I live in a housing co-operative. Which is awesome, not least because the people I live with try to do things together.
What that means is that every month someone from the co-op orders in bulk from the ethical retailer Suma. Suma is also a co-operative, which means that the business is jointly owned and managed by all the staff. Everyone is paid the same and they work collectively to do all the jobs that need doing (I discuss this mode of business here).
So today (for the first time ever, I’m ashamed to admit) I ordered some food from Suma. This is my shopping list:
- 80 jasmine green tea bags @ £4.95
- 1kg of raisins @ £2.95
- 6kg of porridge oats @ £6.99
- 12 eggs @ £2.62
Compared to Sainsbury’s, this isn’t bad. You can get 20 jasmine tea bags at Sainsbury’s for about £1, so that’s a touch cheaper at the supermarket. The eggs and the porridge come out at about the same cost. I normally buy Sainsbury’s Basics currents, which are dirt cheap at about £0.60 for 500g (I think), so Suma’s raisins are an expensive upgrade.
Anyway, that should be my breakfast covered for the rest of the month. Now I’ve just got to wait for the delivery on Thursday. At least I don’t have to walk to the shops.
Yesterday I went to Deptford High Street for my first No Supermarket grocery shopping.
And it was rather good fun. This No Supermarket business forces you to pay attention to your surroundings. You can’t just go to the shelf, you can’t just look for the own-brand stuff because you know it will be cheap, you can’t very often even know the price of what you’re buying until you’ve handed over the goods. It forces you to look, to ask, to say no, to negotiate – in short, to connect?
A couple of traders just said hello to me, for nothing. Can I help you? Aright, mate? Another looked for a smaller ball of string for me. I didn’t have to ask, he saw from my face that it was too much.
In all, I went to two fruit and veg shops, a bakery and a newsagents – instead of one big supermarket.
This was what I bought:
- £1.18 6 bananas
- £1.00 2 cucumbers
- £1.25 6 tomatoes (on the vine)
- £0.97 Loaf seeded white bread (sliced for me by the bakers)
Total cost: £4.40.
I reckon at Sainsbury’s I would have spent about the same, or perhaps slightly more. I wouldn’t have spent so much on the tomatoes, but these ones are very tasty. I normally buy Sainsbury’s Basics, to be honest, at about £0.80. But the cucumbers were much cheaper – saved me about £0.50. So it evens out.
I have to say, pleasurable though this shopping trip was, it was not convenient. It’s a longer walk to Deptford High Street than to Sainsbury’s and I didn’t buy any string, an pencil rubber, porridge oats – or the dreaded toothpaste.
New Year Resolution: I’m not going to use supermarkets during the whole month of January.
For me, that’s quite a big deal. I am accustomed to going to my local Sainsbury’s at least four or five times a week, sometimes just for the walk or the simple pleasure of picking up a value bag of sultanas.
Well, no more. From the 1st of January I pledge not to purchase a single thing from any supermarket, be it Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Lidl, Aldi, Costcutter, Iceland, Netto, M&S, Waitrose, Morrisons – or any of the other behemoths that bestride our consumer culture.
- I don’t like being too dependent on anything – and supermarkets definitely fall into that bracket of dependency at the moment.
- I fancy seeing a bit more of the world – or my local community at least.
- It’s embarrassing coming home with a pile of plastic-wrapped food of dubious quality.
- Somewhere inside me there’s a vague sense of unease surrounding the operation and supply tactics of supermarkets.
- I guess it will support local economy a little bit.
- It might be a good way to meet more people in my community.
- It might be cheaper, you never know.
- It might help me eat better, you never know.
- It might reduce impulse buying of sultanas.
- It’s something to write about!
The Toothpaste Test
At the moment my shelves are looking pretty bare so I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the wonderful (so I’m told) markets in my local area. But, to be honest, I’m a little concerned about where to find toothpaste. I know I can get toothpaste at pretty much any corner-shop or mini-mart, but Sainsbury’s toothpaste is about £0.30 or something ridiculous. I like that: it’s good value.
The thing is, I’d like to turn this experiment into a long-term life choice, but I’m not going to cut off my nose to spite my face. Sourcing affordable, minty toothpaste could well turn into the acid test of my No Supermarket January. Wish me luck.