Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published July 20th 2016
The Natural Way to Shop
Up until now, there were three health food shops that I was aware of; I love shopping in all of them, but as you would expect, they are rather niche. You can only buy certain things there. The other day I found a store that turns the idea of a health food shop completely on its head; a place where you can do your entire grocery shopping, without having to go to the supermarket to get the other essentials.
As Nature Intended, Spitalfields, Commercial Street
Its name is As Nature Intended and can be found in six different London locations, including Balham, Chiswick, Ealing Green, Marble Arch, Spitalfields, and Westfield Stratford City. The store I happened upon was the one in Spitalfields, Commerical Street, and it caught my eye the moment I walked by. Bags for Life decorate the front window and cost £3.50. The encourage you to bring your own bags, but also provide recycled plastic bags, which they find the most environmentally friendly option.
As I walked inside, the first thing to draw my attention was their attractive fruit display. The fruit is sold loose, so no plastic wrapping, and no falling to the trap of buying more than you need. Thus less food waste. There a few exceptions, such as raspberry punnets, and bags of mixed salad leaves, which would get squished otherwise. And lets face it, no one wants squished raspberries.
You might expect a limited selection, but I couldn't think of anything missing that I might get from a grocer's or supermarket. In fact, there were a few extras, such as raw ginger and bean sprouts.
Have you ever struggled to crack a coconut? If like me, your attempt has lead to a broken glass and a cut hand or throwing it at the wall in desperation, then you've come to the right place. In the freezer section bags of coconut meat are available. Completely free of shell, effort, and potential injury. At £7.25 it is expensive, but that (as we all well know) is because it is very labour intensive. You can also buy pre-pureed frozen smoothies.
Although in general, items are dearer than most places, that is due to the nature of the products. If you look at the prices of fruit, and domestic products like eco-friendly friendly products, they are sometimes cheaper. For example, rhubarb is 35p per 100g, whereas the last time I was at Sainsbury's it was the equivalent of 37.5p.
Among other fresh foods available were duck eggs, bakery bread, gurnard fillets (a fish I have never seen on sale anywhere else), and fresh egg ravioli. Some of the fillings included truffle, wild boar, and beetroot and goat cheese. I tried the latter; the pasta was lovely, but let down by the amount of salt it was coated in. I was surprised by how much there was considering it is not particularly healthy. I assume it was used as a preservative and you are meant to brush it off once opened, but still, it was too much for my liking.
If you are on the way to work and need a caffeine boost, don't bother queuing up at Starbucks. At As Nature Intended you can can make your own coffee. Choose your reusable container (once you've bought it, take it with you again next visit), pick which coffee beans you would like (you can even try blending different types together for your perfect combination), and then follow the instructions.
What I love about As Nature Intended is how visceral the shopping experience is. Not only can you make your own coffee, but if you skipped breakfast before leaving the house, you can pour your own muesli mix.
Even when you feel the need to be a bit unhealthy, you can still be healthy. They have a wide selection of chocolate, from organic to lactose free. Doisy & Dam have a unique range of flavours that include buckwheat, baobab, chia, and Himalayan pink sea salt. Other indulgences include beer and wine.
At the back of the shop there is a section dedicated to skincare. Not only can you buy skincare products and vitamins supplements, but there are a number of expert staff there to give advice and answer any questions you may have.
As Nature Intended care about the customer experience, which is why they have a feedback form in store and online. Some customers, for example, gave suggestions of products they would like to see added to the store. If you are dedicated to a healthier lifestyle, but find it hard to resist all the naughty temptations at your regular supermarket, As Nature Intended is really worth checking out.