I stumbled upon a blog prompt recently, asking whether online shopping was better than going to a physical store. The answer for me is obvious—online wins hands down. And since lockdown started, I’ve thought a great deal about how N and I could digitise (and possibly automate) our regular shopping routine.

Fancy a rundown of what we’ve been buying?

Matcha green tea

My favourite right now is ITO EN Matcha Green Tea Bags, available at only a couple of shops in my city. I got a bit worried after a week of lockdown, as I’d reached the end of my teabag supply. But fortunately, ITO EN has an Australian distributor 💃🏻💃🏻💃🏻 which means affordable, accessible matcha as long as I can receive mail.

Fun fact, all tea—black, green, white—comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The only difference is in the way they’re prepared. If a tea doesn’t come from that plant (eg. peppermint, lavender, chamomile), then strictly speaking, it’s not a tea—it’s a tisane or an infusion.

Matcha is a special type of green tea, finished off differently to other teas before harvest. And unlike with other green teas whose leaves get steeped in water, matcha tea leaves are ground into a fine powder. Which means you’re consuming the leaf matter when you drink it, taking in the brain-boosting amino acid theanine. (Though I’d be interested to know if those trace amounts actually make noticeable difference.)

A box of ITO EN Matcha Green Tea, two green tea sachets and a ceramic cup
This is not an ad. I just love it that much.

Razors

I signed up for Dollar Shave Club after seeing an ad on Instagram, curious if the reality was as good as it looked in the video. I was very skeptical at first. What if it was no better than the crap razors I was already buying? What if couldn’t use them quickly enough? What if trying to use them quickly was environmentally irresponsible?

Good thing it was cheap to have a go, otherwise I’d still be buying crap razors today. Now every month, I get an email to tell me my next box will ship on XYZ date, and I can add/remove stuff if I want, or postpone that shipment to the following month. I was surprised by the quality of the product, surprised by how much it ended up reducing my shave-related waste, and surprised how big an impact the convenience had on my mental state.

That last bit astonished me the most. I never thought taking razors off my shopping list would amount to much, but having one less thing to think about was significant. It’s such a small thing, but I guess you don’t notice the load you’re carrying until someone finally takes it off you.

Natural deodorant

Once upon a time, I would never have dreamed about buying deodorant online, cos don’t you need to smell it first to see if you like it? But N and I were getting fed up with our old stuff. There’s something about ordinary deo that makes it start out nice only to suddenly turn horrible. Then it all stops working or makes us smell worse than before. Maybe we’re low-grade allergic or something. Who knows!

A few Instagram ads later (again), I decided to try NATIVE. Their “no stink” claim was a tall order, but I promised myself I’d make an effort to try new things. So glad we have it a shit. This deo blew my expectations out of the water. It smells nice, feels nice, doesn’t stink, doesn’t linger after a shower, and doesn’t defile my laundry.

Their website lists Lactobacillus acidophilus as an ingredient. Yep, that’s the same bacteria found in yoghurt and in your mouth, gut and VAGINA. I’m guessing this good bacteria eats the bad bacteria whose poos make us stink. While I also never would have dreamed I’d do this, it doesn’t freak me out that I’m spreading MAGIC VAGINA GERMS onto my armpits. I also promised myself a few years ago that I’d try to work with my body’s biome instead of against it, and this seems like a perfectly scientific thing to do.

Soap

Back in the old days, N and I would take a cheap and cheerful, low-key trip out to the country. Perth is a small city and you don’t have to drive far to reach a country town with its own culture and collection of cottage industries. While we’re out there, we find the nearest local soap-maker and do a big purchase. That soap stash ends up being the countdown to our next quiet weekend away. It’s our way of supporting a small rural businesses while being mindful and proactive about our relationship.

Of course, this kind of thing is out the window when you have to stay at home. So we ordered a batch from our favourite skincare artisan down south. It feels good having a bundle of handmade soap in the cupboard. They smell amazing and while sometimes it’s sad to be reminded of something you can’t have, smell is just…so visceral. For a split second, I’m back there and the mood’s all all sleepy towns, beachy walks and blue skies. I’m grateful to have the memory. I’m grateful to be able to look forward to it once all this is over.

Clothes

Our home is tiny. We have room for two small wardrobes and a compact clothes rack. So we’re minimal on clothes, thanks Marie Kondo.

There are certain clothes we’ve deemed essential: socks, undies, basics and sportswear. We wear the life out of them most of the time, so we don’t think twice about buying what we want when we want it. Even at our most gluttonous, we still seem to accumulate (and spend) less than friends with more space and bigger appetites for fashion.

It’s harder to support small businesses here, balancing for quality, fit, comfort, price and durability. We default instead to familiar brands like Uniqlo, Cotton On and MUJI. I don’t think we could automate these purchases either, because clothing is such a personal decision to be made on the spot, even if you’re not leaving the house.

Cat stuff

Last week, we set up regular orders of cat food and I think it’s gonna change our lives forever. Gone are last-minute Sunday “oh fucks” when we realise we’ve run out, followed by a mad dash to the supermarket at dinnertime rush hour, then coming home to a proper scolding from our hairy beasts because we’ve served them late.

And stress comes down to a chain of events, don’t they? First, it’s the “oh fuck”, then it’s the guy who almost runs you over as you’re walking to your car, then it’s the noise that greets you upon your return, and you don’t seem to be able to settle down for the rest of the night. And then it’s back to work on Monday.

Cat stuff plays a much bigger role in our lives than shaving gear. Having that looked after by an automated process and online controls should give us back the mental bandwidth for more satisfying things.

I do not miss the physical shopping experience

I’m very grateful to be living in a city and time where most things I could want are easy to get hold of. But I do not miss the sensory barrage that is the local shopping centre.

In my time, I’ve walked past police action, fist fights, screaming children, screaming adults, mysterious traces of blood on the floor, arctic temps, a larger-than-average human turd (yes, really!) in the car park, people who cough and sneeze without covering their faces, people who do cover their faces then proceed to touch common surfaces… Someone I know was even assaulted by a creepy random in a fancy supermarket in a fancy suburb. Luckily there was an eye witness and CCTV footage. She took the guy to court and got justice. But you know that for every one woman who gets justice, so many others do not.

Gosh, it sounds terrible to read that list back. Supermarkets are safe enough here most of the time, and worrying about this kind of thing is maybe a first-world privilege. But when given the choice of a practical, affordable and safer online option, you bet your sweet knickerbockers I’m taking it. Wouldn’t you?