No Supermarket: Week 4 – The End!

So it’s over: 31 days without spending money in a supermarket. Before the post-mortem, some details about this past week.

Things I learnt this week:

  • Eggs are cheaper in my local shop: only £1.09 for 6, compared to £1.57 in Sainsbury’s.
  • Tesco Express (i.e. a small supermarket) stocks 26 different varieties of bottled water. You do know that you can get it out of the tap, don’t you? For free.
  • Sainsbury’s is very useful: for their extensive recycling facilities and the pharmacy where I get my (free) prescriptions. This month I have shamelessly used supermarket resources in exchange for nothing.
  • Expenditure at No Supermarkets: £17.00
  • Hypothetical expenditure at Sainsbury’s: £16.18.

The Final Score

  • Over the course of one month shopping at No Supermarkets I spent £89.94 on food.
  • The same stuff at Sainsbury’s would have cost approximately £80.28.

So what am I going to now it’s over?

Will I go running back to the fluorescent-strip-light warmth of Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Lidl? Hell no.

Was everything perfect about my month of No Supermarkets? Hell no (where the devil can I get decent, reasonably priced cheese?). Can I do it better? Hell yes. I promise myself every week that I’ll go to the local markets more often, rather than running out of food, panicking and buying soup and biscuits for dinner.

I’ve enjoyed visiting all my local and not so local shops. I’ve built up quite a rapport with a shop around the corner from where I study. Cherry flapjack: £1.05, thank-you very much.

But why do I like No Supermarkets so much?

  • I don’t have to queue, like I would in the Sainsbury’s just up the road. 
  • I don’t have to walk around six aisles just to find the flapjacks, like I would at the Sainsbury’s. 
  • I’m not paralysed by the choice of six thousand different oat-based snacks you can have from Sainsbury’s. Half the time my shop doesn’t even have any of the cherry ones left. So I have banana. Variety is the spice of life and all that.
  • I’m not advertised at.
  • I can have a little chat with the person who serves me and they say please and thank-you like they give a shit that I came into their shop. Because they own it.
  • It’s closer to the college where I study.
  • I like the fact that their prices are marginally cheaper than the other little shop just across the road. It reminds me that competition is alive and well. It hasn’t just been blown away by corporate supply chains.
  • I feel like the money I’m handing over for my flapjack is going to someone I know.
  • The lighting isn’t so bright. Not everything gleams. The floor might even be dirty. It’s human.

Yeah. I like it. In fact, I like it so much that I’d feel a bit wrong going into a supermarket now. Perhaps I will for some things. Perhaps I won’t. I no longer feel restricted in my shopping habits. I no longer feel compelled towards those glowing orange lights.

So here’s to much more No Supermarkets in 2011.


Do you know what an arithmetic progression is? Of course you do. Our lives are a finite arithmetic progression with a common difference of one: we live one year at a time. One follows one follows one – and so on towards infinity, until, one quiet news day, a bus brings a bloody end to your smug-faced progression. Or maybe it’ll be Gog, Magog and the Lake of Fire, Sarah Palin or a CBRN incident. Oh come on: Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear.

That’s an arithmetic progression. Fucking boring.

Now think of a geometric progression. Are you an optimist? I’m not, I say things get worse. I say we live in a nightmarish geometric progression with a common ratio of a half. We live one life, bad enough, but then we’re back again with a life half as long. After that: another life, half as long again. Then another, again half as long – and so on into infinity until we’re dead before we have a chance to be born.

Think of it like reincarnation. I’m going to live this life as a human, a squalid lump of rotting flesh with a heart that beats for a million ticks and then stops. One human life and then I’m dead and gone, cremated because I’m not worth the grave-space. Call it a hundred years before I’ve checked out – maybe I am an optimist; maybe I just want to make the maths easier for you. A hundred human years.

But then I’m reincarnated. I’m not so lucky, though: I’m on a geometric progression with a common ratio of a half, remember. So this time, maybe I come back as a chimpanzee and only get fifty years before getting smeared.

Then, before you can say “the transmigration of souls,” I’m back as a snake and only get twenty-five before kicking the calendar.

Next, I might return as a camel for twelve and a half years before popping my clogs. I quite fancy being a chipmunk for six and a quarter years and a mouse for three and an eighth, before eating another dirt sandwich.

I could add another eighteen months as an opossum, before rejoining our great majority. As a particularly resilient worker ant, I could manage nine months before being remaindered. I’d follow that up with a life as a worker bee, before turning up my toes to that too.

Then I’ll race through lives as a housefly and a fruit fly until I’m back for just five minutes as a female mayfly of the species dolania americana – and thence to meet my godless maker.

But even if I took all these reincarnated lives, from my fifty years as a chimpanzee to my five minutes as a mayfly of the species dolania americana, and added them together, I still wouldn’t get another hundred years in total.

That’s the nature of this hellish geometric progression. Even if you kept coming back after the mayfly: for two minutes, one minute, thirty seconds, ten seconds, five seconds, two seconds, one second – you’d still never match your hundred hypothetical years as a human.

Don’t waste it.

How to Persuade, in 59 Seconds

This is taken from 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman, a book that wants to make your life better – in 59 seconds or less. It is all based on scientific research. If you like that sort of thing.

Rewards Don’t Work!

  • Rewards don’t work. They sometimes show a short-term boost, but generally elicit the response:

‘I get paid for doing things I don’t like; therefore I must hate this.’

  • Occasional surprise rewards work for things that someone enjoys already. So does praise for their effort.
  • For something disliked, modest payment and feel-good comments about their behaviour works.

Quick Tips for Persuasion

  • Sit in the middle of a group. Important people sit in the middle.
  • If you are trying to sell something, keep the name of the product simple, in other words: easy to remember and straightforward to pronounce.
  • Use simple language, not fancy words to make yourself appear intelligent.
  • Make appeals personal, story based, not based on general statistics.
  • To get more donations, use the slogan: ‘Every penny helps’ and paint your collection box red.
  • Do a favour for someone and they’ll reciprocate. Don’t put the pressure on by doing too much to begin with. Ask for the return favour soon after – otherwise the other person will forget they needed you.
  • Put a photo of a cute baby in your wallet. WTF.

Getting Agreement

  • Getting someone to answer ‘yes’ to a series of minor questions will encourage them to say ‘yes’ when you ask the big one.
  • People like things that are introduced to them whilst they are eating a meal.
  • People are more likely to be swayed by controversial arguments if they have caffeine.
  • Save your time, persuade by rhyme.
  • Similarity works to persuade. People like people like themselves, even just sharing a first name is enough. Funny, eh? I can’t think of a Dave I didn’t get on with. And there are a lot of us around.
  • Use humour, lighten up the persuasion, get them in a good mood.

How to Nail Your Job Interview

Job interviews are all about persuasion and, unjustly, likeability is more important than qualifications or experience, so:

  • Find something you like about the organisation and let your opinion be known.
  • Give a genuine compliment to the interviewer.
  • Chat about a non-work-related topic that you and the interviewer find interesting.
  • Be interested – ask what type of person they’re looking for and how they’ll fit into the organisation.
  • Be enthusiastic about the position and the organisation.
  • Smile and maintain eye contact with the interviewers.
  • When you do have a weakness, announce it early to show your honesty
  • Leave something positive to the end to show your modesty.
  • If you make what feels like a major mistake, don’t panic. The chances are it is much more noticeable to you than them. An excessive response or apology will only draw attention to it.

How to Be Likeable

  • People like you more when they do a small favour for you.
  • The occasional slip up can enhance your likeability. Warning: this only works if you risk looking too perfect, like JFK.
  • Gossip positively – the traits you gossip about will come to be associated with you!

How to Persuade a Crowd

  • The more people who are around a person in distress, the less likely anyone is to do anything about it.
  • Break the crowd mentality by targeting one person and appeal directly with a specific request.
  • If you have a request of a group, ask each person individually, not all together.

How to Beat Stress, in 59 Seconds

This is taken from 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman, a book that wants to make your life better – in 59 seconds or less. It is all based on scientific research. If you like that sort of thing.

Focus on the Positive

Think about the positive aspects of the stressful event. Did you:

  • Grow stronger or become aware of personal strengths that you didn’t realise you had?
  • Appreciate aspects of your life more than before?
  • Become a wiser person or strengthen important relationships?
  • Become more skilled at communicating your feelings, more confident or encourage you to end a bad relationship?
  • Develop into a more compassionate or forgiving person?
  • Strengthen your relationship with a person who hurt you?

Write down how you have benefited from the experience and how your life is better as a result of what happened. Do not withhold anything and be honest.

Quick Tips to Beat Stress

  • Pray for other people.
  • Listen to Pachelbel or Vivaldi.
  • Spend 30 minutes outside in the sunshine (but don’t stay trapped indoors on a sunny day).
  • Laugh for 15 minutes a day.
  • Don’t shout and scream to vent anger – it will only make you more angry.
  • Get a dog. Owning a dog relieves stress. In part, this is because it promotes social contact, but even watching a video of a dog works!
  • The placebo effect works to help you lose weight and this weight loss reduces stress. All you have to do is convince yourself that you are doing more exercise in your daily routine than you thought!

How to Achieve Your Goals, in 59 Seconds

This is taken from 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman, a book that wants to make your life better – in 59 seconds or less. It is all based on scientific research. If you like that sort of thing.

4 Key Techniques for Motivation

  1. Have the right kind of plan.
  2. Tell friends and family about your plan.
  3. Focus on the benefits of your achievement.
  4. Reward yourself each step of the way.

The Right Kind of Plan

Wiseman’s got the plan, don’t worry.

1. Define your goal:

My overall goal is to…

2. Create a step-by-step plan:

Break overall goal into five steps, each with a goal that is concrete, measurable, realistic and time-based, e.g.:

Step 1:
  • My first sub-goal is to… write a blog post.
  • I believe that I can achieve this goal because… I’ve done the research and I’ve done this sort of thing before.
  • To achieve this sub-goal, I will… sit at the computer and write 500 words on how to achieve your goals.
  • This will be achieved by… today!
  • My reward for achieving this will be, er…a pack of Marylands?

3. What are the benefits of achieving your overall goal?

  • List three important benefits, focusing on how much better life will be for you and those around you.
  • Focus on the benefits of your desired future, rather than escaping the negatives of your present situation.

4. Go public.

Who are you going to tell about your goals and sub-goals? Maybe you could publish them on a blog or display them in your office or home?

1 Simple Way to Beat Procrastination

Start work on something for just a few minutes and your brain will want to complete it. Anyone can do anything for a few minutes. Just start.

Use Doublethink to Achieve Your Goals

Thinking about benefits and setbacks together will motivate you to achieve and help you persevere in the face of difficulties. Answer these questions about your goals to get the best motivation.

1. What is your goal?

2. Potential benefits and setbacks

  1. Write down one word that reflects an important way your life would be better if you achieve your goal.
  2. Write down one word that reflects a significant barrier standing in the way of you achieving your goal.
  3. Write down a second benefit.
  4. Write down another significant barrier.

3. Elaboration

  • Elaborate on how the two benefits identified above will affect your life positively.
  • Elaborate how the two obstacles identified above will hinder your achievement – and outline the steps you would take to deal with them.

How to Achieve Your Life Goals

  • Write your own eulogy (or obituary) in the third person (David Charles will be remembered as full of fast phrase, pace of prosody and poise of poesy…) to reveal your real life goals (that was a dumb example, by the way). What would you like people to say about you when you die? What would you like to have achieved?
  • Those who visualise themselves as others see them are 20% more successful than those adopting a first person view. Apparently. How do they find these things out? that’s what I want to know.