Moving to a new country opens up a whole new world of culinary possibilities. Once you’ve tried Montréal’s top three iconic dishes (poutine, sesame bagels and smoked meat!), stocking your fridge will probably be next on your list. To help you find your way around, here’s all you need to know about the different food markets in the city.
How does grocery shopping work in Montréal?
Whether you’re looking for a baguette, a bunch of bananas or anything in between, let’s break down the basics of grocery shopping in Montréal.
Useful things to know about Québec grocery stores
Most grocery stores in Québec are open seven days a week, including Sundays. Opening hours can vary from store to store and some markets are even open 24 hours a day.
When you get to the checkout, the cashier will ask if you have your own shopping bags. Reusable bags are the norm now, so if you didn’t bring your own along, you’ll be able to buy some. In most supermarkets, a clerk will be there to pack up your food so you can take a little breather after all that shopping!
Loyalty cards and payment
Most stores will ask whether you have a points card (otherwise known as a loyalty card), which you can use to collect points for different rewards depending on the store and type of card. Be sure to ask for a loyalty card to make the most of rewards and discounts next time you go shopping.
When it comes time to pay, the cashier will ask if you’d like to pay by debit or credit. A debit card is used to make transactions with your chequing account, while a credit card allows you to make purchases with funds borrowed from the bank.
Read our article on the Québec banking system to learn more.
The many ways to stock up on food in Montréal
The hardest thing about grocery shopping in Montréal? There are so many options to choose from! Here are a few of the different places you can stock up on food—which is so good in Montréal, it’ll convince you to stay for good!
Neighbourhood grocery stores, steps from home
Some neighbourhoods have more grocery stores per square foot than fire hydrants! A major part of the Montréal way of life, these small local shops are never far from home.
Beyond the everyday staples like apples and bananas, you can find everything you need here for a full meal: meat and deli meat, dairy products and eggs, fruits, veggies, spices, pasta, desserts, prepared meals and specialty items. Feeling a last-minute Sunday brunch? Throw on your PJs and running shoes and run to the store, no one will judge! And if you become a regular, you’re sure to make friends with the salespeople in these small, friendly shops with a true neighbourhood vibe.
Local convenience stores (a.k.a. dépanneurs)
Convenience stores, known as dépanneurs in Québec, really live up to their name. Craving chocolate cake at 11 p.m.? No problem! You can find all the ingredients you need a few steps from home without having to wait till morning. Convenience stores stay open later than other grocery stores and you can usually find everything you need. A quick and convenient solution when you run out of toilet paper or your roommate takes the last slice of bread without telling you!
Public markets, for a taste of local cuisine
Craving fresh-picked fruits and veggies? Greater Montréal’s public markets have you covered. This is where you come to find fresh, seasonal produce straight from local farms, with everything from strawberries and mushrooms to maple syrup and plants of every kind, available all year round. From the first sunny days of spring to the harvest in October, Jean-Talon Market, Atwater Market and many others set up outdoor stalls so you can soak up the sun while sampling the best of Québec cuisine.
To serve people faster, most merchants only accept cash. So plan ahead and be sure to bring your wallet.
A spotlight on local favourites
You’ve heard of the Olympic Stadium and Mont-Royal, but how about Segal grocery store? A landmark in Montréal and loved by students, this iconic shop sells everything from fruits and veggies to organic and vegan products and just about anything you can eat—all at ridiculously low prices! If you go during rush hour, prepare to wait in line. And try to bring your own reusable shopping bags or you’ll have to pack everything up in a box.
If you live in Mile End, near Concordia University or in Laval, you’re in luck: all of these locations are home to P.A. supermarket, the place to go for fresh, affordable groceries. With three popular stores located on Parc Avenue, du Fort Street and Samson Boulevard, this friendly neighbourhood grocery store offers quality, healthy and delicious produce without the hefty bill.
Zero-waste grocery stores, to do your part for the planet
If you see someone carrying a bag full of Mason jars in Montréal, they may not be planning to cook 20 litres of tomato sauce… they’re probably buying in bulk.
Zero-waste stores are becoming a popular staple in the city. And they’re doing a great job of helping reduce Montréal’s environmental footprint by supplying local, package-free products. When you shop at these stores, not only are you doing your part for the planet, but you can purchase only as much product as you need to reduce waste—everything from chocolate and spices to natural soaps, toilet paper, shampoo and even pet food.
Since the mission of these companies is to reduce food waste, many of them turn products they couldn’t sell in time into fresh, healthy meals. The day after Halloween, you can take in your pumpkin and leave with free pumpkin cookies. And if you forget your reusable bag at home or on the subway, don’t panic! Zero-waste stores sell all kinds of containers, as well as products in reusable containers.
You can find zero waste stores in nearly every neighbourhood. Keep an eye out as new spots are springing up all the time.
Rachelle Béry, for all things organic
More than 30 years ago now, at the corner of Rachel and Berri streets in the Plateau, Rachelle Béry opened its doors, marking the first ever organic and natural produce store to open in Montréal. The popular store quickly expanded, with locations all across the city and province, where shoppers flock for products that are free from chemical preservatives, additives, artificial flavours and colouring agents. In addition to its comprehensive line of food products, it also has a section dedicated to natural care and beauty products.
The big supermarket chains
Why run around the city trying to prep for paella night when you can find all the ingredients you need under one roof? The big draw of supermarkets in Montréal is that you’re spoiled for choice and can always find everything you need, no matter how long your shopping list.
Metro and IGA, two of the most popular supermarkets in Québec, have locations all over the province and offer fresh, local and artisanal products. Looking for a wide range of food items at very competitive prices? Head to Maxi or Super C supermarkets, especially if you want to buy in bulk.
Some supermarkets earn their super name as they stock everything from A to Z. At Costco, Walmart and some Provigo Le Marché (formerly Loblaws) stores, you can find food for dinner, clothing, entertainment and even new furniture. If you’re planning to go, make sure to make room in your car and your fridge, and give yourself more than half an hour to shop!
Prices can vary between stores from week to week, so be sure to visit flipp.com to compare weekly specials and discounts.
And that wraps up our beginner’s guide to grocery shopping in Greater Montréal. While you’re exploring the city, don’t hesitate to stop in and check out any other shops that catch your eye.
And if you’re missing a taste of home, you can take your pick of specialty grocery stores in the city, whether you’re looking for the flavours of Italy (Fruiterie Milano), the Middle East (Adonis), Europe (Gourmet Laurier and La Vieille Europe) or anywhere else in the world.