Learning in baby steps.
I am beginning my fourth week in London now and I still feel like I am negotiating space. My space in relation to my new city, my knowledge in the space of my international studies and (more than anything else) the room for my stuff in the fridge.
If the significance of this is strange, I guess I’ll blame a kind of culture shock but one I was aware of (on theory at least) before I arrived. Storage space in UK kitchens (or at the very least, in its college housing) is a lot smaller than I have dealt with long term before.
And I still find myself struggling not to shop like an American—namely, in bulk. The two biggest problems with this is the space available between four girls from very different walks of life (and cultures that have all their own upkeep regimes…) in both the pantry and fridge and the fact that food here doesn’t last nearly as long (read: a whole package of sliced bread, while convenient, was a really bad choice for a single person).
The first you would think easy to solve: communication. And you, dear reader, are correct. Talking about shared space and seeing about individuals needs for personal storage in public spaces (read: tall girls please stop taking the only places we short girls can reach!) is a very important part of sorting out new living situations. It’s a problem when the only time you see your roommates, however, is when you either pass each other leaving and coming into the residence or when they are having a gathering of friends. After all, post it notes can get passive aggressive and the wars they start are really not appropriate during college let alone in life after it.
Anyway, so it’s all about relearning habits.
As an American who shopped every week for an American family, filling in the gaps while replacing large items when needed, I am used to buying in bulk. For me, this wasn’t like Costco or saving for the end of the world bulk, but I generally didn’t leave the store without 3 or 4 sturdy, reusable bags worth of food to replenish the sizable pantry, fridge and freezer (and I still tended to forget things people wanted). This was after I checked things like available storage space.
Now it’s all a matter of timing. When others are getting low, you stock up to get what real estate you can because, while they (roommates) may rearrange, they can’t really remove your perishable items from the fridge once they are in there (I will admit to keeping slightly off products in a fridge as a place holder—not for long term!—until I can replace it…space is THAT valuable!).
But it’s also a matter of teaching yourself to shop for the place you are in. If you have a smaller fridge (a usual predicament I hear from my fellow Americans) than you are used to, look at how locals shop. There isn’t much long term shopping. Like I said, products don’t last as long (less chemicals) and there isn’t space for more than a week’s worth of food.
1. Shop smaller and more often (self-explanatory, right?)
2. Check your freezer (from what I can tell from these first weeks, the fridge is coveted space—quick and easy heating—but the freezer is deserted even though food that is stored properly can last you longer!)
3. Be selective (look at the price to usability/expiration ratio before shoving it in your basket)
4. Ask yourself whether you are buying a product—this can be more than food shopping—because of price or because of need. Buy one get one deals, for example, can bite you in the butt more than it can generally save you!).
5. Remember, both space and money disappear quickly because of impulse buys and eating at home (even dealing with space hurtles) can last longer for cheaper than going out.
In these last few weeks, I’ve learned it’s a juggling game where you’ve got to keep all your balls in the air and be ready to be thrown another one in the mix when you don’t expect it—both at home and life in general.
This is why we move and travel, though, isn’t it? Go off and have adventures and learn new things about the world and ourselves?
Well, at least we can say we’ve tried.
I’m Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.