Lent 2015: Day 36

My supermarket-free Lent has been so easy that I’ve almost not noticed it this year.  This is mainly due to having found a good local shop that meets most of my needs, and also partly due to being so busy that I’ve not been able to get out there and explore alternatives. However yesterday, I took my eye off the ball and… used a supermarket by accident!

‘How could this be?’ wondered my other half, who knows how meticulous I am at this time of year to ensure that I avoid anything supermarket-related.

Indeed it was a silly mistake. I had had a morning full of chores to get through, with my youngest child in tow. I was using my local community to the full – visiting the library, buying tickets at a local venue for a show put on by a local group, and I had my wee one scooting happily through the streets as I ran walked alongside.  My supermarket-free blip happened when I needed to take a prescription to the chemist. There was one on my route so I popped in and was sitting waiting for it when it dawned on me that I in a Cooperative Pharmacy!

By the time I realised, it was too late – the prescription was being prepared. I had to laugh though as I had just been congratulating myself on my super-efficiency in powering through my chores, and thinking how lovely it was that I’d found a new chemist that wasn’t keeping me waiting, unlike my usual Boots Chemist that always makes me return for the goods in 15 minutes. Even though I wasn’t personally paying for the prescription (in Scotland prescriptions are free), the Coop would have made money from my visit. FAIL!

Mistakes happen though, eh? As ever, I’ve picked myself up and carried on. In fact, just this morning I found myself in a local coffee shop enjoying a lovely cup of tea and a cupcake – that’s dedication for you!

It’s been a while since my last post so I’ve still to update you on the results of my supermarket-free Mothers’ Day presents. Here they are:

Granny
Cards (homemade by the children): very well received

IMG_1784

Present: lunch out in a local venue. We had a lovely time – the food (and wine!) were great, the service was excellent and there was even a garden for the kids to explore, so everyone was happy.

Grandma
Card (made by me, idea from a post on makedoandmend-able.co.uk ): the recipient was so complimentary that I’ve made about 4 more since for birthdays, and am slightly addicted!

IMG_1767

Decoupaged giraffe

IMG_1773

This went down especially well, possibly due to the fact that I managed to round up all of the grandchildren to help stick the paper on. Involving all the kids seems to have added sentimental value, and happily distracts from the fact that Grandma is now stuck with a decoupaged giraffe she can never chuck out…

Foodbank donation – a nice touch and more practical than the giraffe.

Great Gran
Card (I’m sorry to say this was actually made by me although it looks like it was made by the kids): Well received.

IMG_1769

Present – a selection of small gifts from the local gift shop, also well received.

IMG_1774

How’s everyone else getting on with going supermarket-free? Less than a week to go now!

Advertisements

Lent 2015: Day 22

I’m the first to admit that my supermarket-free blog posts of late have been a bit of a bore! I lay the blame at the feet of the fabulous Nisa store that opened within my area within the year and is pretty much meeting my every need.  I did however send my eldest off to school with this bottle of apple juice as I’d run out of the supermarket juice cartons I usually put in the packed lunch. Both children started sniggering when they saw it….

IMG_1748

‘Mummy that looks like wee!’

I have ventured into a few local shops in the last week. First up was this Polish shop which was rather lovely, complete with a thatched roof display (photo taken from behind an aisle as I didn’t want to draw attention to myself!)

IMG_1743 (1)

I also used the Post Office service in the local grocery store, having to banish any thoughts of using the Post Office inside Asda.

As mentioned in this post, I’ve been thinking hard about how to negotiate a supermarket-free Mothers’ Day, with the added complication of actually making this year’s presents thoughtful and personal! I have three presents to co-ordinate (two grannies and a great granny).  So far I’ve decided to make all the cards and ideally the kids will help me, which will mean they will be even better received and – let’s be honest here! – the quality can slip without anyone minding…

One present is to be Sunday lunch out in a local, family run hotel. A friend recommended it and we’re all looking forward to that. Sorted.

I have hummed and hawed over the second present and have decided that the kids and I will try out some decoupage!

IMG_1760

Having never tried it, this is ambitious. My plan is that the children will help me tear up the paper and I will glue it on, but realistically they are going to want to indulge in a little gluing too.  This may be where the problems start, but for Mothers’ Day it has to be the thought that counts, right?

I’m also going to make a donation to the Foodbank as part of this present after reading this

IMG_1761

For the third present, I plan to visit a gorgeous local gift shop nearby and select something there.  The presents I was given last Mothers’ Day came from this shop and I have cherished them all year.

My final supermarket-free anecdote for today is to tell you that our kettle broke three days ago and that I haven’t managed to replace it until today.  It turns out that three days without a kettle is something of a challenge in itself.  Boiling water on the hob takes ages and because there is no ‘click’ to alert you that the task is done, it is really easy to forget all about the pan which is bubbling away, filling the kitchen with condensation.

On the first day of kettle-gate, my other half offered to pop out to a nearby shopping centre to pick one up. This mission failed as the only shop in the whole place to sell kettles was Tesco. It took us another two days to find the time to source a kettle from somewhere else. Incidentally the kettle that broke came from a Tesco store, so maybe our habits are slowly changing for the better!

Supermarket-free Lent 2015: Day 13

Unlike last year, when I felt my supermarket-free Lent was an uphill struggle at times, I’m finding this year pretty easy so far. This can be almost fully attributed to the excellent new Nisa store that opened in my area around 10 months ago (mentioned in my last post). It has met almost all of my needs so far, and is only a little bit further away from home. Admittedly it’s not close enough for me to walk with children in tow, but I do my big shopping with the car anyway so it’s not causing me difficulty.

I had hoped by this stage to have reviewed some of the local shops in my area, of which there are plenty, but (as ever) life is really busy and I’ve not been able to do any exploring yet.

I wrote in this post about how we’d got used to swapping our Tesco Clubcard vouchers for money off at Pizza Express. With this option being much less attractive now that the Clubcard points are out of bounds, this weekend we ventured out to a family run pizza run restaurant instead, in the centre of Edinburgh. It was our second choice as we have a really excellent locally-run pizza place near us, but it is closed on a Sunday lunchtime.

I was really hoping (and indeed expecting) that I could rave about our great experience here on the blog but…we were disappointed. The pizzas were too salty and difficult to cut, we were seated so close to the toilets that people had to squeeze past us, it was cold to the point that I had to put my coat back on, plus they always used to have balloons and activity packs for kids but they didn’t this time.

I feel a bit sad about it as we’ve had great experiences there within the last couple of years. I didn’t give them feedback during our visit because I didn’t want to complain as such. The staff working there were lovely, and I was enjoying family time. My conscience says that I should probably offer them kind and constructive feedback though, otherwise they will almost lose customers to the bigger chains who are able to team up with supermarkets to secure an income.

I have increased my cooking as expected. Today for example, I made a big batch of tomato sauce for the freezer which I can use as an emergency meal with pasta or as a pizza topping. I also made bread in the breadmaker and…er…a jelly from jelly cubes – that doesn’t count, does it?! I’m still not completely on top of the veg box but am finding ways of using up more of it, and our meals and snacks are getting healthier all the time!

Finally, I am finding that by going supermarket-free again I am thinking in more depth about where my food comes from and the quality of supermarket food. By having a break from the supermarket, I have the freedom to challenge myself on the bad habits I’ve fallen into, without feeling automatically defensive because I’m not adhering to my ethics as much as I think I should…

IMG_1660

Supermarket-free Lent 2015: Day 8

I am amazed that in the last week, I’ve done so little shopping. Admittedly, we have been living to some extent on what is already in our cupboards, but I must’ve spent significantly less than I usually would in the same period.

Throughout January and February, I was becoming alarmed at how often I found myself in the supermarket.  We always seemed to be short of something, or I needed to find something easy for dinner. Somehow I never left the supermarket with the couple of items I was just popping in for. I really was wondering how on earth I was going to manage being supermarket-free this Lent.

However, with double portions of fruit and veg being delivered to our doorstep (as a result of me increasing our veg box order), we are all eating a lot more of this lovely fresh produce as snacks. The pears and apples that are in season just now are delicious, and I’m finding that I’m having to limit how many the children eat to prevent sore tummies. This makes me realise that the Pom Bear/Oaty Bar ilk of treats I’m used to stocking up on, have been somewhat unnecessary!

I have also now visited my first physical shop – twice in fact! The farm shop I grew to rely on during my last two supermarket-free stints has closed, and a bigger better shop has opened in its place. Initially, this sent me into a bit of a panic because the new shop looked decidedly like a supermarket.

IMG_1680

I searched for it on the internet however, and discovered that the Nisa sign above the door is actually good news for me.  Nisa stores are franchised, and are essentially local businesses (local businesses – yay!) that get support to help them compete for their share of the market – you can read more here.

The store is great!

IMG_1695 (1)IMG_1693 (1)

It has a variety of products, including its own bakery counter and a small café area. The prices seem competitive and, although I haven’t taken the time to work out whether I would pay more or less in my local supermarket for an equivalent shop, I found that I didn’t spend a scary amount.

Also, I hardly bought anything on impulse – partly because there were less of the extras and wild deals that I’m so used to in the supermarket, and partly because I used a wheelie basket and ran out of space to put anything else in it! (The trollies took £1 coins and I didn’t have any). In addition, I had the kids with me, and they were getting in everyone’s way dragging the basket around – fun for all the family – so I wanted to get out as quickly as I could!

My final thought for tonight is that Mothers’ Day is on Sunday 15th March. Last year I wrote this post which makes for depressing reading (I wonder if I blew the whole issue a little out of proportion!).  I wrote with a heavy heart about buying my Mothers’ Day gifts and cards from chain stores. It seems that they lacked the personal touch – I have no recollection of what they actually were! This year I need to do Mothers’ Day differently if I want to spare you another self-deprecating post…I need to get planning!

Lent 2015: Day 4

So far my experience of supermarket-free Lent has been most uneventful – I’ve got through it without doing any shopping whatsoever! I have of course upped my veg box delivery (which includes fruit and eggs), and I’ve had milk delivered by a local dairy for the last year – both of which have helped me to avoid physical stores so far.

Things are getting a bit desperate though in some departments.  We are, for example, down to our last loo roll (!) and the freezer’s supply of convenience-type foods is about to run dry. As anticipated, we’ve done a little more cooking than usual, but we aren’t yet feeling any pain from being supermarket-free.

I threw out some Tesco vouchers today that will go out of date during Lent.  I wondered if that might hurt a little, but actually the vouchers were to encourage us to buy products we wouldn’t use, so would have been binned anyway.  I think that because we shop with local businesses to some extent, our Clubcard can’t obtain an accurate picture of our lifestyle, and therefore predicts our needs incorrectly. I feel like I’ve foiled a spy, which makes me happy.

I am slightly dreading being supermarket-free negatively impacting on the kids’ lives in some way, for example, if they are asked to bring a specific item to school, or if we have to duck out of some supermarket-related social activity (I used to spend happy hours in the café with friends when they were babies!).  This hasn’t, however, been a problem the last two times I’ve done the challenge, plus now we have older children, my group of friends have found better things to do with our time! Hopefully the kids and I will emerge in April with our social lives unscathed…

As far as I’m aware, and due to planning on our part, we don’t use any extra supermarket services, such as banking or film hire. I’ll admit though that we are partial to saving our Tesco Clubcard vouchers and swapping them in for money off at Pizza Express. This was a weekend treat that saved us money, and meant that we could eat out on a whim if we didn’t fancy cooking.  I think we’ll miss that over the next 40 or so days. I must look into how this deal benefits Tesco, and decide if it’s a boycott that I should continue once Lent is finished.

I hope everyone else who’s going supermarket-free over Lent has got off to an enjoyable start. I’ll be back with a shopping update over the next few days.

 

IMG_1673

the last toilet roll

Lent 2015: Day 1

Phew! Day 1 of my Supermarket-free Lent challenge is almost done and I’ve made it through. There’s not much to report since today was never going to involve any shopping anyway. The kids and I ate out with friends for lunch, and the rest of the food we consumed was in the house anyway.

The main thing I’ve done by way of preparation for this challenge is to double my veg box order. I know! It’s crazy, given my very recent blog post about how I’ve been struggling with the veg box, and that I was questioning whether it even had a future in my household… I realised though that without a guaranteed supply of fruit, veg and eggs being delivered to the door, it was going to make going supermarket-free harder and more time consuming than I already anticipate it will be. I’m just going to have to do a lot of cooking over Lent, and I’ve decided to accept that and put the hours in.

As well as my fellow bloggers and tweeters outlined in this post who are joining in with supermarket-free Lent, I am delighted to introduce you to Katherine H of secondhandtales.wordpress.com plus @jennifer_nini of ecowarriorprincess.net, who has committed to give up the main supermarkets in Australia*. WooHoo!  Welcome aboard guys.  I am secretly hoping that in the near future giving up supermarkets for Lent will be a ‘thing’ and people will take the challenge even once, just to get them thinking about the impact of the supermarket on our society and environment.

I’ll sign off for now but will be back within the next few days with an update.

IMG_1658

*She lives there.  It doesn’t count, if you don’t live there, ok? 😉

Lent 2015 Challenge

After a bit of frantic googling on my part, it seems that Lent starts soon – on Wednesday 18th February – or, in fact, just…Wednesday.

If you’re trying to work out what I’ll be giving up, it’s a no-brainer – supermarkets. Again. This will be my second year of doing a supermarket-free Lent, or a #supermarketfreelent as I tend to think of it, due to my high level of interaction on Twitter during this time. Also, in 2013, I gave up supermarkets for 28 days. I should therefore be an old hand at it, and looking forward to a relatively easy experience. This is not the case!

There’s a very real possibility that my use of the supermarket has actually increased, compared to this time last year. I’m too scared to get out the credit card statements to check. The reasons aren’t due to a lack of desire to cut down on using the supermarket (which I’m desperate to do!), but rather, for the factors outlined in this post about my veg box – I have less time for cooking and for proper food planning. This of course leads to an increased dependence on convenience-type foods which, in my case, involves more trips to the supermarket.

Feeling generally ‘time poor’ at the moment means that I am completely and utterly a part of me is really quite anxious about ditching the supermarket. On the other hand though, my shopping habits need to change, so I am going to be embracing Supermarket-free Lent. I hope that it will have the knock-on effect of improving my household’s diet.

There are many reasons why I want to stop supporting supermarkets. I am sceptical about many of their trading practices – see this recent Guardian article about Tesco’s alleged delay of payments to suppliers – and the way many of the big supermarkets price milk. Also I hate excess packaging, the confusing deals which leave you unsure if you are actually making a saving, the air miles that goods often travel to reach the shelves, and the ‘perfectness’ of the fruit and veg (indicating fertilisers and food waste). Further, I don’t know where supermarket profits end up but I suspect it is far away from my local community. I wouldn’t consider ‘donating’ to assist a supermarket financially, but should I be any more comfortable handing over my cash in exchange for goods?

For this challenge, I have enlisted some support via Twitter as I’m sure I will find it easier to stick to, having some company and support (plus the accountability of others reading my blog).

Are you in? If so, do join our wee group! So far we are:

Me, Westywrites, also to be found @westywrites I am a blogger who writes mainly on sustainable issues but I also sometimes throw in the odd post on anything I fancy. I am the CEO of a household of four which, for the purposes of this challenge means I have full control over shopping and diet*;

Trudie Holden of a alazygirlgoesgreen.com blog and @trudlenoodle ;

‘Practical Lou’ of beautifulorpractical.wordpress.com blog and @PracticalLou ; and

Mrs M of mrsmscuriositycabinet.com blog and @meg_e_r

Entirely supermarket-free people (not just for Lent, for most of the time!) who I do a fair bit of communicating with on the old internet are:

Zoe of ecothriftyliving.com blog and @Ecothrifty and

Lindsay of treadingmyownpath.com blog and @treadmyownpath

I must also mention Richard of @agreenthought who contacted me with this post to say that after deciding to give up supermarkets for Lent last year, he’s now supermarket-free!

See? There’s a wee community of support, just waiting for you. Plus you might want to consider following @Local4Lent who do this challenge every year too, with their own Twitter and Facebook community. They are a great source of support and I guest-posted for them last year (although I’ve lost the link!)

If you are considering the challenge but want to read some more, happily thanks to my previous experience I’ve done a bit of writing around this subject. Check out these links for some recommended reading on why you might give up the supermarket; advance planning and reading about how I got on last year.

Anyway, I don’t want to be pushy, I’d just love to invite you to read along as I write about this topic and if you find a bit of inspiration on the way, or support your local shops every now and again, well, so much the better!

 

 

*This translates to me being a stay-at-home mum who gets stuck with the shopping and cooking. While I have control over provision of diet, sadly it’s not up to me if anyone else actually eats what I serve up. Sometimes by the end of dinner the hoover has consumed more nutrients than the kids…

 

Supermarket foodbank collection – a dilemma

The other week I had a moral dilemma. Perhaps that sounds more dramatic than it actually was. If I stuck to my principles, it would either have been even more of a dilemma or, in fact, I’d have acted differently. Here’s what happened…

I was shopping in my local Tesco. If you’re a regular reader you may know that supermarket shopping makes me feel guilty because of a range of ethical and environmental factors (you can read more here). If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll also know that I’ve gave up supermarkets for Lent last year, and for 28 days the year before. I plan to go supermarket-free again for Lent this year. I don’t live my life sans supermarkets for the rest of the year but I do try to limit my expenditure in them, especially in favour of shopping locally. Anyhow, on this particular day last week I was doing my shopping in Tesco, and Tesco was collecting for the local foodbank.

When I see a collection point for a foodbank, I want to help. Of course I do. The thought of there being people in this country – people in my community – having too little to feed themselves, is both shocking and humbling. Thank goodness for foodbanks – for their ability to provide, and for the way that they mobilise those who would like to help, into action.

My initial feeling on seeing the collection point was positive. Here was a super-convenient way to donate – my alternative is to take items on foot to the local library, where there is a collection box. This however is rarely emptied, presumably due to lack of donations. I never feel that aid is being rushed to those who need it.

Swiftly on the back of feeling pleased to have the opportunity to donate, guilt washed over me and I felt frustrated that by donating to the food bank, Tesco was going to benefit even more, as a result of my additional purchases.

Still, faced with a lack of convenient options for giving to the food bank, at least Tesco is doing something. It even had an initiative to add an extra 30% on to customer donations. I have no idea if this benefits Tesco in any way in terms of tax relief for example, but it seems to be a generous and significant gesture.

IMG_1174

I am that strange person who takes pictures of foodbank signs!

I’ve been here before with the supermarket vs food bank dilemma. Eighteen months ago, my local foodbank was looking for volunteers to hand out leaflets in Tesco, encouraging customers to donate items. I’d not long finished my 28 days of ‘supermarket-free-ness’ and it was a struggle to decide what to do.

After huge internal debate I volunteered – and last week, I donated a bag full of food. Nothing in me wants to increase Tesco’s sales – yet I just can’t stand by and watch people struggle, when there is an almost effortless solution being presented to me in a shop which I (let’s face facts) use regularly. For me to have walked away would have been hugely hypocritical, and would have caused me more guilt than shopping at the supermarket does anyway.

So what can I do to ensure I am never again faced with such a dilemma? My answer is, of course, twofold.

Firstly I have to work harder towards not shopping in the bloody supermarket! To resolve myself of all of the guilt that goes hand in hand with that particular activity, I need to keep out of there. You can read more in this post about my difficulties in going completely supermarket-free. The bottom line is though that I need to make obliterating my reliance on the supermarket a real goal. I am definitely due another look at ways I can trim my spending there. However, as long as I am shopping in supermarkets, I will be donating whenever the food bank is collecting.

Secondly, I need to find other convenient ways of donating to the foodbank. As I said, I donate when I go to the library. I do this on most visits, but as said visits usually coincide with returning books that are horribly overdue, my donations aren’t particularly regular.

As a family, we have sent a cheque to the foodbank before, but I am aware that this didn’t allow us to add Gift Aid. As I write this, I realise that at 25%, Gift Aid falls only slightly short of Tesco’s 30% contribution to all donations? I’m also wondering if Gift Aided cheques would allow foodbanks to purchase a greater amount of food themselves from wholesalers? Do foodbanks have enough volunteers to go out and buy food, or is it a valuable time-saver to have food already bought for them?

I have sent an email to the Trussell Trust (the organisation with the most responsibility for foodbanks in the UK) asking those questions and am waiting on a reply. I have also tweeted my local foodbank.

There are also options for donating time to helping with the foodbank and, of course, helping with preventative measures, such as lobbying the local MP for policy changes that will reduce reliance on foodbanks. According to the Trussell Trust here 30.93% of people referred to the foodbank in 2013-14, were in need of help due to their benefit payments being delayed. Other types of volunteering, such as working in a Citizens Advice Bureau, would also help potential foodbank clients to claim money that they are entitled to, thus possibly reducing the numbers of people that need to rely on food aid.

In the meantime, if you wish to make a food donation, here’s a screenshot of a typical foodbank shopping list

IMG_1200

(Eastbourne shopping list)

I know that some foodbanks are especially keen to receive Christmas-related food gifts just now, such as biscuits, chocolate and Christmas puddings 🙂

Would stumbling across a collection point in the supermarket cause you a dilemma? If you have any thoughts on foodbanks, supermarkets or the interaction between the two, I’d love to hear them.

Supermarket-free Me: Lent 2014 has finished!

Lent is finally over! No doubt there have been celebrations across the land – from forbidden chocolate melting on tongues, to alcohol being knocked back in portions larger than the government recommends. What about those of us who have been shunning the supermarkets? Have any of you rushed out and taken part in a desperate version of Supermarket Sweep at your local store?

For the past six weeks, I’ve been supermarket-free and proud. I undertook this challenge to push myself into shopping more ethically. I wanted to say no to the large corporations who seem to prioritise profit above workers’ conditions and food waste, and I aimed to support local suppliers and those businesses that care about more than just money. I hoped to learn about the origins of the items in my shopping trolley, and I wanted new and enjoyable shopping experiences. Plus it was important for me to document it all on my blog and connect with those of you out there who have opinions (whatever these are) on this topic.

So how’s that all worked out for me?!

First and foremost, I have avoided the supermarket so the job’s a good ‘un! My mission’s been accomplished…and that feels good! For the most part, the challenge was fine and I didn’t feel my supermarket-free life was very different. I definitely haven’t been champing at the bit for Lent to come to an end, so that has to be a good sign!

Advantages of the challenge

It was good to live without the guilt of using supermarkets. Over the past year, I have read a lot about their practices and shopping is no longer an experience of blissful ignorance. I can’t pick up a piece of cheap clothing made abroad without thinking about the Bangladesh tragedy of last April, and I am only too aware that inexpensive fruit and veg may be courtesy of struggling farmers, rather than the supermarket chains.

It’s been simpler to shop without multi-deals, vouchers and BOGOFs. In the past I have stood in supermarket aisles at a loss as to how to buy an item at the lowest price. Do I buy it singly, or as part of a multi-deal? Will the price come down further if I use a voucher that came in the post or will that be invalid if the item is already part of a deal? Will I even use the ‘get one free’? If I’m looking for a bargain, it sometimes feels as if you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t make a purchase! I enjoyed being cut loose from those confusing feelings by simply purchasing items locally with one price. Life is tough enough!!

Although I will admit that I enjoy the experience of shopping in a supermarket (I just do, alright!), my kids generally don’t, and come up with creative ways to inject fun into such an outing. One of our last visits to the supermarket involved my youngest gleefully racing down an aisle at high speed, with me chasing after (in a skirt and inappropriate footwear). The whole thing ended with said child on the floor in peals of laughter and me, off-balance and out of breath, with a shop assistant looking on. I can’t tell you what the assistant’s expression was as I was studiously not looking. It’s been therefore liberating to do lots of small shopping sessions that each take a fraction of the time of the supermarket, even if the total time in separate shops adds up to something significant. There’s less opportunity for the children to get bored and we have stopped losing big portions of the day to hunting and gathering because they are mostly accommodated in our daily routine.

I’ve had some new experiences over Lent. I spent a lovely morning with my youngest in Edinburgh while we explored the New Leaf Coop which you can read about here. We were both fascinated by this shop and enjoyed the sight of the huge canisters of unpackaged foods on the walls – plus we made a morning of it, wandering round the area and snacking in a nearby coffee shop. I have embraced craft and have made several greetings cards and even stretched to creating a birthday present! As I was previously a very reluctant crafter, this has been welcomed by the children who love nothing more than a bit of glittery messy fun. I have surprised myself by finding it both enjoyable and therapeutic.

Although my blogging slowed considerably half way through Lent, I’ve enjoyed the writing. For me, the blog gives makes me accountable to my readers and I want to achieve my task. This motivates me and helps me to really think about what I’m doing and why. I enjoy the community that evolves when I blog on a specific topic. There is great support out there and I must give a big shout out to Zoe of Eco Thrifty Living who has been so encouraging of me on Twitter. Zoe is undertaking some of the same challenges as me for her blog, plus a whole lot more! I’ve also loved connecting with Local4Lent who have a supermarket-free following that spans across the different areas of social media, and I was honoured to write my first guest post for them which you can read here.

The last positive I’m going to highlight is that I’ve had some interesting conversations in ‘real life’ about going supermarket-free. Although I blog anonymously, I have mentioned my challenge to a few friends. The reactions have been positive and I can see that ditching the supermarket is not something the people around me have given much thought to before. I think it suggests that if more people were informed about the ways supermarkets operate, and saw that there are alternative ways of shopping, they might actually make some changes to their consumption. I find that exciting and it spurs me on to keep writing on this topic.

Disadvantages of the challenge

I’d love to say that there weren’t any and that I’m never going back to the supermarket but, as I’ve said before, it wouldn’t have been much of a challenge if it had been easy!

The biggest issue for me (after getting past my middle class problem of struggling to find organic products and ingredients for my bread maker!) is that it’s been hard to source the variety of food that I feel I need in order to cater properly for my family.

Before having children I was happy to call Dairylea on toast ‘dinner’. Providing food of quality has been something I’ve had to work hard at, and I endeavour to improve further. I have somewhat of a limited repertoire of healthy meals, for example. By avoiding the supermarket, I didn’t have access to all of my usual ingredients (without lots of research) which made me jumpy and it was tricky to provide different meal choices.

A further problem is that I boast a handful of food allergies so I can’t just eat whatever is to hand. Food in my household therefore needs to be planned! Near the start of Lent, I enjoyed putting in some effort into overcoming such problems. I started to discover new recipes and do more cooking, but when I caught a horrible cold a few weeks ago, I was good for nothing for several days. It felt like I was failing in Home Economics and my motivation for working towards a supermarket-free life evaporated like a puddle on a hot day.

I have recovered now and my motivation has returned but I have concluded that I don’t simply want to go ‘cold turkey’ on the supermarket. Providing healthy food for my family is important and this challenge actually highlighted that I have work to do in this area anyway. It would serve me well to sit down and source a good variety of recipes and make sure that all of the food groups are included in our diet. Once I am satisfied with this, I can get to work on finding out where I can get everything I need out of the supermarket.

Another negative associated with my challenge is that I found it near-impossible to work out for sure if I was saving money by going supermarket-free. I probably was because I was using food that I already had in my kitchen cupboards, and there were a lot of things I just wasn’t buying because I didn’t come across them. While it is lovely to be saving money due to consuming less, I’ll admit that it isn’t something I’d want to be forced into for longer than a few weeks!

I was disappointed that my blogging slowed down. As well as feeling unwell, I was busy with other things and was spending a lot of time on tasks relating to going supermarket-free such as card-making, juice squeezing and cake baking! However, it’s been a valuable lesson that I need to pace myself, and that the powers of forward-planning can’t be underestimated -I should have filled my freezer with supermarket-free homemade food before the challenge began! I would have liked to have covered more on the blog – writing up posts on food waste, farmers’ markets and homemade bread would have been interesting – but I will accept my limits.

Lastly, I found there to be a clash with giving up the supermarket and focusing on my other eco challenges. Avoiding plastics, for example, was harder than I’d anticipated, although I’m still convinced that, with practice, they are complementary challenges. My knowledge on where to find items was limited so often I ended up having to take something whether or not it was swathed in plastic. Also, a number of times I found myself accepting plastic bags because I still haven’t got into the way of carrying the really big reusable shoppers (which I previously only used at the supermarket) on my person at all times. This needs to improve immediately!!

Conclusion

Giving up supermarkets for Lent is a great challenge! It wasn’t easy but it was worthwhile. It forced me to learn more about food, the supermarkets, my local shops and the way I cater for my family. Ultimately it has reinforced that I am committed towards further reducing (and ideally eliminating) my spending in the supermarket.

I have diverted approximately £367 from supermarkets over Lent. This total was worked out by dividing the amount of money I spent in the supermarket in January (£247.82) by 31 (days in January) and multiplying it by the number of days in Lent (46). A year ago I think I’d have diverted much more but I’ve significantly reduced my supermarket spending over the past 12 months. I definitely feel that this is a big achievement for me.

I don’t think that you will be surprised to hear that I am planning to return to the supermarket. I will, however, be working hard to continue to support local and ethical suppliers and, hopefully if I give up supermarkets for Lent next year – which I intend to – then it will be a breeze!

Supermarket-free Me: catching the cold

Finally, I’m back on the blog!

Apologies to those of you who have been checking for updates and found that none were forthcoming. I had a few busy days and then came down with a horrible cold. Happily though the good news for me is that I am still supermarket-free, and the good news for you is that this is one virus that can’t be spread over the internet. I can sneeze and snotter as much as I like over this keyboard – you’re all safe!

I have been cooped up inside my home for five days now, plus there were a few days before that when I wasn’t feeling great, so little was done in the way of shopping. I don’t know about you, but in our house if someone is ‘coming down with something’ then a shopping list is drawn up and there is a dash made to the supermarket to stock up on essentials, and to ensure the patient has all of the tissues, medicines, vitamins, grapes, magazines and Lucozade that he or she may need.

Obviously this couldn’t happen but it didn’t seem to matter. Now that we are most of the way through Lent, we have a reasonable knowledge of the local shops so my other half has dropped into them a few times on the way back to work to pick up items we’re running low on, and we’ve muddled by not too badly.

I think what has probably saved us in this situation is that we already have our fruit, veg, eggs and milk delivered to the house anyway – by local businesses – so there’s always something to eat. Plus, because I am finally learning that living without the convenience of supermarkets means forward planning is helpful, there have been some meals cooked and frozen for when we need something quick and easy. I wouldn’t go as far as to say our diet has been varied or interesting while I’ve been a snottering, spluttering mess, but at least we’ve been eating!

Anyway, I think the worst is over and I’m hoping to make it out tomorrow and to get back to normal. I have eight people to feed on Sunday, so some serious shopping and planning is needed. I have a guest post to write for Local 4 Lent, and am hoping to squeeze a few more posts onto the blog before Easter Weekend so pass me that hot water bottle, I’m having an early night…