Sunday, 3 January 2010

Bye bye supermarkets

That strange groaning sound you may be able to make out is my husband, and it's been brought on by the fact that, two days after completing my list of aims for the year, I now have another "project". Giving up supermarkets.

Now this may not seem like a difficult thing to do, and I do know a number of people that don't use supermarkets, so it must be possible. We do already get a lot of our storecupboard basics from Suma, but budgetary constraints mean that the rest of our shopping comes from the old Value range. Ethics and health tend to go out of the window. Although we cook from scratch and don't eat packaged meals, if the ingredients are full of pesticides in the first place then the end result can't be that healthy either. And fair trade or local produce only lands in our trolley if everything else is sold out.

So, by the end of this month I want my shopping to be:

Sourced ethically
Organic
Not from a supermarket
Within budget
Environmentally friendly

Ha! Not asking much then.

Now, currently our shopping budget is £200 per month, including food, toiletries, household products and cat food. Also currently included in this is nappies and wipes as since I came out of hospital we have been using disposables a lot of the time for convenience. This, needless to say, costs a fortune and will be the first thing going or we stand no chance of doing this on budget!

My first port of call, a local veg box scheme. I found a local one, which look great and also do fruit and eggs (although, back garden chickens pending, we may not need these), so at £15.50 for a standard veg box containing 9-11 crops, and £5.90 for a small fruit bag, this looks like a good start.

Next, a proper look at Suma. Like I said, we already get things from here, mostly pulses, homeopathic remedies, veggie stuff and the like. Tonight I priced up an entire month's shopping (a mammoth task!). Obviously the cheapest way to do a lot of it is in large bulk quantities, but we don't have the budget to allow ourselves to buy that mush up front, so we go with the smaller bulk amounts.

So, three long hours later, elated to be done, I scroll down to the total at the bottom and ... bang! my hope of an easy solution comes crashing down as I see that the Suma products plus one veg box and one fruit bag a week takes us to £266 per month. Disaster! Taking into account the fact that we have knocked nappies and wipes off the shopping list, which made up over a quarter of our budget, a straight move from supermarket value ranges to ethical and organic has doubled our spend. Also this total doesn't count cat food, as we have a very fussy rescue cat who will only each pouches of food in jelly. Pop a bowl of cat crunchies down in front of him and he will go off in a huff and starve himself until you see sense, so I need to find an alternative, which may turn out to be buying the same food for him, but not from a supermarket!

Things that are on the list that I'm not 100% happy about are:

1. Washing powder. It's Ecover, but I'd still rather not, especially in view of the cost. We tried eco balls for a good while, with very stinky results, and, not wanting to be damp smelling social pariahs, we went back onto the old detergent. Any ecologically sound yet purse friendly suggestions welcome!

2. Dishwasher gel. As above, would rather not. I did use Stardrops for a time, which is cheap but probably not great for the green credentials of my dishwasher.

3. Butter. I buy this to make bread with, but am wondering if there is a vegan alternative. Any home bakers let me know please!

Other than that, I'm happy with what's on there, it's all organic, fairtrade or local, and vegan aside from the eggs (but don't tell Gruff, he may not notice!), so I just need a cheaper way of doing it.

I'm going to have the night off now and try and shave £70 off this tomorrow, any suggestions appreciated.

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