Friday, 20 January 2012

checking out from the checkout

Today I’m celebrating liberation from supermarkets. I last stepped into one of these cathedrals of consumerism three months ago, before the Lewes Octoberfeast. Far from being difficult, it’s been a great relief  - as though I’ve finally come off a toxic addiction.

Looking at a recent questionnaire about food shopping by Transition Town Lewes, it appears that I’m joining a growing band of people seeking supermarket freedom: there are at least 32 people in Lewes who buy almost all their food from our two markets and local shops. The others stated that the main barriers to supermarket freedom are convenience and price. I’m going to argue that this doesn’t have to be so.

In the spirit of enquiry, I’ve kept a note this last week of all my food spending in my little diary. The backbone of our household’s food spend is a quarterly delivery from Infinity Foods of grocery items, including pulses, grains, tins, sauces, chocolate, teas, toilet paper and cleaning products. Everything that’s not fresh gets delivered to our door, for free; being wholesale it turns out incredible cheap, apportioned weekly here:
£25 Infinity Foods chickpeas, lentils, oats, rice, pasta, noodles, sauces, oils, spices
£50 weekly food market (£6 bread, £8 apples and eggs, £13 meat, £8 veg, £15 cheese)
£26 Pleasant food stores (oranges, lemons, milk, butter, biscuits)
£11 Lansdown (veg sausages, yoghurt and tofu)
£4 potatoes from sack from Ashurst Organics

Backed up with plentiful greens and some frozen fruit from the allotment, this weeks’ total  food supply, for a family of four adults came to just under £120 or about £30 a week per person for a diet that’s entirely organic or biodynamic and where all the fresh stuff is local. 

I think it's so cheap compared to supermarkets because little of this food is processed or part of the industrial food chain and because I'm not temped to just buy a few extra treats.
It's also convenient: I shop at to the market every Friday and bike down to Lansdown every Saturday. For dairy and some treats, one of us drops in at our lovely new Pleasant Stores.
It’s bliss not to have to deal with supermarkets, which are designed to dupe us into spending more on things we think we need and bombard us with choice. I hate all the packaging waste and the lifestyle messaging that we are fed in a zombie-like accepting way - including the idea that Waitrose is really much better than the other supermarkets. I’m also delighted to withdrawing my support of the industrial food system with all its own fat cats and hidden costs to the earth and people.

Most importantly, people I know who are shopping this way say they like putting their positive energy and money into systems worth supporting: local farmers and shopkeepers, wholefood coops with strong ethics and a resilient food system that is fit for purpose.

Photo by Emily Faulder

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