Best bathroom cleaners

I remember reading years ago that most people decide what brands of cleaning products to buy (e.g., soap, detergent, and toilet cleaner) based on what their mother bought. It this is true, what do expats do? Most brands in the stores are different than the ones you grew up with. So how do you pick? I try to find recommendations from Stiftung Warentest (the German equivalent to Consumer Reports) or from Ökotest or other test results. In case it’s helpful for others, I’m going to try to write up what I’ve found out so far, starting with the results for bathroom cleaners. Continue Reading »


There is now a vegan food truck that comes to Saarbruecken regularly. I first tried their food at the Altstadtfest this summer. It was the first “food stand” we saw at the festival, and Derek was quite surprised that I wanted to try it before checking out all the other offerings. But how could I resist trying the only vegan food truck in Saarland? Continue Reading »

In the U.S., the Environmental Working Group puts out a “dirty dozen” list  and a “clean fifteen” list each year.  The lists are based on an analysis of pesticide-testing data generated by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.   They use this data to rank foods according to how likely they are to be tainted with pesticides.  The lists are very useful if you can’t afford to buy 100% organic, as they allow you to target your limited organic dollars at the produce that’s mostly likely to be contaminated.  I’ve been working on constructing a similar list for Europe (especially for produce grown in Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and Turkey).  My last post on this topic is from March 2014. This post updates that list to include the results of a recent Consumer Reports report, which includes data about U.S. produce but also produce from other countries around the world. Continue Reading »

I just came across a new risk report from Consumer Reports, which is designed to help consumers minimize pesticide exposure, while keeping costs within their budget. Their tool show the risk of pesticide exposure from eating 48 fresh conventional fruits and vegetables from 14 different countries. It’s based on 12 years of data from the Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program. Their risk assessment considers the number of pesticide residues on each food, the frequency with which they were found, and the toxicity of the pesticides. Their analysis also takes into account the typical serving size of the food, and how it’s typically prepared (i.e., apple with the peel, banana without). Their categories are based on the risk to a 3½-year-old child, estimated to weigh 35.2 pounds. They also say that the risk categories “correlate with the number of daily servings of that fruit or vegetable.” I have no idea what that means. Do they mean that for foods Americans eat more of, they bump up the risk level? It’s totally unclear to me.

They recommend buying organic for any produce-country combination in the medium or higher risk categories. (All organic produce falls into the low- or very low-risk categories.) In particular, Consumer Reports said that shoppers should always choose organic options for peaches, tangerines, nectarines, strawberries, cranberries, green beans, sweet bell peppers, hot peppers, sweet potatoes and carrots. They say that conventional (i.e., non-organic) items in the low or very low categories are essentially equivalent to organic.

After looking at the data, I want to note two particularly interesting points. First, the country-specific data doesn’t fall into any clear patterns. Sometimes the produce from Canada is better than the U.S., sometimes worse. Same with Mexico vs. the U.S. Second, when they have processed items in the list (like canned peaches and prunes), they generally have low risk, even if the unprocessed item has higher risk. Not sure why. Maybe they have to use more pesticides on fruit they’re going to ship to consumers? Maybe because looks are more important?

Below I’ve divided the Consumer Reports results into three categories: Items that corroborate my previous research, items that contradict my previous research, and mixed/new results. Continue Reading »

Grin and beer it

I am not a beer drinker. In fact, most vegetarians that I know are not big on alcohol. I’m not sure why, but the two traits seem pretty highly correlated. In any case, this post (helpfully dictated by my non-vegetarian, alcohol-drinking husband Derek) is for the rare beer-loving vegetarian in Saarbruecken, and the beer-loving non-vegetarian ex-pats that read my blog. Continue Reading »

I’m looking for baby swimming classes near Saarbruecken, and I’ve compiled a table listing all the courses that I’ve found so far. I haven’t tried any of the courses myself, but I asked other people about their experiences, and their comments are given below. Continue Reading »

A friend told me that a new gourmet grocery store and restaurant opened up in Halbergstr. across from Lidl. I went by a few weeks ago, surprised to discover that Fridel (a pun on Fidel Castro / Gastro perhaps??) is actually a small Globus outpost, with lots of Al Natura products. The “restaurant” is actually a bunch of stations, i.e., a salad station, a pizza station, etc. The food looked way below par. Not gourmet at all. For the most part the grocery selection was no different than you could get anywhere else, but there were a few items of note:

  • a vegan section, including Vegenaise, vegan salad dressings like thousand island, Daiya vegan cheese, and a large selection of Tofurkey deli “meat” and vegan sausages, each packet of sausages costing about 5 to 6 euros. They also carry Al Natura brand veggie sausages.
  • some “ethnic” sections with things like seaweed snacks from Korea, tamarind paste from India, and hummus (2 euros for 200g).
  • a large selection of Al Natura products, including fresh organic produce. The prices are better than at Martinshof or the Biofrischmarkt, but are similar to what you’d find at Rewe/Edeka, and more than at Lidl/Netto/Aldi.
  • various “Globus Gold” brand products, including wild rice and Camargue red rice, which I’ve tried and liked (but it’s not cheap, at 2 euros for 250g).

The store supposedly has a handicapped / stroller lift, but it wasn’t working when I was there the second time, and the first time it made so much noise and was so slow that I decided to carry my stroller and sleeping baby up the many steps rather than try to use the lift.