08 March 2010

From Urban planning to the Food on our Plates

Or, Unexpected Musings as a result of being an Expat...

Roses on my table

So from my last post, you might be getting the impression that it's a grocery paradise over here. It's not quite so easy. One thing I've noticed in the stores in Amsterdam (though not at the amazing variety of farmer's markets) is an obsession with over-packaging. We bought some crackers once that, within the outer package, were individually wrapped in groups of 8. WHY??? Certain types of fruits and vegetables are packaged on foam trays with cling film, or in plastic bags, or simply wrapped in cling film. It seems intensely unnecessary and is one definite downside to shopping at the local grocery store chain. Once we have bicycles (something I hope to find second-hand and soon), I plan to do more shopping at the farmer's market where I can bring my own re-usable bags for things. On a related note, at D's workplace, they have a wonderful sounding canteen, but for hygenic reasons have individually wrapped each portion of cheese and meat. So to make a simple sandwich generates a ton of waste.

Something else I've noticed is that, as a result of the latest obsession with being environmental by taking your own bags shopping, there seem to be a zillion new bags being made. I see them everywhere from fancy designer ones, to promotional ones, to cheap department store ones. I mean, at least they're re-usable, but still, it seems excessive and little bit missing the spirit of the idea. I can only imagine that some will not be sold and that the excess stock will end up in a landfill somewhere.


I have been reflecting recently on consumption and waste and where we find value and meaning in our lives. A lot revolves around the food we choose to buy, grow, prepare, and eat. We have been eating a lot better since moving to Amsterdam. Mostly because we are being more frugal and cooking all our meals from scratch. We never ate a lot of pre-prepared food or ate out a huge amount, but we're doing so even less here.

Making this sort of drastic, long-distance-and-short-notice move, with its associated massive reduction in Stuff, has resulted in a lot more changes than just the scenery. It's forced me to think about just about every lifestyle choice and be more conscious in choosing what I want. When you don't experience any change, it's very easy to stay within your comfort zone and not examine WHY you do or believe something. So far, I think this has been the most rewarding part of this experience and not at all what I expected. I thought it would be the travel ... which will probably be great too, once we get to that part of the Expat Adventure. As it is, I've been far more productive in writing and drawing than I had been for ages, I'm getting much more regular exercise (love the climate here!), we're eating much better, I'm feeling very content with having fewer things (though I still am excited to get our boxes with what we did choose to ship), and I feel like I'm benefitting personally from consciously re-examining my beliefs and assumptions.