Updated: Apr 10, 2020
Friends, we're living in strange times. We haven't seen anything like this in our lifetime, my parents haven't either. There are lots of opinions flying around, some helpful and some very unhelpful. I think that in this time we need two things: practical help and hope. I plan to provide a bit of both here on the blog.
Today's blog is a bit of social commentary followed by some practical tips.
We've all seen the photos of the supermarkets, and heard the rumours that everything is going to run out. But I have found this whole panic buying phenomenon incredibly fascinating. I went to Sainsbury's on Wednesday for the first time since COVID-19 truly hit, and I literally walked round the shop saying "this is crazy", with my chin on the floor 😲. I'd heard that the toilet paper and pasta aisles were empty, but when I turned up at 3pm pretty much everything fresh, tinned and dry was gone. I couldn't believe it.
Now the purpose of this blog is not to remind you of how stressful these situations can be. It is to look past the initial panic that a lot of us are feeling and to ask some deeper questions about society.
Why do we panic buy? What's the underlying fear?
Living with less
We can't do it. Or at least the majority of us can't do it well. We live in an instant society - one where we have access to pretty much anything we could want, often at the click of a button. Our supermarkets are full to bursting with food from around the world, we have the opportunity to fill our time with endless luxuries from eating out to expensive experiences such as the theatre. Now none of these things are inherently bad, but times like this reveal to us that we have become so accustomed to our instant, privileged lifestyles that we don't know how to live well with less.
We panic buy because we are used to being able to get whatever we need, whenever we want it and we don't know how to cope in a situation where this may not be possible. It's been a long time since we had to make do and mend.
Now of course panic buying breeds panic. And as my colleague said, "panic buying seems silly until you're the one without any toilet paper." So another thing to say here is that I think it's wise that we take a step back, take a breath, and only buy what we need. There is enough to go round, we are so lucky to live in a place where that really is true. But we will all only get what we need, if we commit to buying only what we need. So let us all think of others, and have faith that we can get through this.
Now I didn't want this post to add to the panic, anxiety or frustrations that are rife at the moment. But I do think it is interesting to look objectively at what is going on, and to ask some questions. However, the rest of this post is much more practical I promise.
Practical tips for times such as these
Whether or not you are someone who has joined in the panic buying frenzy, we all need to take stock, breathe and think about how we will manage the next few months with grace.
The truth is that we are all going to struggle to get the items that we are used to getting. My sister-in-law can't find enough nappies for little Isaac, we keep running out of bread with so many of us working from home, and let's not even discuss the toilet paper shortages... In many cases the root of the problem is our single-use, throwaway society. Luckily, a lot of the solutions to these problems point us towards greater sustainability.
So here are a few sustainable swaps and tips that could help you in the current situation:
Ditch single-use: whether you switch to the mooncup, cloth nappies, cotton face wipes, or safety razors (head to my Start Here page for help). We're seeing a lot of shortages in normal everyday products, and the beauty of a lot of these sustainable options is that they do not run out. Instead you can use them over and over again. Which, in a time of single-use panic, could bring a lot of peace.
Branch out: the supermarkets are struggling to meet the demand. So look elsewhere. My sister-in-law just signed up for an Oddbox delivery because she couldn't get fresh veg at the shops. There are more sustainable, and less well-known, options to explore here. Look local first - I've heard of local greengrocers and butchers opening delivery services to serve the community and also to stop waste. Have a look at what is locally on offer. Oddbox and Farmdrop would be my other suggestions! And for toilet paper try Who Gives a Crap (although I heard they were running low too...).
Make your own: now is the perfect time to try things you've not had the time or capacity to try before. Can't buy bread, make it. Can't go out for dinner, cook something nice. Stocked up on too many tins of chickpeas or too many potatoes, don't let them go to waste instead try out some new recipes. Side note on this: food is really important, it brings us together, it makes us feel things. In my newsletter (sign up below) and on Instagram I'll be doing a regular series called 'Recipes for coping with isolation'.
Just a last note to say that at times like this it's important to find ways to connect with others. Let's practice physical distancing, not social distancing. And what I mean by that is not that we shouldn't follow government guidelines, I try to be a good law abiding citizen (apart from the occasional climate strike 🙋🏼♀️), but the terminology is misleading. We should absolutely practice distancing, but we should be quick to find other ways of building social interaction. I'll be doing a lot of this on Instagram so please join me there!