No food shop
This month, our columnist is still NOT shopping
Day 56 in the Big Brother house… Ok, I'm not living with 10 housemates, and as far as I know there are no cameras filming me sleep. However, I, along with the rest of the nation, have spent weeks at home, following a worldwide pandemic and national lock down.
Similarly to Big Brother contestants, food has become a central part of this experience. Many of us have found ourselves cooking more as we've been confined to our homes, focusing on luxury food items, and our eating habits may have changed to alleviate boredom, and provide comfort and security.
With more time at home, I found myself food shopping less and collecting more surplus food using sharing app Olio (olioex.com). I then decided to do a one week no-food-spend challenge to dispel the idea that a vegan diet is costly.
I hadn't anticipated that I would go even further, with eight weeks! As I write this article, I have reached 56 days, and counting, of no food shopping, unsure of when it'll end. People have suggested to me in the past to set myself a challenge of how long I can go without food shopping, eating surplus foods.
Honestly, I didn't seriously entertain the idea. I'm confident that I can buy all I need from the reduced crates in supermarket aisles; not being able to buy anything at all was another story.
That changed one day, without any planning or prompting. It was 2nd September 2020, I'd collected three bags full of food from a Food Waste Hero who'd listed it on Olio. She was moving to a new house and didn't want to transit opened packets of food.
In the bags were different types of dried lentils, beans, couscous, orzo pasta, coconut oil, raw cane sugar, seeds, tinned tomatoes, spices. 'I've got no business food shopping with this lot' I thought to myself, and just like that I stopped.
I announced on Instagram that for each day I went without food shopping, I would donate £1 to charity. When it reached the end of September, I donated to The Food Chain (foodchain.org.uk) and Tribe's Anti-Slavery Day campaign (crowdfunder.co.uk/tribebreakfast-for-freedom-campaign).
The best thing about making a public declaration is that it provides incentive to keep going. The great thing about not food shopping is just how much more food I've
had! Whilst I've not always had ready-made, processed foods, to hand, I have had what's needed to make them myself.
I'm a snacker, and it didn't take long to realise that if I wanted snacks, I'd have to pull out my finger, and apron! I baked dairy-free shortbread biscuits, chocolate brownies, cake and banana bread. I stored aquafaba, chickpea water, in the freezer so I had an egg substitute on the ready.
I used whichever oil I had, grated raw cane sugar when I ran out of granules. I even extended my baking skills to main meals, making my own pastry for a curried lentil and vegetable pie. I'm no competition for The Great British Bake Off but you soon find out how resourceful you are when you need to be.
And I have enjoyed it! I admit, I would reach for the baking bowl a little begrudgingly at times, bombarded my sister with pastry panicked phone calls, but there was such a sense of satisfaction at what I had achieved.
It had me trying out new recipes and foods; it gave my kitchen, and taste buds, a new lease of life. Also, it had me wasting less, making use of what I had, as ingredients such as flour can often find themselves collecting dust in my cupboards.
I would have the odd wobble, as I ran out of fresh fruit, especially when not knowing when I would have any more. It led me to make greater use of frozen and dried fruits - bananas for smoothies, dates and raisins as snacks, and upping my vegetable intake to compensate.
I took advantage of a local household sharing apples from their tree. I've continued to eat out these past couple of months, but this has been centred on socialising, spending time with friends, not any sense of necessity and no more than usual.
I've even chosen to cook for friends instead of eating out, and it's been amazing to see what we can make when we club together, including homemade garlic bread on day-old baguettes.
The food I've had has not only come via Olio but so many day to day sources; apples my mum has decided are too difficult for her to eat (would help if she wore her dentures!), an uneaten container of pilau rice leftover from an Indian takeaway (which I made into Kitchari), a Greek-style vegan cheese a work friend tried and didn't like, and an open bag of celery a friend no longer wanted.
Truth be known, I'm not a huge fan of celery myself, but with even more incentive to waste less I've experimented with other ways of eating it - adding to stir fries and smoothies.
I thought I may have stumbled when I reached the day of the ultramarathon I was running; some runners refer to them as a long picnic. I finished all the food that I carried with me, including peanuts, protein bars, energy balls and a banana filed bagel, and I completed the race.
I'm writing this in late-November, so the next tester will be Christmas… I don't know what the festive period will look like this year. I'm not sure if I could resist scanning the reduced crates for yellow sticker parsnips.
What I do know is that no food shopping has put me in far greater stead to think about what I have, what I can do and what it is I need.