The two grocery stores we use the most in Montreal are the IGA and Provigo. They’re both about a five minute walk from the UQAM dorms and are both fully fledged grocery stores. We all had our different opinions on which one we preferred and which was better for different kinds of groceries. The best way for you to find out, of course, is just to try them both. Here’s my little heads-up and summary of them.
If you enter from the St. Urbain side entrance, you’ll go through this tall turnstile which prevents you from exiting that way again. You’ll also discover that instead of the big clunky shopping carts we’re used to, they have these compact, orange and green carts that you stack two shopping baskets on. They’re SO much better, I wish they’d bring them to the US! The IGA always felt a little bit cramped to me, but once you get the hang of it it’s not too bad. The check out is in the back, FYI, and it’ll spit you out into the Place Des Jardins shopping center. You’ll need to head up the stairs to the left, go straight out the doors, left down St. Catherine and left again onto St. Urbain to get back to where you started.
I liked Provigo because you don’t have to walk up an incline on the way back with your groceries. It also has one of those coin-exchange machines, but make sure you let the machine know you’re putting coins in BEFORE you put them in– one student last semester had a bunch of change eaten on account of this. Also, Provigo has a front and back entrance/exit, so you don’t have to worry about the turnstile dilemma of IGA. Other than that, it’s fundamentally the same as IGA or any other grocery store. The prices for certain items or brands between the two stores is one of those things you’ll have to figure out for yourself– it’s been a whole year since I was there, so things could have changed.
A note about both these stores, they’ll charge you an extra $0.05 per plastic bag at check-out. This isn’t much of an expense, however they might ask you before they ring everything up OR you might need to mention it yourself before. Also, they will sometimes ask you in French, which might throw you off. The word ‘sac’ is bag in French, so if you hear that, they’re probably asking about bagging. The best thing to do really is to get those reusable shopping bags and avoid the whole issue.