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Food and Grocery Shopping

What is a Grocery Store?

Grocery carts

Canada has many big “box” stores and the ones that sell food we call “Grocery Stores”.  It is typically that people will go to the Grocery Store once a week and purchase all of the food that they will need for the week.  Each Grocery Store will publish a weekly flyer that lists of the specials for that week. 

Each Grocery Store is organized in similar ways:

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 – such as Walmart.

What to know before you go shopping

Make a List

When living on a budget, it is a good idea to make a list of what you need.  This helps to ensure that you limit your impulse buying.

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.


Check the store sale flyers to see what is on sale that week or if there are any discount coupons.  Each week stores will release flyers that show their specials for the week.

Take a calculator

This will help you to determine if buying a smaller or larger amount is more cost effective.  The calculator will also help you to 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 bag that you need.  To save money, purchase a reusable bag or keep a reusable bag that you may have gotten previously to use when shopping.

Ask Students

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. 

Buying 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 vegetable/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 and the cost (usually quite expensive).

Where can I buy food?

Grocery Stores

Here are some of the Grocery Stores located in Kingston, use the store locator function on their website to find one close to you:

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. 
Dry goods are most commonly found in bulk food stores/sections (grains, candies, spices etc.).

Health Food Stores

Food considered by many North Americans to be better for you because:

  • It generally does not contain certain preservatives, artificial colours and flavours or other chemicals or ingredients which many people have allergies to.
  • 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, etc.  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.

Regional Specialty Stores

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.

South Asian and Middle Eastern

Quattrocchi’s Specialty Foods has many different spices and vegetable-especially good for Middle Eastern and Far East Foods


Golden Rooster Deli – specializes in European Food – 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. Large selection of meats and goods from Poland;


Asian Market – specializes in Oriental Foods

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

Farmer’s Market

Local farmers set up outside-stalls and the items sold depend very much on the season, but usually fresh vegetables, fruits, cheese, meats, maple syrup and baked goods are sold.

I can’t afford to purchase food this week, what can I do?

For reasons beyond your control, 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 this may be caused by a lack of access to money, due to situations beyond your control.  If you find you are experiencing food insecurity, please come and speak to an International Student Advisor. 

Short term solutions to food insecurity are provided by local food banks but long-term solutions may require additional supports which an International Student Advisor can assist with. 

Food Banks – through donations of food or money local food banks can provide members of the community with food items to assist them in the short term.  Some Food Banks will 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.