Shopping in Vancouver is expensive with some areas even more expensive. An additional burden is that large number of places charge for parking too. Best bet is to take the bus and shop lightly! 12% harmonized sales tax would be charged to many items with some mystery around certain foods which are tax free. Taxable items on store receipts are marked with an “H”. Only some foods are tax exempt – everything else, including online shopping, is taxable according to provincial law.

Daily grocery needs can be served by stores such as SaveOnFoods and Safeway. An excellent less pricey alternative is President’s Choice which is sold in Great Canadian Super Stores and Walmart Supercenter. These last two would save you money and will not charge for parking – they are worth the weekly or monthly trip. Costco is another discount store – it requires a membership which typically costs about fifty Canadian dollars per year. Items are sold in wholesale packaging – buying just one toothpaste might be challenging while a pack of three is easy! Borrow someone’s club card before you go in.

Relevant to the shopping category are also smaller stores which carry a variety of fruits and veggies plus every other imaginable item whose prices often compete with their larger counterparts. Greens and Whole Foods have arguably the best food quality yet their price tags are as high as the business buildings in downtown Vancouver.

Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs are club memberships in some stores. Typically they are free (except for Cosco) and allow you to shop at the lower price tag displayed on items which are on sale. Sale items change weekly so your favorite cheddar cheese might be a dollar off this week and go back to regular in the next seven days.

Save on Food seems to have the easiest and most straight-forward loyalty program. To get one, ask at their customer service desk – they give you a couple of small bar-code cards right away. One of them nicely attaches to a key-chain and has to be scanned when shopping. Grocery stores also mention that if you ever lost your keys and a good Samaritan found them and took them to the store where you have a membership, the store will then make a reasonable effort and call the phone number on file.

Safeway’s membership cards are also good. They do not have the small one for key chains – instead they can look up a membership at the cash register by phone number – this takes several weeks to become active. At first, the larger card has to be presented for discounts to apply. A nice way out here is to learn the phone number of a friend with an active membership and avoid carrying the card around at all times. Depending on how you shop, membership cards can save between 10 and 20 percent of the total order.