Posts tagged ‘food’

December 10, 2013

A Month without Supermarkets: end of month review.

Well, our first month without supermarkets is over and generally speaking it was a great success.

We have loved getting our weekly food delivery from Abel and Cole. We’ve really enjoyed searching out alternative suppliers, local specialists and great independent shops close to home, including the local butcher, bakers, and cheese shop. We’ve had lots of successes. And we’ve had a fair few failures – needing milk when the only shop open is Tesco (grr) is a notable one. However, let us not use our plans as a stick to beat ourselves with.

We’ve decided that this is how we want to live forever; to reduce our reliance on the supermarket as much as possible, but to not get over-anguished about those times when we have little choice. Which is usually, as I mentioned in a previous post, down to a lack of planning.  We’ve also changed the way we buy our food slightly from Abel and Cole, so we plan our weekly menu beforehand so we know what will be coming in the delivery, what we will cook with it and when. This might sound pretty regimented,  but actually, creates a lot more simplicity on a day-to-day basis and means for much less food waste.

Now we’ve got into something of a routine when it comes to food, and made our main decisions about where we buy our food from, the next thing we really want to tackle is the amount of waste and rubbish we create. As I said, planning a weekly menu ahead makes for less food waste, but also we’re looking at packaging too. Recycling is obviously one way to deal with packaging waste, but it shouldn’t be the first ‘r’ in waste reduction. Reducing the amount of packaging we bring into the house in the first place should come before that.

So, that’s our next step. We’ve bought a bokashi system to help us deal with the food waste and we’re looking at ways to reduce packaging and rubbish.

I’ll share our progress with you in a further post – but if you have any tips to share, please add them in the comments!

November 12, 2013

A Month without Supermarkets Update: BEDN #12

So, we’re 12 days into November and I thought I’d give you a bit of an update about how we’re getting on without supermarkets. We’ve had some notable successes and failures over the past few days, which have provided us with much food for thought (no pun intended!) and set us on course for what comes next.

Here’s what I’ve learnt:

  • Organisation is key to living without supermarkets. On the couple of occasions that we’ve failed, it’s because of a lack of organisation.  Mostly discovering that we’ve run out of milk. Next plan – freeze some milk. Supermarkets are often the only place open on the occasions when you discover that you’ve run out of something vital, and sadly we don’t have a local corner shop that would fill the need for somewhere at short notice, or late at night.
  • Vegetable boxes are great; we’ve really enjoyed using ours. BUT – in order to make the most of them, we’ve needed to be pretty organised. Eating the vegetables in some kind of order of their longevity, rather than leaving the salad until it’s a wilting, soggy mess is important, and has helped us minimise waste.
  • To make sure that you can cook genuinely great food from a veg box, you need a decent stock of the other stuff – herbs, spices, carbohydrates, dairy, protein. In short, everything else. Otherwise you find yourself going “Oh, we’ve got a great squash in the veg box, we could make curry/risotto/soup”, only to discover that you lack everything but squash…
  • Also, getting a veg box rather turns food planning on its head a bit. Often, we might decide to cook something because we’ve seen a recipe or have a hunger for a particular thing. Getting a veg box means that you cook with what you’re sent, not with what you’ve decided to buy from the supermarket. With Abel and Cole, we’re able to see a few days in advance what we’re getting, which means the cookbooks come out, and I have a lovely time planning what to do with what we’re having delivered.

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  • Because part of our hope for this project was to reduce waste, we’re making a lot more use of the freezer too; we’ve made breadcrumbs from stale bread, cooked in bulk, and frozen bananas to make smoothies.
  • There’s a lot less packaging waste from this kind of shopping, simply because there’s a heck of a lot less plastic. It wasn’t part of the original plan, but it’s now something we’re actively seeking to do.
  • We will never be able to do a one-stop-shop at anywhere but a supermarket – not even the central market in Leeds, which is wonderful, stocks everything we’d like. I think we’ve pretty much accepted this, and decided that because the time spent on food shopping in local shops or markets is a joy, rather than a chore, that helps to make up for it taking more time.
  • Having said that, time is precious and short supply here. So, if you’re as busy as us, I recommend that once you’ve found your perfect butcher/baker/cheesemonger, it’s a good idea to stick with them and build some kind of routine, in order to reduce the amount of time you spend on food shopping, even though it is fun! A great case in point is the Leeds Bread Co-op . We’ve just signed up to a regular order, that we will collect every Wednesday, hopefully it will help us stay a bit more organised (see point one!) and the bread is splendid.

Overall, the whole project is going really well. It’s making us appreciate our food more, think about what we’re buying and how we’re cooking it. We’re wasting less food, using less plastic, and really enjoying ourselves in the process. We’ll be continuing with this beyond the month of November, that’s for sure. And even if we do end up buying last-minute milk from a supermarket, if the overwhelming majority of our food comes from elsewhere, then I think we’ll still consider this to be a great success…

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November 4, 2013

Food, Glorious Food: BEDN #4

I’m starting to type this post with a stomach full of fluffy oven-baked potato, lashings of butter, a spot of parmesan and cracked black pepper, and a glass of red wine. Simple food, cooked with love, and completely perfect for Autumn.

We moved home on Friday, and I thought I’d share a couple of photos of our new kitchen. It’s not huge, but it is very sunny and, not shown in the photos, it has a table and chairs too, so we can sit and eat at the table together. Eating at the table as a family is such a huge memory of my own childhood and one that I hope to pass on to my own children. Its a time to catch up with each other, share stories, make time. And as such, it’s more important than what is on the plate in front of you.

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Sunny little kitchen…

Having said that, what I eat is important to me, and has been at the forefront of my mind since our decision to quit using the supermarkets for a month (at the least – the way things are going it might be a permanent decision!)  We’ve set up a regular vegetable box delivery with Abel and Cole, which I really like because of the flexibility they allow with making changes to what we have delivered. As I have an allotment, very often the food I am getting in a veg box is the same as that I have grown, so to be able to say ‘no’ to various things when I’ve got a home grown glut is very helpful!

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Freestanding kitchen unit. Spot the ‘moving-in’ Nutella glasses of prosecco!

In addition to that, since moving here we’ve bought bread and delicious cakes from Crust & Crumb, a local cafe/delicatessen, and spied a great local fruit stall that we’ll be paying a return visit to. Hunting around our new local area of Chapel Allerton in search of non-supermarket food stockists is a great way to get acquainted with the area. It looks like we’ll be spoiled for places to go out for food too!  I’m feeling really lucky to live in a place with so much independent retail. Next on the list of places to buy food from in Leeds are Millie’s, a family run food store in central Leeds, the Leeds Bread Co-op and obviously the Leeds Market. I’m going to find out when all the farmers’ markets nearby take place too. There’s nothing quite as pleasing to eye or stomach as a wander round a good farmers’ market!

But, most of all, I’m looking forward to cooking for family and friends again, and inviting them to sit around the table with us, break bread, share stories and create new memories.

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October 25, 2013

A month without supermarkets.

Last month, I had a bit of a meltdown in the local supermarket. I’ve written before on the paradox of choice and how, sometimes, when faced with too many options, I go into some kind of paralysis. When forced into a supermarket, I often find myself wandering aimlessly round  as though drugged, then like the proverbial deer in the headlights, standing in front of an entire aisle of soup, unable to drag myself away, nor make a decision about which to buy.

And that’s precisely the reason that I’m quitting them. That, and the knowledge that half the world doesn’t have enough to eat and the other half, well, me at least, is deliberating over what seems like an endless variety of food.The balance is quite clearly off and it makes me uncomfortable. I want to have a better feeling about my food than I do now.

So. What to do? Well, I’m about to move to a new area of Leeds which has an array of small independent shops. I’ve just started getting a weekly veg box delivery again. And I’m determined to make the most of my allotment produce. All of these things add up to one answer. Stop going to the supermarket. See what other suppliers are out there; the Leeds Bread Co-op that delivers locally, the farmers’ market, Leeds City Markets, Handpicked Food Hall, and a myriad of other folk. I want to know where my meat comes from, try raw milk, eat seasonally, cook more, meet the people who produce the food that I’m buying and eating. I don’t want to be that person that I become when I’m in the supermarket, making choices like a zombie. This isn’t about me being a ‘foodie’. I don’t really understand that term anyway; surely everyone who eats is a foodie? This is about making more sustainable choices, being comfortable with what I’m eating and enjoying myself. Fewer, better options feel better for me than the vast warehouse-style supermarkets that just make me uncomfortable.

It’s also not an exercise in deprivation. I’m no Jamie Oliver with his unthinking ‘ buy ten mangetout from the market’ type comments. I appreciate that this is going to take more time and is likely to cost more money. I also know how completely fortunate I am. Believe me, if I worked awkward shifts or had a very tight budget, I would stay in the supermarket, without question. I am grateful that I can make this decision.  I’m also hopeful that perhaps I’ll waste less food, use less packaging and appreciate what I’m buying, cooking and eating a bit more.

So, my statement of intent: For the whole of November I  will make sure I don’t step foot in a supermarket. I’m very hopeful that my lovely boyfriend will join me in this challenge. I think he will. As long as we find a decent beer shop! Who am I kidding, I shall need that too. At this moment in time I can only think of one problem. I need fishfingers. So, I need a non-supermarket place to buy or a great recipe to make fish-fingers. Otherwise my lovely, incredibly fussy, four year old boy will starve. Any ideas on that?

During the month, I’m going to blog about the places I find along the way. I’m also doing the Blog Every Day in November Challenge with Rosalilium, so November is going to be a busy old month on Margot & Barbara. If this month works out well, then the plan is to keep going to the end of 2013. And then, who knows. Can we get through the whole of 2014 without Tesco? Sounds good to me…

 

Bloggers: Fancy joining in? Let me know, and we can link up. 

Readers in Leeds, are there any places I should try? I’m thinking of independent food growers, producers, shops, markets etc. Let me know! 

August 14, 2013

Three Good Things: Week Five

Hello and welcome to week five of Three Good Things!

One: My tomatoes.

My first good thing this week is the first home-grown cherry tomato of the year. Earlier this year, I sowed a whole packet of seeds that promised to be a new variety of tomato that was small enough to sit on a windowsill. The grand plan was for me to grow them all and then share with the folk who come to the Sage and Thrift cookbook swap.

Things didn’t quite go according to plan when most of the seeds turned out to be some mysterious brassica (they all look the same at seedling stage!) and only three tomato plants. So I didn’t have enough to give any away. However, the two plants I still have left are doing really well. They’re petite, study and have a healthy crop of fruit that has just started to ripen. I ate the first tomato very ceremoniously yesterday and it was lovely. So, I’ll have a go at growing these again next year and hope that I get the tomatoes I’m promised! The mystery brassicas, by the way, have been planted on the allotment and are romping away. They may well be brussels sprouts…

Spot the first ripening tomato!

Spot the first ripening tomato!

Two: Scones in the Lake District.

I had a camping microadventure last week, and I’m going to blog about it separately, but there are a few things that really stood out for me. And one of them was this moment. At the risk of sounding like an Enid Blyton character, food always tastes especially nice when eaten outdoors. And when I feel as though I’ve really earned a treat by doing some exercise, it’s absolute heaven. So these freshly-made and still warm scones, eaten after climbing Castle Crag in The Lake District, were truly a high point of this week!

Giant cream tea...

Giant cream tea…

Three: Borrowing a tent.

The last thing that has made my week is a tent. Or, rather more specifically, the loan of a tent. Without which I couldn’t have had the microadventure that has given me lots of happy memories, made a huge improvement to the way I am feeling and set in motion a plan for the rest of the year. As I said above, I’ll tell you more about the trip later this week, but for now, huge thanks go to my marvellous, tent-lending friend Lyndon, without whom I wouldn’t have woken up  here…

Beats waking up at home...

Beats waking up at home…

Now, do go and see what Three Good Things  A Hell of a Woman, Mummy Plum, Asbestosbitch and Nyssapod have chosen this week and let me know what yours are!

Three Good Things is taking a break here next week, as I’ll be spending the week in a Mongolian Yurt at Bivouac. Hopefully, I’ll have lots of adventures to share with you on my return though…

July 24, 2013

Three Good Things: Week Two

The first week of Three Good Things was so well received and I have been completely delighted by how many people got involved. It seems that I’m not the only person who wants to slow down and practice a bit of gratitude for the small things in life.

We may not live perfect lives – I know I definitely don’t –  but there are a lot of things to be grateful for. Things that bring a bit of joy to the everyday, a spot of sunshine and a smile. I want to document them and be reminded that, although my life is not perfect, it is my life. And I’m incredibly lucky to be living it.

So, here we go…

One: My sweetpeas

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The first thing on my list this week are my sweet peas. More than any other flower I know, sweet peas demand to be picked. The more flowers you pick, the more flowers the plant produces, in the desire to ensure its own survival. Added to that, if you choose one of the older varieties or perhaps Matucana (the original sweet pea) you are rewarded with an incredible fragrance from so few flowers. And, if that’s not all, they’re incredibly easy to save seed from. Just allow the pods to dry well, and pop out the large, dark seeds. Keep them somewhere cool and dry and they’ll be fine for sowing next year. Just remember that if you choose an F1 hybrid variety, the saved seed will revert back to the parent, and so you might well end up with a colour you weren’t expecting. But, hey, that’s part of the fun of gardening…

Two: Bun making with my daughter.

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I’m not the kind of parent who does lots of craft activities with my kids. Something I’m going to attempt to change this summer. But I do cook with them. This week, we made buns. Not cupcakes or fairy cakes. Buns. That’s what my mum calls them, and so that’s what I call them. Anyway, these ones, with too much icing and a mountain of mini marshmallows on each one, were lovely.

Three: New perfume!

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This week I was reminded that delated gratification can lead to far greater rewards. For about a year now, I’ve longed for a new perfume. One specific perfume, to be precise. 34 Boulevard St Germain, by Diptyque. I don’t know about you, but every time I see something that I’d really like, I say to myself ‘on payday, I’ll buy that’.  Of course, each payday comes and goes and I don’t buy lovely things. I pay bills.

This month, however, I did buy it. After a year of wishing that I could have this perfume in my life, I finally do. If you see me around, expect me to smell of it! It’s a complicated and quite unique fragrance, inspired by the flagship Diptyque store in Paris. As the store sells a myriad of perfumes, candles and home scents, you could be forgiven for thinking that it would be a tangled mess of a smell. Not so. It starts off with green top notes, then the mid notes are floral and then dries down to  the lingering woody, earthy, rich and perfect base notes. I love it. Adore it. And it feels more special to me because I had to wait for it. I doubt I’d be treating it with the same reverence if I was just able to buy it on first encounter without having to really think about it.

So, that’s my three good things for this week. I’d love you to share your Three Good Things, either in the comments or in a blog post. Here’s a little round up of all the fabulous people who wrote a post last week – do go and read them!

Hello Kirsty  – In which we learn the Spanish for ‘we are turtles’ and see a glimpse of the best birthday party dress ever. Brilliant.

Espresso Coco –  More language fun in this post. And some of my favourite things from one of my favourite people and collaborator on a brand new blog! It’s about TEA. You’ll love it.

Leeds & Me  – Isobel has greener fingers than she thought! And because of this post, I’ve a new book on my reading list.

A Hell of A Woman – This blogger is one of my online best buddies and in this post she shares news of a great new project.

Lady Lugosi – This post made me laugh out loud and again, there’s a brilliant project included.

Spider’s Filthy Assistant – I love this post. It’s sexy, optimistic and has made me want to pay a return visit to Edinburgh this year.

Nyssapod – A post from one of my  favourite online friends. I’m coveting the phone case in this post! And I’m going to listen to the money-saving Audioboo.

Looking at this list of posts has made me smile the biggest grin. I probably shouldn’t have it as one of my Three Good Things for next week, but it’s tempting…

July 17, 2013

Three Good Things: Week One

With sincere apologies to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for the blatant theft of his book title, I’m calling this post ‘Three Good Things’ and it will be the first in an ongoing weekly series that I shall post each Wednesday.

Three Good Things is inspired by ongoing conversations I have with friends and from re-reading sections of The Happiness Project. It’s about focussing on what I do have in my life, instead of what I don’t have. A friend of mine mentioned that he’d done a writing project with his children during a period of change in their lives to get them to remember good things every day and it’s really resonated with me. I spend a lot of time planning the future; I can often struggle to keep my mind in the present day.

In times of change or upheaval, or when things feel like they’re an ongoing battle,  it’s good to be able to slow down and practice a bit of gratitude. And that’s what I shall be doing in this series. Each week, I shall choose three things to share. Things that have made me happy, made me smile, brought me a bit of joy or peace and made me grateful for the life that I have. I will always be a planner, always have one eye on the future and always strive to better myself and my life in one way or another, but this will hopefully help me be thankful for what my life looks like right now.

Robert Brault wrote ‘enjoy the little things in life, for one day you may look back and realise that they were the big things’.

So, without further ado, I present to you Three Good Things.

One: Strawberries

The first thing to bring me joy this week has been my strawberries. I’ve had a difficult year on the allotment this year. I’m living further away from it, and life is so busy that it’s often a challenge to get there. It can feel like a chore, instead of the hobby it is supposed to be, when I’m trying to work it into my schedule. And the sun, though very welcome, means that watering is an ongoing necessity.

Thankfully, my reward for all this effort has arrived in the form of beautiful strawberries. Giant, sweet and warmed by the sun, these are the best fruit I’ve ever grown and I’m thrilled with them. The fact that they match my red toenails pleases me enormously too. I always paint my toenails red. Actually, that’s not true. On a whim, I painted them blue the other week. Then I had a really long bath, which made my feet go wrinkly. After getting out of the bath, I dried my feet, and realised that the combination of the wrinkles and the blue toenails made my feet look like corpse feet. Those of you who remember my kayaking experience of last year will realise that this isn’t the first time I’ve had that feeling about my feet… Given that ‘dead’ isn’t generally a look that I aim for, I swiftly removed the blue. I shall be sticking to red from now on!

The colour on my toes is Dragon, by Chanel, a truly bright red which makes me feel happy whenever I look at it.

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Two: The Cluny, Newcastle

The second thing to bring me lots of happiness this week was The Cluny, a brilliant pub in the Ouseburn area of Newcastle. We had such a great night out. The warm summer evening brought heaps of people to sit outside the pub on the curved stone steps and ‘village green’ area, so, armed with pints of beer, we sat and people-watched. It was a moment in my life when I wasn’t thinking about the past, or planning the future but was simply happy to be in the moment I was living and with the person I was with. These moments in life should be treasured and I’m very happy to remember that feeling.

The Cluny is a wonderful pub, filled with a great variety of beers including my favourite Timmermans (a fruit beer, I’m such a girl!) together with a live music venue. I really recommend it.

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Three: My lovely bike

The third thing that has made me smile this week is my Pashley Princess Sovereign. I’m pretty sure that I gave her a name but I’ve forgotten it, and when I took her out of the garage on Sunday she was covered in dust which made me feel a bit shameful. Nonetheless, the minute I got in the saddle, I remember why I love her so much. We had a little ride in the sun, punctuated halfway with a Primo’s gourmet hotdog (therefore reducing the health benefits of cycling to nil) and I’ve promised to myself that I won’t leave it as long before we go out together again.

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So, those are my Three Good Things for this week. See you here again next Wednesday!

I’d love for this series of posts to develop a bit of community – so do tell me, what are your good things this week? 

April 10, 2013

Sage and Thrift Cookbook Swap.

On Sunday 21st April, Sage and Thrift  (a project that I dreamed up with my lovely friend Jo) will be holding its first Cookbook Swap!

Sharing is at the heart of all our plans for Sage and Thrift. We want to build a community of like-minded people to come together to share – whether that is food, skills, resources or time. Food is central to that thought, purely because nothing brings people together like filling our stomachs.

The idea for the Cookbook Swap stemmed from my enormous and ever-growing collection of cookbooks. Regular readers of this blog will know that I cannot resist them. The sheer beauty of them together with the promise of perfection lying within each one draws me in like no other kind of book. Even though I know that I don’t have the room for them, it’s only a matter of days since I bought my last one – Simon Hopkinson’s The Vegetarian Option, which is excellent – and I cannot be the only person with this kind of habit, yet without either the money to fund nor the space to house such a collection.

I’ve done Cookbook Challenges, and culled a few from my collection to the local charity shop, but most of them I can’t bear to part with forever. Having said that, I am always happy to lend them out, and know that I would love to try new books for a while in return. Hopefully, other folk will feel the same way.

Too many cookbooks ...

Too many cookbooks …

So, here it is the premise:

Come along to the Cookbook Swap – bring a book with you! One that you either love but have tired of, or one that you’ve never got on with. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s a cookbook!

We’ll have a spreadsheet set up on the day, so we can take your details and the details of the book you’re leaving to swap. You need to be happy to lend the book out and know that it might come back a bit more spattered with cooking oil than it went out. If it’s too precious to you, leave it at home.

Then have a browse of the books available. Once you hopefully find one you like the look of, bring it back to us with our fancy spreadsheet and we’ll log that you’ve borrowed it. Take it home, cook up a storm, and bring it back to the next one. If you want to bring us some fabulous food you’ve cooked, so much the better …

One of the things we’re going to do is give out a little ‘passport’ with each cookbook. We’re hoping that people will write a little bit in them, just to say what they cooked and how things went. This will help us to build a record of how each book has been used and a bit of history of the swap.  Plus, we’re getting a stamp made with our logo on, so it’s rather a good excuse for us to get stamping crazy. The passport will stay with each book for as long as that book is part of the Cookbook Swap and then go home with the original owner as a memento of the project.

So, if you’re in Leeds on Sunday 21st April, between 2-3pm-ish and you’re interested, do come along. We’re very fortunate that the lovely folk at Brewbar Espresso (located just underneath Leeds Art Gallery) are letting us host the event there, so bring some pennies to buy yourself a cup of their fabulous coffee, and we hope to see you on the day!

November 28, 2012

A ‘Sage and Thrift’ Supper.

I’ve always envied the Americans for Thanksgiving. Not for the origins or history surrounding it (which I remain largely ignorant of, but suspect, like most history, it is a mixed bag of truths) but the fact that it’s a great excuse to get together with people you love, to eat, drink and share a bit of gratitude for the good things in your life.

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving and having been inspired by the wonderful Kinfolk magazine, this weekend my dear friend Jo and I held the first of what we hope to be a regular small gathering of people, sharing food, music and thoughts in the comfortable and relaxed surrounding of home. Snuggled on sofas and with the laid-back eclectic sounds of Fip (French online radio) in the background, we happily worked our way through a communally produced supper of the best French Onion soup I think I’ve ever eaten, Triple Chocolate Cheesecake, which was healthy, yet utterly decadent (from the amazing  Veggie Runners. You need to visit their website, they’ll be adding the recipe soon!), various cakes and several pots of tea.

And it worked really, really well. With no standing on ceremony allowed, I am hoping that these gatherings will help deepen friendships and create new ones, develop ideas and plans, share projects and enable us to spend a bit of ‘slow’ time in good company. Saturday’s subjects included natural skin-care, producing smartphone Apps, knitting patterns, running and plans for a 2013 surfing trip, which for someone with an almost endless list of interests, was a great way of spending time!

The supper also gave us the chance to trial our  first Cookbook Club. Many people, like me, have an irresistible urge to buy beautiful cookbooks and as a result, and despite best efforts, have an enormous collection gathering dust. Our solution; a monthly swap. Anyone wanting to join in brings a cookbook that for some reason they’ve not been using and swap. At the end of the month they have the option to continue with another swap or withdraw themselves and their book until next time. It’s a great way to try out lovely new recipes without spending any money or having to find more space on your bookshelf. Each cookbook will be given a logbook as a swap diary for people to write about what they chose to cook and their experiences, which will be returned to the cook book owner, alongside the books themselves.

We’ve decided that we want to develop a little creative, collaborative community, and we’re calling it ‘Sage & Thrift‘. It’s not remotely set in stone and we reserve the absolute right to change our ideas at will. But I definitely think that these suppers will remain a part of what we do. I’m already looking forward to the next one…

November 5, 2012

The Paradox Of Choice.

I’m banned from the supermarkets these days. Not by the stores themselves, you understand, they’d be only too happy to have my time and money. It’s a self-imposed ban. Not for any  ethical reasons, although I do have plenty of those. For my sanity.

I have come to realise that I don’t cope well with too much choice. In a restaurant, I behave as though it’s my last supper every time I order, and I often struggle to choose my lunch (when I’m not using up leftovers, that is) but the time it really comes to the fore is in the supermarket.

It begins in the fruit and vegetable section. If I’m buying apples, for example, I’ll look at the variety, the condition they’re in and where they have come from. I prefer to buy UK grown fruit and vegetables, but if I’m buying from abroad, then I’ll look for a Fairtrade label.  There are pros and cons to air-freighted vegetables, so I’ll make decisions about that too. So far, so complicated. But in fact, this is now the easiest section of the supermarket for me to be in. When it comes to packaged food, I find myself looking at labels relentlessly, searching for ingredients, working out who owns the company, which type is cheaper and what looks the most appealing. It goes on and on. My husband says I go into something like shock; the proverbial deer in headlights. The last straw came when he had to drag me away from a whole wall full of tooth-pastes. I mean, why do we need so many options? Whitening, fresh breath, gum health, complete care. Do I want spearmint, fresh-mint, sensitive? Is one of those stand-up pumps better than a normal tube? Which works out cheaper? And what are blue micro-beads for anyway? There is no wonder I go into some kind of choice paralysis. Coupled with the bright lights and Christmas music in October, it’s a wonder anyone gets out alive.

These days, we order our supermarket shopping online. Using the information from the last shop, I can quickly whip through the list and, even when I change things ( I always check for special offers and cheaper deals) it’s so much less stressful in front of a laptop and away from the store. An added bonus is never having to take my small children with me. Not for them the opportunities to throw extra sweets into the trolley, destroy the magazine aisle or have a ginormous tantrum because I won’t buy them everything they want. Those days are over.

Of course, it’s not just supermarkets. The paradox of choice is everywhere – from choosing a mobile phone (uppermost in my mind, after losing mine) to a pair of jeans, and much much more. The size of the market, which is allegedly one of the greatest successes of a Western society, does not do me many favours after all.

At the moment, I’m in the throes of yet another de-cluttering of my house. This time I’m being more ruthless. I’m getting rid of lots of things that I have been keeping for sentimental reasons, despite them being hidden away and forgotten about. I’m looking for voluntary simplicity. I’d like to have far fewer things, and only buy things that I need or truly love, and keep them forever. I want things that are not trend-led but designed to last, and for my surroundings to be peaceful instead of feeling as though the house will explode if we bring one more thing into it.

It is a difficult enough thing to do with a small family for whom more is better. My son in particular is a collector and is desperate for every single engine in the Thomas Take’n’Play collection, so I will have to accommodate that to a certain extent.

Yet, the real challenge comes from within me. It is becoming easier and easier for me to get rid of things. I’m far more comfortable with that now – and I can tell that clearing out the house is doing wonders for my mind too – it’s as though as weight is lifted from them when I give away yet another bag of unwanted belongings to the charity shop. But what about when the time comes to buy something new? To replace something that is worn out and cannot be repaired? I’m not talking about the occasional luxury here (those things tend to be used up anyway, given that my favourite treats are things like a bottle of fizz or a luxurious bath oil) I’m talking about the things that I hope will last forever.

If I want to have far fewer things, then any new things that I buy need to be the very best choice there is for me. That doesn’t mean the most expensive, it means the best suited to what I want and need. I already prefer to have fewer clothes that are well-made than lots of cheaper clothes, so it’s just spreading that to other areas of my life and making the best choices about the things I want in my life. But given that I cannot even choose a tube of toothpaste without assistance, that might be something of a challenge…