As the furthest North mainland community in Canada, Tuk is pretty remote. The all seasons road will be open later this year, but until then there was the ice road in the winter, the planes year round (weather permitting) and barges in the summer. Because it's so remote and small, you wouldn't expect cheap fresh fruit and other groceries year round, or at all.
The Nutrition North Canada subsidy helps some on certain items. But if you go in expecting suburban US Walmart prices you will be shocked. If you go in expecting prices like the little Sobeys in downtown Vancouver, you will be much less shocked. But you become completely desensitized. If you're fortunate enough to be making a decent wage, you have to buy what you want, you can't buy based on price or you just won't buy anything. So you get easily brainwashed into thinking that $8 for a kitkat is normal.
When I went back to Alberta in the spring I was shocked by the affordability of everything in Edmonton, but it wore off by the time I got back to Drayton, where the price and quality is surprisingly similar. Coming from DV I was used to moldy fruit on the shelves and days where there would be bare shelves in certain areas. People in Drayton regularly do their grocery shopping in Edmonton, Spruce Grove, Stony Plain or Sherwood Park. When Wal-Mart expanded to have a grocery section, a bit more could be bought in town, but when the mark up is so high, it's often worth the gas to drive to the city. Once it's no longer winter and you can buy direct from farmers and the hutterites you feel the advantage of living in the prairies.
But in Tuk, you don't have those options. Sure you can go down to Inuvik when you drive, but it can be up to 3 hours, and it's not much cheaper. When people go to Whitehorse or Yellowknife they stock up as much as they can bring back, but again, it's not like driving to Costco. Especially when you have to fly back to Tuk on the little plane.
You have two grocery stores in Tuk. Stantons and Northern. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Stantons is cheaper and has a deep fryer and does fast food like chicken, fries and egg rolls. Stantons is mostly food with one aisle of household products and half an aisle of like building and camping etc type things. Stantons is close to the school and Kitti Hall.
Northern is half food and half everything else. Northern is more expensive, but it also has the gas station (no longer the only one as of a month or two ago) and the post office. Northern is right by the Hamlet office and Territorial government office and the Health Centre.
They carry enough difference in stock that you don't really compare based on price. It depends on what you want and where you're situated. When I lived across from Northern, I pretty much only shopped there. Now I live 2 minutes from Stantons and I only go to Northern once or twice a week to check my mail and shop there then.
There's also a corner store called The End of The Road and I haven't been there. I probably should. It's also a B&B.
There used to be more stores. There's one called the Town and Country General Store that still has it's sign, but is closed. The Hudson's Bay Company used to have a store here and there was another Warehouse Costco type store. The Fruit Man comes once in a while in the winter. He loads up his semi with food from Costco in BC and drives up here and parks in Inuvik and Tuk and sells his wares. It's a pretty big community event.
OK, on to the food prices. These are from throughout the year, from Northern and Stantons (mostly Northern) and were obviously chosen based on being pretty expensive. I am writing with an angle obviously. But they're also pretty average. Next to each picture I will post the same item with it's price in Drayton Valley (thanks Mom) and Edmonton (Thanks Taryn)
Hawkins Cheezies. $11.99 at Northern in Tuk.
$3.19 at Sobeys in Drayton.
The photo cropped odd, but in Edmonton at Local Market, store brand long block of cheese was $5.49 and $16.99 in Tuk at Northern.
$12.99 for 4L of Milk. $8.25 for Lactose Free. This picture and above are all from January, when I first moved here. I don't drink milk (lactose intolerant) but by the time it gets here, it has frozen and melted and is close to expiry and I don't regret avoiding milk.
$5.39 for 4L of Milk in Drayton Valley
$4.99 for Lactose free in Edmonton,
$4.79 for 4L of Milk in Edmonton
These are from May. Ice Road has melted. $27.79 for a can of Nabob in Tuktoyaktuk. $10.49 in Drayton Valley for Maxwell House and $17.39 in Edmonton (Bad crop again, stupid google photos)
These always kill me because these tall boy Brisks are like 99c back home. They're $4.65 here
Frozen Pizza is usually about $13.00 for brand name, $10 for Best Value (on the bottom) This day it was $17.29 for a Delissio Rising Crust frozen pizza and I had to take a picture...
In Drayton it was $12.99 and in Edmonton it was $4.99...
This is my FAVOURITE pop and I buy it once a week but yeah. $4.19
Produce at Northern: $13.99 for peppers, $4.49 in Drayton Valley.
Avocados are $6.49 in Tuk vs $1.99 in Edmonton
$6.29 for Oreos in Tuk, $1.99 in Edmonton.
Giant Value frozen meals you can get for $2.65. But Lean Cuisine is $5-7 and Healthy Choice is $8.75.
In Drayton the prices are about the same, but in Edmonton, the Healthy Choice steamer is $4.69
KD on sale for $3.99 a box down from $4.99... in Drayton, it's $2.29 and in Edmonton $1.49.
Cereal is expensive in Canada. When I go to the US and see Cheerios for like $2 I get so excited I buy them all. This day in Tuk, Froot Loops were $10.99. In Drayton they were $6.99
Eggs in Tuktoyaktuk for $9.99, $3.29 in Drayton Valley
$6.99 for Brown Sugar in Tuk, $4.69 in Drayton
Flour for $26.99 in Tuk, $13.99 in Drayton
Frozen white bread for $3.99 (you can only get bread frozen), $4.29 for non-frozen white bread in Drayton Valley.
It's a whirlwind up here. And that's just describing the weather!
My time in Tuk is down to it's last week. Friday was high school grad, Monday was kindergarten grad.
Sunday I had the opportunity to go to a whale harvest! A 15+ foot Beluga whale had been caught in the harbour and was being harvested! I'd been following the hunt on instagram and was very excited to get to see the results!
I do have to admit that when Jana texted to ask if I was "Going to see Moby?" My first thought was Moby the music guy, while clearly visualizing Pitbull as I came very close to responding, "Mr. Worldwide!?"
It took me too long to realize she was referencing Moby Dick...
If you are a super vegan or opposed to seeing a beluga whale being traditionally harvested by Indigenous people who use it for food, feel free to skip this post. There will be a lot of raw meat, but no animal faces if that helps?
Also I finally completed my Inuvialuit food checklist and had some Pipsi/Dryfish. I also had some raw whitefish eggs.
In the school hoodie is Annie who just retired from the school after a long career. I am so grateful to have been able to cross paths with her. All the cutting of the whale is done with the traditional ulu knife. I was surprised by how dark the meat is, it's almost black. So rich in iron!
Once it's sliced it's hung up on driftwood in the smokehouse to dry out like jerky.
Fresh and raw big chunks of Maktak and an ulu used for cutting.
There was a LOT of meat! Also a fin.
I spent some time with the adults before seeing one of my students who's mom was helping with the harvest. We played tag and went out into the harbour up to our knees and skipped stones. And then he said, "All the other teachers are gone. " I said, "ah, I should probably go then." He looked up at me and said, "Or you could stay and watch me skip stones?" Which I did for a while because that kid is AMAZING at skipping stones. Like 8 - 10 skips!
This is what I am going to miss the most about Tuk. It is such a friendly and welcoming local community. I wish only the best for the people and hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk in the years to come!
I told my kindergarteners at grad that I would try to make it back in 12 years for their high school grad and I really hope I do. I want to see the growth and change in those kids and this community. I am so grateful for this adventure and ready to see what's next!!!