How To Eat on A Budget As International Students

Canada is a great country to live and study. But, living in an amazing country does come with a big expense too, especially if you live in a metropolitan city like Toronto or Vancouver. It is no secret that international students already have spent a great sum on tuition fees. Markets Insider reported the average living cost in Toronto is $3,541.24/month, with food cost for around $533.95/month. Don’t be scared, this is just a guidepost, it is very much possible to live in Toronto for less than the average cost! We are here to suggest some ways you can save for some essentials as a student, which one of them is: food. 

  1. Shop generic

Do you know that generic-brand products are no different than brand-name products? Big brand stores in Canada like Costco, Walmart, and Loblaws have their own house brand. Their qualities are fairly the same with brand-name products, but their price is much cheaper because there is technically no branding! You can spend around 50% less when shopping generic brands. 

As a student as well, we love to shop for canned goods. They last for a long time and they are versatile. Generic-brand canned goods cost no more than $1.50, where brand-name canned goods costs from $1.25 and up! Those cents difference can add up when you grocery shop.

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  1. Shop at budget stores

If you want to save some money, you need to start shopping at budget stores. Deep-discount grocery stores like No Frills, Freshco, or Food Basics, are life-savers when you are tight on budget. These stores typically are located in downtown areas and accessible with public transport. You can also go to Walmart or Real Canadian Superstore, which are considered a supermarket. They are usually located fairly further than the budget stores, and sometimes not that accessible with public transport.

Other stores you can go to are your local Chinatown groceries! The two major ones in Toronto are Lucky Moose and Hua Sheng. They sell many varieties of Asian spices and ingredients, in case you are missing home. Their prices for fresh produce and meat are actually fairly cheaper than budget stores. Fresh produce can cost around 0.50 cents to $3 here, compare to starting price at $2 at a Canadian market.

  1. Shop at school

Many schools and universities run programs to help fight food insecurities. They often offer free food on specific days or run an affordable farmer’s market (pre-COVID days). They usually run once a week and students can buy fresh produce for really cheap. George Brown College has a program called Good Food Market, Ryerson has Good Food Centre, and University of Toronto has Food Bank. Don’t be afraid to ask your school advisors if you are experiencing any food insecurities. Schools usually have many resources that they can share to help you find affordable meals. 

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  1. Find deals at food places

Do you know that you can also save money by eating out? Yes, you hear that right! Sometimes you may not have the time to cook. Sometimes cooking your own meal may actually cost more! Here are some of our tips to save money while buying a meal:

  • See if the restaurant has a lunch deal.
    • Many places here in Toronto will have a special lunch deal. For instance, Ritz Caribbean has a $5.99 deal for Jerk Chicken from 1-3 PM every weekday. Rasta Pasta has a special size Jerk Chicken deal for $6.99. If you use food delivery services, like Uber or Doordash, some places will offer you ‘buy one get one free’! It is worth checking out.
    • Great place to look for cheap food is Chinatown. Most restaurants are family-owned and their portions are really big! You can definitely buy one meal for $10 and divide them into three portions.
  • Go to food court near end of day
    • Almost all vendors in a mall’s food court will offer you a deal when it is close to closing time. For instance, the food court at Eaton Centre closes around 8 PM, and by 6 or 7 PM, some food vendors will give you $6 deals for a meal! Food portions in Canada are quite big, so you can save some for the next day. 
  • Bakery in a bag
    • Bakeries usually will have a deal for their ‘old’ pastries. ‘Old’ just means it was baked the day before! They are still in great shapes. Bakeries will sell these old pastries for around $2 to $3 a bag. A bag usually consists of 3-5 pastries!

We hope this post help you to find some great nutrition to fuel your study here in Canada!

Do you also have some cheap food hacks? Please share them with us at

Source Average Living Cost in Toronto George Brown Colleges’s Good Food Market Ryerson University’s Good Food Centre University of Toronto’s Food Bank

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