How relocating changed my food habits

When Zoe Wyeth moved from London to Devon, she learnt the true meaning of seasonality and found herself looking in cookbooks and hedges instead of on supermarket shelves.

My London life was driven by convenience. I’m a planner and it all began with a Sainsbury’s shop on a Sunday to prep for the week ahead. I made whatever I feel like for meals, paying little attention to seasons, origin of food or the impact of eating meat.

Despite being so well prepared for the week, when I looked through my bank statement, I tried to make sense of how I’ve spent almost £40 in two days…

February 2019: London 

Monday:

  • Pret: Nectarine and raspberry pot to go with my oats as I forgot to pack fruit (£2.50)
  • Transport for London (TfL): Bus to work (£1.50)
  • Coco di mama: Coffee because it’s Monday, hand me the grande Americano please (£2.80)
  • M&S: Walk at lunch and pick up some brownie bites and cookies for my team to perk them up for the afternoon (£7.50)
  • Pret: Grab another coffee on my way back to the office (£2.00)
  • TfL: Bus home (£1.50)

Total: £17.80

Tuesday:

  • Starbucks: Vowed not to buy coffee but had eight minutes to wait for the bus and can’t stand still (£2.25)
  • TfL: Bus to work (£1.50)
  • TfL: Tube to meeting (£2.40)
  • Black Sheep Coffee: Meeting at an agency and arrive early so grab a coffee (£2.80)
  • TfL: Train home (£2.40)
  • Sainsbury’s: Used up all my carrots in lunch prep so need to buy more for a recipe for dinner. Also pick up some bananas and a pot of hummus, definitely not needed just wanted (£4.05)
  • Planet Organic: Don’t need anything but pop in anyway and buy more tea and a bottle of kombucha (£4.64)

Total: £20.04

September 2019: Devon life

A few months on and I have been working for Riverford since April, nestled away in the Devon countryside. I no longer bypass a single coffee shop, Pret-a-Manger or Co-op on my way to and from work. Instead I now have free rein over Riverford’s grade out veg room, where surplus produce is given away free to co-owners, and more food inspiration from my co-workers than you could throw a carrot at.

I still like to plan my week but I no longer mindlessly buy coffee and top up daily from supermarkets. Instead, I wander into grade out and see what awaits me. Compared to the endless choice in supermarkets, it presents me with seasonal veg that I need to use up quickly. My weeks have therefore changed dramatically to embrace more seasonal and spontaneous cooking.

Blackberry
Picking from branches instead of shelves.

Recently I’ve tried patty pan squash (roasted with garlic and fennel seeds), taken home an enormous bag of fresh basil to create my own pesto and only bake my favourite dessert with plums when they’re in season and savour it as a seasonal treat (Ottolenghi’s plum and blackberry friand bake, if you’re interested).

Just how far I’ve come was summed up with a conversation I had recently, where I was planning a blackberry-based dessert, and instead of plotting a route home via Sainsbury’s, without thinking, instead I asked a colleague ‘which hedges are good for picking?’

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