Supermarket-free Me: Solutions not problems!

In my last post, I wrote about some of the negatives involved in ditching the supermarket for Lent. For me, the big problems so far are not being able to buy all of the ingredients for my bread maker locally and being restricted in the range of organic products I can find….then when I do find them, they seem to be more expensive in general than in the supermarket. Sigh.

I have been full of optimism about giving up supermarkets for Lent and, in fact, a few weeks ago I could hardly wait to be shot of them and get writing about my experience! I would love to be supermarket-free altogether and I rather hoped that this challenge would take me much closer to that.

The problem is that I have conflicting priorities:

1. I desperately want to stop supporting the big supermarkets which between them are often in the media for unethical practices (e.g. the low wages of some of their suppliers, food waste and the horsemeat scandal) and get behind local businesses which can help to keep local money within the community. But…

2. I passionately care about what I give my family to eat. I spend a lot of my energy sourcing healthy food and cooking – hence the homemade bread and the organics. As a stay at home parent, who has temporarily put a career I enjoyed on hold to look after them as best I can, I cannot tolerate having to compromise on what we eat. It is also worth noting that, before I had children, I was far from a domestic goddess and was barely acquainted with my oven! My need to properly look after my kids inspired a huge change in me…

So with all of this in mind, I have been pondering over how (or indeed if) I can bring my two priorities together and achieve both in the longer term.

I’ve thought about it a lot in the last couple of days…

…there was maybe even a small rain cloud above my head as I considered the issue…

Gradually though, I realised that I was feeling unnecessarily down about the dilemma. I am only 8 days into Lent! Although I have some local knowledge left over from going supermarket-free for four weeks last year and, although I’ve been in most of the local shops in the past week, I still have a long way to go!

Excuse me while I have a little word with myself…

Giving up supermarkets isn’t easy – if it was, then they probably wouldn’t exist on such a huge scale because many people would most likely choose to avoid them.

Practice surely makes perfect.

I still have a lot of ground to cover. I have yet to explore the Farmers’ Markets in my area, and there are many specialist shops in Edinburgh (a short journey from home) just waiting for me to turn up and scour their shelves. I need to get out and about and find out who sells what. I need and work out a way of accessing items when I need them.

Part of the power of supermarkets is that they are able to make goods affordable to customers. I already know, however, that this may be at the cost of someone else in the supply chain so perhaps I have to be prepared to pay a bit more for organic products. (If you want help to find out more about this please see my post on recommended reading.) Perhaps I am even jumping the gun as I don’t yet know if there are affordable organic products within the area that I’m prepared to travel, maybe there are!

Further, when I am in local shops, silently bemoaning the lack of the items I’m looking for, I should be asking the staff if they would consider ordering them in instead of swapping pleasantries about the weather! I love to talk to people and there’s a good chance that the feedback would be appreciated. Maybe for that matter I should also be contacting the supermarkets and letting them know why I am striving to find alternatives to them in the longer term.

Okay!

That sounds like enough for me to be getting on with at the moment. I am feeling much more optimistic about giving up supermarkets for Lent – in a way that will allow me to feed my family to my own standard. I will take things one step at a time but I hope that at the start of March 2015, I am using the supermarket less than I was a fortnight ago.

I’ll keep you posted…

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9 thoughts on “Supermarket-free Me: Solutions not problems!

  1. I would love to give up Supermarkets but I’m scared! Doesn’t it take you ages to source all of the bits you need? I struggle for time as it is and I wonder how I’d fit it in. I love the idea of it though, maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to give it a go 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment 🙂 I think the key is to reduce what you buy from the supermarket where you can (my post on Planning is about this) eg we get a veg box and have just started a milk order weekly. Also I’ve realised there’s stuff we don’t need or can cut down on (my post on What Not to Buy tackles this). Going supermarket free is difficult but over the last year I’ve cut down significantly without much effort. Also, the more I read about the reasons not to use the supermarket, the more motivated I am to succeed! I still have a long way to go in real life but I’m hoping this challenge over Lent pushes me on!

      • Once we have settled into our new house I’m going to start looking into it. There are some great local suppliers around where we live so it shouldn’t be too hard to do. I like your suggestions of start small, one thing at a time that makes it seem a bit less scary 🙂

    • Don’t be scared! I would say start small and work up! The first thing I stopped buying from the supermarket was fruit and vegetables – I got a veg box delivered and/or went to Farmers’ Markets. After that I started buying bread from a proper bakery – it is sooo worth the little bit extra! Next was cheese and deli items from a local deli. I found a local milk producer in the area who stocks the farmers markets and also has a shop, and sells his milk in glass. Then I gave up plastic, and started buying grains, nuts, seeds etc from the bulk buy stores, rather than in packets from the supermarket. That became true of tins too; I now buy chickpeas in bulk and cook them myself (they freeze amazingly well). There’s a couple of independent stores i use for odd bits and pieces (like organic tomato paste). Some stuff – like yoghurt – I learned to make myself. I like eating so it makes total sense to learn how to cook tasty things too! I found a social enterprise that delivers plastic free recycled toilet paper and donates profits to charity (how awesome is that?!). In the last month I only bought one thing from the supermarket – a jar of black tahini because I wanted to try it and hadn’t seen it anywhere else. But let me tell you, it’s taken almost 2 years to get to this point!!!

      • I love the fact that you make your own yoghurt, that’s brilliant! You two have inspired me to give it a go. Going to start with finding a local fruit and veg supplier and go from there

      • I’m delighted you’re inspired! It’s really interesting and as I heard someone saying the other day….Rome wasn’t built in a day!

      • You’re absolutely right, it takes time and effort! I’m a bit of an ‘all or nothing’ girl so I like to jump in and do something or not do it at all, but I’ll have to make an exception for this, I think. I’m cutting down and hopefully one day being supermarket-free will be a breeze! (It’s already easier than it was a year ago)

  2. Having a wee word with your local shops might not be such a bad idea. Often they won’t stock things if there appears to be no demand, but even if a couple of folk ask it might be enough for them to at least order in a case of whatever it is you’re looking for. If it sells, they’ll re-stock – if not, they won’t. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

    I meant to ask you before – where you draw the line with supermarkets? Are you simply avoiding the “big” retailers (Tesco, ASDA, Morrison’s etc.), or are you prepared to shop at smaller chains (Co-operative, Scotmid)? My local shop is a Costcutter, but despite the national name, it’s a local business that is simply part of a bigger buying group. While you’re never going to get prices as low as the larger multiples, they do a 3-weekly promotional leaflet and can be quite competitive with some lines (18 cans of Tennent’s for a tenner!).

    As always, best of luck with your challenge. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m dropping anything that is part of a big chain (so the big ones and including the likes of Co-op an Scotmid) but am allowing the franchises as, like you say, they are local businesses. It’s a difficult one to choose where to draw the line and probably not fair to treat them all the same as there are vast difference between the ethics behind different chains (and even how the products within them are sourced). If I one day achieve my aim of shopping as ethically as possible I probably will asses each transaction as I go and work out what I’m comfortable with, if that makes sense!

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