Thursday 11 October 2012

A season for convenience (and a giveaway!)

There are ideals, and then there is reality.

As much as possible, I try to keep the two lined up. Sometimes, however, reality wins. Expectations are lowered. Convenience is embraced.

Right now, during this time of new babyhood, the convenience that I'm embracing is food. I don't like it, but there it is. I'm all about simplicity right now. It's been months since I've made my own granola. I'm buying frozen pizzas and lasagnas. I keep Larabars and granola bars on hand instead of making my own. Canned beans and chickpeas. Pre-made soups and pie crusts. I made this incredible chicken stew with butternut squash and quinoa last week, but I cheated and used a carton of butternut squash soup as the base instead of roasting the squash myself. Keep it simple, you know?

And yet my food-related ideals haven't been set aside entirely. I still want to feed myself and my family food that is nutritious and free from all the "extras" most convenience foods are filled with. I just want good, simple food - with a bit of help.

Shopping around here is a bit of a sport. Small town living made it so easy - I bought all my groceries at the good ol' Grub. But moving to a big city? Wow. We get our bulk items from Costco, our beef from a local ranch, our produce from the farmer's market or a produce market, our miscellany from Superstore, and our "just need to grab one or two things" from Safeway. Grocery shopping days can feel a bit crazy.

It was during one such shopping trip recently that I noticed a new brand on the shelves at our local Safeway. Claiming to be "100% natural", these Open Nature products had nice simple ingredient lists. Less is usually more when it comes to ingredient lists, so I put those in my basket in place of my usual brands.

So when Safeway contacted me regarding a review of Open Nature products, I already knew this was a line of products I was interested in exploring further and comfortable sharing with you all.

Open Nature products are made with all-natural ingredients, without artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. Their ingredients are so simple that they list them right on the front of each package. Always the skeptic, I expected to see additional ingredients quietly slipped in to the official ingredient list on the side of the package; surprisingly, the lists matched exactly.

Open Nature products are available throughout the store, from the bakery to the deli, frozen foods to meat, dairy to pantry.

Now there's no pretending these are health foods. They might use sugar instead of HFCS, but it's still sugar. Their meat might have no antibiotics, nitrates, or added hormones, but it's still not free-range grass-fed beef from a local rancher. These are convenience foods and they don't stand up to a well-prepared homemade equivalent. But when convenience is a priority, as it so often can be during certain seasons of life, it's nice to have an option that I feel comfortable feeding my family. I don't have to sacrifice all of my ideals on the alter of convenience.

Even better, I don't have to sacrifice taste, either. When sampling Open Nature's line of products, we discovered that their lasagna was the best store-bought lasagna we've ever tried. Their Korean BBQ marinade was an excellent alternative to our usual marinades. There were mixed reviews on their frozen pizzas, but the pizzas were certainly nothing to complain about. Their granola was excellent (I was a particularly big fan of their chocolate hazelnut granola, because hello, chocolate for breakfast). I enjoyed the granola bars for a quick on-the-go snack (especially the cherry dark chocolate one - are we sensing a chocolatey pattern here?) while the husband favoured their crisps for an evening snack. The sweet-toothed boy loved their 100% juices, and the toddler, our little hummus fanatic, devoured their garlic hummus at every opportunity.

As a final bonus, all of the Open Nature products were priced similarly to other brands' equivalent products. While I'm willing to pay more for quality food, it's even better when I don't have to!


Want to try these products for yourself? Safeway has generously offered to give away a $50 Safeway gift card to one lucky reader.

This giveaway is open to residents of Canada.

To enter, leave a blog post comment sharing your favourite convenience food item. (For me it's hummus - none of my homemade attempts have turned out quite right!) After leaving the comment, mark your entry in the Rafflecopter system below. See the Rafflecopter system for bonus entries to increase your chance of winning after completing the first mandatory entry. All bonus entries are entered directly into Rafflecopter.

Comments will be closed on Sunday, October 14th at 11:59pm EST. The winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter and announced Monday morning. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. My favorite convenience food item is shredded cheese. My hands get so sore shredding it myself.

  2. Fruit. There's nothing simpler. It's ready to go. Usually you don't have to do anything to it (maybe a quick rinse). And it's yummy and healthy.

    We also make our own jerky, which we all like.

    lovelydomesticdiva (at) gmail (dot) com

  3. I love those little mini already peeled carrots...I get hand cramps when I use a carrot peeler

  4. I really love those lipton rice packets...I can never get my rice flavored the same way... (I keep trying though)

  5. My favourite convenience food item is crinkle cut frozen french fries. They go with most everything and I like to imagine my kitchen is a cute, retro diner :)

  6. Oh man, I love corn chips. I do buy the organic, non-gmo, stoneground, low-salt, locally produced kind, but still. Chips and salsa is my favourite quick snack.