ft) in their chain — unverifiable, of course, but that’s local opinion.

When I spoke to Overwaitea’s (Cooper’s parent company) Communications Director about the results of our spring food price comparison, we agreed that there are difficulties in comparing food prices. These have to do with 1) quality, which Overwaitea prides itself on; 2) specials that can apply in some stores and not others; and 3) discounted purchasing that lowers prices in the giant box stores and in some grocery stores.

It’s true that comparisons are not always easy. To address the value for value issue (are your apples better than my apples?) we have changed our food basket this time to include a few more items, such as Oreo cookies, that are exactly the same product across every grocer. On the specials issue, we’ve taken the lowest possible price for the item at each store—club prices, member prices, two-for one prices.  And on the box store issue, well okay: Superstore buys in bulk so they can afford to discount. But Overwaitea is one of the largest grocery chains in Canada: why can’t they match prices? Service at box stores is supposedly inferior, although with only two cashiers routinely available at the check-out counters at Cooper’s, Overwaitea isn’t exactly stellar in that department: how do you feel about self-service check-out? (Let us know.) And we’ve eliminated items that vary hugely from one store to another — our fish item is fresh wild salmon, available in every outlet now, and regular rather than organic milk. Avocados were scratched from the list because the size, quality and variety differed from one store to another, as did he prices; we also dumped blackberries and blueberries as they were not available in all four stores.

Our basket is short on fruit this month, as some people have access to their own garden produce, and farm markets are overflowing with peaches, plums, nectarines and soon pears and apples from the Okanagan. No baking items are included, but cheese strings and cookies, as well as plenty of carrots and a cucumber are there for school lunch makers. And we’ve removed some items that were expensive, so that the entire cost of the basket comes down.

And guess what? On a standard basket comparison, item-by-item, it’s still cheaper to shop out of town. Not by so much this time, as Southside prices are just slightly higher than Askew’s in Sicamous. Cooper’s  in Revelstoke is still the most expensive place to shop in the whole region, even beating out the notoriously expensive Safeway. (Coleen Leblanc, who runs a concierge business in Kamloops, tells us that among about 50 clients, only one allows her to shop at Safeway or Cooper’s as their reputation for high prices is well known.)

An impressive number of back-to-school items at Cooper’s were on special this week—peanut butter, butter, cookies, Breyer’s ice cream, broccoli — and I was surprised that the total basket cost was still higher than elsewhere. Look at staples such as cheese, bread and meat — the “real food” items.

This leads to a couple of considerations. Everyone offers specials. If you shop by flyer and take advantage of specials, you could have done very well this week at Cooper’s on whole frying chickens and frozen wild salmon fillets, getting 1 free for each one you buy thus effectively halving the cost. This is in fact an intelligent way to shop, if you’re flexible enough to go with the flow. Had we changed fresh for frozen wild salmon and strip loin steaks for a roasted chicken dish, Cooper’s prices would have been more in line with others.  So one drawback to the “standard basket” approach to price comparisons is that every chain or store offers different specials. If you watch the flyers (all now available on-line) and plan menus accordingly, and if you can stock up by freezing specials, you can probably do as well in Revelstoke as elsewhere.  Buying a freezer might pay for itself in a year or so.

Overwaitea argues that their quality is high, and I agree. I rarely return anything to Cooper’s, whereas I recently bought a jar of Dijon mustard, for instance, at Safeway on Robson Street in Vancouver (their own brand, Select) that I’ll be taking back as there was rust all round the inside of the jar.

On the other hand, only Safeway offers exclusively AAA Canadian beef. Askew’s  is “AA or above” (on the box) Cooper’s is A or above. All are Western Canadian beef. To learn more about beef quality you can go to http://www.cbef.com/beefquality.htm. Basically, grocers sell one of the 4 top grades A, AA, AAA or Prime, and the only difference between them is the amount of marbling (lines of fat throughout the meat). Canadian beef quality control is quite stringent. Prime goes mainly to restaurants, hence local butchers believe it to be an American designation, but this is not so. Neither Southside nor Cooper’s advertise their beef grade, and finding out required conversation with their butchers. Maybe it doesn’t matter much — the different in marbling may be of no interest to you. Cooper’s offers Western Family meats in vacuum packed plastic, which perhaps ensures freedom from bacteria at the local level—and cuts down on local jobs.

The best grocery prices in town are at Southside, and you won’t save much over their prices by going to Sicamous or Salmon Arm.

Customer loyalty is a funny thing, though. You get comfortable with the layout and the people at certain stores, and for those who have the income for a little discretionary spending, sticking with your favorite store regardless of prices may justify the extra dollars. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this issue — is price alone the reason you choose one grocer over another, and what are the other issues that bear on your preferences? Do you comparison shop? Do you cycle, walk or drive ten minutes to save $10?

Look forward to hearing from you, again.

You can contact Leslie Savage directly by e-mail at crabtreesavage@hotmail.com

The following is the correct and complete food basket list. The list that was published earlier was incomplete due to a computer problem at Leslie’s end. My apologies for any confusion — David F. Rooney

Food price comparisons Safeway Askews Cooper’s Southside
for Revelstoke shoppers Salmon Arm Sicamous Revelstoke Revelstoke
FAMILY BASKET for four people, 7-10 days
TOTAL BASKET PRICE 230.47 216.08 239.13 223.73
Peaches, BC 1.5 lb (4) 2.54 2.38 2.10 1.32
Bananas, 2 lb (4) 1.36 0.76 1.38 1.17
Tomatoes, BC vine, 1.5 lb (4) 2.69 1.50 1.50 2.22
Leaf lettuce, BC, 1 head 1.29 1.18 1.49 0.98
Carrots, 2 lbs 1.79 1.88 1.66 1.74
Potatoes, russets, 10 lb 5.99 4.48 4.49 3.98
Celery, I head, 2 lbs 1.69 1.36 2.98 2.99
Cabbage,  I head, 3 lbs 2.37 1.74 2.17 1.44
Broccoli crowns 1 lb 1.79 1.48 0.99 0.98
Onions, yellow, 3 lb 3.49 1.98 1.69 1.50
Cucumber, English, 1 1.69 0.98 1.79 1.48
Milk, 2%, 4. Litres 5.99 4.99 4.69 4.70
Milk, chocolate, 2 litres 2.59 2.98 3.69 2.39
Cream, whipping, .5 litre 2.59 2.98 2.89 2.89
Yogurt, 650 gms Olympic 5.29 4.48
Natura 3.00
Probiotic 3.89
Eggs, Ex Large White, 12 2.89 2.98 2.99 2.98
Ice Cream, Breyers, Dbl Chn 7.49 9.58 5.99 6.98
Butter, salted, 1 lb 5.99 4.98 3.39 3.99
Cheese, cheddar, house,.5k 8.95 9.65 10.15 10.45
Orange jc, Tropicana, 1.75 l 4.99 4.98 3.50 4.00
Apple jc, Tropicana, 1.75 l. 4.99 4.98 3.50 4.00
Cheese strings*** 4.00 2.98 4.99 4.94
Soda crackers, Christie,5-gra 3.00 3.68 3.00 3.79
Oreo cookies, 550 gm 5.39 3.88 2.50 4.98
Dad’s cookies 3.50 4.88 3.79 3.99
Mayonnaise, Hellmans* 3.99 3.48 6.29 6.89
Mustard, Maille Dijon, 200 ml 3.19 3.38 3.99 3.49
Ketchup, Heinz, 1 kilo 4.99 4.98 2.99 4.99
Olive oil, Ex-Virgin, 428 to 500 ml 8.79 9.48 9.99 8.79
Crisco oil, 945 ml 5.29 5.18 3.99 5.49
Apple cider vinegar, 1 lit 3.49 2.98 4.49 3.19
Peanut butter, nat’l, 500 gm 3.98 3.18 2.99 2.50
Salmon, tinned, no salt 5.19 2.48 4.29 4.75
Soup, Chunky Campbell’s 1.67 1.98 2.29 2.19
Dried soup, Knorr, 1 1.49 1.78 2.29 2.39
Coffee, Kicking Horse,1 lb 14.19 14.99 14.99 11.59
Tea, Tetley, 36 bags 3.49 2.88 3.59 3.39
Rice, Basmati, 1 kilo 4.99 4.98 4.79 4.58
Catelli sphagetti, 900 gm 2.67 3.98 3.19 3.79
Kraft dinner, 1 1.25 1.29 1.79 2.19
Post Spoon size shredded wh 5.50 5.35 5.99 6.49
Alpen, Regular 5.84 5.98 6.49 5.29
Baguette, 1 0.99 2.99 2.49 1.90
Bread, whole wheat 1.29 1.58 3.39 1.50
Bacon, Schneider or Maple Lf 4.99 3.57 6.99 4.98
Grnd beef, lean, 1 kilo 8.80 6.00 8.69 7.45
Wild fresh salmon, 500 gms 9.95 8.99 11.45 11.40
Pork sausage, 1 kilo 7.22 6.07 7.69 6.59
Strip loin steaks*, 1 kilo 15.41 15.36 26.43 17.59
Chicken thighs skin on 1 k 7.48 5.45 6.37 7.45
230.47 216.08 239.13 223.73
* Hellman’s mayo: either olive oil or “Real” original
** See note in article, re beef quality
*** Black Diamond 8-pack at Safeway, Askews and Coopers, and Kraft twists,
12-pack at South Side, as other not available. Price of latter adjusted to 8 strings

Best prices: Askew’s in Sicamous

Best Revelstoke food prices: Southside

% difference from best prices

Southside Revelstoke is 3 ½ % higher than Askew’s.

Cooper’s Revelstoke is 10 ½ % higher than Askew’s and 4 % higher than Safeway in Salmon Arm.

Comments

16 Responses to “Revelstoke’s food basket prices are still tops in the region but Southside’s a winner”
  1. Victoria says:

    And let’s not forget the impact of recently imposed HST — which makes a trip to Alberta quite appealing when buying big ticket items for renovations, as just one example… After filling up with gas in AB at 10c a litre cheaper than it is here, and not paying any extra tax, you might as well save more money and buy groceries there too.

    Whether local people like it or not, money is leaving this province for greener pastures. I can only assume short-sighted comments to ‘suck it up’ or ‘lose it’, come from those with a vested interest and/or have been fortunate enough to never experience money problems.

  2. lynne says:

    i so agree with what kathy says,i too do all my major shopping at superstore in vernon every 2 weeks..also while there i do shopping for family and friends I like their incentives for shopping there, last week i got a free cutting board and $25.00 gift card for my purchase of $250.00 .before that 25 cents a litre off my gasoline and a $25.00 gift card.

  3. Greg says:

    What shocks me is the HUGE discrepancy in price for certain items – almost double the cost compared to another store – they are simply r#ping us!

  4. Evelyn Daniels says:

    I have no choice but to shop locally since I do not have a car. I choose to shop at Cooper’s because it’s in walking distance from my home. I use the flyer as a guide to making my shopping list. I try to buy only what’s on sale, but occasionally I pay regular price. I use coupons. I agree Cooper’s prices are higher, but I have found Southside has higher prices on the products I regularly buy. At times I find the products at Cooper’s are limited to only a few brands. This is very annoying. The self-check outs are not quick because of the number of errors that can occur. I’ve been going to Cooper’s since they opened in the mall. Some of the changes have been good and some not.

  5. Leslie Savage says:

    Wow. Thanks very much every one for your input. I have not been able to answer each letter individually, but some points I should make:
    1. Re the price list addition: the first publication of the list was incomplete, due to Internet connectivity issues. My apologies for the confusion. The new list is now up and I hope that sorts things out.
    2. Our intent in publishing this list of food prices is not to undermine community spirit or to suggest people should not shop in town. Personally I really enjoy shopping at both Cooper’s and Southside and would tear my hair out if they closed up shop. OF COURSE we should shop locally–my intent in doing this is to try to move local grocers to lower their prices to comparable rates so that no-one leaves town for groceries.
    3. It is, however, my purpose to ask this question: why does the price of a standard, comparable item such as Kraft Dinner vary so much across 4 stores. I’m hoping to get a detailed answer from the grocery chains on this, but so far none has been forthcoming. The Overwaitea Communications Director suggested “bulk buys by some chains.” This hardly squares with the size of the various chains and their buying power–Overwaitea is one of the largest in BC and by that logic should have the lowest prices. If other chains, as Kathy points out, can maintain prices at equal levels across the Province, why not Overwaitea?
    Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to write,
    Leslie, Savage Delights

  6. Jonathan says:

    When you can shop out of town for groceries, pay for gas and lunch and still come out ahead $75 it’s worth it. The “suck it up” attitude is ignorant. Pay more if you want, I gladly go out of town.

  7. Kathy says:

    You’ve missed my point. Along with many other people in Revelstoke we decided a long time ago shopping in Revelstoke was far too expensive. I love this town and I love living here. Shopping is expensive here. FACT! Why are we being held over a barrel and told to shop here or else risk losing it? Thats blackmail! Yes, I agreed with you, they do a lot for the community, but with all the higher prices they charge, they have more than enough money to beable to do that! Other companies through out Revelstoke also do a lot for the community, Tim Hortons for example do vast amounts for this community , but they dont charge extra. They charge the same as any other Timmy’s. Home Hardware, Rona, A&W, and all other national companies are the same. Local construction companies & local builders are always doing so much for this community, VicVan Isle, RER, even Rotary give so much back to us, yet why should our basic right to able to put fresh food on our tables cost more here?

    This is obviously something that will go on and on and on. I am glad we all have different wonderful perspectives on life and values, thats what makes this town great! Its all well and good saying like it or lump it, but please dont tell me to “suck it up princess”. I cant afford to!

  8. Linda says:

    Kathy- if we all do like yourself and shop out of town for our “large” shop then we won’t have any stores left in Revelstoke to shop at and will be running to Salmon Arm for a quart of milk! I am sure that Coopers or Southside will not be able to stay open for those of us that only need a “few good bargains”.

  9. Kathy says:

    Susan, Christy, please dont think I am slamming our local community, I understand what you are saying and I have no doubt both supermarkets do an awful lot for this community, but that doesnt excuse higher than normal pricing for your everyday shopping. I use both stores on a regular basis and i do pick up a few good bargins along the way, but for my usual large shop I like to go out of town, I like to stop off after my shopping in Salmon Arm at the Barley Station for lunch. I like to go to Canadian Tire, Canadian Superstore etc, I like choice. Occasionally we will stop off at the hot pools after a busy day. Its all a matter of preference, for me, its good to get out of town everynow & again! ;o)

    Linda, owww, Lesley likes to keep us on our toes! ;o)

  10. Susan says:

    Christy, thanks for reminding everyone that we need to support the merchants of Revelstoke. If they don’t receive our support, we will all be forced to shop out of town. I personally don’t want to battle traffic on the Trans Canada for an hour or more so I can go shopping. I have better ways to spend my time!

  11. Christy says:

    Over the years I have heard so much hype about the grocery prices in Revelstoke, and how you can save so much more money when you take your business out of town.
    I am not writing to dispute any facts about prices, but I am writing just to remind the locals that maybe spending that extra money in Coopers or Southside is worth it.
    The next time you choose to complain about the prices of cereal of cheese ect…. let’s remember this, and yes it is a FACT!
    It is the local stores, whether it be Southside or Coopers, or any other local business here in Revelstoke that DONATE prizes, money and food, to our LOCAL charities, schools, sport teams, food banks, animal shelter , and and other fundraisers. They also donate the use of their store fronts, windows and even parking lots.
    So the next time your children have a fundraiser for school or their team,or you win one of the prizes from the ticket you bought from the kid down the street, lets try to remember that the prizes came from local businesses.

  12. Linda says:

    Thanks Kathy- but your list is apparently different than the one I had this morning- when I copied and pasted into Excel. The list seems to have changed again as the totals above don’t match either of our numbers.
    (I wish I had kept the list I had this morning).

  13. Kathy says:

    ….foot note:

    I meant to say I have had no problem with items being “out of date” at southside, meaning I have not seen any to worry about!
    Not that I take items that are out of date …if that makes sense!? ;o)

  14. Kathy says:

    I added up the columns and got a different total:-
    Safeway – $187.32
    Sicamous – $180.93
    Coopers – $201.73
    Southside – $190.95

    Cut and paste into an EXCEL spreadsheet and voila!
    Not sure, but in my reckoning out of town is cheaper still. Admittedly by not much, but i like shopping out of town. I prefer the choice. I like the convieniance of dropping off at Southside on my home from work if i need anything in particular. In all honesty I have no problem with “out of Date” items from Southside. I think as this side of town has expanded over the last couple of years more people frequent the store and the turn over is better on the shelves. Thats my opinion any way ;o)

  15. Linda says:

    I added up these columns and the totals are as follows:
    Safeway Salmon Arm $136.41
    Askews $126.62
    Coopers $124.80
    Southside $120.51
    Not sure where you get your percentages from? Looks like Coopers & Southside is cheaper than Salmon Arm & Sicamous?

  16. Jan says:

    Be sure to check dates at Southside while you’re checking prices!!! I’ve seen much worse than a little rust inside a dijon mustard jar.