A food basket comparison, itemized below, shows that Revelstoke shoppers are paying up to 34% more for food at local grocery stores than we would if we lived in Vernon.
That’s a lot of cash. The same food basket that costs $203 in Vernon costs $274 at Cooper’s and $256 at Southside. If the basket lasts ten days that’s $213 extra a month out of your pocket. Even if you pay $35 a trip in gas to get to Vernon, that’s still $108 more in your pocket at the end of the month. No wonder so many folks shop out of town.
Our food basket is roughly intended for a family of two adults and two or three school-aged children, to last about ten days. It has little in the way of snack foods, prepared foods, pop or desserts, and is meant as an example, not a prescription.
Comparisons are odious because it’s so hard to make them exact. Organic milk was unavailable at Southside, for instance, after I had already collected the data from Sicamous and Vernon on Saturday, so I used Dutchman Dairy milk, but it’s less costly than organic. Much produce comes from the USA, so the list swings dizzily between kilos and pounds. And brands do differ — I like President’s Choice at Superstore, though Western Family is often high on the list of foods with no preservatives and less sodium than most.
Plus packaging gets in the way: rice at Cooper’s and Southside comes in 2 lb. packs, whereas at Askew’s and Superstore it’s in smaller amounts. The same is true of red wine vinegar. Costs are adjusted for size. Quality differs too. The romaine lettuce at Superstore was enormous and super fresh, it was big and leafy at Cooper’s, small at Askew’s and okay at Southwide. Cooper’s russet potatoes were terrific, big and plump, whereas some others weren’t. Avocados and pineapples also vary greatly in size and quality. Who knows whether the olive oil is made from olives, and Southside had only frozen fish, which doesn’t bother me (probably preferable) but fresh is certainly higher cost, and raised the basket cost in the other three stores.
It’s not news to you that food costs more here.
My question is why? Yes, delivery costs are slightly higher. But Askew’s in Sicamous can put together the same basket for $249 that costs $274 at Cooper’s. We’re only 45 minutes further along the highway — maybe $10 in transport costs. Why are strawberries and Kraft Dinner double the price in Revelstoke that they are at Superstore in Vernon? Why is Kicking Horse coffee $2 a pound more here than there? Breyer’s ice cream is $7.68 at Askew’s and a whopping $8.95 at Southside. Why?
No wonder people shop out of town. But it’s devastating for other merchants too: if someone goes regularly to Vernon for groceries, chances are they’ll do their other shopping at Walmart, Home Depot, London Drug and the Bay while they’re there. If we expect local stores to stay in business for the occasions when we do need them, we need to support them.
Grocery prices are the key to a vibrant local economy. But for those without a vehicle who are stuck with Revy prices, grocery costs are an example of how rural residents suffer from price gouging.
I challenge Cooper’s and Southside to match even Askew’s prices, if not Superstore. We’ll do another comparison in three months.
Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and let me know where you shop, and why.