Thursday, January 7, 2010
I mentioned in the last post that we had to do a foodmail order once we got back to Baker. The fridge and freezer were pretty bare; we had no fresh produce, were pretty low on meat options, and were down to making homemade bread in the bread maker.
We try our best to do a foodmail to last a good 4-6 weeks, and are starting to get it down to a fine art. We scan the local flyer (available online) for weekly specials, and there is an online form to fill out of all the options available. We generally keep a note on the fridge to mark stuff down when we run out.
This week, the order came to $461. Which, when we figure we spent about $100/week on groceries down south, doesn't seem like too much. (Keep in mind that our barge order to fill our pantry was about $2000.) Included in the $461 is a $5 delivery fee to take our food to the airport for transport on the plane, a $20 or 10% fee for having the store "shop" the order for us, and air freight of about $100. Interestingly enough, foodmail has priority over just about anything else that goes on a plane; passengers' luggage can and has been bumped for foodmail, and foodmail was part of the delay in getting our personal items up here from Ottawa.
Included in our order this week was (from memory) two roasts, four packages of stewing beef, four packages of ground beef, two whole chickens, two packages of pork chops, hot dogs and buns, two packages of bacon, three packages of breakfast sausages, hashbrowns and hasbrown patties, four 4L jugs of milk, four dozen eggs, four loaves of bread, four frozen pizzas, a lasagna, a 10lb bag of potatos, cheddar and mozzarella cheese, romaine lettuce and ceasar salad dressing, apples, pears, two bunches of bananas, green peppers, celery, cereal, cans of soup, cans of beans, brown sugar, ground mustard, steak spice, and rye and whole wheat flour.
So many items to go in the freezer, I have to cook a roast tonight that wouldn't fit, and I'm hoping the hot dog buns won't go stale too fast!
Foodmail is our preferred option of grocery shopping - prices for fresh produce can be outrageous at the Northern - but it's not without it's problems. For one, only 'nutritious' food is deemed foodmailable (stuff like cleaning products, baby items, pharmaceutical stuff is also allowed to be sent as foodmail.) Pop, chips, breaded chicken, cookies, and cakes are all not foodmailable and instead of paying a discounted freight of about $1/lb, you'd pay the basic freight at about $4/lb. And there seems to be some loopholes.... for example, CoolWhip= not foodmail, DreamWhip = foodmail... frozen pie crusts = not foodmail, Pilsbury refrigerated pie crusts = foodmail. It's kinda silly that all the items to make chocolate chip cookies are permitted as foodmail, but actual chocolate chip cookies are not. Oh well, fresh baked is always better anyway!
Also, if the plane gets delayed because of weather conditions... they store your food at the temperature per the labels on the boxes when possible. So you do have a chance of all your meat thawing and having to cook it or risk it spoiling. Also, fresh produce can freeze on the way up, making it into a sloppy mess. Neither has happened to us *yet*, but someone at Safeway mislabeled a box on our last order and our frozen pizzas and hashbrowns were sent as 'Dry Goods' instead of 'Frozen Goods'. However, it's winter up here, and although they were quasi thawed, it wasn't a disaster.
And, I think we've all probably gone to the grocery store and forgot to get something, even if it was on the list, but I'm paying for the privilege of having someone shop for me, so things shouldn't be missed. This week, garbage bags, salami, provolone cheese, and chicken thighs were missed. I *really* needed those garbage bags! Also, sometimes you get some bizarre choices of brands. A colleague has sworn off a particular store because they sent her 'Weight Control' Oatmeal for no apparent reason.
We still go down to the Northern for 'party' items like chips when needed, and occasionally pick up the makings for a meal when a craving hits, but by and large we wait for the next foodmail order.
I've read some criticisms online that the government should not be subsidizing the freight on foodmail orders to Northern and other isolated communities. One person even went so far as saying 'they chose to live there, they can deal with the consequences". To them I say, fine, invest the money in building and maintaining an all season road to each community, so that we can get regular transport rates on our food (any EVERY other sell-able good that we do pay regular freight on) and we'll see how the dollar signs add up then.
Foodmail really is a lifeline for us to the south. It allows us to feel like we're still 'home' and to get some of the food and brands we're used to and at decent prices. Without it, we really would be at the mercy of the stores up here who would be able to charge whatever they wanted.