At the end of last year, I had a moment or pure frustration when attempting to buy a few bits in Asda. EVERYTHING I needed was only available in single use plastic. Including the bread that I watched a baker take from a cooling rack and put straight into plastic before handing to me.
I rage quit at that point.
I am so sick of our broken food system. How supermarkets aid and abet poverty, devalue food and needlessly and recklessly pass mountains of unnecessary waste onto consumers.
A Year Without Supermarkets – How it’s Going
I had almost forgotten I was doing this until a friend asked me how it was going and I realised that I’m more than halfway through the year already.
Especially in a city like Bristol, where everything you could ever need is on your doorstep. In my case, literally, as I am a short stroll from East Street and North Street in Bedminster. In this little BS3 neighbourhood we’re lucky, there are plenty of more sustainable, independent, and local alternatives.
Plus, shopping slow is better for the soul.
The Joy of Shopping Slow
I had to share this from Facebook, it made me smile…
Does it officially make me old that this is how I run my regular errands?
Working mostly from home, we hardly leave the house during the working week.
We could stay at home and get everything delivered (and honestly, for many things we do, especially now that we no longer have a car).
How do we manage? We get a weekly meal box delivered from Gousto. Milk and other produce delivered by Milk and More three times a week. For everything else I’ll pop to the corner shop or go to my local high streets.
Popping out to the high street shops has almost become a ritual. It gives me a reason to leave the house and communicate with other humans. You can witness all human life on our lively local streets!
There are some great charity shops on East and North Streets, which I love browsing. I’ll pick up fruit and veg from East Street Fruit Market, Hugo’s or Five Acre Farm. Get meat from Stan Butt, Rare or Kelvins. Store cupboard essentials and plastic free household goods from Zero Green, Preserve or Southville Deli. Sundries, interesting ingredients and fresh produce from Sklep Euro Market (great for pierogis and cured meats).
In every shop I’ll pass the time of day, have a random conversation with a local, chat to the staff and as a regular in many shops I’m recognised, greeted with a friendly smile.
That’s what it’s like when you shop slow.
Instead of rushing around a brightly lit, crowded supermarket.
Get in, get the stuff off your list, queue, whatever you do – never make eye contact, then get out. Feeling like a meaningless cog feeding a massive corporate machine while you browse aisles of endless ‘stuff’ you’ll never buy.
It’s… Stuff + Suffocating = Stuffocating
Local Shops – Use Them or Lose Them!
When I hear people lament, “how it used to be,” and, “back in the day,” or, “there’s no sense of community anymore,” I want to shake them and say, “It’s still there, use it!”
I feel more connected to my neighbourhood, plus, the amount of waste in our bin and recycling boxes is minimal.
Have I Missed The Supermarket?
Have I been into a supermarket this year? – Yes. But only because I was with other people who wanted to pick things up.
I’m not forcing this experiment down people’s throats or ‘banning’ friends and family from using supermarkets. Many of them don’t even know I’m doing this.
Did I buy anything? – No.
Was I tempted to buy something? – Not even slightly.
If anything, I looked around and continued to be disgusted and disappointed by the amount of single use plastic on most items.
Nothing appears to have changed. Supermarkets continue to recklessly disregard their impact on the environment and continue to be the architects of a broken food system.
One thing I did notice was how many shelves were empty, testament to breaks in their unnecessarily lengthy supply chains in the wake of Brexit, COVID and the war in Ukraine.
I’ve not seen evidence of these shortages in small, independent businesses that source produce locally.
Does Shopping Slow Cost More Money?
Yes and no.
Before, I would drop into Lidl (it’s just behind my house) 4 or 5 times a week for basket shops, regularly spending £20 – £30 a time.
Now, our regular meal box from Gousto covers most of our meals (£40 a week). And although I’m disappointed with the amount of plastic on their items, it’s still less than when I was regularly buying packets of food in Lidl.
We get a milk and produce delivery three times a week from Milk And More (approx. £15 a week).
I spend an average of £15 – £20 a week across various other shops (Preserve, Butchers, Fruit & Veg etc. I often only run errands every couple of weeks so some weeks is less and some more, when I’m stocking up).
In an average week we spend approximately £60 – £70 on groceries (for 2 adults, chickens and a cat). Compared with £80 – £100 before.
Overall we are spending less, however, we are spending more on individual items. For example, dry goods and plastic free household products in the zero waste shops are a little more expensive, however, we waste far less food and generate significantly less plastic pollution.
I don’t want to sound preachy or entitled, just to share my experience of shopping slow. I hope it inspires others to think differently about how and where they spend their money.
In a cost of living crisis (although I argue that on balance, supermarkets are part of the problem, rather than a solution) I realise that many people don’t (and can’t) spend as much on their household budget as we do.
I also appreciate how lucky we are to have a busy high street on the doorstep. When we lived in rural Somerset this would have been impossible to achieve without travelling many miles to a well provisioned town, our only option was the supermarket. This will be the case for many people, especially those living outside urban areas.
However, I would encourage people to do what they can, even if it means making more ethical choices in the supermarket and spending more on some things while simply not buying or spending less on other things.
For example, I’ve not bought a plastic bottle of shampoo or conditioner for years now, a shampoo bar lasts me a couple of months and is all I need. I bake my own bread and make my own household cleaning products. I grow what I can in my garden or on windowsills (with mixed success).
Backyard chickens lays eggs most days.
Shop slow. Vote with your pound
Local shops are often cheaper for many things, especially fruit and veg, plus you only buy what you need. The selection of spices and ingredients in zero waste shops is also brilliant – learning to make your own sauces, marinades, dressings etc. instead of buying plastic bottles of prepared mixes is cost effective, creates less waste and is better for you. No nasty preservatives or MSGs when you make your own salad dressing. It’s also ridiculously easy and takes very little time.
Having Gousto boxes has given me loads of ideas for sauces, marinades, recipes, food combinations etc. They regularly have offers and is worth trying out. Hello Fresh also have offers, but we stopped using them as there was more plastic and fewer recipe choices. If only to inspire you when you get fed up making the same meals all the time or get stuck for ideas when asked the dreaded, “what’s for dinner?” question!
Plus, all of this means spending more money with local, independent businesses. A simple choice that minimises waste and feeds families and communities instead of shareholder’s bank accounts!
Shop slow. Vote with your pound if you want a better food system and to keep local communities thriving.
Why not try shopping slow, for a week or a month – without giving money to supermarkets?