Calgary: Should Save-On Foods Be Your New Go-To Store?

Calgary: Should Save-On Foods Be Your New Go-To Store?

Calgary: Should Save-On Foods Be Your New Go-To Store?

Do you get excited about a new grocery store?  I do! (Weird, right?) So when a Save-On-Foods finally opened up nearby last week, I zipped right over checked it out. (The new store is at 8855 Macleod Trail S.W, just south of Heritage Drive, right across from the Calgary Co-op.)

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Many Calgarians are not familiar with Save-On-Foods, as they opened their first three stores in 2013 in the far corners of the city — Seton, Panorama, and Walden. However, outside of Calgary, Save-On-Foods operates over 140 stores in Alberta and British Columbia.

They promise the quality products and service level of stores like Co-op and Sobeys with lower prices. Do they deliver?

Here’s what I liked about it:

  • Beautiful deli – They have a wide variety of meats and cheeses, as well as fresh, attractive grab-and-go options, similar to Co-op. This would be a great place to stop in for lunch or to pick up dinner if you’re not in the mood to cook.

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  • Huge bulk section – How fun is this?

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  • Good natural foods and organic selection – If you’re looking for specialty items like quinoa (several kinds), amaranth, or gluten-free foods, they have a wide selection.

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  • Location – The west side of Macleod Trail makes this an easy stop on the way home for many Calgarians who live in the South.
  • Good service – They’ll bag your groceries and offer to carry them to the car, similar to Sobeys, Co-op, and Safeway, and a notch above Superstore. Friendly staff were easy to find throughout the store, and on a Saturday afternoon, it was crowded, but not crazy. Then again, it just opened.
  • Free dietitian-led store tours – As far as I know, Save-On is the only chain offering this service in Alberta. If you’re interested, call the pharmacy.
  • Free wifi – A bonus for mobile addicts.

However, as interesting as it was to check out the Save-On, I’ll probably continue to do most of my shopping at Superstore because of:

  • Healthier packaged foods: Save-On doesn’t have anything like Superstore’s PC Blue Menu product line, which is generally lower in sodium, saturated fat, and/or sugar than comparable products. I rely on it for low-cost no-salt-added canned beans and tomatoes, breakfast cereal, and frozen battered fish, to name a few.
  • Organic and natural foods – Big selection like Save-On, but with lower prices. See below.
  • A big selection of non-food items – When you’re a busy parent, you learn why the term “one-stop shopping” became popular. If you need printer paper or a replacement lunchbag, it’s a blessing not to drag bored kids to another store.
  • Point-of-purchase nutrition guidance: Superstore has the Guiding Stars program, which evaluates the healthfulness of a product using specific criteria and gives it one, two, or three stars, which are on the shelf next to the price. It’s a simple tool for quickly choosing items like crackers and pasta sauce.
  • Lower prices: Save-On has a “Low-Price Guarantee,” but I’d say they still don’t match Superstore. Here’s why:
    • The guarantee promises that they compare 850 commonly purchased items and offer the lowest prices on those, and that if you bring them a current flyer, they’ll match the prices. That sounds good, but keep in mind that the average grocery store carries over 43,000 items. What they lose on those 850 items, they can make up on the rest.
    • CTV Calgary checks grocery prices monthly, and Superstore comes out lowest more often than any other chain. (However, they don’t yet include Save-On.)
    • Save-On doesn’t have unit pricing on the shelf tags, which makes it harder to compare between brands.
    • Finally, I compared the prices of nine items I bought there and also at Superstore earlier the same week, Superstore was the clear winner (see below).

Price Comparison – lower price in green

Item Size Save-On Superstore
Rabbit River Organic Eggs 1 dozen $8.09 * $6.59 
So Good Soy Milk 2 L $4.99 $7.00 for 2 *
Store Brand Cheddar Cheese /100g $1.13 $0.99 *
Store Brand Frozen Fruit 600g $5.99 $4.97
Cherry Tomatoes 1 pint $2.50 * $3.48
Organic Bananas /kg $2.62 $2.09
Tomatoes /kg $4.39 $4.34
Dark Chocolate 100g $1.19 * $3.48
Organic Strawberries 454g $6.49 $3.98

* sale – requires loyalty card at Save-On but not at Superstore

If you’re looking to try something new and different, check this store out. It’s a fun place to shop. If you’re single and you don’t cook much, you may like their prepared foods. But if you want the lowest possible grocery bill, you should stick with Superstore.

Note: I have no affiliation with any grocery retailer. These are just my opinions.

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