Where’s that bloody work life balance gone then?

Less waste is one big advantage of shopping more often, with a clearer idea of the food needed in the couple of days ahead. There’s no doubt this is a healthy development, environmentally speaking. You could argue it’s more morally healthy too, if moral health wasn’t seen as the preserve of cranks these days. Chucking out piles of suppurating grub, when food banks are springing up all over the country, makes for queasiness on a couple of levels.

But another advantage of more regular, more modest food shopping is more enjoyment, more connection. We all have to shop for food. But there are now more opportunities than ever to make it a bit of an event. Lots of us now visit farmer’s markets at the weekend, having something to eat from a stall while we’re there, buying something we fancy for dinner.

This is not a cheap way to buy food, per se. But there’s a lot of added value, because it’s food-shopping-as-leisure-activity, not food-shopping-as-chore. The trip is sociable and interesting in itself, especially on a nice day – and there have been plenty of those lately. The meal that’s prepared and eaten using the things bought in the market usually feels a bit more special, a bit more invested-in, too.

Spending more time on the necessity of feeding ourselves. This increases our leisure time, the thing we actually care about, how?

37 comments on “Where’s that bloody work life balance gone then?

  1. So socialists can’t plan a week’s menu in advance so as to do a one stop shop, saving on dreaded evil Carbon emissions. Neither, it seems, has the author worked out what a fridge and freezer are for. This is the rabble who are preparing for government. If I had any tears left, I’d weep.

  2. “…shopping more often…There’s no doubt this is a healthy development, environmentally speaking.”

    Eh? Driving to Tesco every other day is better “environmentally speaking” than once a week?

    Or do they expect everyone to walk and carry (in which case I expect calorific requirements to go up a bit, which means more agribusiness).

    “if moral health wasn’t seen as the preserve of cranks these days.”

    Sorry, but you lot have spent the last fifty years sneering at other peoples’ morals. So how about “fuck off”?

  3. This increases our leisure time, the thing we actually care about, how?

    …supposedly because, as the piece says, shopping is the new leisure activity. This is tosh. For those who enjoy it, it’s also the old leisure activity. For those who are temporarily swept up in a warm glow of farmers’ marketness it will soon become a chore again.

  4. IIRC the ONS does classify shopping as a leisure activity. For many women it’s the principal leisure activity.

  5. I’m in a fairly urban area, 3 cities within 10 miles drive. If I wanted to go to a farmers market every weekend I could do, travelling up to 30 miles each way (closest is about 5 miles away once a month on a Sunday, next closest 9 miles away once a month on a different day during the week).
    I rarely go to farmers markets – not a massive choice, expensive stuff though can usually find some stuff you don’t see in supermarkets as there’s not sufficient demand.
    Plus I tend to be busy when the markets are on and they tend to not be on when I have sufficient free time to go shopping. Hey look the supermarket is close by and open late or overnight.
    And a whole lot cheaper.

    While I don’t have a problem with farmers markets existing I’d be annoyed if I had to make time to go to one in order to get a few things for dinner. Between supermarkets, Iceland and the local chippies I’m pretty well covered for food, at the quality and price I want.
    Not as if the farmers market has better quality – they generally don’t. They do have the stuff the supermarkets won’t take, stuff grown in the local garden rather than on the main field and stuff thats travelled some distance (sea fish in Lichfield, Staffordshire is not local!).
    Its great some feel they have sufficient time during the day and sufficient money to support a farmers market. Mostly I’ll support my local Morrisons and Tesco.

  6. Ms Orr is saying that, for her, food shopping in a farmers’ market is a leisure activity, whereas food shopping in a supermarket is a chore. I suppose she’s telling the truth.

  7. Coming to a newspaper near you soon, the Ministry of Workjoy, showing you how mundane everyday tasks are really opportunities for self reflection and self expression.

    It’s quite simple, it’s just looking down upon people who don’t have the time and money to spend on extra chores. My grandmother would have called it snobbery.

    I wonder if these idiots ever stop to think that the people potentially most affected by their suggestions are women, and working, single mothers most of all. Rich white men won’t be affected in the slightest if they choose not to be.

  8. All she’s saying in this article is that she thinks everyone else should try to be more like she is. It probably isn’t having the intended effect.

  9. I wonder if these idiots ever stop to think that the people potentially most affected by their suggestions are women, and working, single mothers most of all. Rich white men won’t be affected in the slightest if they choose not to be.

    Exactly. I’m a (largely) single bloke with no kids, and so I can nip into a shop on the way home each evening and grab the ingredients I need to make dinner. But a woman with a couple of kids in tow? Why the hell would she want to subject herself to that more than once per week? Of do the Guardianistas just leave Tarquin and Cressida with the brown nanny?

  10. If I don’t buy lots of lovely grub I may eat in the week ahead, I shall be forced to forage in the local miniTesco after which I will want to slit my wrists. Even if I have to chuck out the odd slimy lettuce, or mouldy tomato, a bulging fridge makes me happy I don’t have to venture anywhere before eating.

  11. I don’t care much for being lectured on morality by the same people who encouraged the Rotherham affair by insisting it wasn’t politically correct to oppose Muslim grooming of schoolgirls…

  12. @Paul Boring

    Thanks for dullsplaining. But you’re wrong. When Orr starts talking “morals” and “health” and the “environment” she is stepping quite a distance outside what she enjoys, and looking down her nose at how those of us without Guardian columns behave.

  13. The problem is that Guardian folks just aren’t very serious. I mean, this is a data-free article, Deborah Orr extrapolating her own experience.

    Personally, I tried farmers markets a few times, but they’re so often a waste of time, because no-one has much stock. Plus there’s a lot of crap at them like fruit wines, beeswax and woven baskets (because they’re basically for tourists like Orr).

  14. incidentally her comment about the co-op doing fine by not following the superstore route is hilarious. In the 1960s, the co-op had 25% market share. Today it’s around 6% and falling. Soon, Waitrose and Aldi could be bigger.

  15. Tim, whatever happened to letting individuals choose what goes into their own utility function?

    One man’s meat is another man’s poison, and all that.

    (Though like others in this thread, can’t help but feel I’m being sneered at for my, hm, more practically oriented approach to shopping.)

  16. I used to read the Graunid for the sport, but I can’t bring myself to do it any more. Quoting from above:

    Less waste is one big advantage of shopping more often

    That’s the xty% of edible food which is regularly thrown out by the uninformed (i.e. not Gurniad readers) because they (stupid proles) are incapable of planning a week ahead and using a fridge.

    It.s laughable, but these people really believe this stuff.

  17. Ms Orr is clearly disorganised, and has a very high boredom threshold. Besides, farmers in the south east are doing quite well enough thank you.

    Were she a little less conservative, and much less of a whinger, she may have noticed certain developments in the UK over the last 30 years.

    1) Eating out has improved immeasurably, and you don’t have to have had private education to understand the Cutlery Laws

    2) UK supermarkets have improved even more, allowing an unbelievably varied diet at very low cost

    3) Probably greener still, you can get home delivery for pretty much nothing. Less than nothing if you include your saved time and petrol.

    Of course, if your real goal is to be seen pondering a simply super selection of “artisanal” “breads” in a thoroughly discerning way, then the supermarket may not be for you*.

    * Actually it probably is.

  18. I tended a large garden for about 18 years — more than a pleasant way to spend the weekends and late afternoons. But a job change put me on the road every week for 15 years and killed my gardening time.

    During my traveling years, I developed “moveable” interests and now that I am retired, I no longer have an interest in gardening. But I do shop the weekly farmer’s market — 2 miles away and open from 3 to 6 on Monday. I know all the dozen vendors, where their farms are and who has the best of each product. The prices are essentially the same as the supermarkets, but the freshness and quality at the farmer’s market cannot be beet.

    If you don’t want to shop at the farmer’s market — fine, but I enjoy it and consider it recreation.

  19. “But another advantage of more regular, more modest food shopping is more enjoyment . . . ”

    This man is insane. I shop twice and have managed to figure out the day hardly anyone else goes. Shopping every couple of days means standing in freaking *lines* waiting to checkout. I don’t know how that brings more enjoyment.

    As for waste – how often does he think normal people shop? Here, in the US, people tend to shop 2-3 times a month (for single or small families) up to weekly (for large families).

    How much food does he think we buy at once that we’re throwing it away?

  20. The Co-op, which used to be bigger than Tesco, Asda and Morrisons combined, bought the Somerfield supermarket chain five years ago. Somerfield was the result of the merger of half-a-dozen different chains, two of which had been serious rivals to Tesco and Sainsburys.
    The Co-op “is doing OK in its not-so-modest way. It’s still number five.” I have to assume that “not-so-modest” means boasting when you have nothing to boast about.
    Grauniad writer stating as fact something which she wants the reader to believe despite the ease with which one can disprove it.

  21. @ Tim Newman
    “Of do the Guardianistas just leave Tarquin and Cressida with the brown nanny?”
    The Guardianistas believe universal childcare should be provided free by the state so that mothers can go out to work. Now where have we seen that? And it worked so well until that nasty Gorbachev came along with his glasnost!
    Of course you are right: when I was a relatively-well-off bachelor* I used to nip out to buy bread and/or fruit and/or veg *before* going to work two or three days a week – the guy who ran the fruit stall got up before it was light to go to Spitalfields, come back and set up his stall so that the likes of me could run or walk a few hundred yards to buy food and take it home before going to the office for a 9 or 8 am start.
    *white but if I had been pink it wouldn’t have made any difference.

  22. Why is it that every Graun article on shopping (or most commercial activities) reminds me of Yogi Berra’s comment about a popular restaurant:

    “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

  23. Is shopping at a farmers’ market really a worse way to spend your time than commenting on blog posts about people who like to spend their time at farmers’ market?

  24. Shopping for my wife is a bi-weekly event with a recalcitrant 3 year old in tow.

    We used to live in walking distance of a supermarket, and the wastage (financially, at least), shopping day to day was phenomenal.

  25. “do the Guardianistas just leave Tarquin and Cressida with the brown nanny?” Probably with Granma and Granpa, to whom they won’t even pay minimum wage.

  26. Is shopping at a farmers’ market really a worse way to spend your time than commenting on blog posts about people who like to spend their time at farmers’ market?

    Yes.

    Farmers’ markets may have limited choice and may be expensive, Martin Davies, but they have an unlimited supply of sanctimony, the one thing Guardianistas cannot get enough off.

  27. Deborah Orr has a despicable view of the public:

    We don’t know what we want to eat.
    We don’t know how to store it.
    We don’t know where to buy it.
    We pay too little for it.
    We shop too quickly.
    We work too many hours.
    We earn too much.

  28. @Luke

    ‘Is shopping at a farmers’ market really a worse way to spend your time than commenting on blog posts about people who like to spend their time at farmers’ market?’

    I don’t think anyone really objects to people who shop at farmers’ markets. I do it myself from time to time.

    The issue is people like Deborah Orr, and the extent to which they are able to infuence the country’s direction of travel.

    The likes of Orr would impose punitive costs on the supermarkets, which would be a bit of a pity, and so most of us are commenting in opposition to her comments, albeit that we don’t quite have her platform, and not to people who go shopping.

  29. From the comments on Murphy’s supermarket blog:

    “I speak to more and more people who are frazzled by bogus choices in supermarkets and who get home with a mass of plastic packaging and think; ‘ I’ve still got nothing to eat!’”

    As with a teenager’s struggles with girls, not everything can be blamed on the capitalist mode of production

  30. Calling all hicks and numpties. If you don’t live within walking distance of a farmer’s market and (at least) five supermarkets, you need more housing. Much more housing. In which I agree with Mr W. Build more homes. Now. Concrete over the green belt till the M 25.

  31. Shopping, like working, is a chore we have to suffer through in order to enjoy the consumption that is the whole point of getting out of bed in the morning. Anything that slightly reduces the friction of said chore is a blessing.

    Of course, this is CiF, where every pronouncement from the writers is intended to be normative. It’s why the predominant personal pronoun is 2nd person plural.

  32. I used to enjoy shopping. Then I got a job. Now it’s a chore, because it has to be done at the same time as everyone else, when the shops are crowded, when I’m knackered, and when I have precious little spare time and would rather be doing something else with it.

    So, when I see someone going on about how much they love spending ages doing their shopping at a dozen different shops every day, I conclude that they probably don’t have a job. Or they write for The Guardian. Same thing.

  33. @ Luke
    There is an excellent body called the Long Distance Walking Association which caters for those who want to be able to walk to a “Farmer’s Market” from a city centre (or to the fifth-nearest supermarket which, in my case, is in the next-but-one town). I’m thinking of joining it myself.
    There is an undoubted need for more housing but inability to walk to the fifth-nearest supermarket is *not* the reason.

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