If you are thinking about cutting down on supermarkets, cutting them out or even joining me on my Supermarket-free for Lent challenge, then I’ve a few strategies that I hope will make your experience easier.
Obviously everyone’s situation and geographic location is different. Each of my suggestions therefore will suit some people more than others but one thing that it’s fair to say is that a little planning before giving up on supermarkets is likely to make a huge difference!
Here are some actions that I’m hoping will make it easier for me to source what I need outwith the supermarket for lent:
I have a weekly delivery of organic fruit and veg placed literally on my doorstep each week from a local farm. This has this diverted hundreds of pounds from the supermarket on my behalf since this time last year. Plus, because it is all organic, I prefer it. The box covers most of my fruit and veg needs for the week. The farm website has a blog that occasionally price-compares to the supermarket and provides a breakdown of a sample box. This shows that its prices beat the supermarket equivalents. I have not undertaken this experiment myself but I have written a previous post on what I got in my veg box, how much it cost me and how I used it to feed my family which I hope you will find interesting and useful.*
I think it is common to be able to select extras as part of your box and I recently included organic free-range eggs. On browsing the farm website again today I have found a huge range of products are available to buy from bread to nappies to beer. Without carrying out a proper comparison I’d estimate that the prices are more expensive than I’d pay in the supermarket but again, many of the items are organic and not ‘budget’ brands so the price could possibly be justified by the quality.
In November I undertook some ‘research’ on suppliers in my locality that would home-deliver milk. My investigations were basic – I used a search engine and key terms (‘milk’ and my geographic location). I came up with at least three suppliers, including my veg box company, and phoned them. Any would have been fine. The company I chose to go with won my custom because they deliver some of their milk in glass bottles and as I am taking part in Plastic Free July, this will be necessary to get me through a challenging month! I have yet to activate my order but I am hoping to set it up within the next few days. I’ll keep you posted…
Local shops and suppliers
The start of lent, 5 March, is 10 days away so now is the time to start researching the local businesses in your area that might be useful for this challenge. When I gave up supermarkets for 28 days last year, my local knowledge was pitiful – despite having lived in the area for six years. I’d relied on the supermarket and nearby chain stores for most of my shopping and although my local high street was only minutes away, I really didn’t know the shops nor had I visited any farmers markets.
If you can relate to my experience then now is a good time to take a wander and to find out what’s out there and stock up. (It’s not cheating to stock up before the challenge starts as long as you’re not using the supermarket!). I find following Twitter accounts and websites that have been set up to promote the area to be great sources of knowledge and although I’m not on Facebook I’m guessing this would also be true.
You can also check out http://www.bigbarn.co.uk/ which, as mentioned in my previous post, is a Community Interest Company, aiming to promote local trade. You are able to search for local businesses on your post code, check it out here!
Where else do you shop?
Despite the growing monopoly of supermarkets (and I have several near me) I do shop in other places. Last year when going supermarket-free I found it helpful when I was anywhere that sold anything (from chain stores to garden centres), to pick things up as I saw them out and about.
While shopping anywhere that is not a supermarket will allow you to pass this challenge, I have to admit that I have become a more ‘ethically minded’ consumer in the past year. Although clearly I do use supermarkets just now (what sort of a challenge would it be to give up something you don’t use?!), I feel guilty about it and the same goes for shopping in some larger stores. Big business and big profits can sometimes mean questionable practices, as we know from the Bangladesh tragedy last April and the tales of tax avoidance that have been in the UK media for a good while now.
I like to use the Ethical Superstore for many of my household needs. This site has a huge range of products from groceries, to toiletries, to clothes. Although of course there are drawbacks, such as having your purchases transported across the country with the pollution this inevitably causes, the site does at least provide you with a certain amount of ethical information about its products. Prices will typically set you back more than supermarket budget brands but the site has had regular promotions such as 20% off sales since I started using it plus you can accrue reward points. (At the time of publishing this post there is a Fairtrade and clothing sale).
To source other products from shops, suppliers and the net that you can rest easy doing business with, get busy with your search engine! Type in your key words and do your research. There are businesses out there with some sound ethics, it’s just a case of finding them.
If you have any hints, tips or ethical suppliers that will make being supermarket-free easier, please do share them in the comment section below.
*If, like me, you are a veg box enthusiast there are links to all of my veg box posts within this post……!