Phillipa Smith spends seven days trying to cut costs and get thrifty.
Every day I’m inspired by the brilliant people on my newsfeeds and the dynamic changemakers who we are lucky enough to feature in this very magazine. The ones making a big difference to the environment by going zero-waste, and seeking out the yellow sticker bargains and charity shop finds. These people hold me accountable, they make me examine my behaviour and try to be better. But, an area I continually fail at is consumption. I’ll shamefully raise my hand and admit I am a consumer. I can be faddy and I follow fashion. And as terrible as my activity is for my bank balance, does it cause more sinister consequences for the environment? In order to find out, I’m closing my purse for a week. This means giving the credit cards a rest and getting my thrift on.
I’m as guilty as the next person of a weekend takeaway, often ordered when there’s perfectly edible and good food to eat in the fridge. This food then gets ignored in favour of its flashy door delivered counterpart and then potentially wasted. Last weekend, after a long Sunday out and about, I succumbed and ordered myself a veggie curry. Unsurprisingly, there were leftovers which I thought to myself I would save for the next day. However, after a discussion at work on a very bleak and grey Monday about the comforting power of baked beans and a humble jacket potato, I had my weary heart set on a different kind of dinner to what was sitting at home in Tupperware. In this instance, to my shock, I had wasted food twice.
The power of meal prepping
I am fully aware of the impact of food waste. Whenever I do have to discard out of date, half-eaten tubs of houmous or the takeaway ‘Monday me’ no longer wants to be associated with, I feel terribly guilty. We throw away the equivalent of one in every five bags of shopping we buy. Plus, 7 million tonnes of food is wasted in UK households every single year (lovefoodhatewaste.com). The facts hit home hard. I vow to try my best to not to waste any food I buy going forward. As a result, I spent the following Sunday meal prepping for the week ahead. I made my lunches in advance for every day and planned the dinners I was going to eat, too. And then, miraculously, I stuck to it. I saw the food deplete over the course of the week, satisfied nothing I had bought was getting wasted.
I’ve mentioned before I have a weakness for clothes and I find it very hard to resist buying fashion magazines. I’ve got a lot better at not purchasing fast fashion – the industry that shockingly could be responsible for a quarter of the Earth’s carbon budget by 2050 (downtoearth.org.in) – and I love getting thrifty at vintage stores and looking for bargains. I also stopped buying leather and wool last year and feel like I am making more ethical, conscious decisions when it comes to clothes. I think, for me, and probably many others, the problem lies in resisting impulse. Once I see something I like, I can feel the blood rush and dopamine hit. Not thrifty at all.
I imagine my new life with this miracle product in it and convince myself that all my problems will dissolve as soon as I fill in my shipping address on the order form – it becomes crystal clear to me that I’ll be more successful, attractive and happier if I buy the dress. Sounds ridiculous written out like that, doesn’t it? Before lunch, my inbox fills with daily emails rounding up the best in beauty and fashion. I browse with anticipation, lured in by the ‘Top 5 vegan beauty serums’ and ‘The ultimate jacket to transition from autumn to winter’ headlines. Sometimes these emails lead to purchases – things I don’t need, I just want. To start the week on the right foot, I unsubscribe from them all. By Friday I realise I haven’t missed my daily distractions at all, and, crucially, I haven’t bought any non-essential products on a whim.
Next to tackle is social media. I follow a lot of influencers and brands on Instagram with incredibly desirable lives and wardrobes. I look at their posts of clothing in the same way I enjoy reading fashion mags. It can’t have escaped your attention that very often now these posts are accompanied by links that take you directly to a site where you can buy said item. I hadn’t really stopped to consider the immediacy of shopping in this way. Whilst I have only made a few purchases directly through Instagram, I imagine many, many people do. A mass cull ensued. Although the big brands with millions of fans will be largely unaffected by my unfollow, I felt a lot better about myself having done so.
A thrifty ending
Perhaps you are not as susceptible as I am to marketing, well-constructed emails and glossy magazines. But after a week of examining the times when I slip up and spend, I saw that by my own volition I am putting myself in the temptation firing line. By simply changing the media I absorb, the urge to spend is removed. And as for food, that’s another case of exercising some will power. As soon as I flagged my own behaviour and changed the bad habits, I succeeded at cutting back on waste. Being thrifty is easier than I thought. In fact it was no bother at all, it’s just a case of taking a long hard look at myself, without wanting to buy the mirror.