Have you ever wondered how life would be if we didn’t have ‘sell by’ dates for food? And more so, whether our body would reap the benefits of not eating food with chemicals or preservatives in it?
I remember in the 60s and early 70s that when you went to a local shop you bought only the groceries you needed for the next few days. A few slices of cheese, a few tomatoes, a loaf of fresh bread, a couple of apples and a few eggs. These items didn’t have a sell by date and you knew to eat them within a few days. There wasn’t the enormous array of different brands or food types – quite a simple diet – and none of us went hungry or minded. I loved the fresh eggs when we had them, and having an apple when I got home from school.
Fast-forward to 2017 and we have a very different experience. I was looking in the supermarket at various foods and noticing the sell by dates – and that those foods with long sell by dates seemed to have more ingredients in them than those with shorter or more immediate sell by dates. I started looking up the aisles at things like jam. If we look at jam – the long sell by date jams are stacked full of sugar as well as the fruit, yet you can also buy some preserves e.g. strawberry preserve which has no added sugar – it only has apple juice concentrate in it, which once opened, needs refrigerating as it has a far shorter sell/eat by date.
Foods with long sell by dates have preservatives in them. There are a range of things we use to preserve food or elongate the sell by date e.g. vinegars, sugars, salt, other preservatives, and we use tins, jars, mountains of plastic packaging, and all manner of containers, all of which have to be disposed of while globally the necessity for recycling and rubbish disposal continues to rise. You only have to watch the news to see how far plastic travels and the dangers it poses to sea life, for example:
“An illustration of the sheer magnitude of the problem is that as much as 51 trillion micro-plastic particles – 500 times more than stars in our galaxy – pollute the seas.” (1)
How come we need so many foods with long sell by dates? How on earth did we manage all those decades ago without them? Hunter-gatherers aeons ago didn’t have sell by dates or have a problem with plastic. When did we start to make the simple act of purchasing food so complicated? I know we can manage very well without long sell by dates and the food we ate decades ago was less tainted with preservatives, sugars, salts, and there was no plastic packaging. And yet nowadays we seem to live in a way where we stock up, hoard, plan for the future and want our shopping to last for weeks, and when we are coming up to public holidays when the shops are open less, we stock up as though we won’t see another shop for months.
In an age where we have problems with:
- Obesity – worldwide this has more than doubled since 1980 (2)
- Diabetes – the number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014 (3)
- Addiction to sugar (4)
- The overuse of salt in our diets (5)
wouldn’t it be a great time to consider how we could simplify food, with fewer sell by dates, fewer preservatives and packaging? Is it also possible that our body would find benefit in eating food that is simple, contains no preservatives, is in season and freshly prepared?
Letting go of sell by dates as they currently are is a public health initiative that is well worth considering. Whilst it may mean we shop slightly more often or we need to consider and plan our food with more care, it would completely change our relationship with food, with shopping, and at the same time support the environment. It would change food manufacturing, our use of salt, sugar, vinegars/preservatives, and the need for so much packaging. It would also impact on our health as we wouldn’t be ingesting so much sugar, salt and other preservatives or chemicals.
Equally significantly, it would also offer the opportunity for us to look at the recently emerged trend of stockpiling food and the panic buying that occurs at holiday times. Animals don’t stock pile food – they eat according to their own rhythm and according to a far greater universal rhythm and cycle where their body naturally knows what is needed.
What then if the answer to this stockpiling trend was simple and natural – just the same as it is with the Animal Kingdom?
What if we bought and prepared food and ate by listening to our own body, feeling what to eat, what to buy, how to buy it in accordance with the natural rhythm of our body?
I know when I choose to be aware, my body knows exactly what it needs when I go shopping, or when I’m about to prepare and cook a meal. And nowadays I shop, prepare and cook most of my meals for myself and the food I eat is mostly in season, fresh, and minimally packaged. More so, I know my body benefits from this – I love the seasonal fresh flavours, and the ease of cooking fresh food, and my body loves the simplicity of it. There is also less packaging to recycle after too!
Is it then possible that: Sell by dates are past their sell by date?
What if our body knows how to shop, when to shop, what to shop in a way that doesn’t need packaging or long sell by dates or chemicals, as the body can, if we choose, live in accordance with the rhythms and cycles of nature, the seasons, and can flourish very well without the need for long sell by dates? And in doing so not only are we more responsible for our own health and wellbeing, we are more responsible for the environment we share with everyone else, too?
By Jane, London
- UN News (2017) ‘Turn the tide on plastic’ urges UN, as microplastics in the seas now outnumber stars in our galaxy. UN News Centre 23rd February http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56229#.WLAznhCFBfQ
- WHO (2016) Obesity and Overweight Fact Sheet – http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/
- WHO (2016) Diabetes Fact Sheet – http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs312/en/
- uk (2016) Sugar reduction and obesity: 10 things you need toknow – Public Health Matters https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2016/11/01/sugar-reduction-and-obesity-10-things-you-need-to-know/
- WHO (2016) Salt Reduction http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs393/en/
‘A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down’ – irony or just pure corruption?
Educated food choices – become your own physician!
Plastic packaging is now in our food chain so we have tainted the food we eat so I would say that ‘sell by dates’ are out of date. We demand food from other countries that have warmer climates so we can eat say Strawberries in Winter, as long as we keep demanding there will be a supply. Similarly we blame the drug barons and runners for supplying illegal drugs but we do not look at why there is such a demand for the drugs. Why is humanity so demanding?
“It would change food manufacturing,” This phrase stood out for me. When we shop and eat fresh and in season food there is nothing to ‘manufacture/create’.
Jane I feel that the way of eating, shopping and packaging of food that you are advocating is our future and that it will come very naturally from our re-connection back to our bodies. Currently we couldn’t bring in this way of living as we are all so disconnected from our bodies, it would lead to chaos and a massive rise in people eating take aways because we would get to dinner time and open our fridges to find a whole heap of mouldy food!
Thank you Jane, seeing microorganisms or probiotics digest our foods then any food that has the additives or preservatives to extend shelf life must take away from their digestibility as they are there to stop microbial acting on these foods!
I love fresh home grown produce, without the glyphosate and all the nasty chemicals, unfortunately I only manage to grow a small amount in summer time. I do wander round my local allotments, and it is gorgeous to see what some people grow, very inspiring.
Our bodies do know what they need, if we listen to them at all times, including when we go shopping, ‘What if we bought and prepared food and ate by listening to our own body, feeling what to eat, what to buy, how to buy it in accordance with the natural rhythm of our body?’
This is shocking: “An illustration of the sheer magnitude of the problem is that as much as 51 trillion micro-plastic particles – 500 times more than stars in our galaxy – pollute the seas.” When I came home from the supermarket recently I literally filled my bin with plastic that I had taken off the fruit and vegetables that I had just bought, the crazy thing is that these foods don’t even need packaging, its a huge waste.
With all the different chemicals put onto food during the growing process and all the chemicals put into food to preserve them it’s a wonder that the body is not reacting with greater intensity.
I find it more helpful to buy little and often for certain things because how I feel changes so often I could crave something one day and then not stand the sight of it the next. Feeling into what to buy also helps save me money because if I buy something on the back of a belief or ideal then it ends up sitting in my cupboard cause I don’t actually want to eat it.
“Because if I buy something on the back of a belief or ideal then it ends up sitting in my cupboard cause I don’t actually want to eat it”. How often do we do this Leigh, we buy something that has been described as the new ‘super food’ and we get it into as many meals as possible before routinely either leaving it in the back of the fridge or throwing it out. We draw on regurgitated knowledge that has come from a magazine article or friend rather than from the moment by moment intelligence of our bodies.
“I remember in the 60s and early 70s that when you went to a local shop you bought only the groceries you needed for the next few days” – living this simply keeps everything fresh, food aside!
It is so lovely to make a meal with ‘fresh’ or seasonal ingredients as we too can be with the flow in life and nature.
Our relationship with food in one that is not honouring of our body and being, disregarding the value of nourishing our body with food and instead more often than not abusing, medicating and entertaining ourselves what our food choices. It certainly makes me question where we are at to have created such a detached relationship with the purpose of nurturing, supporting and sustaining ourselves, our vitality with the foods we prepare and consume.
Just imagine the fact that there weren’t any sell dates on food 200 years ago. Food was fresh or not, you could tell,
I can see how sugar in foods as a shelf-life preservative is caught up in a momentum of many factors which are perhaps going unaddressed by our high-volume consumer/manufacturer culture. Factors such as the need for a constant profit, or the fear of being without enough food.
“What if we bought and prepared food and ate by listening to our own body, feeling what to eat, what to buy, how to buy it in accordance with the natural rhythm of our body?” This really would be revolutionary in terms of our relationship to food, both as individauls and to the food industry…the knock on effects of this actually happening would be gigantic!
The word “fresh” has itself been bastardised a bit I feel. You hear that used so often in correlation to food yet is what we eat really as fresh as they say it is or has it been manufactured to look and taste as fresh as can be?
Very true, I’ve had stuff straight out of the ground or off the tree and the taste is far different to what I can get in the shops. For example, British apples in May/June when the season is September/October. Often coated in wax to preserve or held in low-temperature storage for up to a year. It’s not exactly ‘fresh’. But this is how words and the meanings of them can deceive.
I feel we have lost touch with what fresh vegetables taste like.
When we buy food based on price it changes the farmers to produce food that is inexpensive.
The quality and taste are not there anymore.
If you have not eaten a fresh vegetable that has been grown with care, you do not know what you are missing. So you settle for less.
So true Ken and I feel that we are continually settling for less and less across the board, not just in the quality of our food. It’s the quality of life in general that is gradually diminishing and because it’s so gradual we don’t notice it but we are now in a pretty ‘tight spot’ not tight enough that we’re able to notice that the quality of our lives has gradually been eroded away, unfortunately we need to get into a worse spot than this before we’re going to be able to sit up, shake our heads and start to ask ourselves how we got to be where we are. And I feel to add that it is only by understanding that our way of life is being impulsed by a particular form of energy that we will be able to truly change things because until we understand that then nothing will truly change.
The use of preservatives can be seen as a great thing however it also opens the possibility to hoarding food. And the only reason we hoard food is the constant seeking of the security of comfort that fuels so many these days.
“When did we start to make the simple act of purchasing food so complicated?” Great question Jane, we have made it super complicated when it was so simple for so long.
“What if we bought and prepared food and ate by listening to our own body, feeling what to eat, what to buy, how to buy it in accordance with the natural rhythm of our body?”
Then we would all be healthier, happier, more energetic more, joyful, more playful have deeper and more meaningful relationships …. the list goes on ……
so true Jane – animals never stockpile food, just hunt for what is needed, even if having to remain hungry sometimes. How lovely and simple it would be to visit a grocery store for a few fresh provisions when required – for sure our manic, busy and push-through lifestyles would have to also change.
“What if we bought and prepared food and ate by listening to our own body, feeling what to eat, what to buy, how to buy it in accordance with the natural rhythm of our body?”
It makes sense that if we spray chemicals on our food to preserve them, then we will Ingest those chemicals, and even if in small amounts it will build up. When I was a kid, I could eat fresh apples from the tree now my lips swell due to the chemicals if I eat an apple and that is due to the chemicals to preserve. If I eat one from my local farmer, then there’s no problem although a bit too sweet for me these days.
It is crazy how we have come to rely on things like sell by dates and I know people who will not eat anything that has gone over that date which is often rather arbitrary. It is shocking the amount of food that is wasted because of it and great that finally some initiatives are getting going to make best use of food that would otherwise go to waste.
There can be great simplicity in life in eating what is seasonally available, fresh and unprocessed. It really also applies to living our true selves without all the extra expectations and complications we can add.
Great analogy and here’s to living in a fresh and unprocessed way.
“An illustration of the sheer magnitude of the problem is that as much as 51 trillion micro-plastic particles – 500 times more than stars in our galaxy – pollute the seas.” (1) This is an astonishing statistic Jane and with it comes a bigger responsibility on our part to be much more aware of not only what we are putting into our bodies, but also the process in which the food goes through, long before it ends up on our plate.
I am sure in the past more of us felt more competent with how to cook and what to eat. These days few truly know how to cook a meal for themselves without it being pre-prepared by someone else in a factory somewhere.
It’s ironic that we stockpile more food than we did in the past yet the shops are open for longer hours than they ever have been
Keeping it simple is a great way to go with cooking meals and as always fresh is the best way to go, the longer shelf life the more chemicals there are in the ingredience.
If you are lucky enough to eat vegetables or fruit straight from someone’s garden the taste is extraordinarily different to the produce you buy in the supermarket.
Changing our relationship with food as a society is certainly needed. Being in touch with the seasons, needing to shop regularly in the week to pick up fresh produce would certainly encourage a deeper connection to our body and what we felt was needed on a day-to-day basis. Instead we rely on over processed food with copious amounts of sugar and salt and veg that can last way longer than its natural ‘life’ span. Our bodies are showing that this is not good for our health.
So much food is wasted because of a “sell by date” expiring. We need to have a sensible approach to food where we look at it and learn to know when something is no longer fresh. This is an essential life skill.
Food is a great example of how we prioritise convenience and money over truth in life. The consequence is we are truly malnourished in every sense.
The simplicity of the body highlights how fooled we are when living life from our minds.
It is so true Jane, it is all about supply and demand. What are we demanding to be supplied with as a humanity, and are we willing to be honest and truly see what it is we are choosing and why?
The more our self-responsibility wanes for how we live and the choices we make, the more we seek to create ways to support our lack of responsibility and comfort the way we disregard ourselves, regardless the cost or harm. Such is the quality of food we allow ourselves to consume and to the volume in which we consume them, all totally normalised and championed as the pinnacle of living the ‘good life’. Yet our health and well-being as a civilisation tell another story, one that if our eyes were willing to see, reflect the damage we are doing to ourselves and how we are completely ripping ourselves off and away from living with true responsibility guided by our connection to our bodies and being.
“I know when I choose to be aware, my body knows exactly what it needs when I go shopping, or when I’m about to prepare and cook a meal.” I agree with these exact same words. The shame and guilt is the every-time I choose to not be aware however, the more I love the feeling and purpose I have in knowing what that awareness can bring, the more I am lovingly disciplined to sustain that awareness in appreciation.
Beautiful Jane, this is so true – so true. I love the realness as it is what we have not been willing to see, including my very self. Creating further creation within creation not caring about the actual effects on each other and nature. It is a behavior of our mankind that is driving this ill forth. A behavior that needs re-visiting for this is only damaging us all.
I am continually amazed if I happen to be at the supermarket when there is a long weekend coming up and the shops are shut for a day. The number of overflowing and groaning trolleys gives the impression the closure is going to be for one month, not one day. Maybe as you say so wisely Jane, we need to take a long, honest look at the way “Animals don’t stock pile food – they eat according to their own rhythm and according to a far greater universal rhythm and cycle where their body naturally knows what is needed” So who’s the wisest here, animals or man?
Ingrid, it seems internationally we are all stock piling on national holidays and have rush shopping frenzies…. I observed this even un Hungary over the easter weekend break!
When we consider that even a generation ago and not to mention centuries before, that plastic and polythene packaging didn’t figure. We were more in tune with nature and the seasons and could only buy seasonal produce, and or grow some of our own. It doesn’t make sense that we over eat, stock pile, pack food with preservatives and stuff our cupboards with food that we only throw out in the end.
‘What if our body knows how to shop…?’ The more I accept my body’s wisdom, the simpler my shopping list is and the less money I waste.
Interesting topic to consider. i dont buy anymore products which have a date on it.
I like to eat fresh vegatables And fish or meat And drinking water And herb teas
I was a bit ill this week and looking for a vegetable stock, and looking at the ingredients of a couple I was really surprised to find sugar on them as stocks are mostly salty in my memory. This really shows how our tastes are changing and we need more and more stimulation to enjoy the food we are eating. I have been sugar and salt free for a long time and now love the natural taste of vegetables and meat and fish more than something sugary or savoury. There really is a different way and I feel making our foods more simple again would support humanity as a whole.
It is such a lovely thing to buy foods fresh for the next couple of meals, no waste and planning meals to support what is needed in terms of our bodies and work days.
I have always loved using fresh food, I agree Jane, ‘I love the seasonal fresh flavours, and the ease of cooking fresh food, and my body loves the simplicity of it.’
Not only sugar but salt as well are added to manufactured food items in order to give them a longer shelf and then pantry life – and then we might eat something because it has reached its use by date rather than preparing what is needed on the day and feels true.
In an age now where it seems the world is governed by time, we are led to believe that saving time is key, the long sell-by dates do nothing but confirm that food can be stocked up, that shopping can be minimised to once a week and that we need not listen to our bodies regularly to shop more frequently for what’s needed. I know I’ve fallen into that thinking of saving time and getting the shopping ‘out of the way’ but I can 100% see the real value in keeping it fresh, relevant and therefore healthier.
Reading your blog Jane has made me consider that I too buy nothing in jars or packaging except for oil and dried herbs, imagine if more and more of us did this, then the demand for these package foods would not be there so the supple would dry up.
Having a fridge is great as it helps us keep food fresher for longer but I am wondering if this is another form of preserving and stock piling food? My understanding is that fruit and veg are best eaten when they are fresh but if they have been stored in the fridge for weeks or even months but they still look fresh, I also start to wonder how much nutrition is left.
I agree maybe its time to review the need of a fridge.
It’s an interesting discussion and yet without a fridge would we need to go to the shops daily and is that a supportive way to live? For me that would mean going to my supermarket – perhaps it raises the question about our changing high streets and the return of local independent shops.
Responsibility with food, what and how we eat makes so much sense, ‘What if we bought and prepared food and ate by listening to our own body, feeling what to eat, what to buy, how to buy it in accordance with the natural rhythm of our body?’
Keep it fresh and the packaging is limited and it is more nutritious, have processed food and there are limited nutrients. This is simple, and simple is wise. Thank you Jane.
You are definitely on to something here Jane! To simplify our way of shopping and eating is the way to go.
We come up with a million ingenious ways to rewire life. Yet ultimately it’s us who have the short circuit – life is the way it is, to perfectly reflect what we need to see. There’s no mistake, and no need to reverse engineer what God has planned – thank you Jane.
A real responsibility shown here with food and how we live feels very nurturing and brings a real change to our health and well being that is a reflection for the world and how we can bring about much needed changes.
Beautiful deepening in our steps is the simplicity
Sell by dates are definitely overdue for a review! Today we are less aware of where our food truly comes from and how it is made and it’s impact on Mother Earth and in fact more demanding of the same food being there all year round. We care more about taste and comfort than true nutrition.