Supermarket-free Me: What not to buy

You may remember that in my post Supermarket-free Me: Lent 2014 Challenge, I assured you that by ditching supermarkets you don’t need to find yourself out of pocket. So, before this project kicks off, let me share with you some thrifty tips!

Now because I’m a wannabe eco-warrior (ha!), my budget-cutting strategies reflect that. In the past year, thanks to the wonders of twitter and the blogosphere, I’ve had an education in how to reduce the rubbish I throw away. I blogged my way through Zero Waste Week (read my posts here) and I’m trying to cut out all disposable plastics for Plastic Free July (read my posts here). Quite by accident, I found myself spending a lot less money because I stopped buying things I didn’t actually need (rather than buying them, not using them and then throwing them out…).

So, let me challenge you on what you may have got into the habit of buying at the supermarket that you might just prefer to score off your shopping list in the first place. The less you actually have to purchase during this supermarket-free challenge, after all, the easier (and cheaper) this is going to be!

First things first though, the most obvious cost-cutting measure I can share with you is to use up what you already have.

Cupboard Audit

I don’t know about you, but I struggle to keep on top of what food I actually have in the house. While I have a shopping list, I do stray from it at times in the supermarket and it can be tempting to throw products that are on offer into the trolley. I also get a variety of fresh produce in our veg box which, if I don’t take a careful note of what exactly I get one week, can be found in the form of a sludgy mess the next.

I am improving though and a big turning point for me was when I carried out my first proper food audit last September. You can read about it here and I challenge you not to judge me on the messy cupboards and how out of control things had got. I found 14 beetroots in the fridge though – heck, I judge myself!

Seriously though, I do believe wasting food is a moral issue especially in times of such poverty and inequality throughout the world. Happily, a cupboard audit this week will help you catch any food that’s about to go past it’s sell-by date and will get you off to a flying start if you’re joining me in going supermarket-free over lent.

What not to buy

There are lots of items to be found in supermarkets that I really doubt anyone actually needs (Peppa Pig bruise soothers anyone?). In my own home, I have things I’ve bought that aren’t necessary, or that I’ve found free or eco-friendly alternatives to.

Why not take a browse at my list below and see if you are spending cash that could simply be saved. These are just some examples but I’m sure there are a lot more:

Fabric softener: Well yes, it’s lovely to smell like a fresh meadow or a summer breeze or a black pearl (what?!) but it costs, it pollutes the environment and er…you don’t have to!

Tissue hankies: If Roger Hargreaves had ever met me, I reckon I might just have inspired a Little Miss Allergy amongst his famous books, but even I manage without paper tissues. See my post the cost of a sneeze for a prettier, eco and free alternative. (If you are feeling very enthusiastic, do check out this post on Eco Thrifty Living about forgoing loo roll!)

Kitchen roll: Although kitchen roll is hugely popular amongst certain members of my family and friends I’ve always preferred to use old tea-towels, redundant muslin squares or well-loved j-clothes. These are at least as absorbent and can be thrown straight into the washing machine. Oh and they’re free!

Fruit juice: Okay, maybe this one’s a bit more challenging but do question whether this is actually something you need. Its had recent bad press for high sugar levels, there is a relatively high amount of packaging needed for a small number of servings and the choice to be made between concentrate, fresh or organic (is it even possible to buy fresh organic?) can be tricky. Maybe you could just squeeze some fresh fruit when you need a fix and stick to water otherwise?

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Bay leaves: You may argue with me but I can’t tell when these have been used in a dish or not (I have the same kind of soup portioned up in my freezer – some made with bay leaves and some without, but I have no idea which is which!). I say ditch them, ditch the packaging that they come in and save your money.

Cling film: We have pretty much banished this in our house – here’s a post on how we did it. Similarly, look at your use of tin foil and freezer bags and work out what alternatives you can find for free in your cupboards.

Wrapping paper: At the supermarket you can pick up all kinds of lovely, colourful and often difficult to recycle wrapping paper. To save money and the environment over lent why not pick up a roll of brown paper from the post office and either decorate it with stampers (thanks @mehubbyandkids), stickers or ribbon.

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Tissue paper from a craft shop is also good and can be inexpensive. Otherwise you could consider reusing wrapping paper and gift bags you’ve received.

Greetings cards: I love sending cards and I’d find it hard to give them up. However, since having children and being reluctantly reintroduced to craft, I’ve stumbled upon the handmade card. At first, I went down the road of encouraging the kids to make all the cards but after spending some time in craft shops, I realised that there’s loads of gorgeous accessories out there. You can knock together a simple card that looks a bit impressive for a fraction of the cost of an equivalent supermarket card. Now I battle with the kids for the glue and glitter and everyone gets to have fun! Here’s a taster of one I made.

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I’ve got a greeting card post in the pipeline over the next few weeks.

Alcohol: I know! I know….I’m interfering now! Hear me out? Sometimes when I’m in the supermarket I throw place carefully a bottle of wine in the trolley just because I think it might be a nice treat to have a glass that evening. If I hadn’t been in the supermarket, I wouldn’t have seen it and I’d have enjoyed a cup of tea. While avoiding the supermarket if I want some alcohol, I’ll need to make a conscious effort to go somewhere to buy it. Somehow this type of mindful consuming seems like the sensible option…

Clothes: Similarly these are easy to impulse buy in the supermarket. Recently I had a eureka moment where I realised that I actually had a lot of clothes so I could give up buying them for myself for a year – you can read the reasons why here. Two months on and I’ve found it really easy. If you do need to buy clothes while going supermarket-free then buying them elsewhere may require a little more time and thought which again, considering how ‘disposable’ fashion has become, and the conditions in which many of our garments are manufactured, may not be a bad thing.

Kids Stuff

Supermarkets seem to sell loads of stuff that children want but don’t need and maybe even stuff that we think they need but actually they don’t. I’m sorry to have to mention those Peppa Pig bruise soothers for a second time…

Kids magazines: If your children are anything like mine, they want the toy on the front but don’t care much for the magazine. The whole package can cost the same as a book and the toy is usually of such low quality that we’re lucky if it makes it through the week. I might miss the supermarket over lent but I won’t miss that magazine aisle…

Kids snacks: These tend to be expensive and are often small portions separately wrapped. Buy big packets of crisps, raisins, fruit etc and split them up yourself. If you need some novelty value to market this idea to your junior consumers then put the stuff in a bowl they don’t usually use. Save your cash, cut down on packaging and everyone’s happy!

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Babywipes: It’s an insensitive person who suggests to new parents that they should get rid of babywipes and use washable cloths instead! However, I know that when I have babywipes close at hand they get used for everything from mopping up spilt juice to swiping a runny nose. Now’s a good time to decide when you are able to justify the expense and environmental impact of wipes and when you’d be happy to use a free alternative.

A final word…

One of the main lessons I learned from giving up the supermarket for 28 days last year was just how much of a habit shopping had become. I used the supermarket without questioning that choice and I bought what I’d always bought (plus what was on offer or what the marketing people wanted me to buy).

Let’s start again and make informed and conscious decisions about what we consume.

Do I need an item? Can I afford it? Do I want to be supporting the supplier from whom I’m buying it?

I’d love you to join me as I think out loud and go supermarket-free over lent.

9 thoughts on “Supermarket-free Me: What not to buy

  1. Great tips and thanks for linking to my blog post! Can I include this in my next I Quit Fiesta? I love all the things not to buy. There is another reason not to buy fruit juice – apparently it is often subject to fraud as are lot lots of other foods according to this article in the Guardian

    I agree with you mostly about bay leaves not seeming to make much difference, but we have a couple of small bay trees in pots and have had a seemingly endless supply of bay leaves ever since we got them, so I put them in a lot of dishes. They keep having babies as well, so we have been giving them to our friends. The one dish that I found bay leaves made a real difference to was roast chicken. We put the bay leaves under the skin and it tasted really good! So my advice is if you are a fan of bay leaves, don’t buy them in little packets, grow bay trees in small pots and pick them fresh when you need them!

    • Thanks for your comment – of course you can include in your Fiesta 🙂

      Interesting about the bay leaves! I am veggie so haven’t used for meat. Growing them sounds great and lovely when you can give some to your friends too.

      Thanks also for linking to FB, you’ve increased my traffic already!!

    • 🙂 Last comment deleted as requested. I’m glad you found the answer. I am reasonably rubbish at all blog admin-type things. Once I’ve finished with my big challenges I must spend some time working on the actually physical blog, appearance and commenting on all of the other blogs I enjoy!!

  2. Pingback: Plastic-free Me: February Diary Day | westywrites

  3. Great post. We had a supermarket free January this year, I think Lent is a great reason for giving up the supermarkets again, so I’m going to join you. Supermarkets creep back into my life very easily!

    • Thanks and delighted you’re along for the ride. I agree – I gave them up for 4 weeks last year and at first found it really hard to go back but the convenience won me over and before I knew it I was spending way more money there again than I want to. I’m hoping a longer period will help me to establish stronger habits and that one day in the not to distant future I can kick them to the kerb for good!

  4. Pingback: Supermarket-free Me: Card Making | westywrites

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