a peek inside the fishbowl

30 May, 2008


Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Westboro|Yaktivism

I felt rather proud of myself yesterday. You see, Mark and I have been trying to see how long we can go without filling up our car. We’re up to three weeks. This may sound great and all but (a) we have a smaller car that doesn’t drink gas like your run-of-the mill mini-van/SUV, and (b) it’s pretty easy to live where we live without wheels.When someone asks how walkable my neighbourhood is I tell them that everything I need is in Westboro Village: coffee, magazines, chocolate (though not for long, they’re closing! ack!) and when it’s all said and done there’s a funeral home for me too.

Ha ha!

No, seriously, Westboro is very much a walkable neighborhood. Mark has been biking to work. I work from home. We are walking distance from school, parks & rec, the pharmacy, and coffee (as I mentioned). Even a trip to the grocery store is doable, although it takes a bit of planning.

When the girls were smaller we did it with the help of our Chariot. We don’t have it anymore, nor do we have a working wagon anymore. The three of us have done groceries on our bikes. The girls are (finally!) old enough to strap on a backpack and carry groceries home. They manage fine, but sometimes I feel like my brain is going to explode, especially when we’re at the self-checkout and the computer voice keeps telling us that we’re doing everything wrong, which is almost always because one of the girls has her hand on the scale.

As I said, it’s a little more work when we do it this way.

Anyway, I made a little promise to myself yesterday. For the month of June I will do everything I can NOT to use the car for grocery shopping. In fact, my challenge is two-fold. I am going to do my best to avoid the Superstore. I want to do the bulk of our shopping at three places: Sasloves (the butcher), Harvest Loaf (the baker) and the Herb and Spice (produce).

The butcher, the baker… is there candlestickmaker I can add into the mix? Har har.

Oh, and the Parkdale Market, of course.

As I write this I realize I haven’t really left myself with a good source for yogurt, dry cereal and t.p., so I will have to hit the Loeb for those items.

The shops I mentioned, Sasloves et al., are a bit farther out than the Superstore. Until yesterday I’ve been assuming that it would take me 20-25 minutes to get there on my bike. Boy, was I ever wrong. I did a test run yesterday and timed myself. It was a leisurely ride la-di-dah down the Byron parkway. I was even delayed back by a bit of traffic and a stop light. And guess what? It took me exactly ten minutes. TEN MINUTES.

I didnt spend a lot of cash because I didn’t want to kill myself carrying it all home.

Our dinner last night was turkey sausage (for the girls), awesome burgers for Mark and I (that’s a whole different post), a green salad and fresh bread. It all came to about $15.00, and it was all fresh fresh fresh and delicious. I felt pretty victorious, like a hunter-gatherer who’d clubbed a sabre-toothed tiger and dragged it back to the cave. I was feeding my family, saving gas, saving the environment AND supporting local business! But the feeling immediately dissipated when I realized we needed milk. Mark went out later – in the car – to pick it up.

See? It takes planning.

I think I WILL challenge myself. And Ill call it the BFG diet – Bike for Groceries. I bought healthy stuff from local merchants AND burned a bunch of extra calories on my bike (thats where the diet part comes in.)

Yes, Ill have to shop more frequently and get organized. I will make use of the pannier thing that Mark bought for his bike. He only uses half. I can use the other half to lug those bags of milk back home.

So what do you think? Is this something you can do where you live? Anyone want to join me? ;)

18 Responses to "The BFG"

1 | sarah

May 30th, 2008 at 10:13 am


I’m moving to The Netherlands in August, and will have a bicycle instead of a car, so I’ll be doing all of my shopping that way starting then! :)

I can’t do it where I live now (in Texas) because everything is so spread out and there is no safe space to ride a bicycle from my house to anywhere I need to be.

I’m excited for the change! I’ve never liked driving much and I’ve never been able to ride a bike as often as I’d like (and never for any real purpose). Yay!

2 | Julie

May 30th, 2008 at 11:27 am


You are SO lucky. I do my shopping at the same shops, but it takes me 20 minutes to drive there. We have two big dogs and three children, so we have an SUV, and have been feeling guilty about it, nevermind how much it costs to fill that beast. Once we move to the country it will only be worse… I wish I could join you though…

3 | porter

May 30th, 2008 at 12:29 pm


I drive a smallish car (Honda CRV) and it’s excellent on gas and I don’t drive alot….I probably fill it up (or rather my husband does) every three weeks or so. I don’t walk to the grocery store anymore even though it’s relatively close…I’ve found that it takes two hours with the girls which is totally unappealing to me at this point (but when they would sit in the stroller/wagon I always walked for groceries). I wish we had a butcher and baker close by.

4 | javamom

May 30th, 2008 at 1:51 pm


We live in such a neighbourhood. I can walk or I can drive, and often, I opt to walk. Bakers, butchers, delis, drugstores, library, parks, community centres, pool, splashpad, ice rink….very lucky indeed. Since the kids came we often thought we need a bigger house which would mean moving away from such a neighbourhood (I will NEVER live in a subdivision, thank you very much), and we have not contemplated this for a while., especially since the gas prices are soooo high these days. Instead, we renovated the basement, make do with less, which IS doable, and walk to as much as possible.

As soon as I find a helmet that fits the tiny baby’s head, I will start taking the 3yo to school in the biketrailer.

5 | andrea

May 30th, 2008 at 2:11 pm


The irony of my posting about this today is that I just took my bike into the shop and it won’t be ready until June 7th. Gah! Shin splits, here I come.

6 | M. Lucy

May 30th, 2008 at 6:09 pm


Seriously,, while you’re waiting for your bike to be fixed, get yourself two big panniers. You will be astounded as to how much you can carry in them — milk, TP, 4 bags of chips, heavy stuff. You’ll really feel you’re letting the bike do all the work.

And, good for you! This is a great endeavour!

7 | Scattered Mom

May 30th, 2008 at 10:31 pm


I would love to-but I can’t for a few reasons:

1. We live on a massive hill, and have to go on a dangerous highway to get to the stores. I am afraid of being flattened and will not allow Jake to walk or bike on that highway. People have DIED.

2. My bike is…um…dead.

3. I could borrow Hub’s bike, but with the health issues I’ve been having I don’t think I could physically do it. The hill would kill me.

However, we do go into town and then park the car and walk to the stores to get everything. My tank of gas has lasted 2 weeks so far, and it’s still 3/4 full.

I wish we lived in your neighborhood!

8 | Lindsay

May 31st, 2008 at 2:29 am


We hardly ever use the car to shop, although no bikes either. We can walk/subway to everything – I love our neighbourhood. I find it helps to get in the habit of shopping every few days, that way you’re not getting huge amounts of stuff. Every time I’m out doing anything, or on my way home from work, I think, ‘is there something I can pick up?’ Also keeping several cloth shopping bags in my (big) purse is essential. Milk and orange juice can be the killers, though. My husband usually picks these up on the way home from work in the car (Toyota Echo – awesome on gas, fits a carseat or two no problem and has an enormous trunk – seriously – you wouldn’t believe the size of the trunk!)

9 | tali

May 31st, 2008 at 7:42 am


Well, I live in the neighborhood right next door, so I guess I can do it…what stops me is the long walk to loblaws, and that the kids would nap in the stroller…I need that nap! It’s vital for my sanity!
I do, however, shop at the butcher, etc. with the stroller, and go to the parkdale market almost every day.

10 | Jennifer

May 31st, 2008 at 9:17 am


Count me in. I live in the area too and a challenge is a great ‘incentive’ to not drive. What a fabulous idea!!

PS. Try the 9 grain loaf at Harvest Loaf if you haven’t already. But make sure you are with someone who will share or else you may end up eating the entire thing yourself. It’s that good.

11 | Nicol

May 31st, 2008 at 10:34 am


I have been thinking of this too with the horrible cost of gas. At this point I don’t think it is doable with my 14mn dd. In the future though!

But we have totally cut back on the amount of gas that we use. I use only 1/4 of the gas that we used to and instead of filling up 4 times a month I am down to once a month sometimes I can make it to once every other month. It take planning to get my errands done together. We don’t go and just drive anymore.

12 | Miss Vicky

May 31st, 2008 at 11:05 am


well, I come from the opposite direction and shop at the same shops. We walk and use the stroller to haul stuff. We have biked to the Loblaws for groceries not available at the Saslove’s/Harvest Loaf/Herb and Spice combo shop, though.

TP and other dry goods we can often get at the Giant Tiger. That’s a bit further away for you.

For veggies this summer we’ll be getting our CSA share again – and biking to pick that up in West Wellington at the delivery site.

13 | BeachMama

June 3rd, 2008 at 2:55 pm


I think that is a wonderful idea. Although my conveniences aren’t as good as yours, I can do a lot without driving. As it stands we go about two and a half weeks without filling up. This past weekend was terrible for making trips so this fill up won’t last as long, unless I really stick to walking everywhere. I don’t have a trailer for my bike to bring the kids, but I sure can pack a lot into the bottom of my jogging stroller. The hardest part for me is pushing the stroller in the store while picking out all my groceries! I will have to work on that one…

14 | Andrea

June 4th, 2008 at 1:54 pm


I wish I could do hte local vendors thing. Sadly, everything is very corporate where I live now. I am on the hunt for a good farmer’s market, they ought to be opening soon, right?

At least the grocrey store is right across the street. It’s been ages since i took the car to go shopping (that said, I will be doing so this weekend when I go to get topsoil for Frances’s garden).

Good luck! I love leaving the car in its parking spot for weeks on end.

15 | Smallish BFG update and one other thing at a peek inside the fishbowl

June 10th, 2008 at 7:37 am


[…] when I said that I was going to bike for groceries every day in June? Well, that was before my bike went into the shop. Since then, I’ve done groceries a couple […]

16 | Smallish BFG update and one other thing at a peek inside the fishbowl

June 10th, 2008 at 7:37 am


[…] when I said that I was going to bike for groceries every day in June? Well, that was before my bike went into the shop. Since then, I’ve done groceries a couple […]

17 | Rosie : )

July 15th, 2008 at 11:19 am


I wish I could do this! There are a few reasons that it would not be possible. A big factor is having seven kids.

1- The grocery carts are way too full. Grocery shopping is paramount to getting food for a small army.

2- The grocery store is not within walking distance.

3- The bus system is pretty horrible in this Ontarian city.

On the upside, my hubby and I barely use our Minivan. He works from home, and I stay at home. We can walk to summer camp, school, church. We generally only fill up the tank once a month, maybe even less than that.

So apart from visiting my parents or his parents, with the 1/2 hour drive, we use the vehicule once a week, to do groceries.

And, I really need that extra space in the Minivan to stuff the food and surround my (non summer camp/school)kids with food goodies.

Have a fantabulous day!

18 | Know More Do More Monday: Gettin’ on ye old bike >> a peek inside the fishbowl

June 28th, 2010 at 1:30 pm


[…] I’ll start biking for groceries again this summer? We’ll […]

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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