Monday, July 29, 2013

International Food Resources

Now that we are getting settled in Calgary, my mission has been to learn more about our neighborhood and what it has to offer. This includes the best place to buy groceries for my family. Until this point, my goal has been to slowly evolve my kitchen into all organic products, or at least as much as possible.

Food shopping in a new country is always an adventure. I think I have had the assumption that since Canada shares such a major border with the U.S. that just about the same items would be available here as we are accustomed to. Oh, how so wrong I am. (Sad face.)

For starters, due to the location of Canada, fresh produce is harder to come by, and what you can purchase does not last as long as the produce we are used to buying in Texas. Combine that with the already-shortened counter life of organic produce and you pretty much have to eat everything within a couple days. OK, I can handle this.

Then there are the different stores. There is a familiar grocery chain, Safeway, but the selection severely varies in many categories. There are also many, many other smaller specialized chains, similar to a Trader Joe's size, where they can have great finds, but you certainly cannot find everything you need. For example, I tried a chain called Sobey's yesterday, and they don't sell black beans. BLACK BEANS. I thought these were a pretty basic pantry staple, but perhaps I am wrong.

The next choice when shopping the aisles are the brands. I am fine with trying new brands, but I am concerned that the primary U.S. brand I seem to see everywhere is Kraft. As you may or may not know, Kraft is currently infamous for the artificial coloring, hydrogenated oil additives, and GMO ingredients in their products. And a lot of this isn't even on their labels so you are none the wiser. So I am VERY hesitant when it comes to purchasing Kraft products.

The scariest part: the prices! I am not joking: yesterday my husband saw a gallon of organic skim milk for $13.00. THIRTEEN DOLLARS!!! Are you kidding me?!?! The sad thing is, the cheapest I have seen it so far here is $9.00 which is still outrageous. But unless I plan on taking care of our own dairy cow in our teeny backyard, we will be shelling out the nine bucks. Sigh.

At this point, we have been here a couple weeks, and I have tried three different grocery stores. My next adventure will be to an organic market called Market 17, and the Yelp reviews look promising. I am not giving up my healthy plans yet!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Officially an Ex-Pat

Well, we made it to Canada - and so did almost most of our things. I have to say that Bugga was a champ through all the changes, far more so then we expected. We lived in a hotel for a few days in Texas as they packed up our house. Then we had a day of travel that included a 4 hour flight and an hour in Canadian Immigration to get our residency. Then we headed to another hotel until our new home was ready.

A fun little wrench in our plans: a few weeks prior to our arrival into Canada, Calgary was inundated with flooding throughout the downtown areas and many other places along their main rivers. Downtown also happens to be where most of their hotels are, like any other city. Oh, and Stampede (Calgary's annual 2-week rodeo event) was also in full swing once we arrived so the city's population was abnormally inflated. So of course, we pull up to our hotel at 8pm at night (already past my daughter's bedtime in OUR time zone) and it is completely closed. No phone call, no rebooking to another hotel - nothing. Awesome.

Apparently their computers were in their flooded basement and therefore they had no way to know who had reservations to contact for rebooking. So, oh well for us! I'm still not sure how this International Hotel (literally their name) had the only electronic records in their specific building, but hey, what do I know.

So we scrambled, and drove down to the Westin and checked into their only (and smallest) available room for one million dollars a night (well it was a lot). Oh and no bathtub - which is great for a toddler. This was going to be a long 10 days.

Fortunately my husband's relocation contacts felt horrible enough about their mistake (not checking on our reservation before our arrival) that they found us a corner suite at our preferred hotel and we happily moved over there the next day.

And there we lived for 10 days. It was fortunately near a few parks, playgrounds, and even a splash pad (which Canadian kids will still play in during much colder weather than us!) and the little routine we established worked for us. I also brought along several of Bugga's favorite toys, a couple colors of homemade play dough (post coming soon), and even a basic plastic cup and spoon would be treasured at times (especially near water!).

So we have now moved into our new house and are getting used to the Canadian life. The house is still a hot mess, but we'll get there!

*Our dilemma from the floods is absolutely nothing compared to what many Calgarians have gone through, and are still going through. If you would like to donate to the Alberta Flood Fund through the Red Cross, please click here.