The Mindful Merchant

Shop – Eat – Live – Mindfully

are organics fuelling my lottery addiction? December 20, 2009



I have started buying lottery tickets. Not for a dream vacation or fancy car…just so I can buy organic food. (I kid, I kid…sort of)

Lindsay, my sister-in-law and I often discuss our escalating grocery bills. She has a frugal gene too. We are both interested in buying organic food but wonder who can afford to pay the prices? There is no getting around it, organic food is expensive. Lindsay has asked me to put my frugal skills to the test and research how we can lower our monthly grocery bills, yet eat as healthy as we like.

Many argue that organic is not worth the money. My husband is one of those “anti-organic – it’s all a marketing ploy” thinkers. When he spies the price of organic grapes (after I have put them in the cart) the vein at the side of his head pulses. We debate, we share interesting articles and he does not shop with me anymore.

Since money does not grow on organic trees, I have to start prioritizing where I spend our money in the grocery stores. I have discovered I can save money buying fresh produce. Why do I bother buying organic fruit and vegetables? After researching the topic, it is much more than being pesticide-free. Organic means that farmers cannot use sewage sludge to fertilize crops. Yes folks, that’s right human feces is a popular fertilizer in Canadian municipalities. Yum! Organic also means free of hormones, free of processing aids and nothing genetically modified. Other reasons include higher nutrient/vitamin content, earth friendly farming practices and supporting local family farmers when possible.

Forget my reasons. Check out some websites and come up with your own. This is an interesting one  The Environmental Defence’s website has a Toxic Nation Reports section full of many different studies.  You can view the toxic chemical profiles of Canadian Adults and Canadian families tested.  You can also head over to their Metallic Lunch Report to see which foods contain the most lead (frozen dinners) nickel (cookies) and other unhealthy metals. What a fun way to spend an evening!

Another website is The Environmental Working Group. They used results from 87,000 tests collected by the U.S. Food and Drug administration and ranked pesticide levels of 46 fruits and vegetables. According to the E.W.G. people who eat the 12 most contaminated produce consume an average of 10 pesticides per day. Rinsing reduces pesticides but does not eliminate them. Peeling helps but unfortunately we lose the good nutrients in the skin.

 Here is a list of items you might want to consider buying organic, and which ones matter less.  Click here for a printable pocket guide.

The Worst Offenders

1.   Peach

2.   Apple

3.   Bell Pepper

4.   Celery

5.   Nectarine

6.   Strawberries

7.   Cherries

8.   Kale

9.   Lettuce

10. Grapes (Imported)

11. Carrot

12. Pear

This is not all doom and gloom though. Good news! Turns out there are many non-organic fruits and vegetables tested that had minimal pesticide residues.  Here are the top results.

The Clean 15

1.   Onion

2.   Avocado

3.   Sweet Corn

4.   Pineapple

5.   Mango

6.   Asparagus

7.   Sweet Peas

8.   Kiwi

9.   Cabbage

10. Eggplant

11. Papaya

12. Watermelon

13. Broccoli

14. Tomato

15. Sweet Potato

The shopping lists will likely change as I continue to research this topic. In the meantime, I will be less concerned about shopping organic when it comes to items on the Clean 15 list.  I have noticed a small reduction in our grocery bills while still trying to eat and cook healthier meals.  Every little bit helps.

I think the lotto is 20 million this week…come on lucky quick pick!



Two Sale$ that look green and Interesting December 1, 2009

Filed under: coupons,environmentally friendly,save money — MindfulMerchant @ 3:10 pm
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I received an email from a company called Planet Forward. They are a Toronto based company that carry hip, functional eco-products that promote living a greener lifestyle. Their on line store offers organic fashions, reusable baskets and bags, stainless bottles etc.  I will pass along two sales that look green and promising. The first is a warehouse sale coming up this week in the GTA.


    Planet Forward 3-Day Blow-out Warehouse Sale 40-50% OFF!! 

Location: 5-51 Roysun Road, Vaughan, ON L4L 8P9  (2 blocks South of Highway 7 on West side of Martin Grove Ave)

Thursday December 3, 2009 10 am 8 pm

Friday December 4, 2009 10 am-8 pm

Saturday December 5, 2009 10 am –4 pm

For more details click here for the Planet Forward website and here for a closer look at the flyer.



Warehouse Sale Flyer[1]



The second sale is for those of us living outside Toronto.  Planet Forward is offering a 25% discount off their online purchase with coupon code XMASDL25. to all Mindful Merchant readers!  Plus free shipping on orders over $50.00. Coupon expires December 24, 2009.

Eco-friendly gifts and discounts?   My frugal senses are tingling.  Please let me know how the warehouse sale was…if you decide to go shopping.





Save Energy – Save Money – the old-fashioned way November 6, 2009



I am very blessed to have both my parents with us in their senior years. They are inspiring, loving people.  Both have incredible life experiences and stories to tell.  My parents have taught me about being frugal, and I am proud of that. I also joke about it…often.

Recently I sat at their kitchen table, enjoying a delicious lunch of leftover soup made from the Thanksgiving turkey. We were using cloth napkins Mom made when I was a Girl Guide and Dad was wearing a fleece jacket done up to the neck. We discussed how to reduce my family’s energy consumption and lower monthly bills. You are probably aware of all the ideas listed below. I found it a good reminder to crack down on bad habits and make some significant changes. Here is how Art and Audrey save energy in their home.


Turn down the heat. Put on a sweater (or a jacket in my Dad’s case). Wear slippers and use an extra blanket at night. Install a programmable thermostat. In my parent’s home, Dad just cranks the dial down himself – no need for the technical gadgets. Mom simply turns the dial up when the dog starts to shiver. If you lower the thermostat just 3 C  (5 F) while asleep you will save up to 6% on heating in the colder months. 


Run the dishwasher only when it is full, late at night before you go to bed. When the wash cycle is complete simply open the door and let it air dry overnight. My parents time it with “The National” and open the dishwasher door when Peter Mansbridge is finished delivering the news.


Wash your laundry in cold water. Hot water laundry is only for sheets, towels and nasty stuff. Hang everything you can to dry.


Unplug everything you can. Appliances and electronics draw electricity even when they are powered off. The only way to stop this is to unplug them.


When baking, roasting or broiling resist the temptation to peek. Opening the oven door causes the temperature to drop 20%, wastes energy and prolongs the cooking time. Mom says that is why cakes fall and cookies flatten. (I do not have this problem because Loblaws apparently does not peek at their baking)


Turn lights off when you leave a room. Replace burnt out bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs. (cfl’s)  They use 60% less energy.  I used to laugh when my husband and I used to drive up to Art and Audrey’s house. “Oh, your parents must be asleep” my husband observed. “Are you kidding?” I would laugh, “They are inside huddled under one lamp watching TV”. Sure enough, we rang the bell and the lights would turn on as they made their way to the front door.  Install motion sensors on outdoor lights to reduce energy use.  It is a good security feature too.


Do not forget to clean the condenser coil at the back of your fridge. It will help the appliance run more efficiently. While you are there, you might as well clean under the fridge too. That is not an energy saving tip, but Mom always insists your house is only as clean as it is under your fridge and stove. (?)


Change direction on your ceiling fan blades. They should operate in a clockwise direction pushing warm airflow down in the winter. Hey Dad, there is no need to argue under the fan this winter – I looked it up – the correct direction is CLOCKWISE.


As much as I make fun of my parents, they are right (and smart!). Reducing our energy consumption this winter is better for the environment and saves us money. All these little things add up. I am going to call Art and Audrey tonight to tell them about this post…just as soon as I put on another sweater.





Romance a la David Suzuki October 12, 2009


The neighbourhood school has joined the David Suzuki’s Nature Challenge.  Our daughters come home from school with interesting energy saving, green ideas. They inspire (and pressure) us to implement changes at home. The results from my August poll “What inspires you to shop/live green?” indicate that the majority of The Mindful Merchant readers (thank you!) are inspired by children and family to be more eco-conscious too.

Last year our kids wanted to try eating dinner by candle light. My first thought was “Fire!” and my husband said something like “I happen to like to see my food when I eat”. They were persuasive and sold us on the idea of turning off all the lights, music and unimportant appliances for the duration of the meal. We agreed to try and made some very interesting discoveries.

We found that our children sit longer at the table and are not in such a rush to do something else. We discovered that turning off the lights and other appliances really quiets the house, in a positive way. Candles give off a surprising amount of light, enough to see your food and each other very well. Candles are magical and make boring grilled cheese sandwich dinners feel special. Blowing out candles is a big deal no matter how young or old you are!    It is also a great way to use the heirloom candlesticks from Great Aunt Lizzy and the “treasured” wedding chatchkas stored in the basement. Best of all you will save money and reduce your energy consumption during peak power times.  Worth considering, no?

Thanks to David Suzuki, shorter daylight hours in the fall/winter and the end of Daylight Savings Time on November 1st (when at we turn the clocks back one hour to Standard local time) dinner time in our house is going to get a lot more sparkly and quiet.   It is a fun idea you might want to try in your home, after all, who does not like a little romance in their life?




That’s a Wrap October 2, 2009

My friend Lesley gave me (actually my children)…a gift. It is a new and interesting environmentally friendly product to try in our lunches called a Wrap-N-Mat. It is two products in one, a re-useable sandwich/food wrap and a place mat. How smart!   It is a good-sized piece of fabric lined with plastic and secured with a solid piece of Velcro. The plasticeco%20without%20label%20in%20front%20(150%20x%20100)%20smaller lining is food safe, Phthalate free, lead free and BPA free. Clean up is as simple as wiping down the lining. I can fit a generous sandwich inside and the lining keeps the bread fresh. Once the sandwich is unwrapped, it becomes a place mat. Since my children eat lunches and snacks at their desks it is comforting to think there is at least a place mat keeping their food off the work surface. (I do not want to think about what is growing on the desk!)

At 7 am packing a lunch box is like completing a jigsaw puzzle for me. There is limited space and odd shaped containers that need careful placement so the zipper will close. Without my morning coffee, it is an embarrassing challenge.  Now that we use the soft shaped Wrap-N-Mat, it is a much easier task. It is reusable, fun looking, and works well. Our children like using Wrap-N-Mat and can easily wrap their own sandwiches in the morning. If you are thinking of making your children’s lunches litter-less I think this is a product worth trying.   They make a great gift too – thanks Lesley!




A Sensitive Topic September 15, 2009

Filed under: eco-friendly,environmentally friendly,green,reduce,save money — MindfulMerchant @ 3:26 pm
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I cannot find a pretty way to write about toilet paper.  No amount of floral pictures, billowy clouds or adorable kittens can cure the uncomfortable feeling I get when discussing this topic.  I have always been a fan of the 3 ply fancy-shmancy stuff.  It is a luxury that until recently, I was not prepared to give up.  Selfish, selfish woman, I know!

My friend Heather gave me a few rolls of Cascades recycled bathroom tissue to try along with an encouraging pep talk that included the phrases “Just give it a try”  and a “You can do it!”. I am the only person who goes out on a fitness walk with friends and comes home with rolls of toilet paper stuffed in my jacket.  “What the heck is that?!”  my husband asked eyeing my extra lumpy coat.  I could hear the apprehension in his voice.  Da Da!  I whipped out a roll and displayed the product like a  model on the Price is Right.  “Recycled toilet paper!” (said with artistic sweeping gestures). I was instantly advised there was “No way am I using someone else’s used toilet paper!!”  Then I explained that is made from 100 % recycled fibers, bleached without chlorine and is wrapped with recycled plastic packaging (which can in turn be recycled). My closing sales pitch was pointing out it was 2 ply, only 1 ply less than our usual brand. We agreed (sort of) that we would all keep an open mind and give the product a try.cascades_env_bt_24rd_f

According to the Going Green Guidebook:  If everyone replaced 1 roll of conventional toilet paper with a roll of 100% recycled material, we’d save 423,900 trees.

Our home experiment results were quite positive. I’m not going to tell you we can’t tell a difference – that would be misleading. I will say that it wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it would be. There is no need to wrap your hand like a mummy if that is your concern. Cascades is a Canadian company committed to sustainable and responsible environmental manufacturing practices. That is worth supporting don’t you think?

The “bottom” line is this…it does the job. It is cheaper than regular brands (high five!), and it is better for the environment. Why not give it a try?  If I can do it, anyone can.




To Market we go September 4, 2009

I like to shop at our local Farmers Market. On Saturdays, I attempt to feed our 100-mile diet. The rest of the week, I am not as successful. It is a fun outing for the whole family. There is so much more to buy  than fruit and vegetables. You can find arts, crafts, meat, dairy, homemade jellies and sauces, fresh baking and sometimes a live band.


Our children are fussy eaters. Visiting the market has grown their vegetable repertoire. Seeing varieties of produce in beautiful shades and colours has inspired them to try new things. My daughter was offered a raw brussels sprout, tried and liked it.  I could not believe my eyes.   Who knew you could eat them raw?!  I thought they only appeared at Christmas boiled until they are pale green and mushy. (gag)


Meeting the farmers that grow the produce and chatting with them has given me a completely new outlook on vegetables.  Feel free to ask questions, their answers might surprise you. Some of the easiest and delicious recipes I use have come from producers. 


I realize that some prices are slightly more expensive compared to a large grocery store chain but you will find that many prices are cheaper.  I think the quality and freshness of the produce is undeniable. It feels good to support family farms and local business. There is value in knowing how your food is grown and produced. I like feeling connected with neighbours and the community.

If you are looking for something to do with your family consider a visit to your local farmers market. Happy shopping!


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