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!



Sanitizer Insanity October 8, 2009

Filed under: all natural,eco-friendly,green,healthy,non-toxic,Uncategorized — MindfulMerchant @ 8:57 pm
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I am a worrywart. I am always fretting about something, global warming, killer bees migrating to Canada, bird flu, bear attacks (?) and the list goes on. My friends and family still laugh at my stockpiles during the year 2000 drama. Do you remember that? I had enough staples that we could bunker down in our basement for at least six months. They can mock my efforts all they want, but if the world collapsed because computers could not process the number 2000, I know they would have been ringing my doorbell wanting to share the rice and bean supplies, cooked to perfection in my fondue pot.

As you probably have guessed, I am nervous about H1N1. Every day the media and the government have new information about this virus. Our children are bringing home letters about school board pandemic policies and practices. Even the local hockey league has a section devoted to their information and advice about this topic. I am driving my hubby nuts talking about my daily findings.  Love ya!

I think all we can do is educate ourselves, stay calm, eat well, sleep well, keep our bodies in optimum health and make informed decisions for our family and ourselves. One of the best ways to ward off the flu and other viruses is good hand washing practices. It sounds silly to discuss when and how to wash your hands but it is definitely worth a review with our children.


Here are a few reminders…

– Bar soaps are not as hygienic as liquid soaps.

– Forget antibacterial soap, they offer no benefit over regular soap and water.

– Make sure you scrub under fingernails, between fingers and up the wrist – for at least 20 seconds and rinse for at least 10 seconds (remind children to wash for the duration of the tune of Twinkle Twinkle little star)

– During cold and flu season, give every family member their own towel to try their hands.

– You must remove all rings and jewellery before washing to do a proper job.


If you cannot wash your hands (as when travelling Hwy 401 and the rest station is out of soap and paper towels – disgusting!) hand sanitizers are a good option. There is much controversy regarding hand sanitizers. Antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizers contain over 65% -95% Ethyl Alcohol to be effective. Infused with chemicals, they can be harmful to our bodies. Only 1 or 2 ounces of the stuff is enough to be fatal to a child. The Cosmetics Safety Database rates Purell and Dial hand sanitizers a score of 7 high hazard out of 10. 

I have found a good natural alternative that is kinder to sensitive skin than generic brands. It is a hand sanitizer by CleanWell. This product is 100% biodegradable, free of toxic chemicals, safe for kids (no ingestion risk) and it kills 99.9% of harmful germs on contact including E. Coli, Salmonella and resistant Staph. I have put the small containers in my purse, the children’s backpacks and the car when hand washing is not possible. Our kids can easily manage the spray application and they like the scent. If you are looking for a safe and effective hand sanitizer this cold and flu season I highly recommend this product.

Be safe and healthy.




Smells good – but isn’t September 30, 2009

Filed under: health warning,toxic — MindfulMerchant @ 12:01 pm
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I am a fool for marketing.  I bought into the implied promise of a clean, fresh smelling and healthy home in a little sleek device that smelled like vanilla and magnolias. I used to buy air fresheners and put one right beside the kitty litter box and the hockey equipment in the basement. The problem is that all it really did was make the room smell like kitty litter, hockey change room and flowery vanilla beans. What an odd and nasty combination!

In 2007 the Natural Resources Defence Council investigated 14 popular brand name air fresheners and found phthalates in 12 of those products.  Some of the air fresheners advertise as “All-Natural” or “Unscented.  There are health concerns with phthalates, which link to fertility, hormone disruption and developmental problems in rats.    Manufacturers use them in shower curtains, nail polishes, children’s toys, cleaners and perfumes as well as many other household items.   Phthalates increase a products durability, flexibility and longevity.

In Sept 2008 the CBC conducted their own tests on air fresheners and found that 1/3rd tested positive for one or two types of phthalates. Currently, air fresheners in Canada do not need to list ingredients on their labels.  Why is that Health Canada?  Sears, Wal-mart and Toys R Us no longer carry toys containing phthalates.  These are chemicals we all need to avoid.

If you use air fresheners or know someone that does, let them know about the potential hidden dangers. After discussing this issue with my Mom she offered this blunt but good advice. “If your house smells Laura, clean it.”   She is right. There is no need for air fresheners that can be harmful to our health and home.  Let’s open up a window instead!




The SIGG Saga September 17, 2009

Filed under: eco-friendly,health warning,heath and safety,toxic — MindfulMerchant @ 11:21 pm
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Many friends have asked me what to do with the pre-2008 production SIGG water bottles containing the BPA (Bisphenol A) lining. Here is an interesting 2nd letter posted on the SIGG company website from CEO Steve Wasik.





Dear SIGG Customer,

(STAMFORD CT) – Last month, I wrote a letter to try and provide you with as much factual and historical information as I could in regards to the 8060.30[1]evolution of the SIGG bottle liner. I also suggested that people could email me if they had any questions and comments.
After reading and responding to hundreds of emails and viewing nearly as many blog & Twitter posts, I realize that my first letter may have missed the mark. What I should have said simply and loudly to all of our loyal SIGG fans is: I am sorry that we did not make our communications on the original SIGG liner more clear from the very beginning.
I have learned much over the past 2 weeks. I learned that many of you purchased SIGG bottles – not just because they were free from leaching and safe – but because you believed that SIGGs contained no BPA. I learned that, although SIGG never marketed the former liner as “BPA Free” we should have done a better job of both clearly communicating about our liner as well as policing others who may have misunderstood the SIGG message.
For over 100 years, SIGG has earned a reputation for quality products and service – and we do not take that for granted. From the day we made our announcement last month, we made a commitment consistent with SIGG values that we would offer anyone who is concerned about BPA an opportunity to swap their old SIGGs for new SIGGs with the new EcoCare liner. Today, I am announcing that this voluntary
Exchange Program will be in place until October 31, 2009 to ensure that our customers have ample time to send their former liner bottles back to us should they choose to do so.
Once again, I truly apologize for the lack of clarity in our previous communications. All of us at SIGG hope that we will have an opportunity to regain your confidence and trust.
Steve Wasik
CEO, SIGG Switzerland




Bottles containing the former liner can be mailed for exchange directly to SIGG.  The information on how to identify your bottle and participate in the exchange can be found by clicking this link.

My reaction to Mr. Wasik’s original letter was anger and mistrust.  I quickly made the decision not to buy or use SIGG products again. This second letter (with the PR spin) has made me change my thinking slightly. Clearly, the company realizes this is a corporate catastrophe.  I imagine Patagonia terminating all business with SIGG last week was a good indicator of the magnitude of their mistakes. Speaking with many friends about this dilemma, almost everyone agrees to give SIGG a second chance in the hopes they have learned from this and will be honest in the future. I also believe in giving second chances…and will be cautiously optimistic.

If you are not inclined to mail the bottles to SIGG directly, I suggest you contact the store you originally purchased them.  My friends and family report that L’il Niblets & Baby Sprouts (Toronto) is providing  an excellent hassle free experience returning the old BPA lined SIGG bottles. Great customer service!   Here is shout out for Boomarang Kids (Ottawa)  They agreed to exchange the SIGG BPA bottles (up until the October 31 deadline) even if you didn’t purchase it at their store!  That is impressive!  

I hope this information is helpful.  It looks like we will have to be patient with the arrival of new exchanged bottles…I have heard SIGG is overwhelmed and scrambling to deal with the return debacle.  Please let me know how it works out.  Good luck!




Are you kidding me?! September 2, 2009

Filed under: health warning,heath and safety,toxic — MindfulMerchant @ 7:51 am
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Do you remember discovering SIGG water bottles? I certainly do…in fact; I believe that was my popular Holiday gift of choice a few years back.  Thanks to some excellent blogs and  a little bit of investigating I have learned that the manufactures of SIGG bottles are in some hot water. They revealed that bottles produced before 2008 have a liner that contains Bispenol-A (BPA).  Bottles manufactured after 2008 have a BPA free liner. The bottles my children have been using are pre 2008 production. I am very disappointed and angry with myself for believing these bottles were the “healthy” option to traditional plastic bottles. I also find it interesting they have been sitting on this information for a year. (?)


Click here to help identify the BPA lining in your SIGG bottle.


If you would like to read more about this topic here are some informative blogs that discuss this subject in a very detailed and much clearer way than I ever could.     ZRecommends –  Crunchy Domestic GoddessGreenme


I am no longer using our old SIGG bottles and will not be buying SIGG products in the future. Perhaps the leaching is minimal, but it is more of a confidence issue for me.  I would like to hear your thoughts.




It’s all about cake August 29, 2009

September means back to school in our home.  Every year my children have classmates with serious food allergies. Approximately 1-2 % of Canadians live with the risk of an anaphylactic reaction. More than 50 % of Canadians know someone with a life-threatening allergy. We have loved ones in our family and close friends with life threatening allergies, perhaps you do too. Keeping themchoccake_box[1] safe is a big concern.

I worry especially when entertaining in our home. Serving safe and delicious food takes thought and effort. I can only imagine how much courage it takes a parent to send a child with life-threatening allergies out in the world without being able to keep a close watch.  These families are counting on us to be vigilant, send safe lunches to school, read and re-read labels, and educate our children and ourselves on this issue.

Whether its allergies, intolerances or dietary restrictions, I try to serve food that is inclusive. It must be awful to feel different or odd at meal times, especially if you are a child. My friend Pam served us a homemade chocolate cake that was nut free, egg free and I-will-have-a-second-slice-please, delicious. It is easy to make and more importantly, everyone thought it was just a yummy “normal” cake. No weird, dry, odd taste to signify it is missing some common ingredients. I like to send this to school with the kids for class celebrations.

Perhaps baking is not your shtick. I get that. Here is another very good option. Cheery Brook Kitchens make yummy cake mixes that manufacture in a nut free/egg free/dairy free/peanut free facility.  They even make icing!  We use this mix as our special occasion cake for big family gatherings. I have yet to find a Canadian made mix that is comparable.  I will keep searching because some days…it is all about cake.

   Pam’s Cake

1 1/2 Cups Flour

1 C Sugar

1/3 C Cocoa

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

5 tbsp corn oil

1 tbsp vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

1 C cold water

Process dry ingredients first, mix in the remaining ingredients. Pour into a greased 8” square baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a  350 oven.




Interesting information August 14, 2009

Filed under: health warning,heath and safety,toxic — MindfulMerchant @ 9:35 am
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Here is an excellent site that is a safety guide for cosmetics and other every day products.  Warning – it’s informative, but very scary to see what we aresmallbanner2009[1] really slapping on our skin.  Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Data Base.

A good place to start is the Health/Toxic  and check out the Skin Deep: Cosmetic Data Base section.   Go ahead and plug in the makeup, perfume, or deodorant you commonly use. If you are feeling brave, try looking up the shampoo or soap you use on your children. They rate each product by toxicity level, 10 being the worst a 0 is the safest. Make sure you give yourself time to really surf around the site and get ready to be surprised. My biggest shock was the fact that many of the “healthy”, organic or environmentally friendly things I have been using scored just as high (if not higher in some cases) as popular/generic products. I was under the impression that if something was marketed as natural or organic it meant safe. Not so! I hope this website gives you more information and helps in you with future purchases.