Yesterday, friends and I went into the city.   This seems to have turned into an annual fall tradition, and it’s been a lot of fun both years.   Of course, we visited some of our favorite spots, and a few spots that were totally new to me!   It was a great day…so great in fact, that I went back today with my own family, mostly so Liam could ride on the Street Car and Subway (where by the way, a family of 2 adults, and up to 4 children can ride unlimited all day for only $9 on weekends and holidays – now THAT is a bargain!), but also because we missed out on China Town yesterday, and I was jonesing for a little Chinese culture and I also needed to get something for my Mom from a Chinese Herb place.   It was great, and I can’t wait to go back again really soon! I impressed myself by driving us to Yorkdale, where we caught the downtown subway. The traffic wasn’t too bad, so it was a pretty easy trip!

I wanted to share some of the best and least expensive places to shop and eat that I know of in the city of Toronto.   While my husband and I lived in the city for 6 years, we found so many places that are both fun, and in-expensive.   I really like to save money, plus malls generally bore me to tears with their carbon-copy stores and insanely high prices.   Toronto always amazes me in that you can get so much more for your money both in necessities, food, clothing and general “stuff” just by shopping in the little local markets and bargain shops!

Anyhow, here is a list of places to go and eat in the city that are definite must-sees for in Toronto for those who want to see a lot and spend a little!

Kensington Market – In the heart of the downtown core, Kensington Market is a unique area that features everything from fruit markets to vintage clothing shops to bakeries! There are cheese shops, vegetables and fruits galore, butchers, clothing and shoe stores…everything really!   All at great discount prices!   Yesterday I brought home a huge bag of assorted cheeses from “Global Cheese” and spent a fraction of what I would have spent in a local grocers or market.   We also discovered a little tea shop/candy shop called Cafe Casa Acoreana which is so beautifully decorated by row after row of glass jars of brightly coloured candies and teas covering every wall.   Such a fun place to shop!

China Town – Not only are there great bargains, but great culture too!   I picked up sparkly crystal ornaments, cute bone skull beads and a little Buddha Statue today, all for $3 each! Wonderful treasures you just can’t find anywhere else!   There are food shops and markets galore, not to mention wonderful restaurants for dim sum, sushi, sushi mi, bubble tea and all sorts of Asian delicacies!

Queen St. West – The trendy street of downtown Toronto.   Of course, there are many shops on this street where the prices are vastly inflated, but knowing where to find the great little shops are with the bargains can be a lot of fun to discover.   I’ve also found over the years, that haggling works very well with many vendors, so don’t be afriad to ask for a better price!

Goodwill/Salvation Army Thrift – These are pretty much a feature of any larger city *but* what most smaller cities don’t have is the cultural diversity of a city the size of Toronto.   There are so many wonderful treasures waiting at the thrift shops of Toronto, ranging from contemporary to antique and from so many different cultures.   That’s one of the things I love the most about Toronto…the wonderful ethnic diversity!

Red Room/Java Hut – These two restaurants are actually the same menu, but in different locations.   The food is AMAZING and CHEAP!   The decor is nothing spectacular, but they sure can cook.   The Avocado Salad is so good, the Pad Thai is wonderful, and there are so many Asian-inspired dishes to chose from, and that are all around or under $7!   Honestly, you cannot get a better meal for that price anywhere in the city!

Arton Bead Craft – Closest to my own heart is the Arton Bead Shop!   I have been shopping there for years and years, and can honestly say that they have the best prices and selection of any bead shop I have ever been in (and I have been in a lot!) The staff are so friendly, and knowledgeable and are happy to make suggestions or offer help.   Yesterday I was explaining a beading “concept” to one of my friends in the middle of this shop, and saying that I wouldn’t buy a certain bead as I wasn’t able to use it because I didn’t have the proper finding to go on it.   Suddenly, a hand reached over to me with exactly what I needed! Talk about customer service!

Caribbean Queen of Patties – I have never had Jamaican Patties this good…ever!   I brought home a dozen and a half of these beauties last night, and my friends each brought home a few dozen!   The lady that runs this shop is so nice, and man, can she cook some serious Jamaican food!!!   So yummy, so inexpensive…I think a box of 12 was about $10!!!

I’d love to hear what other wonderful little spots you’ve found for food, shopping or other money-saving places in the city of Toronto! Drop me a line, or leave a comment!

Hooray for Toronto!

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