4 Great Reasons to Cook from Scratch

Cook from scratch: food flatlay

Sometimes, throwing together a meal from scratch is the last thing you want to do after a long day. The contents of the fridge feel uninspiring and you’re hungry. Really hungry. The urge to reach for your phone and order a delivery or head to the shop for a ready meal is like an itch that won’t subside. Finally, you give in and settle on the sofa to await a moped-riding waiter or the ping of the microwave.

While sometimes a takeaway or a few supermarket-bought shortcuts for the kitchen are the only option, there are many slow living-inspired benefits of cooking from scratch that aren’t limited to the savings for your back pocket.

Slow Food: Reasons to Cook More Meals from Scratch

1. Reduce Packaging

Ready meals are often plastic packaging intensive. But, it can be recycled, right? In the UK, around 1.3 billion black CPET trays are used in packaging each year, but despite being recyclable, most still end up in landfill or being incinerated. Why? The black pigment doesn’t allow light to pass through, meaning that the trays are often not detected by waste sorting equipment. This is a great example of why we should be striving to reduce our overall plastic consumption, rather than just relying on recycling.

By cooking from scratch you have more control over the plastic waste you produce, for example by opting for loose vegetables or buying dry goods at a zero waste shop.

2. Mindful Cooking

Cooking from scratch is a great way to practise slow living and mindfulness, whether you’re living in the city or countryside. The slow food movement focuses on preserving culinary traditions and understanding how our ingredients have been produced. However, in the digital era, the concept of slow food can also be taken a step further to incorporate how we use those ingredients in the kitchen.

Preparing a meal offers the opportunity to switch off from digital notifications and distractions and focus on the repetitive rituals of cooking techniques. Many see cooking as a mindful experience, especially when you make a conscious effort to be present and engage with the senses as you chop and stir. Therapists have even begun practising ‘culinary arts therapy’, using cooking as a way for patients to experience therapeutic expression.

3. Know What’s in your Food

The mindful aspect of cooking introduces this next reason to don your apron. By connecting with the food you are preparing, you’re more aware of what’s going into your body and are more likely to eat fresher, higher quality food, versus ready meals and other food options that may cut corners on quality to be able to be produced on a mass scale.

But, being more conscious about your ingredients isn’t just about knowing what’s going into your body. It’s also about being informed about where your food has come from. Just like the plastic packaging point above, you often have more freedom to make sustainable choices at an ingredient level.

4. Meaningful Meal Times

Of course, cooking from scratch doesn’t automatically mean your dinnertime conversation is going to be riveting, but the effort put in to prepare the meal can encourage a slower, more mindful approach to eating.

Keeping regular meal times is important psychologically, socially and biologically, according to mentalhealth.org. Rather than rushing through meals on-the-go or accompanied by a smartphone, sharing meal times with others can “provide a sense of rhythm and regularity” and a chance to connect.

In our fast-paced world, cooking from scratch and being creative in the kitchen is one of the easiest ways to slow down while doing something positive for mind, body and planet.


This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. March’s theme is Slow Food.

A Guide to Zero Waste Shops in London

Zero Waste Shopping in London at The Source Bulk Foods, Chiswick

In 2018, the journal Science Advances revealed how approximately 90.5% of the plastic waste produced to date has never been recycled. This sobering fact, as well as thought-provoking footage shared online around the impact of plastic waste on marine life in our seas, helped to heighten the conversation around tackling plastic pollution.

The results of the plastic bag tax, launched in 2015, show how changing consumer behaviour is possible, but relies on us making conscious lifestyle decisions. Compared to the 2014 calendar year, between 2016 and 2017, the major supermarkets reportedly issued 83% fewer bags.

Looking to reduce your own plastic usage? In addition to saying no to single-use plastics and making sustainable swaps, London’s zero waste refill shops are a great way to reduce unnecessary plastic consumption on food and household items. Here’s where to find them and how they work.

Zero Waste Shops in London

Why refill? Sign explaining the reasons for going plastic packaging free

Unpackaged at Planet Organic – Various locations

Unpackaged has become a champion and inspiration for the zero waste lifestyle since 2006. Initially, founder Catherine Conway began Unpackaged as a market trader, before setting up shop in 2007 in Islington and later moving to Hackney in 2012. Although the store is now closed, Unpackaged has teamed up with Planet Organic to focus on “scaling up from niche ‘corner shop’ to mainstream supermarket”. Four Planet Organic outlets currently offer loose, packaging free goods under the Unpackaged brand: Muswell Hill, Torrington Place, Islington and Westbourne Grove.


The Source Bulk Foods – Battersea and Chiswick

Save plastic at The Source Bulk Foods in Chiswick

The Source Bulk Foods was founded by Aussie couple Patrick and Makayla in 2012 in Byron Bay. The brand believes in reducing food miles and offering high-quality packaging-free bulk foods at affordable prices. With over 40 stores in Australia, The Source Bulk Foods is the country’s largest specialised bulk food retailer. Lucky for us, the brand launched in Battersea and Chiswick in 2018. In the short time since they’ve been in the UK, their customers have helped to save over 5,000 kg of plastic waste.


Hetu – Wandsworth

Hetu, meaning ‘purpose’ in Hindi, sells vegan, unrefined and unprocessed whole foods and reusable items without unnecessary packaging. They say to be “on a mission to change the world with one of the most powerful tools at our disposal; our buying power.” The nearest station to Hetu is Clapham Junction.


Naked Larder – Herne Hill

For those in the South, Naked Larder allows you to pre-order and collect your packaging-free shopping using your own containers. As recycling is still energy intensive, Phili’s mission, founder of Naked Larder, is to try and reduce packaging as much as possible, especially for dry goods which can be difficult to buy without plastic in supermarkets.


Bulk Market – Hackney

Dry goods at Bulk Market in Hackney

Fed up with plastic, which is designed to last, being used for single-use disposable items, Ingrid Caldironi founded Bulk Market. After a successful pop-up in 2017, Bulk Market crowdfunded to open a permanent location in late 2018 at Bohemia Market in Hackney, a couple of minutes from Hackney Central overground. They are working hard to be able to provide wine and beer, in addition to their current stock of fresh veg, grains and pulses and household items.


As Nature Intended – Various locations

As Nature Intended has six locations across London: Balham, Chiswick, Ealing Green, Marble Arch, Spitalfields and Westfield in Stratford. The brand champions organic and natural produce and was created by Iceland founder, Sir Malcolm Walker, back in 2000. Rather than being wholly dedicated to zero-waste, As Nature Intended has bulk sections (though, not currently at their Stratfield store) where you can buy packaging-free.


Harmless – Wood Green

If you’re in the North, try Harmless in Wood Green. This shop which sources producers and suppliers that are both environmentally and socially conscious, is not just zero plastic, but also vegan. You can find Harmless just five minutes from Wood Green station at Blue House Yard, a temporary redevelopment that provides creatives and entrepreneurs studio and retail space. If you come with a list, you can explore Blue House Yard or even have a drink while Harmless prepares your order.


How to Buy Food in Bulk and Reduce Waste

Although many of these shops provide paper bags you can use and new glass jars to buy, most encourage you to bring your own containers, re-using whatever you have at home or sourcing second-hand containers from charity shops.

From glass jars to tins and pillow cases, as long as you can weigh your receptacle, they’re quite flexible with how you to choose to go no-waste. But remember that they aren’t responsible for any cross-contamination, so make sure your containers are thoroughly clean and dry. Once you’ve got your containers sorted, here’s what to do:

  1. Weigh and make a note of your empty container, or measure the liquid capacity using water. This is called to ‘tare’.
  2. Fill your container with your chosen bulk item.
  3. Re-weigh your filled container and subtract the empty item’s weight.
  4. Pay for your goods.

If you enjoy good food and want to do something good for the planet, these shops are almost like an adult version of pick ‘n’ mix, but with less refined sugar! As long as you come prepared, it’s an enjoyable and slow way to shop in London.


This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. March’s theme is Slow Food.

Discover more about slow living and sustainability.

What is the Slow Food Movement?

What is Slow Food?

In the 1980s, the founder of the slow food movement, Carlo Petrini, began to notice how “the umbilical cord that had once connected the worlds of farmer and consumer was cut.” Petrini, from Bra in Northern Italy, lamented the loss of connection between consumers and producers with the introduction of large-scale supermarkets and fast food.

In 1986, two significant events took place which encouraged Petrini to found Slow Food, a not-for-profit grassroots organisation which champions traditional food preparation techniques and locally sourced ingredients.

The first event, which is often associated with the birth of the movement, was the planned opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in the Piazza di Spagna in the centre of Rome. While many protested outside the planned McDonald’s site, Petrini disagreed with this solution. Instead, he set about defending Italian culinary traditions by showing how they were at risk.

The second event was the selling of cheap wine made with methanol which led to the deaths of 19 people, in addition to multiple poisonings. According to The Independent, the cheap wine incident also supported Petrini’s drive to raise awareness. Italian wine exports fell by more than a third and demonstrated that protecting the country’s culinary heritage was not only important culturally, but also economically.

The Slow Food Manifesto and Beliefs

In 1989 Slow Food came to life when delegates from 15 countries from around the globe signed the initial manifesto. The manifesto promoted living a “better quality lifestyle”, finding pleasure in food and protecting local traditions:

“First of all, we can begin by cultivating taste, rather than impoverishing it, by stimulating progress, by encouraging international exchange programs, by endorsing worthwhile projects, by advocating historical food culture and by defending old-fashioned food traditions.”Slow Food Manifesto, 1989

Over time, the beliefs of the Slow Food organisation have been developed and refined. Today, Slow Food is guided by the principle that food systems should produce “good, clean and fair food for everyone”.

  • GOOD: quality, nourishing food that is full of flavour
  • CLEAN: food production that is not harmful to the environment
  • FAIR: prices that are affordable for consumers and fair conditions and income for producers

The time and potential cost implications of cooking from scratch using local ingredients have been contested in an opinion piece by Karla Fernandez for Feminist Wire. Fernandez suggests that the slow food movement can vilify all processed foods which have allowed both working women and men to spend less time in the kitchen. She alludes to the difference in processing, for example between frozen vegetables and a ready-meal.

While a trip to the farmers’ market may not be feasible or affordable for every weekly shop and some elements of processed food may be unavoidable (or even desirable), it’s still possible to make more sustainable and conscious decisions in supermarkets with some research.

Slow Food in the Digital Era

Since Petrini first shared his concerns over our accelerated pace of life in the 1980s, referencing industrialisation and the creation of the ‘machine’, our speed of living has arguably only increased.

In 2018, the conversation around the environmental costs of our food consumption habits peaked with the release of new research from the University of Oxford. The study advised that two seemingly similar food products in the same supermarket could have wildly different environmental impacts and as consumers, we’re not informed about the consequences of our purchasing choices due to lack of clear labelling. The research also increased discussion around the impact of reducing animal products in our diets as one of the most beneficial ways to support the planet on an individual level.

2018 also saw Collins Dictionary select ‘single-use’ as the word of the year, reflecting the increase in public discussion around plastic pollution. The plastic bag tax has seen a shift in consumer behaviour, encouraging shoppers to bring their own. This suggests that a similar effect could be possible for food packaging and levies on high environmental impact foods.

While we’re clearly at an environmental tipping point on the discussion around sustainability and how we make food purchases, we can also consider how the act of preparing and eating food has changed in the digital era.

The significance of meal times has arguably been devalued as we eat at our desks or accompanied by our smartphones, the latter breaking down conversations and distracting us from what’s on our plates.

Today, Slow Food deserves a further point in its list of GOOD, CLEAN and FAIR principles. A focus not just on selecting ingredients, but also how we use them – on slowing down to find joy in the meditative and creative process of cooking from scratch, and re-assigning value to the importance of connecting with and over the food we consume.


This article is part of A Year of Living Slower – 12 monthly experiments in living better, not faster. March’s theme is Slow Food.

A Year of Living Slower, March: Slow Food

Scandi inspired dining room decor

Welcome to the third month of A Year of Living Slower, a year-long challenge in living better, not faster. Each month, the experiment focuses on a different theme, encouraging us to make small, positive lifestyle changes, inspired by the slow living movement.

In January, the challenge explored the theme of sleep – something integral to our well-being. And in February, we focused on slow Sundays. We shared inspiration around where to enjoy a quieter Sunday in London and also asked four simple, slow and eco-conscious bloggers for their ideas.

The first two months of A Year of Living Slower have concentrated on self-care and slow living on an individual level. As we head towards spring, we take a more macro approach and turn our attention to the very heart of the slow living movement: slow food.

Embracing Slow Food

In March, we seek to understand the roots of the slow food movement, initiated by Carlo Petrini in Rome. We delve deeper into this topic and understand slow food from different angles, from supporting local producers and sustainability to finding joy in the process of cooking from scratch and being more present when eating.

This month’s challenge aims to help us consider our food choices, especially in a city setting. And on a personal level, it encourages us to slow down and enjoy our food, rather than eating on the go, or while scrolling on our smartphones.

Join in the conversation and share your photos using #AYearOfLivingSlower on Instagram.