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To Britain and back - Food Shopping

Our trips often combine eating out with eating in as we try to balance both cost and nutrition while we're away from home. The latter is often the better option on both counts, so our holidays do involve some food shopping.

We already knew that there are differences between where we used to live, York, and where we live now in Berlin. Availability in a capital city, however, is likely to be better. So what did we find on our recent trip to England when we also examined some of the British capital's shops?

Somehow, the pandemic didn't see Germany rushing to cover all its fresh produce in plastic so here in Berlin, we continue to buy the majority of our fruit and vegetables loose. We remember feeling disappointed back in 2020 when the recent modest reduction in plastic packaging underwent an almost total reversal in Britain. We didn't see much improvement on this last week, although the more conscious shops such as Planet Organic in London are further forward with it than the regular supermarkets. But what about the actual produce? We've become accustomed to a good range of vibrant, fresh vegetables and fruit in Berlin, and buying organic could hardly be easier. Again, it bears repeating that we're in a capital city, nevertheless, we were a little dismayed to see the apparent decline in fresh organic produce, compared with what we remember: Waitrose had less, Marks & Spencer had bananas only, and Morrisons had no organic produce at all.

So was it all bad news? No. There's a noticeable increase in plant-based and vegan products in at least two of the supermarkets. Although they aren't of great interest to us, since we mostly prioritise whole foods, vegan food products can be an excellent way to transition to a more plant-based diet and seen from that angle, the range of options is encouraging.

However, it does leave us scratching our heads, wondering what the future may hold. Vegan 'products' tend to be expensive (sometimes very justifiably: the ingredients and creativity involved can be significant), and they're food industry products so like all the omnivorous products that have preceded them, they will be specially designed to keep us buying more, which loosely translated means more salt, more oil and more sugar, not to mention additives, stabilisers, anti-caking agents etc. So on balance, we were a touch dispirited by the shopping experience. Was our snapshot representative of how it really is? What's led to the apparent reduction in fresh organic produce? The cost of living crisis? Brexit? We'd love to hear your thoughts, especially if you live in the UK.

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