London food shopping: online or IRL?
Before moving to London, there was a time where I bathed in soft water baths within the comfort of my own home. I took my mum for granted; every sip of a limescale-free cuppa, every slide along a disinfected worktop.
When it came to shopping, my mum tended to vary her grocery fuelled escapade between the local Sainsbury’s and ordering online. She knew that her bank balance could be somewhat be protected behind a screen with 25% off at Tu.
There was never any phone signal in our beloved Saino’s, so the poor woman’s innocent efforts to get in touch about spicing up mid-week meals often left her stranded, with no one to call for help beyond Sainsbury staff and fellow shoppers.
We had the luxury of choosing where to shop. Both popping out and staying in worked for us - the strong-minded of us anyway. Living in the town-turned-city of Chelmsford provided us with a variety of superstores to choose from. To this day, they come still in bulk as Chelmsford is predominantly populated by families who, quite frankly, demand feeding in bulk too.
London is different. Superstores exist all over the capital, but driving through a concrete jungle to get to them once a week is an utter 'mare. If you take the train, by the time you heave your shopping on to the tube, anything from the refrigerator aisle has become borderline nuked.
Scattered along the sides of roads and parked around every corner are ‘locals’. These come in the form a Sainsbury’s, a Tesco Express, and even a ‘Little Waitrose’ - the outcast offspring to the ‘big’ one.
They’re perfect for pick-me-ups, and the small essential items such as milk and they’re great for the last few ingredients to your Bolognese. However, these miniature markets are not so ideal when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle on a student budget. Because they’re so convenient and immediately accessible, it’s likely you’ll overindulge. They offer no structure.
Food shopping in London can go one of two ways; unless you’re so fortunate enough as to live adjacent to a superstore. You’re either better off buying online (creating a system), or working the system that already exists. A corner shop wine routine always results in drunkenly crying to Deliveroo, as the reduced section has already been raided by the time you got there.
If you’re in need of the full shebang - loo roll and all - an online shop is your best bet.
Searching for something a la Nigella? London loves unique pop-ups, organic shops, and everything from Chinese to Turkish supermarkets for the ingredients your spice rack lacks. Only it’s far too tempting to turn one packet of rice noodles into a bag of soy, miso, seaweed crackers, and a tub of anaemic spherical balls that you’re pretty sure are dumplings.
There are both pros and cons to whether you decide to buy your food from in London - it’s already guaranteed to be expensive given your location. At the end of the day, as long as your digesting at least one stem of broccoli, aren’t wiping your bum with leaves and your disinfected worktop would bring tears of joy to your mum's eyes: you do you.
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