|The new-look bathroom cabinet|
Do we really need another cheap T-shirt or fresh strawberries in mid-winter? Leaving out such items is no real sacrifice. A more sustainable lifestyle need not involve 'sacrifice', but it may mean less choice (though arguably better choice) and the reintroduction of seasonality in our diet, etc. It might involve spending a bit more on quality organic meat, dairy products or baked goods made by local producers, but overall you will save money by not buying rubbish you don't need, shrink your energy impact on the planet and create less waste. If quality food produced locally costs a little extra, then we should support that, rather than import, with all the packaging and transport implied from, for example, a country with water shortages, which is effectively exporting a resource they can't afford in the longer term.
Our switch in consumer habits happened naturally, without us really noticing, as we started to produce more and more of our own goods and it's had some surprising fringe benefits. Giving up shampoo and conditioner in favour of rye flour has put an end to my split ends, for example. Not buying any baked goods from the supermarket has eliminated heartburn and bloat. We have never eaten so well in our lives, both in quality and variety terms, and our personal grooming has not suffered by making our own toiletries nor is our house any less clean using our home-made cleaning materials. Not coincidentally, there is now a lot more space in the bathroom cabinet and we've no doubt improved our indoor air quality at the same time.
So what don't we buy any more?
|Home-made vs. shop-bought: |
The home-made version lasts longer
despite its smaller size.
Goodbye shampoo and conditioner (we now use rye flour with home grown herbal infusions), face cream, hand cream, sun lotion, lip balm, ointment and salves (we now make all these ourselves), tooth paste (we now make our own tooth powder), deodorant (we now use bicarbonate of soda), moist toilet tissue (now moistened cloths, cut from an old shirt, that are then boil-washed and reused), sanitary towels/tampons (I now use a mooncup, a fantastic product that more women should know about).
Fruit and vegetables
|Plenty of veg here all through the year|
With fruit it's a little more difficult in our climate, but we haven't bought any fruit so far this year. This meant that after the fresh apples were gone, we were down to frozen berries, dried apple rings and fresh rhubarb from March until June when the strawberries kicked in. However, there were plenty of fresh greens to snack on instead, including peas, common fennel and salad leaves, so getting five or ten servings of fruit or veg a day was not an issue.
Jams, jellies and chutneys
|A cupboard full of jams and chutneys|
Meat and fish from the supermarketWe've made a big switch to more sustainable meat sources, i.e. vermin. Here this means rabbits, pigeons and, the most delicious vermin of them all, roe deer. All of these can be hunted locally and farmers are generally very happy to have someone reduce the number of rabbits and pigeons. Similarly, mackerel is a great eating fish and a freezer compartment can be quickly filled with them and other small scale local catches while they're in season.
Baked goods, bread and flour from the supermarketSupermarket bread and cakes have never been a favourite, and finding out about the hidden ingredients didn't help. We now buy 20kg sacks of rye and wheat grains and mill our own fresh flour. As a by-product we get nutritious organic bran. The rye and wheat flour is used for baking sourdough bread, and the wheat flour is also used for all other baked goodies - cakes, pancakes, beer batter, pizza bases, dumplings, chapatis etc. The home-milled flour makes everything taste incredible. I was surprised at the difference it made.
Crisps, biscuits, chocolate, ice creamWe now make our own snacks - guaranteed without palm oil, which seems to be popping up everywhere these days from 'traditional' oatcakes and biscuits to chocolate. Homemade ice cream is just the best and a great way to use fruit from the garden.
Herbal tea bagsAll herbs are brewed fresh from the garden where we have a large herbal tea plant collection and some of them are dried for winter use. No pesticides here!
Soft drinks and juicesWe've never been big drinkers of juice or fizzy drinks, preferring plain water, tea, coffee or alcohol, so this was the easiest choice to make. Juices can be a good way to use up garden vegetables and fruit and we've now started making kvass from our rye sourdough loaf.
What we do still buyThis is why we call it the 'Reasonably Good Life'. Many of the original good-lifers, back in the 60s and 70s, tried to take it all the way to pure and total self-sufficiency. Entirely admirable ambition, of course, but in most cases the degree of discomfort and inconvenience entailed amounted to actual hardship, which resulted in their children, who might have been expected to carry on the revolution, wholeheartedly abandoning the dream for the ease of modern living. Our view is that total self-sufficiency, in our society and the world as it stands, is not realistically possible.
So, what do we still buy from the shops? Mainly dairy products, booze (though less of this than formerly, thanks to our homebrewing activities), grains, oils (with Scottish cold-pressed rapeseed oil now our preferred cooking oil) and vinegars, black tea and coffee, toilet roll. Despite rising prices, our shopping bill is way down - while our quality of life is way up. It's maybe not as convenient, but when did convenience become the be all and end all anyway?