Supermarket-free Me: Learning about ethical consuming

After my wobble in this post, I’m feeling positive again about being supermarket-free for Lent. I’ve accepted that during this challenge, I’m not going to be able to find everything I need just when I want it and that planning ahead is really important!

One of the problems for me was finding ingredients for my bread maker in local shops.  However, I have now done enough research to know that I can get everything within a 10 minute drive, except for skimmed milk powder which I am able to get from Real Foods in Edinburgh about 30 minutes away (which also handily has an internet site).

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I visited the shop today and stocked up. I was pleased to remind myself that they sell a number of foodstuffs loose which should help me when taking part in Plastic Free July.

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As for the organic products that I was having trouble sourcing, Real Foods is able to provide some of the items I wanted, as are the Ethical Superstore online and a shop called Earthy in nearby Portobello.

Admittedly, in general, the organic prices seem to be more expensive than the supermarket, and shopping takes longer because I don’t have a one-stop-shop anymore, but I’m discovering some great products of a superior quality to what I had been buying pre-Lent, and, as a family we are enjoying the experience.

The children love the excitement of visiting different shops and spotting new things to try. For example, dinner was fun last night when we used the organic pasta animal shapes they chose.

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I picked up a beautiful Suma soap for £1 in Earthy and that makes hand-washing more pleasing for them because, not only does the new soap smell divine, but it has petals inside it which are released as it dissolves in water.

As a parent, I want to teach my children about sourcing the things we need more ethically. We had a wake-up call about our dependence on supermarkets the other day when our youngest child wondered why this organic cheese has a picture of a cow on it.

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My other half was explaining that cheese is made from milk and asked:
‘where does milk come from?’
to which our little one’s answer was…
…’Tesco’
Oh dear…

Needless to say we took this as a bad reflection on our parenting…Much teaching and explaining took place and we really must arrange a trip to a farm..!

It did however remind me of Tesco’s Eat Happy Project which is advertised in this Tesco magazine (acquired before Lent!).

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This initiative has amongst its aims, the target of helping children to understand where their food comes from. That’s great but I have to admit (as I’m sure won’t surprise you) that I’m sceptical of the initiative and why Tesco would be involved in it.

While, of course, all children should know that milk comes from a cow, I think that as consumers we need to know more than that – what conditions are the cows kept in, how fair are the farmers’ contracts, how is the milk transported? How far is Tesco going to take this ‘education’ and is Tesco really in the best position to be teaching about the origins of food?

Instead of trying to expand on this issue in my own words I will direct you to this compelling piece on the Fife Diet website which urges the Scottish Government to reject Tesco’s offer to get involved in primary school education. It is supported by some big names that you may recognise if you read about food.

Personally what my children eat is very important to me. I think to feed your children well is part of good parenting, and an extension of this should be to teach them the skills to nourish themselves properly in adulthood.

Neither of my own children is even at school yet, but I want them to start learning about food and, further, be able to make responsible consumer choices when the time comes. I am aware that to ensure that there is consumer choice for the next generation (that isn’t just different supermarket chains) I need to be getting out there and supporting local shops, businesses and ethical suppliers!

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