In my recent blog post I spoke about the importance of being able to find moments during your day to take things slowly.
For a long time now, I've been aware of just how fast life can be. How important milestones in my, and my family's life, seem to be whizzing by at a scary rate. One day I'm happily preparing for my son's first birthday, and in the blink of an eye it's suddenly the run-up to his ninth. And the busier our days are, the quicker the weeks, months and years seem to be flying past too.
And so, little by little, I'm trying to bring a bit of slow back to my life. Mindfulness is a real buzzword right now but how many of us are able to apply its principals to our days? How often are you really living in the present, and not thinking of what you need to do next, or dwelling on what happened before?
But I'm happy to announce that I've found a way: shopping. Which may sound strange, but bear with me.
I've been doing my grocery shopping online for years. 10 or so minutes on the app, ordering pretty much the same thing every week, and then another 15 minutes for the lovely driver (whatever you may think about Sainsbury's, they employ friendly and courteous delivery people) to bring the food into my kitchen and for me to put it away. Half an hour in total. It certainly saves me time, as I'm the least efficient supermarket shopper in existence. Despite fastidiously making a list, I find the whole process so dull that it's impossible to stop my mind wandering off. I once spent three and a half minutes staring at bird feed in the pet aisle even though I actually only own two cats.
But, despite clawing back some time, what the online shop does bring is plastic, most of it unnecessary. Who decided that cucumbers need plastic coats, for example? (Why don't courgettes need one?) Even though Sainsbury's takes bags back for recycling and there are certain containers that you can recycle, the amount of plastic 'coverings' (for want of a better word) that I've had to throw in the bin makes me feel terrible.
We've all known for a long time how damaging plastic is and, while we've already done a shameful amount of harm to our planet, there are many amazing people out there trying to reverse things by showing the rest of us how to reduce the amount of plastic we use.
The team behind Ashtead's Fetch'em from the Cupboard is doing exactly that and, at the same time, has created one of the loveliest shopping experiences around.
Tracey started her plastic-free shopping idea as a concession inside Greenwise Grocer's and Cafe, in Fetcham, and it proved so popular that she, and her team, opened a dedicated shop in Ashtead High Street, in March 2019. They're working hard to change the way we shop and reduce the hideous amount of plastic that comes from the usual supermarket trip (there's not a covered cucumber in sight).
You take your own containers (although there is a basket of bottles and jars you can borrow, if you forget your own), fill them up, weigh them and generate a price sticker.
I have to admit that my initial thought was 'won't this cost more?' but no, in general, it won't.
Obviously, organic stuff costs more than if you buy from a supermarket's basic range but I recently bought all of the things in the picture, below, and it came to less than £20. And there's NO PLASTIC to throw away: my waste bin has been pleasingly empty since I started shopping there.
(This haul includes potatoes, chips, sweet potato fries, frozen spinach, carrots, oranges, dried apple rings, white vinegar, green apples, broccoli, spring onions, pasta, porridge oats, desicated coconut, pitted dates and peanuts.)
Talking of frozen things, there's also a brilliant freezer section that works on the same basis: i.e. bring a container (or use one of the reusable paper bags they supply) and fill up your freezer. There's frozen veg and fruit, chips, hash browns and more, plus the product that the shop is rapidly becoming famous for: pizza dough. Such a useful, great value (75p a ball) and tasty thing to always have handy!
And the bit I'm particularly fond of is their refillable range:
Household cleaners, washing-up liquid, clothes washing liquid, shampoos, conditioners and shower gels can all be decanted from their jars into smaller containers which, again, prevents you from having to throw endless plastic bottles away just because you've finished the contents.
And while the products are great and it's lovely to know that you are doing something to help reduce plastic consumption (other Ashtead retailers please have a think about what you could do to help too...), there's a third reason why I always look forward to shopping at Fetch'em FTC.
And that is, quite simply, the overall experience of being inside the shop. Not only are there all the lovely, non-planet-harming products to look at (washing-up brushes, toothbrushes and beeswax wraps that are a brilliant alternative to clingfilm, for example, as well as lots of items, like jam, honey and soap, that are made locally) but the interior is well laid out and beautifully presented, and there's something really calming about filling and weighing your containers. I find that I pay a lot more attention to what I'm buying, rather than just grabbing packets inanely from the shelves.
It's a good example of taking time to slow down and be mindful: watching your containers fill up, listening to the noise the products make as they tumble out (the pasta is particularly pleasing in this respect) and noticing the smells from the herbs and spices as you spoon them into your jars, all make for a much more personal, in-the-moment experience.
So, if you haven't visited Fetch'em from the Cupboard yet, I strongly urge you to do so. Eliminate plastic, buy tasty produce, have interesting conversations with the knowledgeable staff and support an amazing local business. Believe me, it makes shopping a treat, rather than a chore!
More posts to come soon (I mean it...) and if you run a business and know you should be blogging but aren't, get in touch. I can either write one for you, or run a bespoke workshop to teach you how to do it yourself!