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.

Supermarket Free Lent Days: Days 16-30

I have now gone past the half way point in my quest to shop without supermarkets for Lent. The last couple of weeks have been rather busy and chaotic. There has been a lot going on at home and, having very limited access to a car, means my shopping trips have been infrequent. I’m not sure this is something I can do long term as I’m beginning to realise that supermarkets are so much more convenient (hence their popularity). I’m not sure if they are cheaper as I plan to compare expenses at the end of this project. They certainly feel less expensive but this may be due to my limited choices and the kind of products I have bought.

Over the past 15 days I have shopped in the following places:

– Village Costcutters shop. This is very convenient but also expensive. I’ve struggled to buy supermarket free wine (I promise I’m not an alcoholic!) but this has been one place I’ve been able to buy from.

– Petrol Station. Technically speaking this is a supermarket as it’s a Budgens but it’s been very convenient when passing by to pick up those things I could only get from a supermarket (garlic bread, coconut milk, tomato ketchup).

– Garden Centre. This is usually one of the most expensive places to shop but I was delighted to pick up locally sourced meat here for a good price.

– Market. This week I was able to make it to the twice weekly street market in our nearest town. There were only a few stalls but I was able to buy different cheeses (which I’d been struggling to find), butter, bread and sliced ham.

– Ethical Superstore. I have been itching to try out this online supermarket and was very pleased with the order and delivery service. My goods arrived in one huge cardboard box (pictured), which had rather too much plastic packaging. I could track the delivery and the driver had no problem locating our house (which can sometimes be a problem as we’re off the beaten track). It was pricier as many of the goods are organic/Suma brand. I also made the classic mistake of ordering the wrong quantities for some things.

– I’ve also continued with my veg box, milk delivery and infrequent trips to local towns and their respective green grocers, health food stores and bakeries.

What I’m learning from this experience is that it takes time to locate supermarket-free sources for food. I have had some frustrating experiences (local butcher being closed on a Monday) but have learnt to adapt from my shopping list and meal plan. I have also been pleasantly surprised by some discoveries which I hope I will continue to make use of when Lent is over.

Supermarket free for Lent

It’s been a while since I took on a challenge in the blogging world. This year I’ve promised myself to only take part in those projects that I think I can complete and that I feel are really calling to me. A couple of weeks ago I had two frustrating incidents with online supermarket shopping. For a variety of reasons I have been doing a monthly online shop for the past year. I’ve felt slightly uneasy at doing this but it has just been very convenient.

But last week I came across the #supermarketfreelent challenge via Westy Writes and decided this was for me. It’s time to break the supermarket habit and re-connect with both my village stores and the wide range of independent shops in my nearby town.

Starting from the beginning of Lent on tomorrow (18th) I’m going to shop locally and independently for the next 40 days. Having recently taken delivery of a month’s worth of groceries this is a slight cheat. I will need to top up with some items, though, and will carry on with my veg and fruit boxes.

Watch this space….


National Zero Waste Week – some thoughts

Last week I took part in National Zero Waste Week. This year’s theme was Food Waste and, as it’s the first time I’ve taken part, I tried to cut down on the food waste in our house. As I mentioned in previous posts we have a great compost bin. If I had been a real die-hard food non-waster last week, though, this would have been a very hungry bin. However we still seemed to generate compostable food waste in the form of peelings, teabags, egg shells and leftover cereal from breakfast. While I guess it would be good to tackle some of this in the future what really opened my eyes was the packaging of food that is our single biggest source of waste. This is the one thing that I am determined to tackle having taken part in Zero Waste Week.

So far it has only been baby steps but when shopping yesterday I went to the deli counter to buy ham, rather than pick up another plastic pack of pre-packaged ‘square’ shaped ham. The price per gramme was more expensive at the deli but the meat seems more substantial so we should be able to use less slices for sandwiches etc. It also came in a paper bag with a single sheet of grease-proof paper which is a big improvement.

I am also investigating getting a veg and fruit box which would cut down on all of that packaging. The greengrocers in our local town also offers paper bags for its veg and fruit so I could try that as well. In addition I am going to increase our milk delivery so that all our milk is delivered by returnable bottle. This is a more expensive way to buy milk though and it does seem to be more expensive to shop using less packaging which seems the wrong way round (surely the cost of packaging would be added to the price of a food item?).