Food & Shopping

Food and other items in Kingston may not be the same as in your home country. Find more information on shopping and understanding your rights as a consumer.

Things to Know Before You Go Shopping


Products in stores will have prices marked on the display or the products themselves. It is not customary to negotiate the price of goods in stores.


Most goods and services in Ontario are taxed at 13%, known as the Harmonized Sales Tax or HST. So, if you purchase something that is listed as $20, you will actually pay $22.60.  For a list of what items are and aren’t taxed, visit the Government of Ontario website.

Hidden Costs of Shopping

Many people will search for the lowest sticker/display price possible in order to save money.  When you do this, please remember that there are hidden costs to shopping, some of these include transportation and time.

  • For example, you find a shirt at a store you can walk to for $10 but another store that is a bus ride away has it for $8. The cost of the bus ride is $2. The actual cost of the cheaper t-shirt is $10 (cost + travel). So what appeared to be a better deal actually cost you the same amount, plus the added time of travel.

Have a Question about a Product?

  • Ask a store employee. They are great sources of information, and will be happy to help you. The internet is also a good place to research items or stores

  • Certain types of food may not be available in Canada
  • Keep in mind that the names of foods may be different from country to country. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, try searching for it online to see if it has a different name in Canada or describe it to a store employee, as it may be packaged differently
  • Foods which are easily available in your country may not be available in Kingston
  • If you cannot find something that you eat frequently in your country, ask people you have met from your cultural community what they use

Tips for Shopping for Food on a Budget

The cost of food may be higher than in your home country – be sure that you are creating a realistic budget. Try these food-specific shopping tips to stay on budget:

  • Price matching Ask about a store's price-matching policy – some stores have one and others may not. If they have it, show the store you are at the lower priced item from the other store’s ad or website and ask them to match it
  • Price guarantee – if the item you purchased goes on sale within a certain number of days, you can take your receipt back to the store for a price adjustment.  Again, not all stores will offer this
  • Make a list – when living on a budget, it is a good idea to shop with a list of what you need. This helps limit your impulse buying
  • Check store flyers – each week, stores will release flyers that show their specials for the week. Very often, a common item will go on sale once every few weeks: if you need to buy something which costs a considerable amount, try waiting until you see it on sale
  • Take a calculator – this will help you determine if buying a smaller or larger amount is more cost effective. The calculator will also help you keep track of how much you are spending so you aren’t surprised when you get to the check-out
  • Bring your own bags – stores in Canada charge between $0.05–$0.10 for each plastic bag and more for reusable bags. To save money, purchase reusable bags early that you can use all of the time 
  • Don’t shop when hungry – if you go shopping for food when you are hungry, you may spend more money and buy more things than you meant to. Making a list will help with this. Have a snack before you go shopping for groceries, so you are less tempted by items not on your list
  • Buy in-season fruits and vegetables – Canada has a northern climate and therefore a very short growing season. This means that during August, September, and October, fresh food grown in Canada is abundant and cheap. After this, during the winter months, fruits and vegetables must be imported from the United States and Central America. In winter, fruit juices and frozen vegetables/fruit can be used in your meals instead, as they are less expensive and of equal nutritional value
  • Pre-packaged meals are a treat and not a staple – most Canadians eat instant or ready-to-serve food only occasionally. Although the packaging on these foods is highly attractive, be aware of the nutrient value is lower and the cost is higher than making your own meals

For a variety of reasons, you may find that you are experiencing food insecurity. Food insecurity occurs when you are not able to access healthy food for yourself or your family, most often caused by a lack of access to money, or to situations beyond your control. If you find you are experiencing food insecurity, please connect with an International Student Advisor. 

  • Short-term solutions to food insecurity are provided by local food banks
  • Long-term solutions may require additional supports, which an International Student Advisor can assist with
  • Check out Student Affair's site for a comprehensive list of Food Access Resources both on campus and in the Kingston community

Food Banks

Through donations of food or money, local food banks can provide you with food items to assist you in the short term. Some food banks require that people are referred by an agency. 

  • AMS Food Bank – The Alma Mater Society (AMS) at Queen’s runs a food bank where non-perishable food items can be picked up free of charge. Your comfort and confidentiality are ensured. For more information, contact the Food Bank Co-ordinator
  • The Partners in Mission Food Bank in Kingston will supply a week’s groceries to a family who really needs it

Places to Shop

Not sure where to go? Ask other students where they shop! Fellow students are a great resource in learning where to shop in Kingston, or where to find certain foods. You can also use the internet to find out when stores are open, where they are located, and what products they have. 

Many shops are found along Princess Street or in malls (a large building with many stores), sometimes called shopping centres. In Kingston, there are many different of stores which sell goods of varying types, quality, and price. Learn about some different types of stores below: 

Secondhand Stores

  • Sell used clothes, furniture, houseware, etc.
  • Low price, little variety, old styles and modern styles
  • Check the quality carefully before you buy the item
  • You can find many secondhand stores in Kingston online

Garage Sales, Yard Sales, Flea Markets, or Rummage Sales

  • Sales of this kind are usually in the spring and summer in front of homes or apartments and are very visible from the street
  • They occur at people’s homes where the owners have looked through all their possessions and have decided to sell the items they no longer want
  • You can often find items for very low prices (you may be able to bargain here), but there may not be a wide variety, and you may find a mix of old and modern items
  • Check quality carefully before buying, as the sellers seldom accept returns or refunds
  • To find out where and when a garage sale is happening, look at the last few pages (known as the classified ads) of the Kingston Whig Standard and Kingston This Week newspapers, or on signs posted on bulletin boards or in your neighbourhood
    • Find the street on a map of Kingston and walk, ride, or drive to the sale; if a phone number is posted, you can call and ask for directions
    • Be sure you are able to transport any items you purchase back to your home

Dollar Stores

  • Prices are low at dollar stores – everything is usually under $5
  • You can find a variety of household items, stationery, toys, and more
  • Items may be low quality
  • Find dollar stores in Kingston

Discount Department Stores

  • Prices are relatively low at these stores
  • There is a wide variety of items, and you can find almost anything

Specialty Stores

  • Stores that sell only one thing (such as clothing, shoes, or furniture)
  • The salespeople are very knowledgeable about the items they are selling
  • Items at these stores are usually more expensive than in discount stores
  • Clothing stores are mainly in malls, but there are some downtown
  • Furniture stores are generally located in the west end of Kingston


  • Look for notices from students who are leaving Kingston and are selling their furniture and appliances cheaply
  • The internet can be an easy and effective way to buy and sell used furniture and household items:
    • There are several student-run Facebook groups where you can sell and buy used furniture and household items within the Queen’s community. Some items are offered for free
    • Other sites, not affiliated with Queen’s, are available to buy and sell used goods, and include Kijiji and Craigslist 
  • Items listed may not be exactly as advertised, so be careful when making deals online

Grocery Stores

Canada has many "big box" stores. The ones that sell food are called “grocery stores.”  It is typical that people will go to the grocery store once a week to purchase all the food that they will need for the week. Each grocery store will publish a weekly flyer that lists the specials for that week. 

Each Grocery Store is organized similarly:

  • Outside walls – fruits, vegetables, meats, cheese, milk, and eggs
  • Aisles in centre – toiletries, dry goods, frozen food
  • Some grocery stores sell only food, while others sell a wide variety of goods

There are many grocery stores located in Kingston. Use the store locator function on their website or Google Maps to find one closest to you.

Bulk Food Stores

In bulk food stores, food is not pre-packaged, and you select the quantity you would like to purchase. Price is determined by the weight; you should take your own containers with you and get them weighed before you start shopping. Bulk food shopping can be more economical than buying pre-packaged items. You will most often find dry goods in bulk food stores or sections (grains, candies, spices etc.). Find bulk food stores in Kingston.

Health Food Stores

Health food stores contain food considered by many North Americans to be better for you. Find health food stores in Kingston.

  • They generally do not contain certain preservatives, artificial colours and flavours, and are often organic or fair trade 
  • Some of it is produced organically and/or without hurting animals
  • Health food stores sell food for vegetarians and other alternative diets and a variety of foods from other countries


Bakeries are a great place to buy fresh baked bread, bagels, pastries, and more.  Many also offer lunch and breakfast options. Here are a few of the bakeries in Kingston.


Butchers offer a larger selection of meats than grocery stores. They often sell cheese as well.

Farmer’s Markets

Local farmers often set up outdoor stalls downtown and elsewhere to sell their goods. The items that are sold vary based on the season, but usually include fresh vegetables, fruits, cheese, meats, maple syrup, and baked goods.

Regional specialty stores offer food and products from specific regions around the world. Missing a special spice, sweet, or dish? Try visiting one of the specialty stores, they may have what you’re looking for! Ask other students for recommendations.

Check out this list of grocery tips from the Yellow House.

South Asian and Middle Eastern

  • Quattrocchi’s Specialty Foods – has many different spices and vegetables that are especially good for Middle Eastern and South Asian recipes


  • Golden Rooster Deli – specializes in European Food, with many items imported from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Holland
  • Cooke’s Fine Foods – mainly foods from Britain and some from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Scotland, and Denmark
  • Baltic Deli – specializes in food from Eastern Europe, with a large selection of meats and goods from Poland


  • BV Buy Asian Groceries – a convenience store that sells some Asian food items
  • Kingston Asian Super  – sells frozen Asian meals, seafood, noodles, meat, and packaged Asian food items