Produce at your Doorstep

As an avid cooker and veggie lover and living in the city without a car, I have spent way too much time weighing the pros and cons of signing up for a program to have my weekly produce delivered to me. Every few months, I do a google search and come up with a new kid on the block selling these services. It’s time for me to share this information with you all, but it’s also time for me to bite the bullet and sign up with one of these companies.

No matter your priority, there should be something out there for you. You can focus on organic, on local, on in-season varieties, and you can even add bread, eggs, dairy and meat to your order.  You can choose the size of your produce box, and have it be filled with only vegetables, only fruit, or a combination of both.  Some companies will deliver right to your door, some to a local hub in your community. Sometimes you’ll be charged to make substitutions to the weekly stock, sometimes not. The boxes are all priced similarly, with minor differences in services.

Image from Fresh City Farms

Image from Fresh City Farms

I recommend you take notice for a couple of weeks of what types of produce you absolutely eat every week (avocado? lemons? kale? apples?), and what items you buy and subsequently struggle to use before they go bad.  Summer is a particularly great time of year to sign up and give produce delivery a whirl, because the items will inevitably be a lot more exciting than the potatoes, carrots and turnips that will fill your produce box in the winter time!

Good news for the suburbs: most of these companies deliver to your door in Scarborough, Richmond Hill, Toronto, Etobicoke and Mississauga! Better yet, check out Ontario’s Community Supported Agriculture website for farm to kitchen boxes all over Ontario. The following company names are linked to websites where you can get specific information on pricing, product selection and delivery.

Mama Earth Organics

Probably one of the most popular services in the city thanks to to an effective marketing campaign, Mama Earth offers four sizes of boxes ranging between $27 – $55, with a $2 charge for customizing your entire basket. Delivery is free on orders of $30 and there is no commitment, so you can place an order on a week-to-week basis. For no charge, you can select 5 items you’d like to never receive. Mama Earth has partnered with many local companies to deliver cheeses, breads, jams, coffee and more with your order, priced as they would be on the store shelves (but with free delivery!). Live in a condo/apartment? Buzz in the delivery people remotely and they’ll leave the produce box right at your door. In season, Mama Earth aims to have 80-90% of your basket locally sourced.

Fresh City

A typical box comes with about 7 – 12 types of produce and sizes vary between $28 and $31, delivery included. Fresh City requires no time commitment and Fresh City claims to be 26% cheaper than buying the same items at your local big box grocer. Live in a building? If you get at least 3 people to sign up in your building, you’ll save $3 per order! 80% of your box is aimed to be local, with greens and sprouts grown in a greenhouse at Downsview Park. Check out their website to see what was in the box last week to get a feel for the mix. Fruit only boxes feature some pretty cool tropical fruits, like starfruit and passion fruit! Everything at Fresh City is organically grown, but not necessarily certified organic since the cost of certification is cost-prohibitive for many small local farmers.

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Sprouting at Home

Here at Things that are Awesome, we love food, but we also love our bodies, so most of what we eat (at least at home) is clean, fresh and nutrient dense. Sprouted grains, nuts, beans and seeds are an easy source of multiple nutrients, including vitamins A, B, C and E and can be readily incorporated into almost any meal. Unfortunately, sprouts lose a whole lot of their nutritional punch in transit and can play host to a variety of bacterias, so the best way to get your sprout fill is by sprouting them yourself at home. But good news: at home sprouting is not only super easy to do, but also cheap!

Supplies: Glass jars, water, loose burlap or other breathable material (it also needs to be porous enough to be able to drain water) cut into squares big enough to cover the top of the jars, elastic bands, a drying rack, and your seeds of choice (for this post, we sprouted alfalfa, crunchy beans and crimson lentils).

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Step 1: Put a tbsp or 2 of seeds into the jar. If you’re sprouting alfalfa, be sure to use a fairly wide mouthed jar as it needs room to branch out. Fill the jar about half to 2/3 full with water, cover with burlap and secure with elastic band. Give the seeds a swish to rinse, drain the water, then refill. Let seeds soak overnight (with the burlap cover), for about 24 hours.

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Step 2: After 24 hours, drain the jars, flip upside down on a drying rack, and leave for three days, filling with water to swish and rinse (draining through the burlap) 2-3 times each day (a good rule of thumb is to leave your sprouting jars in the kitchen and to rinse with breakfast, lunch and dinner).

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Refresh your Running Playlist

This weekend in Toronto the temperature is going up to an incredible high of TWELVE DEGREES CELCIUS!! sarcasm.

Truth be told, this buffer between cold and warm is my favorite temperature for running. Throw in the fact that I have found a few friends in my new-ish neighbourhood who also plan on crushing the Sporting Life 10K race in May, and suddenly we have ourselves a new running club that hits the pavement a few times a week.

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A friend transplanted in New York saw this running group picture and asked for a playlist to help get her motivated to run.  I love getting requests for specific posts, so ask and you shall receive!  My playlist needed some refreshing, so after some digging, prodding and listening to remix after remix, here you go – a spring playlist refresh to help move your legs. (N.B., Alex: if you plan on running another marathon, this won’t suffice – it’s just over an hour of music ;) )

The challenge I’d love some help in resolving is getting this mix to my phone. Soundcloud has a free app for streaming, which is one way of getting this to work. Any idea how I can download/copy this to my phone so I’m not reliant on having a healthy signal? Advice is appreciated!

Happy running/gymming/listening and hoping this helps to usher in spring!

Spring(ish) Wardrobe Refresh

Although I managed to get away with shoes without socks twice this week, I don’t have high hopes that us Torontonians will be baring our legs or arms to the elements any time soon, which means one unfortunate thing: more of the same everything you’ve been wearing for the past forever. I don’t know if it’s been a particularly long winter or a lack of wardrobe expansion thanks a a tight budget, but on a daily basis I look at my rather large, very full closet and proclaim “Uggghhh, I have ABSOLUTELY nothing to wear!” This, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth. I have plenty to wear, I’m just (a) sick of it, (b) not quite sure how to style it, or (c) don’t know what shoes to wear with it in this strange and unpleasant climate.

Hence my “participation” in Dean Street Society‘s “Style Me April Closet & Instagram Challenge.” The premise is simple: each day has a theme to help provide some outfit ideas and hopefully get you thinking outside of your go-to-outfit box. I referenced my “participation” in quotes, because the idea behind the challenge is merely to provide inspiration. There are no real rules and certainly no prizes, except, perhaps, a new way of looking at your existing wardrobe. Moreover, I’m currently unemployed / quasi working from home, so getting dressed in anything but lulu’s isn’t even a thing that happens every day. That said, in honour of a new month, this evening’s date, and this blog post, today I will be living up to the challenge and “Skirting Around Town.”

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Any other tips for breaking out of the winter wardrobe doldrums?

Earth Hour

This Saturday March 29th, from 8:30-9:30pm local time I’d like to extend the WWF’s (World Wide Fund for Nature) invitation to turn off your non-essential lights and electronic devices as a symbol of your commitment to our planet.  If the CN Tower, Times Square, the Las Vegas Strip, the Acropolis and the Sydney Harbour Bridge can do it, so can you.

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For those of you not already familiar with Earth Hour, the event is a global environmental movement that started at a lights-off event in Australia in 2007 as part of a campaign for action on climate change.  Earth Hour has since become the world’s largest mass participation event in history with hundreds of millions of individual participants in over 7,000 towns and cities.

Obviously turning the lights out for an hour has only a small impact on the environment, but that’s not the point.  Earth Hour’s mission is three-fold: (1) to bring people together through a symbolic hour-long event; (2) to galvanise people into taking action beyond the hour; and (3) to create an interconnected global community sharing the mutual goal of creating a sustainable future for the planet.  As an avid user of electronic devices living in a huge energy suck of a city, it is my hope that participating will help promote energy awareness and appreciation while bringing together families, friends and communities during a brief reprieve from iphones, television, and stereos.

Unbeknownst to my husband, while writing this post I decided that I would host an Earth Hour party at our place.  As someone who loves candlelight and board games, I don’t anticipate having any difficulty with either atmosphere or entertainment; however, I’m expecting some debate about the necessity of powering down our smart phones.  If you’re hosting a party yourself, I recommend making some adjustments to the “first one to touch their phone buys dinner” rule. Perhaps the guilty party buys the first round post 9:30?  Drinks the King’s Cup?  Handwashes all the party dishes?  Why not make a night of it and get creative.  You won’t have photographic evidence of what goes down, so feel free to punish electronic users accordingly.

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