Hua Sheng 293 Spadina, 416-263-9883
Fu Yau 643 Gerrard East, 416-778-1920
I'm always dumbstruck when, on that rare occasion I'm in a supermarket checkout line, I see someone paying $2.99 for a plastic bag of carrots. As we fearlessly frugal know, those same veggies are two for $1 at large Chinatown grocery stores like these, where Colombian bananas are likely to be on special for 29 cents, sweet red peppers are 99 cents a pound, a bottle of Srirachi hot sauce lowballs at $3.59 and 454 grams of fresh chow mein noodles set you back a buck. Buy three or more pounds of "grounded pork" and the price drops from $1.09 to just 89 cents a pound. Meatballs, anyone?
Fong On Food 46 Kensington, 416-598-7828
Fear not, vegans. You can pick up 12 cakes of fresh tofu in a large recyclable plastic bucket for $2.25 at this Market spot.
House of Spice 190 Augusta, 416-593-9724
Anyone wanting to put together an inexpensive Mexican nosh should start here. Bottles of Mr. Gouda's Tabasco-style hot sauce go for 79 cents, eight frozen 10-inch flour tortillas sell for $2.99, and 50 corn tortillas for $2.29. New: 454-gram bags of Asian-style brown rice vermicelli ($1.99).
Emporio Latino 243 Augusta, 416-351-9646
Just up the street, this emporium gets regular shipments of fresh green tomatillos and cactus (both $2/lb) as well as a wide selection of Tex-Mex essential dried chili peppers.
International Food Market 55 Kensington, 416-596-6637
The next few weeks are the height of basil season, and this spot sells whole plants, roots 'n' all, ripped straight from the garden for $2.99. Don't tell the shopkeeper, but if you replant them when you get home you'll have fresh basil on the fire escape all fall.
My Market Bakery 172 Baldwin, 416-593-6772
Despite the cramped quarters - gang, leave the strollers on the curb - this is worth the occasional aggro, especially when whole-wheat pizza dough sells for $1.25 and you can treat your miserly self to a square of chocolate bread pudding for only $1.49. And what's so supernatural about Cheese Magic (182 Baldwin, 416-593-9531), My Market's sister fromagerie a few doors down? Unlike the Brie bandits around the corner, Magic's accommodating staff know how to cut their cheese. Ask for a pound of gouda and get exactly that, instead of one and three-quarters followed by a whiny "And what else?"