Amazon Fresh vs CSA?

Updating this post — now that we have had a chance to trial a couple of services. First — I love, love, love Amazon Fresh:

  • Service is great — drivers courteous, always on time, super neat
  • It’s beyond convenient — I can order from my phone or PC; arrange for groceries to be delivered while I’m away from work (so DH doesn’t have to run out for fruit/yogurt/whatever mid-week), or when I’m headed home from vacation;
  • Quality is good — very happy with the produce

So why update the post?  Well…we’re not made of money.  After 3 months of Amazon Fresh, my grocery bill was 1.5x my usual bill.  The theory that I wouldn’t buy any “extras” and that would even out the price…. did not come true at all.  There are all kinds of “extras” to buy on Amazon, and the price delta didn’t help. So other options:

  • Milk Delivery (and cheese, and other dairy) : Not a great fit for us, I’m not trying to increase our dairy intake…
  • Full Circle Produce Delivery — used for 3 months.  Closer to a traditional CSA, when you get a “box of produce” and the choice is based on size of box, not content of the box.  Easy to use website; flexible — easy to start and stop.  Produce was good (not great, but better than Safeway).  Price was reasonable.
    • It wasn’t “local” the fruit was mostly from California.  That was good because I didn’t get stuck with a bunch of root vegetables all fall.  At the same time, if I’m not supporting local business, then I kind of want my pick of produce.

All that to say, I’m back shopping at PCC.  Love that 10% members discount every month. Wonder when they will start a delivery service?

Have you had any luck with Amazon Fresh?  What about a full service CSA (that lasts through the winter).  When we first moved, I started a running tally of CSAs in Redmond/Bellevue.  But I never carried through with the research to find someone that fit our requirements.   Here are my working mom’s requirements for a grocery service: 1) You deliver:  I’m doing this to save myself time.  I can’t be driving for 30-45 minutes to go and pick up groceries.   Added to delivery — I’d clarify that you must deliver consistently, don’t charge an arm & leg for delivery & don’t skip weeks 3) You have a wide variety of products:  Alternatively, I’d be happy with a network of CSAs.  If you could also point me to local farmers for milk, eggs, etc.  I could make that work, but to continue to search for one provider for mushrooms, one for lamb, another from root vegetables…well that’s not going to work 4) You operate year round.  I know this cuts out lots of local farmers… but support of local business is only one reason I want to do this.  The other is health ingredients for my family and saving time on the weekends. 5 ) Wide variety of organic produce: it doesn’t have to be 100% organic — but the heavy hitters — peppers, grapes, lettuce, berries, etc.  The produce that has the worst record for holding on to pesticides needs to have an organic option. 6) Now I’m getting picky — but I would prefer the meat, eggs and even produce to come from small family farms.  No factory farm meat for my boys. Does such a thing exist?  Am I going to be doomed to giving money to the machine and order from Amazon Fresh?  Please share your suggestions.


A twist on buying local

There’s a chain mail going around the internet (excerpt posted below) encouraging all of us to spend a few more minutes thinking not just about buying local produce, but about buying local goods.  This to me makes a modicum of sense.  I’m not thrilled with the idea of buying toothpaste made in China or Mexico.  And, if there’s a way to keep a factory going in some small town in Ontario, Quebec or wherever, I’d rather be doing that, than sending my money oversees.  I’ve started looking at labels for toothpaste, clothing, duct tape, etc.  I was pleasantly surprised to find out how much of this stuff is made in Canada.

My city councilor must travel in the same e-mail circles as me, as her last newsletter mentioned buying Canadian toothpaste and lightbulb.  Here’s the version of the e-mail that made it to my inbox:

Check this out. I can verify this because I was in Lowe’s the other day and just for the heck of it I was looking at the hose attachments. They were all made in China. The next day I was in Home Hardware and, just for the heck of it, I checked the hose attachments there. They were made in Canada.  Start looking.

In our current economic situation, every little thing we buy or do affects someone else – even their job. So, after reading this email, I think this woman is on the right track. Let’s get behind her!

My grandson likes Hershey’s candy. I noticed, though, that it is marked made in Mexico now.  I do not buy it any more. My favourite toothpaste – Colgate – is made in Mexico now.  I have switched to Crest.  You have to read the labels on everything.

This past weekend I was at Wal-mart.  I needed 60W light bulbs.  I was in the light bulb aisle and right next to the GE brand I normally buy was an off-brand labelled, “Everyday Value.”  I picked up both types of bulbs and compared the stats – they were the same except for the price. The GE bulbs were more money than the Everyday Value brand, but the thing that surprised me the most was the fact that GE was made in MEXICO and the Everyday Value brand was made in – get ready for this – in Canadain a company in Ontario.

So throw out the myth that you cannot find products you use every day that are made right here.

My challenge to you is to start reading the labels when you shop for everyday things and see what you can find that is made in Canada; the job you save may be your own or your neighbour’s!

Coupons & Other Bargains

I love a bargain.  I love to use coupons.  I don’t use them very often, but nevertheless, when I can get $3 off a package of diapers or laundry detergent, I’m pretty happy.  My biggest challenge with coupons is the same one I have with bringing my own bags: getting them out of the car and into the store.

My usual source for coupons is as mix of Canadian Freebie blog, and random stuff that comes in the mail.  The trouble, with these sources, is that they are not often coupons for brands I usually buy.  They are coupons for big name consumer packaged goods.  Hence, I was so happy to learn about ‘The Healthy Shopper’.  These guys have coupons for all sorts of green, eco friendly, or just plain stuff I like.

I’ll still have trouble remembering to bring them into the store.  Perhaps I should store them in the re-useable bags.

Giving CSAs a chance

To say things have been busy since returning to work, would be an understatement.  #1 tip from BytownMom about returning to work:  have your childcare arrangements locked in stone!  Since letting our nanny go, we’ve been going between our bouncing between babysitters and family and no one, especially our three year old, knows which way is up.

Accordingly, we’re looking for a couple of ways to simplify things around here.  The first one is not: stop driving across town to get our fruits and veggies.  They are going to be delivered to a cooler on our doorstep on Wednesdays.  As I’m not quite sure what’s in this week’s box, I’m going to menu plan once I see what I’ve got.

From the CSA options I discovered earlier this season, I’ve decided to start with Ottawa Organics, as you can add lots of fruit to your order, on top of the veggies.  Stay-tuned for menu planning to pick back up on Friday.

The perfect hostess gift

It’s local.  It’s unique. It’s only $10.

Staying current on up and coming musicians and being a working mom don’t always go hand in hand, but it’s just been made easier by my friend Jackie.  She’s produced CD covering unsigned, up and coming Canadian talent.  You can pick-up the CD at the downtown Chapters here in Ottawa.  Not based in Ottawa? Contact her through her myspace page and you’ll no doubt be able to work something out.

You can read the background behind the project in today’s Citizen.  If you’re looking to be extra hip, you can attend the CD launch party Thursday, June 25 at the Parliament Pub’s outdoor patio @ 9pm.

The CD’s targeted at the tourist market, but I love that it’s got local artists and even though I’m based in Ottawa it’s going to be my default hostess gift for the rest of the season.

Got Bacon?

The Piggy Market is a new Ottawa deli, focused on… you guessed it pork based products.  Their pork comes from a local farmer and most of it is processed on site.  If I was going to eat prepared meats, this would be my source.  They’ve got sausages, ham, bacon and according to friends they are all delicious.  Looking for the complete story on this place, wander in an talk to the owner or read the profile from the Citizen.

They also sell ice cream!Why am I writing about a store where I won’t buy the meat? Because I’m happy to see local farmers and businesses succeeding.  If I plan to be in the neighborhood on Thursday-Sunday I might call ahead to reserve a rotisserie.

Clearly designed for foot traffic, it’s located on Winston Avenue in Westboro.  If like me you have no idea where Winston is, it’s the alley across the street from MEC on Richmond Road.  Google maps is misleading, it looks like the streets connect, but Winston deadends at Richmond Road.

Cosmetics & Cancer

While I haven’t yet had a chance to do a complete run down of everything in my medicine cabinet, my first couple of product searches on this database left me a little uncomfortable.  We did a good job a couple of years ago switching over soaps, laundry detergent, toothpaste and deodorant.  I never got around to switching my makeup.  I love MAC and didn’t want to go through the pain of expensive trial and error organic makeup.

The gist of the database is that a not-for-profit has created a database correlates ingredients for cosmetics  (32,000 products and growing) and correlates to a host of EPA, FDA and other gov’t reports on hazardous and carcinogenic materials.  The result is that your product gets a score between 0 (low concern) and 10 (high concern).

Gradually, our old products came back onto the shelf.  It started with the deodorant.  Nothing natural ever worked.  From there it was toothpaste, and so on and so on.  With my return to work immanent, I’ve been contemplating a return to the makeup counter, but after a quick pass through this database, it looks like I’ll be shopping at Rainbow Foods and Lilou Organics for most of my stuff.

Haven’t tried Lilou yet?  Well, it’s worth a look.  It’s run by a lady out of her house, just outside Ottawa.  She’s done the research for us and picked out a host of great mom, baby, skin care, sun care and makeup products.  It’s all available off her site and if you place an order for more than $100, the shipping is free.