At this time of the year, it can feel like a siege mentality sets in with a relentless focus on “New Year, New You” and the dizzying prospect of a new improved version of yourself.
And after watching Marie Kondo tidying up American homes on Netflix (quote of the year; “We really are messed up”, Husband, Episode 1), I realise that there are probably quite a few things that don’t give us much joy in our house either. And a lot of them are in our food cupboards. We hang on to bits of foodstuffs – particularly ambient, shelf stable items – in a similar way to how we retain our other possessions. The “I’ll use it sometime” philosophy.
Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (2014) and Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up (2016) espouses her philosophy on mastering the space that you live in through tidying, and making it a place that nourishes rather than oppresses. According to the authors Kon Mari Method, items in your home need to be either useful or give you joy. Cue jokes about chucking out the boyfriend, utility bills, actually the entire contents of your home. Her rather unique approach also includes thanking your possessions for their service before discarding and what to some might seem an obsessively elaborate form of folding which leaves your drawers arranged so prettily that you just can’t stop looking at them.
But there is a truth in all of this, about letting go of things. A good old-fashioned spring clean.
Objectively, I know that the paprika seasoning I bought for that casserole dish once upon a time will never be used again, or at least not within its use by date, simply because spicy food is not well received in our household of plain food fans. Baking items are another case in point; ingredients too frequently bought for a specific recipe on a one-off basis which then sit for months in a cupboard before eventually being thrown out. I’ve also lost count of the number of forgotten purchases I’ve found at the back of the fridge.
This is one of the reasons why meal kits and subscriptions have become so popular in the past couple of years, where meals are supplied ready prepared to eat or with the components to make it yourself.
The elimination of wastage, of shopping for hard to find ingredients and the sheer convenience of being able to outsource what to many is a chore has led to an explosive growth in this market. Meal kits were actually the fastest growing food channel in the US in 2018, with total sales of $2.2bn, according to data house Nielsen.
Food for thought…