Natural and Organic in Montreal

My friend H visited us recently. She stayed with M and me while R was traveling. She noticed that I had some strange (to her) products and asked where I buy them. She specifically wanted to know about the toothpaste. Luckily, I bought a few last time and had one to give her to take home. As well, she got to take her bar soap home, like from any good B&B :-). Although she went to work from here, she said that she felt like she was on a holiday, which I was very happy to hear. Hope we meet more often, H!

I intended to send her an email listing where I buy various products. I do get asked this questions by other Montrealers too. So, here goes. This post goes out to all of my dear friends here. To you! And to yours! A description of various stores. I am thrifty. Walk as much as possible to avoid unnecessary spending. (For the record, R thinks that I am crazy. Why not just take public transport if I think driving or taking a cab when not needed is environmentally unfriendly? Bah, who wants to wait for the bus or go down multiple escalators to get to the metro system!) But I do spend a lot on things that go on or in my family.

Now for the stores…I’ll write about what I find in each store in a later post. I want to make an easy-to-refer-to table of sorts. Maybe make my savvy husband fix one up. He’s really good at that. They look a lot better than what I can get PowerPoint to do for me.

Le Frigo Vert, Centre Ville.

My first destination when I want to buy anything for personal care or for food is this Concordia University student co-op. Almost fully organic. All Concordia students are automatically members but one can also buy membership for C$20 per year. More than worth it. Non-members pay a 20% premium on products. Plenty of bulk bins for beans, flours, etc. Vegetables come in on Tuesdays. Vegetable selection is small. Local handmade snack items are available. It is open Monday-Thursday, 12-7 pm. Not open this week for some reason. Annual vacation, I suppose? Didn’t ask. Was busy buying the store out :-). Has some baby products and also organic and eco-friendly feminine products.

L’Autre Choix Mini Marche, Westmount.

The other choice.

Clara, the owner, is very friendly and knowledgeable about her products. Very helpful. She tries to bring in as many local products as possible. Almost fully organic. I believe the store is open 7 days a week. The store is a drop-off point for a few CSAs. The best part? She used to tell me not to waste anything upon seeing how much I buy. She once told me that she’d rather I buy less and use it all than that I buy a lot and waste anything. That is one kind of an ethical store I can get on board with. She stopped saying this to me now that she knows my eating habits :-). Which reminds me that I forgot to call in an order for milk. BRB. I am back. Where were we? Yeah. Milk. No. Eating habits. She has figured out that I am crazy like that. I think she is on board with that too :-). Doesn’t have products specifically intended for babies but has frozen organic fruits and vegetables. I don’t currently buy anything for a baby.

Ecollegey, NDG. New store in Plateau too. Not visited it yet.

Also mostly organic. Delivers on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It isn’t very convenient for me to go there on a bus. But I do like this store too. Delivery is free if you spend >C$80. Cost comparison with the one above? I am not a comparison shopper when it comes to food. I prefer to find something healthy and convenient. That I can sustain week after week or month after month, as the case may be. When I want/need things delivered and if I can get the total above 80, I go for this. I lean more towards the store above however, as I like to encourage a relatively new, small, and good business. Ecollegey has baby-specific products like cereals, wipes, natural and organic body wash…

Couffin Bio, Centre Ville.

Quite a selection of organic and natural products. I was told that all of their produce is organic 2 years ago. I used to go there more before I discovered Clara’s store above. Clara has a much bigger selection of fruits and vegetables, I think. Couffin Bio carries organic baby supplies. Definitely explore it if you get a chance.

Boutique Bummis, Plateau.

Baby supplies and mama supplies. I used their organic cotton prefold-PUL cover diapering kits on M. Excellent customer service. Hosts various meetings like baby wearing support groups. I don’t know what other classes they have. They are very helpful. So, a phone call will tell you what other sessions they host. Focuses on Canadian-made products.

Update: The store is now, closed. But their products are available online at bummis.com

Melons & Clementines, NDG.

Nursing and other mama supplies, baby supplies. Also rents rooms out for various parenting classes and even a baby music class. Much more. I took their Infant and Child CPR class. Also, great customer service. Has a cafe and a play area for children. Parents or sitters have to watch over the little ones. No babysitting service from the store, as far as I know.

PA Supermarche, Centre Ville. More stores elsewhere. See links.

PA does not need introduction for downtowners. Mostly not organic. Has organic milk and eggs, Inewa organic sourdough bread, organic L’Ancetre hard cheeses and butter, sprouted grain or other organic cereals, Bob’s Red Mill or other gluten-free foods which were handy when M had wheat intolerance as a baby. Best part? Willing to order new products and see if there is sufficient interest among their clientele. Lowest prices of all super markets. Many employees milling around to get help finding products, especially during the day. Very busy store. When M had a dairy intolerance, they ordered calcium-fortified coconut milk drink when I requested it. Unfortunately, it didn’t sell well. They pulled it out. They do have other products from the same company. Can’t say that I myself liked the coconut milk too much but I religiously bought and used it as long as they had it in stock. Calcium-fortified drinks make me feel like I have arthritis. No. Not exaggerating but that is a topic for perhaps a future post.

Provigo, all over the city.

Has some organic fruits and dairy. Dairy is more expensive than at PA.

Marche Victoria, near Plamondon Metro Station. On Victoria.

Indian (South Asian) store with best selection of Indian vegetables in town. Gets vegetable supply in on every Thursday, mid-morning. Has most Indian food basics. Con. Narrow aisles. Difficult to maneuver with stroller or even walking toddler. I don’t attempt to go there alone with M. Very difficult to keep her out of the way of other shoppers. Pro. Inexpensive food.

Marche Jolee, near Cote Sainte Catherine Metro Station, also on Victoria.

Indian (South Asian) store. Also has vegetables. Smaller selection of Indian vegetables, I feel. Easier to find South Indian foods there. Biggest positive surprise. They have frozen mango leaves. What for? If you don’t already know, you don’t need to know. Really. Trust me on this. What other surprises do they have in store (pun intended)? I wonder.

“I wonder why, I wonder why, I wonder why I wonder. 
 I wonder why, I wonder why, I wonder why I wonder.”

A joke from farewell party to the graduating class during my second year of undergrad study. Apparently, I used the phrase “I wonder” a lot, at one point. SD wrote this… couplet(?) for me. I think we had to guess whom the couplet referred to.

Pharmacie Jean Coutu, everywhere in the city.

Has several organic personal care products. Prices tend to be cheaper than Pharmaprix. Somehow has a better selection of products too. Both stores have Dora and Diego toothbrushes. Very important for M er… Me :-).

I think that is about it. This is not to imply that if I am in the vicinity of a store from which I can find something I need in a hurry, I won’t buy it. But I don’t look around. I have looked around enough, don’t you think?

There are other stores and businesses that offer similar services to ones I name above. But I am only focusing on stores with food and personal care products. Other services I mention are incidental to the focus of this post.

Disclaimer: These are strictly my opinions and impressions. No business asked me to write this, much less paid me for it. I am writing this for my friends and anyone else who is interested.

Vegetables – Villains or Vilified?

In Enid Blyton’s universe, the children buy food from farms owned by kind people whenever they’re off on their adventures. They eat tomatoes, they drink fresh, creamy milk, all the while enjoying some jolly fat ices. Reading Famous Five always sent me scampering to the refrigerator. Munch went the tomatoes. Crunch went the carrots. Many were the tomatoes that “went” with Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, and Huckleberry Finn.

Imagine my surprise when I read in some parenting book or email or blog that I should hide the vegetables in seemingly unhealthy concoctions so that my child will lap it up. This is not even an isolated statement. I read it everywhere, it seems to me. What? But why? They taste so good! As I remember it, my siblings and I always tried to ascertain that we got at least as much of a vegetable as the other, and if it looked like we got at least one piece more than the other, even better.

 

Why this difference? It got me wondering. And the answers came to me, all wrapped up in my Eastern heritage. It is the way we package them. They aren’t just cut up, steamed and seasoned with salt and pepper, if that. We cut them up and transform them into dishes with a variety of spices, styles of cooking, even different oils used for cooking.

 

What about raw vegetables, you ask?

 

My mother bought the vegetables from a small vendor who bought the vegetables the same morning from farmers around the city. Local, always in season, and fresh. Mangoes came only in the summers. Lemons were plentiful in the winter. Not having been told to eat his spinach by pop-eye, my husband doesn’t like it very much. Yet, when July rolls around, he’ll be buying 2 bags a week from the market. Of his own accord. Local, fresh, at its peak flavour. We’ll eat each vegetable for its own distinctive taste.

 

And the Case of the Disappearing Tomatoes and Carrots should be proof enough.

Greens Smoothie – Salad in a Cup

Did I mention wheat-free, dairy-free diet?

In an attempt to add back calcium into my diet, I turned to calcium fortified rice milk (an empty carton can be seen in the background of my basket of love). But that is an unnatural way of getting calcium. I have since found out that many many greens are rich in calcium. “Eat your greens, child.” Not such a joke now, eh?

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Romaine lettuce-banana-rice milk

It tastes surprisingly good! I’ve even tried this with kale. Next stop, arugula.

Confessions of a tweenage cloth diapering mom

Disclaimer: The word tween refers loosely to Tolkien’s definition, not the American one.

Remember those childhood days when you bought something you really liked, only to like your friend’s or classmate’s one a lot more? Little classroom envies? If you never did, you’re a better person than I am. If you are like most of the rest of us though, you know what I mean. I thought I had grown out of consumer product envy by now. House envy, seeing cleaner, more spruced up interiors? Sure. But consumer products? No. Or so I have been smugly thinking. Only to be jerked awake to my foible this very morning.

M and I go to Mother Goose Rhyme Time at our library. For the first time today, we met a baby younger than her. Now, I love the no-fuss organic cotton prefolds I use on her. Yet, when I saw this baby with a young mom in neat little snap-in diapers, the kind that won’t bunch up when baby kicks and rolls and flails around – my only complaint with her prefolds, I was struck by a classic case of diaper envy. There. I’ve said it. Ridiculous as it may sound. Nay, does sound. The confession is out there.
I spent the day brooding, among other things – I could have made a better choice for M. I failed her. I could have made her more comfortable. Then, as I was hanging up her prefolds to dry, I realized – the most crucial part of our cloth diapering methods – cleaning and drying. The snap in is so thick, it’ll take too much time to air dry. It dawned on me that our decision is right for us and our quirky little air drying sun bleaching ways.
Now if only, I’d just grow up and remove envy from my range of emotions already! Yoga. Should master my emotions, shouldn’t let emotions master me. Become a yogini.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu
Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

Source: http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/24004.html

Eco-life

Being a parent has brought out my latent urge for safe living, safe cosmetics, safe foods. Perhaps it stems from the undergraduate chemistry lab when the best yield we would get in several organic reactions was 70% and after purification, still had by-products floating around. We extracted (or tried to, at least) lycopene from tomatoes once and could NOT get even remotely pure lycopene.

 

Air freshener – my roommate wanted to use it and said, “But it’s air freshener”! All I could see was, a soup of chemicals that I didn’t/don’t want to inhale. Products that I would be wearing gloves for and handling in the hood in the laboratory. Products that the very chemists who design them surely wear eye, ear, nose, hand, full body protection for. Products that one shouldn’t bring anywhere into a residential area, let alone spray it for purely cosmetic reasons.

 

I am looking for alternatives and here’s what I’ve brought home so far.

 

Baby Soap: Aleppo soap http://danstabulleblog.blogspot.com/search/label/alep

 

Hand wash: Dr. Bronner’s Eucalyptus Liquid Soap (1 in 6)

 

Shampoo and Conditioner: Green Beaver Cranberry Shampoo and Apple Mint Conditioner
(Ideally, I would like to use soapnuts, soaked and squeezed, but it takes too much time)

 

Diapers: Bummis Organic Cotton Prefold Diapers (what a money saving this is!)

 

Formula: Hope to keep it to none.

 

Laundry Detergent for baby clothes and diapers: Nature Clean Unscented Liquid

 

For adults: Seventh Generation or Bio-Vert

 

Cleaning supplies (kitchen, toilet, bathroom): Seventh Generation. They use some chemicals I don’t like but until I get down to brass tacks and start using baking soda and vinegar, these’ll have to do.

 

Stay tuned!

Beauty is but skin deep

Ask R what it is like, shopping for anything that needs ingredient listings with his wife. He’ll advise you never to marry a chemist. She’ll suck the fun out of trying out various nice tasting (non-)foods and nice smelling (non-)self-care products. She’ll only shop around the periphery of the grocery store, for that’s where they keep the produce, the dairy, and other real foods. If she has to enter an aisle even for laundry detergent, she’ll spend ages reading ingredient listings and dropping products because of an offensive ingredient.

 

I remember discussing with someone in my very first year of living in the US about reading nutrition information and how I wouldn’t care about it ever. I do now. Not, as one would think, because I want to know about the calorie information, but because I want none of the non-foods masquerading as foods in my and my family’s diet. I’ll take the higher calorie, closest to nature alternative over lower calorie processed ones. I’ll eat less, but give me natural, any time. I’ll spend enormous amounts of time to find a self-care product with minimal offensive (to me) ingredients. I am not telling anyone how to live their lives, nor am I claiming to follow my own policies all the time. I encourage everyone to try their best to do what they think is best for them and their family. I fall off my own bandwagon more often than I care to remember about. Yet, isn’t that what being human is all about? Try, try, for improvement.

 

Organic is high on my list, but that isn’t what I am writing about. Perhaps later.

 

I NEED a moisturizer. Yet, given that it is meant to be absorbed into my skin, I don’t like the fact that most brands and kinds that don’t gross me out by their greasiness have a million suspect ingredients. I also hate standing in an aisle and having to read ingredients on so many products. I found this website yesterday. A blessing, a boon.

 

http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/

 

As mother told me when I was little, don’t trust strangers. I don’t know how trustworthy they are and with all their well-intentioned research, how good it is. Yet, my quest for information is one step closer to satisfaction. I can now find ingredients in several products, all in one place; I can find the best handful of products (to my mind), and go about hunting them out, instead of standing in an aisle. What I hate most about shopping.

 

-Soap nut nut.