Grocery Shopping Pet Peeve + November Lunch Boxes in Picture

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Everybody has a few peculiar food habits. What we eat and what we don’t, how we eat, when we eat… the more I chat with people, the more I realize that we all have our unique way of eating food. It’s funny. And people get super defensive about it as well, as if there was one single right way to eat! Vegetarians versus meat-eaters, vegans versus the rest of the world, those who want to lose weight versus those who want to indulge, those who want to eat “natural” food versus those who don’t care, those who are scared of sugar, salt, preservatives… I’ve seen people arguing about whether customers in restaurants should be “allowed” to order a well-done steak because apparently, rare is the only way to appreciate it!

I’m not better than everyone else, I’m weird with food too. However, I think I’m pretty rational when it comes to buying food. I shop often for fresh produce, I try to find a balance between convenience and health—I’m not making my own bread from scratch but I never eat microwave meals—and I aim for a balanced diet that includes dairy, carbs, veggies, etc.

All in all, I find we are doing pretty well. We don’t spend a fortune on food but we buy good stuff, there are options in the fridge and a few “in case of emergency” items in the pantry. It helps that no one of has allergies, special diet or strong food aversions.

I do have a few rules, though. I hate wasting food—what we buy, we eat. I aim for a wide variety of food and I try to avoid buying the same products and brands over and over again. Finally, food has to be practical—as much as I would love to spend three hours in the kitchen to experiment with new recipes, it’s not going to happen. I tweak recipes I know, I don’t do Pinterest projects.

But every time I go grocery shopping, I face a problem that challenges two of my “rules”: the size of packages.

The cliché is true. Everything is bigger in North America.

Take yogurts, for instance, They typically come in 16-container packs or in one 650-gram tube. That’s… a lot of yogurt. Cheese is sold in bars of 400 g and don’t even get me started on tomato sauce—these jars are huge, an Italian family couldn’t finish them over the traditional Sunday meal! Cereal boxes? Huge. Cookie boxes? Huge. Cans of soup? Huge.

There are only three of us. I don’t want to be stuck eating the same cookies or the same yogurts for a month. For instance, I wanted to introduce Mark to different kinds of bread because he seemed to be tired of the usual rye bread I buy. Soft buns come in packs of 12 or 24 units, so that’s like a month of eating the same bread, not to mention that it doesn’t taste as fresh after a few days.

Back in France, we had my dad, always happy to finish anything (but celery). Just in case you were wondering, he is actually pretty fit, but I guess growing up with four sibling and attending boarding school taught him to enjoy food when it’s available—any food. Sometime, I try to encourage Feng and Mark to finish boxes I opened. “This cookie, I don’t like it!” Mark moans. “Just leave in in the pantry,” Feng suggests, as if it was going to empty itself magically.

My idea of a nightmare is my in-laws stopping by and bringing us food. Yes, they do that. Yes, we told them not to many many times. First of all, we are rarely starving. We have food at home, food we bought, stored, prepared. But a few years ago, they bought a membership at Costco, one of these wholesale clubs, probably because they saw it as a way to save money. If you’ve never been to Costco, picture your usual grocery items three or four time the usual size: bulk-packaged pasta, sauce, meat, etc. Now picture my in-laws: the two of them probably weight about 220 lbs together. Yeah, they don’t eat that much food, even if they freeze it.

So once in a while, they bring us “extra”. “Just so you know… my parents brought us a pie,” Feng warned me a few days before Thanksgiving. “A pie?” “Yeah, pumpkin pie.” “But… do you like pumpkin pie?” Feng shrugged. I shrugged too. Okay, whatever.

Then I stepped into the kitchen and faced the biggest pumpkin pie you can imagine: 12”, 3.5 lbs. Well, technically, we only had half of it (presumably they kept the other half), but still.

I’m not proud to say we ended up throwing it… because none of us like pumpkin pie, and certainly not several pounds of it.

Large quantities of food scare me. I’m not a three-green-beans-and-I’m-full person—when I eat, I eat. But these giant jars, big cans and other value packs are a challenge. I don’t want to deal with that much food. I need variety in my life!

So I try to buy smaller-size packs when available and I look beyond the leading brands to buy more fresh or “specialty” products. I go to Chinatown, Italian delis… and even leading supermarkets have a nice selection of imported products that usually come in smaller size and are fun to try.

Meanwhile, here are a few of Mark’s lunch boxes for November!

Pasta with meatballs and tomato sauce, cheese/cucumber sandwich, chocolate waffle cookies, yogurt and apple sauce

Pasta with meatballs and tomato sauce, cheese/cucumber sandwich, chocolate waffle cookies, yogurt and apple sauce

Stir-fried rice with veggies and meatballs, honey sandwich, butter cookies, cheese, banana, yogurts and apple sauce

Stir-fried rice with veggies and meatballs, honey sandwich, butter cookies, cheese, banana, yogurts and apple sauce

Stir-fried rice with spinach and bok choy, spring rolls, cheese, sandwich, apple, butter cookies, yogurt and apple sauce

Stir-fried rice with spinach and bok choy, spring rolls, cheese, sandwich, apple, butter cookies, yogurt and apple sauce

Steamed potato/carrots/broccoli with creamy sauce and breaded fish, peach jam sandwich, cheese, chocolate waffle cookies, grapes, yogurt and apple sauce

Steamed potato/carrots/broccoli with creamy sauce and breaded fish, peach jam sandwich, cheese, chocolate waffle cookies, grapes, yogurt and apple sauce

Steamed rice with cucumber and breaded fish, vanilla sponge cake, grapes, cheese, yogurt and apple sauce

Steamed rice with cucumber and breaded fish, vanilla sponge cake, grapes, cheese, yogurt and apple sauce

Pasta with carrots and broccoli with a pesto sauce and egg, apple, cheese, cream cheese-filing cookie, yogurt and apple sauce

Pasta with carrots and broccoli with a pesto sauce and egg, apple, cheese, cream cheese-filing cookie, yogurt and apple sauce

Stir-fried rice with broccoli and chicken nuggets with egg, string cheese, chocolate cookie, apple, vanilla sponge cake, yogurt and apple sauce

Stir-fried rice with broccoli and chicken nuggets with egg, string cheese, chocolate cookie, apple, vanilla sponge cake, yogurt and apple sauce

Stir-fried rice with broccoli, carrots and cucumber with breaded fish, italian bun with peach jam, grapes, cheese, yogurt and apple sauce

Stir-fried rice with broccoli, carrots and cucumber with breaded fish, italian bun with peach jam, grapes, cheese, yogurt and apple sauce

Steamed rice with carrots and cucumber and breaded fish, Italian bun with strawberry jam, crackers, cheese, banana, yogurt and apple sauce

Steamed rice with carrots and cucumber and breaded fish, Italian bun with strawberry jam, crackers, cheese, banana, yogurt and apple sauce

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

18 Comments

  1. Can you make my lunch boxes ? 😉

    French boyfriend usually buys tons of food that does not go together and that ends up rotting in the fridge. I’m more of pycho-rigide when it comes to food: I plan meals in advance and only buy what’s on my list.

    • OMG, food that do or don’t go together. That’s a fascinating topic. Everybody has his own definition of that… I don’t really plan meals in advance, only Mark’s lunch boxes.

  2. Mark’s lunch boxes look so yummy. This may seem like a totally stupid question, but do kids eat their lunch cold out of the box or..? Just wondering if there’s a way to heat it up in a microwave. Again, sorry if that’s a completely silly question. In Europe there’s no such thing as lunch boxes, kids eat at a school cafeteria where meals are prepared fresh every day, so I can imagine some kids being super picky and not wanting to eat cold food..or eat just the sweets and leave the rest:) does Mark ever do that?
    But again, your lunch boxes look delicious, I would totally eat that any day. Lucky kid!

    • That’s a very valid question! Mark’s “school” (really, it’s a daycare center) uses a microwave and warms up the food. Food is stored in the fridge, so it doesn’t get spoiled (and so is the bread, Mark complains that it’s cold…). It is my understanding that later on, at school, kids don’t often have access to a microwave, which makes packing lunch trickier.

      • I never once microwaved my food growing up in Canada. Nobody ever talked about and I don’t even know if it was an option. Unless you bought food, which wasn’t really an option before high school, everyone usually just ate cold sandwiches.

        • Yeah, apparently it’s not a common option.

          It’s funny because last night, there was a note in Mark’s lunch box explaining that because Hydro was doing some work in the area the following day, there would be power cut so we had to provide a meal that didn’t need to be warmed up. It was a bit of a challenge to find stuff for a cold lunch, I’m not used to it (for Mark, anyway).

  3. As much as I like cooking and experimenting with new recipes, your lunch boxes make me feel ashamed. I would probably be happy with myself to give a bologna sandwich and an apple to each of my kids for lunch. They’d catch up eating “real” food when they get back home! 😉

    • Don’t worry, it’s just a phase! I was sooo frustrated with Mark and the whole feeding thing at one point, then it got better. Setbacks happen all the time, just shrug them off. They won’t starve themselves!

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