Tag Archives: food

The Dreaded Super-Sized Grocery Cart

For as long as I can remember, when it came to grocery shopping, I was almost always a handbasket kind of guy.

Back when I was driving to work every day, it made perfect sense to make a quick stop on the way home to buy just the items needed in the short term, and then to breeze through the express checkout.

For those rare times that a handbasket wasn’t enough, I might have opted for the smallest shopping cart possible and going through a regular check-out lane, but that was fine. All in all, it was a pretty efficient system for me for many years.

But why might I have an aversion to super-sized grocery carts? It might be due to trust issues resulting from being stuck with the cart with the annoyingly bad wheel, no matter how infrequently I may use them.

Or possibly, is it just a hyper sensitivity to spatial awareness that I fume when I am stuck behind someone with the big cart, parked in the middle of the aisle, and having to wait for them to make a life-or-death grocery decision before getting through. With a hand basket, I could just suck in my stomach and go around them before they even noticed that I was there.

When my partner and I moved in together, I understood that shopping for two might mean using the small shopping cart more often. Of course, I was happy to make that change.

But then Covid-19 happened.

With public health officials advising us to stay home, to only make essential trips, and recommending less frequent grocery runs, it took some adjusting. But because making lists is one of the things I do with great joy and enthusiasm, it seemed like the transition to a 7-day shopping trip for two people should be easy enough.

But it took some adjusting there as well.

Because we had both been living on our own for so many years, it was easy to shop for one person, knowing what we like, and with what frequency we enjoy certain foods. Plus, when shopping for one, and with limited storage space, we tended not to buy enormous containers of anything, for fear of not going through the full supply and having to toss anything that turned green or furry (or both).

With that mindset, despite our best efforts, in trying to make it through a full week on a single grocery run, we would run short on a few ingredients.

And then when we compensated by buying more of the frequently-used items, our fridge would become a game of tetris, through which we had a wall of products sitting at the front and randomly lurking ingredients at the back, that seemingly disappeared like they were in the Bermuda Triangle. And then when we found them again, it was too late.

But with a little practice, we finally got into a good groove of meal planning, knowing what was realistically possible to make after a tough day at work, versus the meals we are more likely to make on the weekend when time and energy are in greater supply. It didn’t take too long that we became pretty good at weekly meal planning and only needing one grocery run to do it… most times.

But over the winter months, with the farmers markets all closed up, our grocery store became our sole provider. Not “sole” as in fish, but as in our one and only food provider, so the grocery orders got bigger until they hit a tipping point.

And I mean that pretty literally, when I had my grocery cart almost tip over in the parking lot when I hit one of the speed bumps in front of the store. The weekly grocery order was starting to overwhelm the smaller grocery cart.

On one trip in particular, I knew that the end of my little grocery cart days was in sight when my cart was pretty full and I still had three aisles to go. On that trip, I gingerly picked up the remaining items and carefully added them, making sure that they were securely in the cart and not sliding off like it was a ski hill. It wouldn’t have been a pretty sight if the eggs suffered such a tragic fate.

I realized that the jugs of laundry detergent that were on sale needed to wait, so I went through the checkout without them. As soon as I unloaded my cart in the trunk, I was back in the store cheerfully saying “Hello again!” to the team member counting shoppers as the entered and left the store.

I made a bee-line to the detergent section, observing meticulously the one-way arrows on the floor that many seem to ignore, even though it made me look like I was playing hopscotch. I grabbed two jugs of Gain that were on sale, with the same enthusiasm as a runner grabbing the baton at an Olympic relay race.

By some coincidence, I ended up going through the same checkout counter as I went through earlier, cheerfully exclaiming “Hello again!” to the cashier. “My cart was too full for these guys,” I explained. “I guess I’ll need to pick the larger buggy next time” I added, as if the cashier really wanted to hear about my grocery cart miscalculation. “It happens all the time these days” she reassured me.

On the next grocery trip, I reviewed my list and knew that indeed the larger grocery cart would be needed.

Shopping with that beast of a buggy took some adjusting as well.

Let’s just say that stepping up to the bigger cart was a little like the transition from a sub-compact car to a large SUV. Throughout the trip, I had to remain mindful that I couldn’t turn a corner as sharply or as quickly as I could with a smaller one, without taking out an end display of featured merchandise on special.

And as obvious as it may seem, the big grocery cart gets pretty darn heavy as they fill up. No wonder my petite grandmother was so strong if she was able to navigate carts like that especially before holiday gatherings (NOTE: I mean holiday meals many years ago, long before Covid). This was indeed a different kind of workout than what I was accustomed to.

At one point, I was so distracted by the grocery poundage I was hauling, I missed an item. Rather than drive to the end and make a left for the aisle I missed, I parallel parked the buggy behind a display and left it there, making the journey for the missing item on foot, giving my out-of-shape arms a break.

When I made it to the checkout, I was delighted to note that through my complete grocery order, I didn’t have anything precariously perched in a pile, nor did I have to make a second trip for items I missed.

In the end, maybe the bigger buggies weren’t such a bad thing after all, especially if we have to continue making these mammoth, socially distanced, infrequent grocery shopping trips, to do our part to keep everyone safe.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under 50+, food, home, Humour

Country Living: Farm-to-Table

One of the best parts about moving to the country has been experiencing the joy of savouring freshly picked produce.

It is interesting the way that things have flip flopped: When I lived in the city, within a small radius, I had ten grocery stores to choose from, two farms from which I could buy seasonal produce, and one farmer’s market that would set up on Saturdays. In the country, I have one excellent grocery store nearby, I am surrounded by a multitude of farmers’ stands that sell produce, and around here, any day of the week is pretty much “farmer’s market” day.

Needless to say, we took full advantage of this opportunity.

Over the course of the last four months we have enjoyed fresh tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, green and yellow beans, peas, corn, potatoes, zucchini, broccoli, onions, garlic, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and several varieties of apples, all grown locally.

There have been other products available, but there just haven’t been enough hours in the day to try them all.

When you add to the mix a local butcher shop that also sources products from local suppliers, we have found ourselves marveling on more than one occasion at how everything on the dinner table was truly local.

I will be the first to say that I appreciate the convenience of a good supermarket that can sell you anything, anytime, especially in the middle of a Canadian winter when the ground is frozen and growing season is over. The availability of imported fruits and vegetables is certainly a delight to add colour and variety to our diets through the twelve months of the calendar year. Continue reading

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Filed under food, home

How I Miss Being a Tourist

At our new home, I find myself in an endless loop of shredding, as I go through old documents that I didn’t have time to destroy before moving.

Maybe it comes from my high school and university years working in the retail sector, when I realized that keeping receipts and statements was a good thing if I ever needed to return something.

Maybe I was traumatized by one client too many who stirred up a tempest in a teapot, bellowing about the unfairness of our return policy and shrieking their vow never to shop at our store again, simply because they didn’t have a receipt for a refund.

To me, keeping receipts was synonymous with keeping the peace, a natural conclusion for someone with an aversion to conflict.

Over the years, my filing system has been pretty solid and I have been able to produce receipts on demand when I needed an exchange, a refund or maintenance of one kind or another. I really can’t say I’ve had too many sleepless nights ruminating over where I might have misplaced a receipt.

As much as I was really good at filing, the downside is that I was perhaps a little lax in destroying after a reasonable time frame had passed. I still have receipts (and user manuals) for products I don’t even own anymore as they have already completed their useful life span.

Now, in the new place, with the move well behind us, I make a point of sorting and shredding a little bit each week, to make some steady progress in chipping away at the pile of boxes marked “papers to sort”. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, home, Humour, Travel

How Country Living Changed My Outlook on Weather

One of the biggest ironies about moving to the country has been the surprising shift in the way I look at weather forecasts.

Back when I lived in the city, I was not a fan of rain nor snow. The reason was pretty simple: commuting.

After our work team was relocated a few years ago, I had accepted that taking the car to this new location would always be faster and more efficient than dealing with buses or our emerging light rail system. After being a bus commuter for 35 years, I felt justified in taking that decision and in having done my part for the environment.

I occasionally questioned that wisdom when a major reconstruction project on a major artery kept adding time to my commute, but I still persisted.

But when the highway was narrowed not only from the construction itself but from vehicles breaking down in the construction zone like it was the Bermuda Triangle, my patience started to wear thin every day that lanes would be blocked, adding to the commute time.

But when you incorporate precipitation into the mix, whether rain, snow, or freezing rain, it became impossible to predict just how long it would take to get to work. Let’s just say that I restrained myself from drinking too much coffee just in case I’d be stuck in the car on the highway (between off-ramps) for lengthy periods.

Back then, whenever I looked ahead to a forecast with several successive days of rain, I would already start the week with a bit of a frown.

But now living in the country, in the Covid-19 era, where I have been working from home and haven’t had to commute in almost five months, I have had good time to recuperate from idiot drivers, construction, precipitation and stressful commutes. Continue reading

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Who Are You and What Have You Done With My Cat?

After almost five years of being a parent to Ivy the Wonder Cat, I’d like to think that we’ve reached a point where we understand each other pretty well.

We both like structure and we both lean toward strong adherence to a schedule, which is already half of the battle when it comes to understanding cats (and humans). In doing so, she has adjusted to my schedule and vice versa.

When Ivy meows about something, the timing and the location from where she meows is all the context I need to know whether it’s related to food, water, treats, litter box, sleep, play, attention or whether she is just making small talk.

While I make a point of regularly ensuring everything is neat, tidy, on time and according to her preferred specifications for all of checklist items above, there are times I may get caught up in the trappings of responsible adulthood and that I might miss one little detail… How foolish and selfish of me.

The rare time she might get up on the dining room table is her form of “escalation” to say that I didn’t respond properly and an identified issue remains outstanding. I don’t get mad at her when she does that. I just slowly walk over and softly ask “Should you be up there?” to which she immediately jumps off and provides another sign of what she wants.

It’s a pretty good system and seems to work… Most of the time.

Then there are those out-of-the-blue days when I have to ask “who are you and what have you done with my cat?” Continue reading

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Filed under Cats, Humour

Reprogramming the Cat

At Ivy-the-Wonder-Cat’s last vet appointment, I was told the news that I suspected was coming: It was time to start watching her weight.

I always thought that when it came to her diet, she was pretty much self-guiding. I was reading product labels for calorie counts and I kept an eye on the amount of wet and dry food she ate. Between the days she ate more and the days she ate less, it seemed to average out to the target calorie range… or so I thought.

But it also averaged out to one extra pound every year that she had been with me. If I wanted Ivy to have a healthy, long life, we needed to curb that increase.

After going over our daily routine, the vet and I came up with some solutions. I was apprehensive that Ivy would put up a fuss, but the vet reassured me that cats like structure, and these measures were just going to reinforce what they crave anyway.

When I think about it, there have been times that I could set a clock to Ivy’s behaviour, like when she is heading upstairs between 9:58 p.m. and 10:02 p.m. because to her, it’s bedtime. I don’t even have to suggest it.

Even as I wrote the first draft of this blog at 9:00 am on a Saturday morning, she walked by, yawned and crawled into her cat bed. She’s pretty punctual. Maybe these changes will work.

The first step was to have just one feeding station. Continue reading

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Food Allergies and Restaurants

It always puts a smile on my face when a restaurant menu contains a note saying something to the effect of “Please advise your server of any allergies or intolerance”.

To me, that means I’m in a restaurant that will likely take some extra precautions to do its best to ensure my food won’t cause me issues. This definitely takes some of the guesswork out of dining out.

Over the last 13 years, since the discovery of my intolerance to wheat products, the number of restaurants that have adjusted their menus to accommodate wheat-free/gluten-free diets has been impressive and heartwarming. And over that span of time, the improvement in the ingredients, recipes and dishes that have been offered has been spectacular.

I hear the same from friends and colleagues with sensitivities to nuts, eggs, dairy and shellfish. It is getting easier to make informed choices.

When it comes to dining, it is certainly a competitive market. I genuinely respect those establishments that have gone the extra mile to retain and attract clients by helping them navigate their options whether through little icons next to menu items, menus that specifically address dietary concerns, or in extremely well-informed service staff.

I admit that I have to contain my shrieks of delight when the server or the chef says, “Tell us what you’d like and we’ll see how we can modify it.”

Being the over-apologetic Canadian that I am, on a few occasions, I have apologized for asking so many questions about the menu, but I have been met with much reassurance. One chef even went so far as to say that it helps keep things interesting and challenging in the kitchen, in finding clever ways to make the menu work for the client. That completely made my day!

But what happens when a restaurant makes no such accommodations? Continue reading

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Filed under food, Health and Wellness

50 Reasons Why I Love Baking

1. Baking can be an “in the moment” experience. It is difficult to ruminate over an issue, when one is busy measuring and following directions, while keeping an eye on the clock and the oven.
2. To me, baking can be a relaxing experience.
3. Baking is an opportunity to develop new skills or to work on existing ones.
4. I love that baking can be broken down into many individual disciplines and learning opportunities.
5. I love that I have succeeded in folding egg whites without completely deflating batter.
6. I love that baking is something for which I am passionate enough to make the time to keep trying.
7. Baking is an opportunity to develop intuition for what will work and what won’t.
8. Baking is an opportunity to experiment with different ingredients.
9. Baking is an opportunity to take a favourite recipe and to try to “embellish” it with different flavours.
10. Baking is the closest I will ever get to becoming a scientist, meticulously combining different ingredients and relying on their chemical properties to achieve grand results.
11. I love baking because I know exactly what goes into a recipe.
12. I love baking because I don’t use ingredients that I cannot pronounce. Continue reading

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Cat Food: When Her Favourite Is No Longer Her Favourite

When it comes to Ivy the Wonder Cat, mealtime is usually pretty straightforward. She has four or five types of good quality wet food on rotation, she has a bowl of her favourite dry food, she has three kinds of treats in the cupboard, she has an exercise/feeder ball in the play room and she has plenty of fresh water to wash it all down and to stay hydrated.

Most times, she has a pretty healthy appetite and her bowls of wet food are gone in three or four visits. Sometimes, my social eater might gobble them down in two visits.

And based on the way Ivy operates, mealtime seems to confirm what I have heard and read about cats liking structure and aren’t fans of change.

She likes her meals served at the same time each day, and you can set your clock by Ivy. My extroverted kitty has no problem waking me up from a deep sleep that encroaches on her meal time.

Similarly, she doesn’t like me to diverge too often from a small rotation current favourites as it seems to disrupt the routine, resulting in uneaten portions. That being the case, when I am at the pet store, there is really no guesswork involved. I know what her favourites are and I just have to keep buying them, which certainly makes life easy for me.

That is, until the dreaded day one of her favourites is no longer her favourite. Continue reading

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Top 10 Reasons Why a “Quick Run” Is Impossible

I admire those people who say they are going for a “quick run”.

They are those phenomenal runners who stack up personal best after personal best, while barely breaking out in a sweat, who can simultaneously update their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds with professional-grade photos of wildlife, beautiful scenery and gorgeous skies.

They can carry on a conversation without ever being out of breath. And they look so graceful, from the beginning to the end of the run, like gazelles out for a joyful dash through the savannahs.

They inspire me! I love them and I am incredibly jealous of them.

Meanwhile you can find me at the back of the pack, fiddling with something or other, or holding a part of my anatomy that’s complaining, wondering why a 3 kilometer run takes me an hour… or two.

Here they are, my top 10 reasons why going for a quick run is impossible (for me). Continue reading

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Filed under Running