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“Grocery Shopping”

Since starting this project, “grocery shopping” has taken on a whole new meaning and place in my life.  For one, I no longer go to grocery stores!  The big chains have virtually nothing in stock that fits my criteria and I have almost no need to enter them anymore.  For household supplies, for example, I shop at London Homeopathic in Covent Gardens.  This is a small locally owned business that stocks a variety of “natural” products such as biodegradable cleaning supplies produced independently of the chemical companies, and feminine hygiene products made of organic, unbleached cotton. 

This brings me to an aside: why the focus on local food, and not local production in general?  I have pondered this from time to time, but have to admit that I haven’t done any research to follow up.  Trying to buy local food is challenging enough, as our domestic labeling system is very misleading.  To be marked “Product of Canada” an item need to have only 51% of its cost incurred within our borders.  As such, food can be grown anywhere, and as long as the packaging cost makes up 51% of the total cost of the item, and the packaging was done in Canada, it is labeled “Product of Canada.”  How else could we have Canadian grapefruit juice?  And I suspect (but will need to confirm) that this holds true for non-food items as well.

I find this highly disturbing, and the only way I have found (to date) of being sure of where my food comes from is to deal either directly with the producer, or at most with one level removed.  That is, stores which purchase directly from producers, and who have close relations with them.  I have found many such retail outlets for local products, and the store managers (and often their staff) are able to tell me exactly where the food was grown, and how.  They will even give me the direct contact information for the producer if they can’t answer all questions themselves. 

Because of this, I end up doing a little more driving so that my food doesn’t have to.  I know this raises some controversy, but I do my best to streamline my purchasing so that I only do one trip around the city to pick everything up.  I also buy in bulk when I can, reducing the frequency of my trips.

This starts with a trip to market on Saturday morning.  The downtown farmer’s market is closed for the winter now, but a new, indoor market recently opened at the Western Fair grounds.  There I can find locally produced cheese, pickles, honey, and pastured un-certified organic meat (raised by the Amish).  There are also vendors selling locally made soaps and body products, as well as fair trade coffee and tea.  The vegetable vendors even still have a few local products, such as potatoes and turnip.  But the pickings are slim on that front.  I am finally about to break into my freezer store for those times and am crossing my fingers that my hours of chopping and blanching pay off.

Dairy products can now be found even in the large grocery chains, but I prefer to buy them from the organic butcher at Covent Gardens.  They also carry locally made organic red sauerkraut, a new favourite staple.

 These two stops – a few minutes farther away than the closest grocery store – provide me with about 75% of my food right now.  The rest I get from a few independent retailers, or directly from farmers.  With regard to the latter, they have brought their products into town while on other business, so no additional food miles there so far .   

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