Quite by accident I discovered the cheapest place in town, and possibly all of BC, to buy fruit and vegetables. It’s an independent store called Sunrise Market in the middle of Vancouver’s downtown eastside, adjacent to Chinatown, at the corner of Gore and Powell Streets. It is the antithesis of Whole Foods. There is no ambience, no sampling stations, no thought to design that makes a customer comfortable and want to linger and pick up a cartful of expensive goodies that were the furthest thing from their mind when they set out shopping. It is busy, chaotic and has completely disinterested staff. You have to squeeze through stacks of cardboard boxes in the aisles. I have even witnessed a shouting match between two female staffers escalate into a punching brawl. No manager stepped in, the cashiers barely looked up to see what was going on and everyone just carried on like nothing had happened.
But, there is nowhere else for me to pick up two shopping bags full of food for less than $10.
Here is one recent haul for less than $10:
It is not the kind of place where you can guarantee that they will have what is on your shopping list. There are days where nothing looks tempting and other days where good pineapples, melons or a tray of green seedless grapes will be priced at $1 each and I can get a bag of red, yellow and green peppers or a 10lb bag of russet potatoes for $1 or a clamshell of cherry tomatoes for fifty cents. I have picked up packages of brand name cheese tortellini for $2, which would sell for over $10 in a traditional grocery store. I routinely leave with two shopping bags full of food for less than $10.
Their prices for everything tend to be a lot less than what anyone else in town will charge. My theory is that they buy what the wholesaler is looking to unload in a hurry. Sometimes the goods are flirting with end of life issues. I don’t buy those ones! But sometimes I will find ultra cheap mangoes, mandarin oranges, leeks or asparagus and will change my menu ideas to accommodate. From what I can tell, a lot of local restaurants are shopping there as well. I’ll see someone buy cases of tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, in much bigger quantities than for household use.
If I can keep food expenses down it helps me to get ahead and have a little left at the end of the month – to live the adage about how spending less than you earn is the secret to success.
As a kid, I spent countless hours waiting by the sunrise market storefront while my mother picked, squeezed, and handled each produce to examine their freshness. Looking back, those perceicedly wasted hours helped me become a more patient person. On the same token, I think this contributed my loathe for carrying bags of produce while taking public transportation.
Nevertheless, sunrise market has been a part of childhood.