This Canadian woman says she saves $80 per trip buying groceries in the U.S. – news today

  • September 6, 2023

In a TikTok video, Brandi Dustin compares the costs of items at home in B.C. and in Montana

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A Canadian woman who travels to the United States for her groceries says she is saving as much as $80 per shopping trip for food and alcohol.

Brandi Dustin, who says she lives about five minutes north of the 49th, posted a video from her TikTok account @kade1613 with a caption that reads, “Grocery prices in Canada have become crazy, so I go to the states to shop.”

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From her home in southern British Columbia, where the nearest grocery store is a 45-minute drive, she heads south to Eureka, Mont., to Watson’s Market, which is 15 minutes from her home. Dustin says she’s been making the trip since 2018.

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“I’ve been going as long as that on a weekly basis,” Dustin told National Post. “Since the borders re-opened, I’ve been going down about three, four times a week.”

She recently purchased two bags of hotdog buns, two bags of shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, two bottles of children’s pain reliever, two tubs of cottage cheese, two boxes of Hamburger Helper, two boxes of waffles, two bags of Doritos, two bags of Chex Mix, pork chops, ground beef, pork sausage, alcohol and assorted produce.

“For some things there’s not really a difference,” Dustin said. “Dairy, meat is a great price down there. I’m saving on gas, too.”

“On average I’m saving $80 Canadian on every grocery trip.”

The total cost was US$85.04. That converts to about $116.

If she was going to buy those same groceries in Canada, it would have been around $160, according to a follow-up video that compares her grocery bill to the prices at a grocery store in B.C. That doesn’t include the alcohol, which largely isn’t available in Canadian grocery stores.

“Obviously, in Canada, prices have gone up. In the states, prices have definitely increased since 2020,” Dustin said.

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But she still gets value for her money on groceries and on gas.

In the video, Dustin says she bought two packs of hamburger buns for US$6; the Canadian price is $7. For two packs of shredded cheese, which cost US$6 total, the Canadian price was $13.98. A package of pork chops purchased for US$4.76, would have cost $12.71, while a large tray of ground beef, which was US$6.90, would have cost $16.19. In Canada, two boxes of Hamburger Helper were $6.38 total — they were just US$3 south of the border.

“I’m not telling everybody to go shop in the States, I’m just saying it works for my family, the prices here are insane,” said Dustin, who includes a number of political hashtags on her videos, including #justinflation, #trudeauneedstogo, #savecanada and #pierrepolievreforprimeminister.

Dustin’s story has resonated online. Her initial TikTok has more than 600,000 views.

“It’s been crazy, I didn’t expect it to blow up that much,” Dustin said. “It’s really making people in Canada realize — like they know how high our prices are — how much of a difference there actually is.”

Prices for food items are generally higher in small towns and rural areas. For Dustin, her nearest Walmart is one hour each way, and the grocer is in a tourist town, so prices are higher still.

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In British Columbia, the sales tax is 12 per cent. Montana, where she does her shopping, does not have a sales tax.

“They say support local but right now everyone is suffering hugely, we’re all trying to make it, and it is so much cheaper for me to go next door,” she says in a video.

In follow-up videos, Dustin explains that she tells border guards exactly what she’s going to the United States for and how much she spent when she returns.

“This doesn’t work for everyone where they are and for the prices, but it saves my family money,” says the caption in her most recent video.

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, said that food prices between Canada and the U.S. tend to be similar. Certainly, some items are more expensive here, such as dairy products, because of Canada’s supply management system or alcohol, because of Canada’s higher sin taxes.

But not everything is cheaper down south.

“You have to be focused and you have to do your homework in terms of what you need to buy in the U.S. Because you can’t save by buying everything you need. You need to be a little bit strategic about it,” Charlebois said. “It depends where you go, it depends what state you’re in — you may actually end up paying more.”

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