I’ve recently moved to London for a 3-months internship in a food-market company, called Mercato Metropolitano. I’m only half way through my experience here but after living in a small Italian town for three years, I feel like I’ve already gotten used to the chaotic rush and urban life that a city like London offers.
This city is incredible, there’s so many interesting things to see and do, and it offers many opportunities work wise. One thing that I’ve noticed since day one is that everything here is moved by SPEED. People are constantly running to get on the underground or bus, they have their coffee and food while walking or going somewhere. As soon as they get off work they go to the gym and try to burn as many calories they can within the smallest amount of time, then go home, maybe heat up something they bought at the supermarket, go to sleep and repeat the same routine the next day. It’s as if time is GOLD. Obviously I’m generalizing, but I feel confident in saying that most people live this way. Of course it’s not just here that you notice this phenomenon, but I seem to perceive it here more than anywhere else I’ve been.
As much as I like routines, there are many things about this type of lifestyle that makes it more complicated to slow down, relax and enjoy the small things. Especially when it comes to food consumption it becomes more difficult to make more eco-friendly and mindful decisions, even when you have the right intentions set in your mind. This is mainly because companies, shops and supermarkets have made life “apparently” much easier by offering many products that on a long term have made us lazier. For example, I see so many people every morning having a to-go coffee cup (with its plastic lid on) in their hands, sipping on it while walking or getting the tube to work. The general view would be that making your coffee at home and enjoying it while sitting at your kitchen counter would be such a waste of time. Another way to see this phenomenon is to go to any supermarket chain (Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer etc) and you can buy everything pre made or pre cut and ready to be cooked as is. Everything obviously packed in plastic bags. Again, time is luxury.
As a consequence, fewer and fewer people shop for real food or make a recipe from scratch, or even cook at home at all. In fact, it’s actually a known saying here that you use your house just to sleep in it.
Even if this is the general phenomenon and trend, it doesn’t have to be this way and there ARE other ways to live, shop or consume food. It all starts from education and prioritizing and in some cases, planning ahead.
I feel very lucky that I am living with three other “foodie” people, also ex students from my university, therefore we have a very similar take on nutrition, quality of food and we understand the importance of food choices.
It has been great sharing the house with them because we always cook and eat together, we shop for food together and we’ve found some very interesting local cafes or restaurants that follow the same concept on food as we do.
Below my house is a plastic-free and bulk shop that I am in love with. Basically I never have to go to a supermarket because I buy everything either from the farmers market or this bulk shop.
There’s a website called London Farmers Markets, that lists all the different markets around the city during the week. My flatmates and I have made it a weekend routine to go to one of them (we have made it almost a challenge to go see as many as we can while living in London) and buy the produce for the entire week. By now we’ve shorten the list and prefer some to others, but going to different ones is also a great way to discover different parts of the city.
Apart from the distinct higher quality and taste of the produce, the cost we pay is by far much lower than if we bought the fruit and vegetables from the supermarket, that travel often far miles, and are packed in plastic bags. In fact, each week we spend around 10 pounds each and we manage to make dinners AND packed lunches for at least 5 days. Now THAT I call living on a budget, while supporting local communities and farmers, eating healthy and sustainably …..Amazing!
Another fun routine we’ve gotten into, especially my roommate and I, is making our lunches to bring to the office. It’s not that there aren’t available options of food to eat on the go or below our offices (as a matter of fact we work above a food market…), but we both like to eat healthy and know what is in our food, and we get so much gratification from it. We’ve kind of set a trend in our offices and we’ve noticed more and more people are bringing their own lunches. We all sit down at the same table and share recipes of the foods we’ve prepared. It’s a great moment of socialization.
I understand that making your own lunch takes a bit more time and planning ahead but, as I said, the satisfaction you get in my opinion is superior to the time you spend in the kitchen preparing for it.
It’s just a matter of planning ahead. If you know the next day you will be bringing your lunch, make more food at dinner so that you have leftovers. If you know there’s a farmers market only on Sunday, put it in your calendar and meet up with some friends there for coffee or brunch (there’s usually tons of food shacks to choose from). If you think you’ll grab a to go coffee in the morning, bring your reusable coffee mug with you all the time (you might use it or not but at least you’ll be prepared). Here in London many cafes offer discounts when you bring your own reusable cup which is a great incentive for people.
At the end of the day, it all gets down to education and the sharing of knowledge. Once you have this, then you gain an extra “sensitivity” to matters of such. Once you gain knowledge, the next step is to act upon it. You’ll notice right away at the supermarket if something is wrapped in tons of plastic. Or, you will ask the bartender prior to making your drink to have it without a straw. And next thing you know, once you get used to the good flavors of farm fresh vegetables, your palate will refuse processed foods and ask for more fresh goodness.
With this post I just wanted to share some ideas of how you can contribute to be more ecologically conscious and I hope this can be of inspiration to others. Because after all, it’s the small gestures that make the difference.