A Year Without Supermarkets – Why I’m Doing it and is it Possible?

At Christmas, while shoppers were picking up 9p veg, as supermarkets were in a price war for the lowest cost possible for Christmas dinner, I found myself enraged…


Because food shouldn’t be that cheap.

An unpopular opinion, perhaps, but true none the less.

While supermarkets continue to make massive profits, it’s not them who are taking the hit for such low cost food.

Even growing my own veg from seed at home, it costs more that 9p for a bunch of carrots. It definitely did last year, a 99p bag of seeds yielded a pathetic batch of tiny carrots that was enough for one meal – I never have much luck growing carrots!


These ‘bargains’ are ‘loss leaders‘ for the supermarkets.

The theory being that if you go in to buy a bag of 9p carrots you’ll come out with a trolley full of other ‘stuff’ that the supermarkets do make money from.

Accepting Poverty is a political choice

The 9p carrots…I get it.

Millions of people are struggling to make ends meet.

Most of my career has been working in the welfare to work sector and many times have I been moved to tears by the poverty people endure in modern Britain. It is a crime to allow people to live in such squalour in one of the richest countries in the world.

It is a political choice to make people suffer while those in charge live in unimaginable luxury.

While billionaires, who could single handedly end world poverty, are instead choosing to fly with celebrities into space. And the biggest retailers in the world pay barely any tax.

This brilliant viral Twitter Thread explains how supermarkets pass on cost increases to the the lowest incomes families. For example, in isolation, while 70p for a bag of pasta may not seem much, when you consider that it was 23p a few months ago, you start to see the pattern.

Read the thread here, I defy you not to get enraged by the sheer injustice of it!

Rip off supermarkets and misleading media

Then they dangle the 9p carrots in front of us and lull us into a false sense of getting ‘a bargain’!

Such cynical hypocrisy is frankly, insulting!

A Short Term Win for a Long Term loss

But selling fruit and veg for 9p is not the answer. It may be a short term win for people impacted by the body blows of rising inflation, fuel prices, COVID and Brexit. Indeed, on Christmas Eve, the Asda my dad shops in were handing out bags of fruit and veg for free, just to get rid of the excess stock. I had a boxing day dinner with my parents and the only thing they paid for was the meat (and even that was left overs).

Selling food so cheaply is simply not sustainable

Someone (and the environment) ultimately pays for food that is so cheap we don’t value it.

How many of those 9p bags of veg just ended up in landfill, still wrapped in single use plastic? A lot, I am willing to bet.

Or for smaller households, why pay more for the one or two loose carrots you actually need when you can get a bag for 9p and bin what you don’t need?

All this does is encourage food waste. And the stats on food waste – when many families are being forced to choose between heating or eating – are horrifying.

“What’s one bag of carrots going to waste?”, said 3 million people!

According to Food Aware, ‘Every year in the UK 18 million tonnes of food ends up in landfill.

‘Recent studies have revealed that over 3.6 million tonnes of food is wasted before it even reaches supermarket doors – around 10 times the amount thrown away by retailers.’

(Source: Ethical Consumer)

Cheap Food: “But, aren’t the supermarkets doing us a favour?”

No. No they are not.

The only people winning are the supermarkets themselves and their shareholders.

The big supermarkets have a lot to answer for.

The ‘race to the bottom‘ is a fundamentally flawed business plan.

Only massive multinational businesses can do it as they have the clout to and the budget to demand it from their suppliers. Somewhere along the supply chain line farmers, food producers, distributors and workers are being royally screwed over so the supermarkets can battle over offering people 9p carrots for a few days!

According to Ethical Consumer, ‘Many farmers are forced to sell produce like milk and eggs at unfair prices, which can leave them at a loss. On average, UK farmers receive less than 10% of the value of their produce sold in supermarkets.’

That, is just plain wrong.

“But what choice do we have?”

There are options. Supermarkets suck you in because they are ‘convenient’.

We’ve all got busy lives, ‘convenience’ is, well… convenient!

But, ‘convenience’ is literally degrading the natural environment and making our lives on this beautiful planet of ours suck way more than is necessary. Your 9p bag of carrots quite literally is costing the Earth. Short term money saving, long term biodiversity loss.

‘Globally, meanwhile, supermarkets have been criticised for exacerbating poverty along supply chains where, despite being food growers, farmers and land workers struggle to feed themselves. The reality is that food has been cheapened but something somewhere has had to pay.’ (source: Ethical Consumer)

There has to be a better way. To discover what that is, I am pledging to go a year without shopping in a supermarket.

A Year Without Supermarkets

Full disclosure, since the start of the pandemic, I have hardly been into a supermarket. I wasn’t prepared to queue around a car park in the rain for my groceries so I changed my shopping habits.

We started to get a regular fruit and veg box, ordered bulk online, we already get a doorstep milk delivery and I popped into the corner shop at the end of our street for the rest. I have still been into supermarkets from time to time but I believe it is possible to cater for all of your family and home needs without shopping in supermarkets.

I want to prove it – to myself and to everyone else!

What Is Wrong With Supermarkets?

According to Ethical Consumer, eight supermarkets dominate 93% of the UK food retail market. This means that they have the power to control our food system. They dictate the terms for food producers.

Under the guise of supplying our food they are arguably some of the biggest contributors to climate change. They demand increasingly intensive industrial farming to keep prices low. This alone leads to deforestation (at home and abroad) to make way for chemical-laden monoculture crops. The result is a loss of biodiversity, the poisoning of water supplies, degradation of soils, dramatic loss of habitat leading to extinction of wildlife. This is before I even start on the massive amounts of waste they create. Especially when it comes single use plastic packaging. They are the biggest plastic polluters and despite empty promises, ‘targets’ and greenwashing, they’ve cut plastic waste production by just 2% since 2018. Collectively selling 896,853 tonnes of plastic packaging during 2019.

Supermarkets are masters of Greenwashing.

What is Greenwashing - Greenpeace
Source: Greenpeace

‘Based on convenience and the suggestion of low prices, supermarkets maximise profit margins often at the expense of people and the environment. Over time, this system has become synonymous with waste.’ (source: Ethical Consumer)

The system is toxic in every possible way.

None of the supermarkets are doing enough to combat their impact. They’re pledging low prices and marketing this as a benefit, ignoring the consequences of their unsustainable practices.

Cartoon about food waste and large profits for supermarkets
Source: Ethical Consumer

‘A 2020 survey showed that over half (51%) of respondents believed food shopping from local stores and farm shops was better for the environment… Supermarkets capitalise on the public’s general support for home-grown produce, but can work to muddy the waters of traceability. M&S’s organic milk says it’s “collected daily from a select group of British farms”, though finding exactly which farms is an odyssey.’ (source: Ethical Consumer)

The public generally support home-grown produce, but few of us will actively shop local. We do so at our peril.

You can’t complain about the desolation of your rapidly emptying local high street if you are not using it!

Rise to The Challenge

Here are some of the options and alternatives I will be exploring over the next year. I’ll share my experiences here on the blog.

Find and test different options.

  • Farm shops. Greengrocers. Veg Box Schemes. Community gardens. Meal box schemes. Local shops. Home delivery. Online suppliers.

Grow and make your own

  • Grow your own fruit and veg. Keep it seasonal. Make preserves and ferments. Cook from scratch. Recipes with leftovers.

Home and Beauty – Go Chemical free

  • Make your own cleaning products and cosmetics. Reduce your use of toxic chemicals on yourself and around your home, and the associated single use plastic waste. Save money, reduce waste and have some fun with it.

Bulk buy

  • It’s better to have one large piece of packaging that you can reuse than hundreds of individual packets and sachets. Dried goods can be bought in bulk and stored for months, years even.

Zero Waste

  • Just buy what you need. Use refill shops and facilities. Buy loose fruit and veg.
  • Find your nearest Zero Waste Shop HERE

Zero Waste shop locator

Alternative packaging

  • Buy it in compostable, card, paper, glass or metal containers instead of plastic.
  • Don’t be fooled by the ‘recyclable’ label on plastics – the chances are it won’t get recycled. It will end up being burned or in landfill, leaching microplastics into water sources and blowing around in the environment where it harms wildlife. However, metal or glass will be recycled many times and card and paper will biodegrade.

Championing the change makers

What Else?

I’m open to suggestions and products I can test or businesses I can showcase, people I can interview and places to visit, so stay in touch and get involved.


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