Grocers get checked

*Price checks were conducted on Sunday, March 25 and don’t account for sales or discounts.
*Price checks were conducted on Sunday, March 25 and don’t account for sales or discounts.
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With the recent addition of the Grocery Checkout Fresh Market store in the Queen’s Centre, students can now buy groceries on campus. But does the closest store offer the best shopping experience? Grocery Checkout and student favourites Metro and John’s Deli were compared for selection, pricing and quality of food offered. Here’s how the grocers measured up.

Grocery Checkout

Despite a modest space, Grocery Checkout has managed to fit an impressive amount of food into the store.

For a small chain store operating on campus, the prices at Grocery Checkout are reasonable.

The highlight is undoubtedly the bulk food section located at the back of the store.
Chocolate-covered pretzels and loose-leaf teas are just a few options. Food sold in bulk offers students quick and cheap snack options, which works well for a store located in the Queen’s Centre.

Other snacks and prepared foods can also be found here. Veggies and dip, full salads and crackers and hummus are all available.

It’s obvious this store puts an emphasis on fresh food and steers away from non-perishables. Packaged foods such as crackers, cookies and canned soup are limited. For health reasons this may be a good thing, but non-perishable items are often essential for students on a budget.

The main constraint of this store is the limited selection of food. While they do make good use of their space, Grocery Checkout tends to only carry one brand of each item and lacks some necessities. When I was there, I wasn’t able to find two items on my shopping list — baby carrots and Oreos. If you’re looking for less common items or a specific brand of food, it’s best to shop at a larger store.

Metro

Because of its large size and relatively convenient location, Metro is the go-to option for many students living in the Student Ghetto. It remains popular, but Metro has without a doubt the most expensive prices.

Although high prices are usually a turn-off, Metro offers an extensive selection of food, especially when it comes to fresh produce.

As a vegetarian, I’m always interested in the selection of meat substitutes. Metro has by far the most extensive selection, with an entire shelf dedicated to meat alternative products such as tofu and tempeh. This can be a draw alone for those of us whose diet is largely composed of these items.

One thing Metro lacks is a bulk food section. The same types of food usually offered in bulk can be found pre-packaged, but at steeper prices compared to Grocery Checkout. Pre-packaging also doesn’t allow a student to decide the quantity of food they purchase. A store as large as Metro could easily add a bulk section, which would make these popular foods more financially accessible.

Considering Metro is a national chain, it’s not surprising it has the best selection. For those who prefer to buy all their groceries at once, this may be the best shopping experience.

John's Deli

John’s Delicatessen and Meat Market, known as John’s Deli, is located on Princess Street between University Avenue and Alfred Street. It’s a bit farther from campus than Metro, but has major advantages for grocery shopping.

The bulk food section at John’s is quite impressive. It offers more than the typical bulk foods like dried fruit, nuts and trail mix. Some of the items offered in bulk are tailored towards alternative diets. Wheat alternatives such as spelt flour and potato flour are offered for those who require gluten-free food.

John’s also has more local and organic options than Metro and Grocery Checkout. They have a selection of bread, baked goods and soups from local Kingston companies, and a wide selection of organic products.

The one drawback of John’s is that it offers little frozen food selection. Outside of this, I would highly recommend John’s for its reasonable prices and wide selection of fresh food.

After visiting all three stores, John’s Deli appears to be the perfect compromise. It balances variety with prices. Because it’s an independent store, you’re also able to support the community by buying local products. Although it’s a farther walk from campus, shopping at John’s is worth the extra effort.

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