Wo/Man cannot live on Nutella alone

To live on foods without any packaging

We are often told that landfill is all our fault for using plastic shopping bags. I did the decent thing and bought a linen shopping bag. But

  • it advertises Asda (Walmart), which makes me feel they should be paying me, rather than I should have paid them a pound or so for it.
  • being too idle and disorganised, I never remember to take it out when I buy anything.
  • being generally slack, I seem to have got it almost too filthy to take anywhere, without attracting public disgust.
  • filling it up with foods packaged within an inch of their lives just seems to be hiding standard wastefulness under a hypocritical facade of concern for the environment.

None of my efforts at recycling are much use. On the sink top, there are a dozen slightly smelly jars and bottles that never made it to the correct recycling container on the right day. My compost heap is just a pile of rat-bait at the edge of the yard, appreciated only by the feral cat that turns up once a week. My pile of old Guardians and free bus-papers doesn’t have a proper collectible green plastic bag to store it in, so it’s just a fire hazard/burglar trap behind the front door.

Basically, inept recycling is changing my home into a transitional garbage dump. Too concerned about landfill to throw anything out. Too lazy to spend an hour a day on sorting, washing and packing trash for recycling.

The alternative plan is to avoid packaging. This won’t work with clothes or new electrical items. (Cutting down on buying them would help. But, I can generally rely on my income to do this for me, all by itself.) But food, surely I can do it with food.

I decided to try and eat only unpackaged foods that I can just drop into my non-plastic bag and carry home in their natural state. Blimey, there’s not much there. The list seems to come down to two things:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Bread from a baker’s shop

Firstly, you can’t get fruit and vegetables from a supermarket. Even supermarket bananas are wrapped in plastic.

Secondly, it seems you have to concentrate on buying BIG foods. The shopkeeper is getting a bit irked when he has to collect together individual item groups, from a jumble of mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes, for weighing. Yams are ideal. (No, yams are a bad idea – transport miles – carbon footprint… Plus, buying up the staple food crops of the poor countries is not very defensible.) Well, big potatoes, then. Bananas are good – intrinsically well-wrapped and big enough to handle. (No, wait. Transport costs, staple foods in poor countries, etc. Big fruit corporations.)

OK, local potatoes, it is. By an uncanny stroke of luck, I live close to one of the few shops left that actually sells cheap,tasty locally-grown potatoes. But this could become a diet of Potato Famine- like consequences, if I’m to be stuck eating only potatoes. Oh, and onions. Cauliflowers. Broccoli. Apples. Peas. And a few other fruits and vegetables that can get tipped into my bag, however irritating it is for the lad behind the counter to weigh things that aren’t in handy plastic bags. (Berries are out. Grapes may be OK, if I can collect a big bunch all linked together.)

(Should easily achieve the 5-pieces-of-fruit-and-veg a day goal, however spurious its scientific basis. Then again, potatoes don’t count.)

Bread. Bah, there aren’t any local bakeries for miles. Can walk a mile to the supermarket and get a loaf there, though, from the instore “bakery.”

Eggs. There are still a few places that sell loose eggs. Buying eggs in an unpackaged state involves a dedicated egg-shopping trip, so as to avoid making an uncooked omelette in the increasingly filthy canvas advert-bag. Bugger, I have to boil or poach them, not having worked out a way to get oil back in my bare hands.

Butter. Cheese. Milk. No, can’t have them. Argh. How am I supposed to eat the spuds, without butter? Well, OK, then, fair enough. Veganism does always seem so much more definite and determined than my wishy-washy vegetarianism. (They would have to force those soya abomination foods into my cold dead mouth, though.)

Hmm, that’s it then. I won’t last long on this diet, I suspect. I’ll have to broaden it out a bit.

Extend the acceptably-edible categories of packaged food to include things with reusable packaging. Re-usable, not recyclable. (I’ve already said how crap I am at recycling.)

Cheese is back on the menu. w00t! The shop sells an Arabic soft cheese that comes in a drinking glass. (Even saving the packaging that a bought drinking glass would have. And increasing my store of guest cutlery by 100%.)

Nutella – also comes in a drinking glass.

There’s a SUMA peanut butter spread that comes in a huge hard plastic tub with a metal handle that makes a perfectly adequate plant pot (that I could use to grow some small food crop in, like a couple of radishes. If I buy soil and seeds. But they would both be packaged 🙁 )

Bread with spread. Some fruit. Some vegetables.
(Much more food than millions of people get. Way too limited for my pampered western self.)

The point:
Nothing, really. Just thinking about the absurdity of trying to change the world through our own individual consumption patterns, but, still remembering that we do make choices in the little things.

6 thoughts on “Wo/Man cannot live on Nutella alone

  1. Did you see recently a couple of supermarkets decided to start selling milk in bags? You get a little bag of milk, take it home very carefully to stop it splitting and ruining everything you bought or are wearing, and then you put it in a special clever bottle that you have to buy separately. Saves packaging, and saves you money…

    Except that it costs at least as much to get the bags as it does to get normal bottled milk. And you have to buy the little bottle. I mean, sure, so you also get a fuzzy warm feeling of helping, but surely they should pass on the savings? Making more profit from cheaper, more eco-friendly products is mildly obscene.


  2. Andrew

    Pity they don’t use paper bags. That would be really entertaining.

    I’ve just remembered there used to be milkmen, who brought milk to the door and took away the empty bottles, until the supermarkets mostly put them out of business…

  3. To be fair, lots of places still have milkmen but the reality is the customer put them out of business.

    We were the ones who had to choose between using, and maintaining, a community asset or saving 5p a pint and buying it at the supermarket.

    The only reason local businesses die when Tescos / Sainsburys / Asda (etc) role into to town is because local people are so ruthlessly tight fisted.

  4. Blimey! You’ve gone and made me feel horribly guilty about my eating habits! My recycling habits aren’t much better than yours, I’m afraid, except for the fact that I only read online versions of newspapers. I thought that solved one recycling problem quite nicely.

  5. Chaplain
    Please, don’t feel guilty about what you eat. It’s not as if we have much control over it, which is partly what I was thinking about. (The uselessness of individual action – at the same time, knowing that we contribute to the world’s problems by not actng.)

    Online papers are the paper-saving solution, I totally agree.

    I buy the print Guardian, on the same woolly half-thought out principles that make me try to use the local shops rather than the supermarket. That is, I think it will stop being there at all if it loses too many real customers. Given that the British press must be the worst in the world, I feel morally obliged not to help kill off the couple of real papers ( the Guardian and the Independent.)

  6. The way I see it, foods that do come in packages have a stigma because when you open it up, it’s usually junk food, something w/ some sort of highly-processed meat (like a hot dog or burger), or candy. Let’s look @ the jar for a moment: 2 main players in this market (besides condiments) are Nutella and Vegemite. Both can be spread on sandwiches. Both can be consumed as a replacement for a meal (namely lunch). The question is this: When one grows out of childhood, does he/she continue to eat this to their heart’s content?

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