Supermarket Free Lent: the verdict

I realise it’s been a little while since I last posted on my Supermarket Free challenge (the warm weather and Easter hols have kept me busy in the garden). The Supermarket Free challenge finished on Easter Day (5 April) so it’s high time I wrote about my thoughts and observations:

1) I gave up early (!!)

Big confession here but with the Easter weekend looming and a real lack of food in the house for guests etc I gave in early and went supermarket shopping three days before the end of the challenge. Apart from that I think I did pretty well to manage seven weeks without venturing into a supermarket (except once sort of by accident in the first week).

2) I spent more money

It’s been hard to keep an exact tally of everything I spent as I found I was only buying a few items at a time and some local shops didn’t give receipts (and I kept on forgetting to ask). I calculated that I spent, on average, £58 per week on supermarket free shopping. This excludes my fortnightly veg and fruit box and milk delivery (except when I ordered orange juice). My normal budget is smaller than this one (about £40) as I try to do just one large shop a month so I’m not tempted when I keep on going to the shops, and can meal plan better.

3) I needed my own transport

Although we have made a conscious decision as a family to live in a small village and only have one car this does present many problems. We have a limited (and expensive) bus service that only goes into Bath so if I need to visit the other smaller market towns I have to use the car. If my husband is at work this can’t be done. I’m lucky that I can borrow my parents’ car from time to time but this isn’t a feasible long term answer. This is why I have relied on doorstep deliveries, from veg boxes and milk to supermarket orders. I also work on Saturdays and feel very reluctant to shop on a Sunday as it’s our only family day together (plus independent shops will be closed). I can’t see us acquiring another car in the near future and it would seem ridiculous to buy one just so I could shop more locally. I did enjoy shopping from Ethical Superstore and having the goods delivered and I also added items to my veg box and milk deliveries. I also used our local shops more, although they are expensive (£1 for a can of tomatoes!).

4) I enjoyed the slower pace of shopping

I also discovered more of some of my local towns in the search for independent shops, and ventured into some places (ie butchers) for the first time.

5) I discovered so many more shops

The personal highlights of this challenge was discovering that the local butchers are not more expensive than the supermarket and their meat tasted better. I enjoyed visiting the local street markets and using shops for more inventive purposes, ie purchasing toilet paper from a Factory Seconds shop. I was also pleasantly surprised by the low cost, yet good quality, of the local meat I picked up from the garden centre.

6) There are a few shops I will keep on using

For many reasons (transport, financial, time) I am back to using supermarkets BUT I have now discovered some great independent shops, especially butchers and greengrocers, which I will try to incorporate with my regular shopping

And finally…

7) I realised how easy and convenient supermarkets are (hence their success)

BBC Two has been running a great series called Back in Time for Dinner.It features a family who are challenged to cook, eat and live as a family would from all post war decades (1950s through to 2000 – the 1990s edition is on tonight). In the 1950s and 1960s episodes the mother had to rely heavily on local independent shops but the difference to her time and working life changed radically when the supermarkets arrived as everything could be bought in one place. The series has also highlighted how little we spend on food nowadays compared to previous eras.

I’m not sure if I will take part in Supermarket Free Lent next year as it is a long time but perhaps I will create my own version of shopping more locally.

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