Blog Post: Produce, Produce. Where art thou cheap produce?

Eating well on a tight budget - in Vancouver

The life of a student in a few words: over stressed, over budget and overly complicated.
Like much of my life even the simplest things like “Going to the Supermarket” has become stressful for me.  I used to really enjoy going to the grocery store with my mom, it was fun we’d pick out all the things we needed until I realized that I had to use my own money when I moved out of home. 

Trying to be an eco-friendly person gets me to go over my budget at the grocery store every time I go.  Do I really want to buy organic bananas at a store that cost WAY more than normal ones?  Do I really want to buy locally grown fruits and vegetables over regular ones that are cheaper? Eggs? Milk?  Ohh… decisions decisions. 
Words cannot even explain how living in Vancouver has affected my finances.  It is one of the most expensive places to live in the world!!  “WAIT… WHAT?!?!?”  Yes people, it is true.  According to Business Weekly, Vancouver is the most expensive city in North American and is ranked 21st in the world! Let the number speak for themselves……

Difficult decisions can not only be found in university classrooms, but the supermarket is filled with them too.  What milk should I buy? What is cheaper? What would help the environment?    Should I go over my budget and make the world a better place?! Or should I buy produced food and keep my pocket happy?   

WHY NOT BOTH?!                                                                                                                                                       

One of the main reasons why students do not follow a sustainable life style is because it’s way too expensive.  Students live around a very tight budget and can’t afford things that can make the world a better and greener place (believe me, I would know).  I can’t count the times where I have gone over budget because of something eco-friendly I’ve bought and then say to myself, “Oh well, I guess I’ll have to live off of this for a month (or at least until my next trip to the grocery store, which is not anytime soon)”. 

I’ve come up with a number of effective solutions that will keep you under budget and keep the world green.    My mother is a blood hound when it comes to finding good deals, which is something I inherited. No student has the time or money to install solar panel in their house and pop a wind turbine in the garden, but the idea that living sustainably is expensive is a common misconception.

So here are a few tips to help you find high quality food at inexpensive prices.

TIP #1 - Buy local. By giving the Big Box & chain stores “a miss”… You can save big dough on your food by going right around the corner to a number of local vendors, and help to keep dollars and people employed in your community.

Sunrise Markets on 300 Powell St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1G4 is a perfect example.  It is a very good place to shop for produce.  After shopping here, I don't know how I could ever go back to the big-box zombieland experience. There is no lame holiday music playing during that dreaded end-of-the-year season, there is no person in an apron and nametag asking customers if they've found everything they're looking for. We're all here for the same reason: to buy cheap, good food. Period. 
Who knew that in the city where homes cost up to 95 million dollars? you would find produce this ridiculously cheap.  $1 for a piece of 3lb winter melon that can be enough to make multiple pots of soup and a ten person hotpot meal!

$1 watermelons? 50 cents for a pound of red/yellow peppers? 2 LARGE bags of garlic for $1? This place is absolutely insane.

HOWEVER, you must have time and patience to dig through the boxes or even go around the corner in the other box to get quality produce.  But come on, who are we kidding here, we are students and we need to keep our expenses low.

West Valley Market at 1156 Bute Street, Vancouver, BC V6E 1Z6 is another excellent place to buy your produce.  Yes, I am a fan. This place has the cheapest produce ever! The colourful peppers and squash, crunchy enoki mushrooms and bean sprouts, the exotic pineapples and papayas.  Fresh and well-priced fruits and veggies are enough to make anyone visit!

Instead of debating the merits of wines and spirits across the street at the Liquor Store. 

Now, this is all fine and swell.  But what about those folks down by the West-Side, my UBC peeps.  Well, don’t fret friends.  Sprouts is a 100% student and volunteer run grocery store and cafe located in the basement of the student union building at the University of British Columbia.  They not only sell yummy prepared food, but it’s really cheap too! 
If you want stick with grocery store quality, every Friday, they serve lunch by donation.  It starts at 11:30pm but you should line up at around 11 because lines get long. 
As well, Monday-Thursday snacks are available for really cheap and you can get a 16 ounces container filled up with soup and a piece of bread for $3.75.

UBC FARM ( and
As well, you don’t have to go far to go local.  The UBC Farm’s markets are “an important venue for community engagement and are the primary avenue through which UBC Farm produce is sold. The farm offers two weekly markets from early June through mid-October, as well as occasional farm gate sales during the shoulder seasons”.  Every Saturday from June-October at 9:00am-1:00pm, UBC farm sells their produce right at the farm.  If you are too lazy to come on our Saturday, you can also get your produce every Wednesday of June-October at 11:30am-1:30pm, on the corner of East Mall and Agricultural Road, outside of IK Barber Library. For more information:

Go out.  Investigate.  Stop going to major grocery store chains for produce.  Expand your horizons and see what is out there.  You will be amazed at the magnificent, cheap, good quality produce you can find.



I have to agree on you. When big box companies decide to "go green", they do it more so for the greens of their money than for the greens of the environment. Your examples of not just UBC Farm but also other affordable grocery stores has provided an important solution and answer to the expenses that people have to pay to live in Vancouver. 

commented by Vincent Wong on 2013-03-17 16:17:50

I am also constantly on the hunt for cheap produce. Surprisingly, the chain Kin's Farm Market usually has pretty good prices, local produce, an organic section, AND a reduced section (great for smoothies!)

commented by asinger on 2013-03-17 19:20:17

Andrea, thank you for your awesome recommendations. 

I think one of the most important thing you pointed out is the difficulty for students to more sustainably. While many of us recognize the importance of living a greener life the cost of doing so usually deters  many of us. Organic products tend to be super expensive at the super market in my neighborhood!  So, thanks for letting me know all those places that provide affordable groceries whilst putting me on the road to a more sustainable lifestyle.

PS. I loved the gifs! 

commented by jkwok on 2013-03-27 12:15:49

LOVE this post-such a good idea.. especially now that it's getting close to the end of the semester... AKA the time of year you're too poor to buy anything so you live off of canned salmon, a bag of rice and frozen vegetables.

My mother is also a "bargain bloodhound" so I too am always on the look out for cheap anything...

Two Kitsilano stores to add to the list:

1.Persia Foods 

-Bulk food is really cheap compared to Safeway (especially the raw almonds)
-They sell a really good non-GMO smoked tofu that I'm a little bit obsessed with.
-They also carry almond milk yogurt (which is actually really good)
-better prices on vegetables compared to New Apple

2. The New Apple Farm Market

-10% off on Wednesdays if you spend more than $20.
-The place to go for fruit, especially apples
-they have a "reduced" section at the front of the store, near the cash registers, underneath the gum/candy

commented by beatty1 on 2013-04-4 18:51:08

Budgeting is ideal for moms who are very aware of what they spent. Healthy living means a lot for their kids, especially on what they eat. Eating more organic food is better and safe but it can be pricey too. One solution maybe using and acquiriing Coupons ( e.g. ) to better save big money when shopping for grocery.

commented by john lee on 2015-01-8 05:35:47