I did it (sort of)! In 2022 I pledged to go a year without shopping in supermarkets.
I had already started avoiding supermarkets at the end of 2021 anyway, so technically it was more than a year.
However, just because I love to self sabotage, out of sheer bloody-mindedness, I went into Lidl on New Year’s Eve to buy meat for a New Year’s day roast dinner, having not been organized enough to get to the local butchers in time.
Fulfilling a Pledge
So yes, I went a year without shopping in a supermarket, but I broke the pledge before the end of 2022.
I had thought I’d write a book about the experience but, honestly, there’s not enough to say to fill a book. I was actually really easy to do this ‘challenge’ – I quickly changed my shopping habits, established new routines, and my life was richer (as were local businesses in my community) as a result.
Will I go back to my old habits?
In short, No.
Why would I?
Returning to a supermarket for the first time in a year, nothing has improved. In fact, it’s worse. Prices have gone up and there are more empty shelves.
For the stock that is still there, far too much of it is covered in unnecessary single use plastic.
Fresh produce is still too cheap – and it’s not the supermarkets absorbing the cost of loss-leaders, it’s farmers and producers.
None of the issues that led to me make the decision to shop elsewhere have been resolved, if anything, there is more overpackaged and over processed food.
Broken System, Fractured Supply Chains
While the lengthy and complex supply chains of supermarkets have been fractured due to a combination of staff shortages and trade barriers (thanks Brexit), and war in Ukraine, local producers supplying local businesses have had few of these issues.
For example – Anecdotally, a few weeks ago, I was in my local fruit and veg shop with a friend and she commented that they have eggs, and they are free range and cheaper than the supermarket. She shops in Asda, and they have had supply chain shortages for weeks. While she was scouring supermarkets for free range eggs that didn’t cost a small fortune, I hadn’t even realized there was an egg shortage because there are always plenty in the local shops from a local free-range farm.
Am I still boycotting supermarkets?
No. I would still rather spend my money with local shops and producers, where more wealth is kept in my community and I’m helping to support a family instead of shareholders. However, I will occasionally return to the supermarkets, but in a more strategic way.
What do I pledge for 2023?
- Use supermarkets only as a last resort.
- Go to more ethical supermarkets (i.e.: Co-op) where I can.
- Avoid single use plastic where possible – although that is a challenge as my local supermarket is Lidl and on balance, they are the worst of the big supermarkets for covering everything in plastic.
- Actively look for the food that would otherwise be binned (my local Co-op is especially good for yellow labels!)
- Make use of apps like Too Good To Go and look at Olio, too. Save money and combat food waste, win-win.
What have I learned?
‘Convenience’ really isn’t that convenient.
We’re sold this idea of abundance and convenience, but it’s often not the case. Especially now that global political shifts have exposed the weaknesses in our broken food system.
Our lust for convenience and stuff is also quite literally costing the Earth.
Climate change, biodiversity loss, plastic filled oceans, mountains of waste, are especially inconvenient!
I Prefer to Shop Slow
The whole experience of supermarket shopping is unpleasant.
Get in your car, drive to an identikit shop that could be anywhere in the country.
Get inside and be prepared for, go-go-go, get out of my way, rush-rush-rush.
Supermarkets feel so impersonal.
Starkly lit, hostile environments, with a mind boggling and vulgar array of ‘stuff’ that will probably go to waste.
Plus, there is always a long queue!
When I’m in a supermarket, I can see and feel why humanity is in such deep trouble!
Sometimes, Supermarkets Are The Best Or Only Option
That said, every now and then, convenience is so damn convenient – like not getting to the butchers in time on New Year’s Eve.
In our busy lives, we can’t always be well organized and forward thinking.
On balance, once in a while the supermarket is the sensible option – but it is definitely not the only or even best option every time.
Think Before You Shop
Take a beat, instead of getting in your car and driving to a supermarket when you’re in a rush – ask yourself, is there a better way?
Do you really need to drive up the road to get an extra pint of milk, then while you’re at it get a basketful of other random stuff that was on offer or wasn’t on your list?
Could you just walk to the corner shop instead?
Will the supermarket really have the thing you want and will it really be better value from there?
Is there a local or more ethical alternative?
Vote With Your Wallet
If we all stopped to think and voted with our wallets, we can strengthen our local communities, keep our local high streets buzzing and help small businesses to thrive.
Instead of our hard earned cash disappearing into some offshore account somewhere; squirreled away by people and corporations that already have more money than they could possibly spend in a lifetime.
They don’t even put any of it back into communities by paying tax on it!
If you care about such things, know that you can have an impact.
‘But it’s just one plastic bag’ – said 5 billion people!
If we all made even a few small changes in our buying decisions, they add up.
Demand less plastic, demand less waste, demand more money for the farmers and producers, demand fairer pay and better treatment for workers.
Demand these things by showing them where you’d rather spend your money.
We have the power to change the world, little by little, step by step, if we all do even one small thing to be better humans.