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Foodhall Forage

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If you haven’t experienced the micro-horror embarrassment as an overspill of fusilli cascades noisily onto the shop floor in front of you, then you’ve not lived through the nightmare that is my poor aim in placing the tub inexpertly across the 5mm chasm from the dispenser. Thankfully though, there are often cute little shovels to help those of us who are directionally-challenged. As well as sparing your blushes, it means the whole zero waste shopping experience can be safely left in the hands of a small child, armed only with a bag of empty tubs and jars, and a fondness for directing the infrared zapper in the loose direction of the various (other shoppers first, and then) barcodes representing items you may or may not intend to purchase.

We’re lucky to have several options for ‘BYOBOOBs’ (‘bring your own bags or other boxes’, no? Just me?) in York (The Bishy Weigh, The Little Green Weigh, and the The Giftery and the Shop of Small Changes), but it’s not something that large supermarkets have got on board with, despite readily serving bespoke portions of cheese and meats and salads at the deli counter.

Until recently friends, until recently! It was with delight and a healthy dose of suspicion that I eyed an article sent to me this week, stating that Asda was about to open an 18-bay “refill zone” in our York store in October. IRL?! I envisaged a striking advertising campaign, with this new zone portrayed in splendour (presumably much like its Crystal Maze predecessors: Futuristic, Medieval, Aztec and Industrial) taking full advantage of the current hunger for packaging-free food (sorry). Added to this, my lovely admin buddy Helen, at yesterday's vaccination session had told me about a similar new section at the M&S Foodhall. Barely containing my Tupperware-excitement I ruthlessly exploited a Father’s Day trip out as a front to have a bit of a scout-out of both shops.

First up: Asda, where sadly there was no large-scale building work going on to herald the Queen of Sheba-esque arrival of the new aisle. Sad face with small stream of tears from one eye. But seeing as they have a few months to prepare, I'll simply pop back *blocks out diary for 1st October*. M&S, however, was a lot more promising and I was personally escorted (socially distanced of course) to the area in the shop where they had a shiny array of dispensers containing everything from cous cous to cornflakes. There was also a freezer section full of sliced bananas, chunks of spinach and even raw croissants ready to pop in the oven and fill your kitchen with the yummy scent of Parisian chic. Mmmm!

Now for those of you who are yet to experience full-throttle 'weigh and pay', here's a tip from the top: I personally find the most expensive item to buy loose is breakfast cereal. Annoying right? So I was happy to find a saving of 70p on a large (720g) box of Kellogg’s cornflakes by buying loose instead, in, um, let's just say "a large well-known store" *taps side of nose and winks*. Then there’s a separate coffee section where you can weigh your own beans (ahem) and even grind them if you so choose (yikes), and if you prefer your beans to be cupped you can even try a mouthful before you buy! I know where I’ll be spending my mornings from now on...

Even though Asda’s refills are going to be a few more months, it’s heartening to know that York will host their largest refill aisle in the country *beams smugly*, which, as I told my junior editor amid a torrent of stray Peruvian beans, means that we have clearly shown a local desire for less packaging, more product! That's certainly something to be really proud of. So, compadres, your mission this week is to go and investigate M&S and take your tubs! What about buying for your office, team, or bubble, instead of the usual plastic packet of coffee? Spreading the message is always good too. I stopped to tell my neighbour about the new section at M&S and her dog seemed very taken with the smell of coffee coming from my bag, I Shih Tzu you not…

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