Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No Soup For Me, So Let's Talk Shopping

I am so sad, tonight I was going to make a mushroom leek soup. Time escaped from me and here I am at 11:00 pm. No soup and I just got home. I have no excuse, I just got busy and when I finally got home I realized I am out of veggie broth! No soup for me tonight. To be honest, with all this blogging and only me to eat the food, I am kind of overloaded right now with left overs, so maybe it is OK that I take a night off from cooking.

So instead, I figured i would write about where I find my food. Not restaurants (though i love writing about any good vegan restaurant), but more where do I get all my vegan goodies. The things that many non-vegans say.. what is that?! when I pull out my lunch at work.

Though things seem normal to me now, here are a few examples of food that raise eyebrows when I talk about them or bring them outside of the house:

Photo credit: www.easyvegan.info

  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Vital wheat gluten
  • Quinoa
  • Wheat berries
  • Kamut
  • Hummus (chickpeas)
  • Tahini
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Pickled turnip
  • umeboshi plums
  • mochi
  • miso
  • collards, chard, dandelion greens, rocket greens etc
The list could probably go on for a while. For me, I grew up in a very meat and potato style home. Every night the meal was based around a meat and then usually potatoes or rice and broccoli and carrots or something like that. Transitioning into a plant-based diet, I had to completely re-think what I was going to eat. Once I started reading and trying recipes and connecting with other vegans online, I realized how many foods are out there that I never knew existed and how good they are!

I don't have a big budget and living alone can make it trick to get a bang for your buck, so I have had to do some research in finding the best spots for me to get food. So here are a few stores that I tend to go to a lot to get my wacky vegan ingredients (which, are not that wacky!) 

1. Oliver Square Safeway - Mostly because they are pretty close for me, I tend to go here a lot for my main grocery shopping. The nice thing about Oliver Square is that they have a pretty decent 'specialty' area. They have quite a few Amy's soups and burritos and vegan pizza. They also recently started selling quinoa in bulk which is awesome. They always have decent tofu and mock meats (veggie ground, tofurkey sausage etc). They have an olive orchard, which I love and a nut bar where you can get natural peanut butter! Their produce is not bad and usually have what I need for most dishes. 

Oh and while you are there, go check out Breadland, a specialty baker that is across the street (117st and 104 ave). they often have vegan cookies!

2. Planet Organic - I love to shop at planet. All organic and lots of local foods. They also are a great source for tofutti, vegan cheese, mochi, miso and coconut bliss ice cream. They also have a seaweed section and I also go here to get nori, wakame and other sea veggies. There produce is always great, but they are a bit pricey. I shop here when I can, but usually it is just to pick up a few hard to find items. The staff there is also great and it is so nice to have good customer service when you're out. If you go to the Whyte Ave. location, they have a great deli and bulk section, but I tend to stay downtown and theirs is not bad either!

3. El Safadi Brothers Market - Tucked away in the north end, this market rocks. I go once in a while, but if they were closer to me I would probably go a lot more often. They have fantastic prices on produce, oils (I just bought a litre of olive oil for $4.99!). Also a great source for beans, lentils, tahini, pita bread, olives, dates and pretty much anything you find in middle eastern food. They also have a pretty interesting source of candy and pop if you are looking for a treat. If you are into hookah, they sell them there and are one of a few spots in the city where you can buy the non-tobacco shisha. If you haven't been, go.

4. H&W Produce - If you are looking for cheap produce, go to H&W. They have locations all over the city. I usually go to the west end. Their vegetables are sold at a fraction of the price of the mainstream grocery stores. Sometimes, they are not the freshest, so usually best to have a plan for using things pretty quickly. I go there for herbs, guinea pig veggies 9basically the ingredients of garden salad), eggplant, berries. They also have some hard to find items like daikon, burdock, jamica, lotus root, and much more. If you can't find the veggies you want at Safeway, head to H&W. Careful, they are not open late. I often go and they already closed...

5. Lucky 97 - I think they are under a different name now (I will check into it), but this is what we always called them back when I was a kid. This is the grocery store in china town on 97th st and 107 ave. If you are looking for anything Asian that you can't find in your regular grocery store, go here. In fact, if you just want to get exposed to some new foods, go here. Excellent spot for cheap miso, mirin, tofu, herbs and spices and rice.. If you have the space to store large bags of rice, you must go here. They also have an excellent stock of fancy rice cookers. If I had any more storage space, I would be all over that one!

6. Sobeys in Lessard - Normally I would put Sobeys with all the main stream stores, but I was interested in this one because for a while, they were running 24hrs. For a night owl like me, this is important piece of information. They have changed now and I think close at midnight, but that is still better than most. Not only are they open late, but they have some high-end deli style vegan cheese and that makes them worth posting. They also have a decent kosher section which is not something I know much about, but I noticed it when I was in there. Figure it is worth mentioning.

7. Costco - I go to costco for one reason. Cheap, large bags of quinoa. Nuff said. Anything else you find there is just icing on the cake.

When I go grocery shopping, I don't go to seven different stores, but I look at my grocery list pretty carefully and see if once of these stores is worth the trip. I usually end up going to two or three different places in a week. It is worth it to save the money and be able to eat well. Plus sometimes the ingredients I get aren't always available in one store. If it is not in the first place I go, I don't abandon what I was going to make. I revisit the list and see where else I could go. Then while there, find what else can be knocked off the list. A little more brain work, yes... But worth it. If you haven't been to some of these spots give them a try.

What stores do you shop in for you hard-to-find items?


  1. So what is cheaper, bulk quinoa at Safeway or big bag at Costco? Please calculate!

    Another good place for weird/vegan stuff is Vitamin Farm in City Centre Mall.

  2. I go to a billion grocery stores too! The Mexican Meat market, the Asian Superstore, the farmer's market...it's practically a hobby!

  3. Laura - I will find out. Stay tuned!

    Lazysmurf - It's true. I do the farmers market as well. It keeps things interesting and I always find something new when I shop around. It is worth the extra time!