It’s not so long ago that I was struggling with a full time job and a growing family with bottomless stomachs. Not only was I extremely time poor, but I was also trying to manage on a very tight budget so had neither the opportunity of spending hours concocting nutritious meals, nor the option of blowing huge sums of money on quality ready meals.
Although it went against my values, I had to be practical and settle for what I could manage and what I knew the children would eat, supplementing it with some home cooked healthy meals where possible. We all survived somehow, and today I am in a position to shop and eat differently.
The luxury of time and resources
I have recently swapped my 4-pint plastic milk bottle bought from the supermarket for glass bottles delivered to my door. As someone who is trying to encourage others to reduce single use plastic, it felt a little bit hypocritical to reject a more sustainable option which also supported local employment.
Now that my family has grown up, despite regular periods spent living back at home, they are more often based elsewhere, thus my need for vast quantities of milk on tap or cupboards bulging with snacks has reduced.
I shop more frequently at the local veg shop, baker and butcher, buying little and often rather than in bulk. It helps that they are both just round the corner, so I don’t have to make a specific journey, just venture out for some fresh air! The fact that my food shopping is usually just for me, I can tailor my purchases accordingly – I don’t have any fad diets or favourite snacks to consider.
In a bid to reduce plastic and disposables, my cleaning products come in refillable bottles and I have switched from shower gel to soap and shampoo to shampoo bars. Even my toilet rolls are wrapped in paper not plastic.
Going back to basics
With less choice available, I am no longer seduced by that must have item that turns out to be rather bland, or the 3 for 2 offer on something I need only once in a blue moon. I also throw less food away – I eat what I buy and have become more creative with leftovers ensuring nothing goes to waste.
At times it is frustrating when after a long day at work, I come home to an empty cupboard, or when the vital ingredient needed for a special dish has run out and isn’t available in the local shop, but by and large, I now eat more healthily and at a lower cost.
As I said earlier, I am in a fortunate position, I have the time and opportunity to shop in this way. When the family descends, I do revert to the supermarkets for essentials. However, for many families, shopping this way isn’t a possibility as they struggle to fill the hungry mouths without emptying pockets completely or spending hours slaving over evening meals.
Don’t demonise those without choice
In our attempts to be more environmentally responsible, we must remember that not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to choose. Those who have tight budgets or are time poor shouldn’t be made to feel inadequate or irresponsible in their choices. I am sure that many want to be able to avoid plastic or convenience foods, but at this present time, it’s just not possible.
In the meantime, those of us who can avoid single use plastics should make every effort to do so and work to encourage producers and distributers to find alternatives. We are an inventive species, environmentally responsible packaging for all products shouldn’t be beyond us!