Sunday, 29 August 2010

How I am getting on with Shopping Local

For those of you who have been with me for a while, you may remember I had a revelation of sorts in Sheringham, and vowed to try to shop local and not in supermarkets. So, before I plunge back next week into various fibrey & crafty-type things I thought I would give you a quick update on how I was getting on, because it has been quite exciting. I am conscious as I am typing this that some of you shop in independent shops all the time or indeed grow your own veg and have livestock, and will be reading what I am going to write with a rather unimpressed expression.To those of you I can only say, yes, you are quite right and I am embarrassingly deskilled but I am trying. However I am sure there are other people like me who have hitherto done most of their grocery shopping in supermarkets, so, to those people come, come join me on my voyage of adventure away from Tescopoly.
Cambridge Farmers' Market from an admittedly not very attractive angle
So, I started by getting a new veg box. I used to have a veg box from Abel and Cole but I became disenchanted with it because every week I got the same veg. Every week! And I did feel the purpose of a veg box was not to limit your veg horizons but to open them up. Now I pay £10.50 per week for a veg box from the Cambridge Organic Food Company, and for 2 of us I think it is just right (also I choose my veg from what is available each week, which works very well). The veg are so fresh they squeak. I think if you are going to replace anything you buy from the supermarket veg are a good place to start because the supermarket ones are frankly a bit rubbish, and a box just comes every week without you having to think about it. I can also order eggs etc with mine if I wish to do so. Also the man who brings my box is very nice. Partner seems to have struck up some kind of unexpected friendship with the Abel and Cole driver so he was upset initially that we were changing, but he seems now to be reconciled.
Local strawberries for local people. I believe these to be from Oakington which is down the road
I have also started buying our fruit and some supplementary veg from the market. Now, I am not sure it is always local and I am certain it is not organic: but, this is an imperfect world, and I think it’s better to support a local market than a supermarket. This has (says she smugly) been a bit of a success. I am actually a bit astonished by how much better quality the fruit from the market is. And it is much, much cheaper. Marks and Spencer is just off the market square and I must confess I do look at people in there buying their inferior fruit which is 20% more expensive and think, you daft people, what are you thinking of.
Once I had £12.50, but now I am rich in cheese
Cheese and dairy. This is where I came a little unstuck. As I am not used to buying things loose I do not really understand weights, and a visit to the Cambridge Cheese Company resulted in me buying more cheese than you would normally get through in a month even if you were eating Fondue every night, and spending £12.50. £12.50 on cheese! Thank goodness my credit card still works. However (this is a common theme, bear with me) – the cheese is so much better than you would get in the supermarket I cannot actually put the difference into words. It is like hearing Tristan and Isolde properly after only previously having heard someone play it on a Kazoo. I do think it was a little more expensive (although who knows, the whole expedition is a blur of cheese excitement) than you would get in the supermarket, but frankly it is so much better I am never going back, and I will just buy less next time. (Quite a lot less). I have not found a good source of local milk yet, or yoghurt, funnily enough, but if I have time next week I am going to try Arjuna.
Clever marketing idea but not entirely sure how alluring the name is
Meat. I am ex and possibly future vegetarian, and I do not eat a lot of meat, and what I do eat I kind of eat gingerly, I appreciate that that is not morally any better. However, I have started buying my sausages and occasional chicken breast from our local butcher. I have done a side-by-side price comparison and he is no more expensive than the supermarket, indeed sometimes he is cheaper, and again, the difference in quality is like night and day. Seriously: night and day! Partner says he suspects the butcher of being Hilary Briss. I am slightly nervous of the butcher, but when I have plucked up the courage I may quiz him about why his chicken breasts taste quite so different, if I can think of a way to say that which doesn’t sound in any way suggestive, because that is absolutely the last dynamic we need in our relationship.
Handmade pots by a local artisan, deconstructing capitalism by their very existence
So there we are, those are my discoveries so far. Although I do have to shop more often, and admittedly I can only do this easily as I am working from home at the moment, I don’t actually feel like I spend any more time shopping than I did when I did it all once a week. Also, it feels miles less stressful. It’s like the difference between doing your washing up after each meal, or saving it up and doing it once a week (don’t ask me how I know this). Next I am going to look for other sources for things like toilet rolls, wine, cleaning products etc, and in the meantime we are eating so much better I can’t believe what I was missing out on - I actually feel a bit annoyed!


Marushka C. said...

It sounds like this project is working out beautifully for you. (Great photos and captions, too.)