Living without Supermarkets

So continuing along the theme of a simpler more wholesome existence, I have decided to try life without supermarket shopping. I stumbled upon the idea whilst trying to find some local farm shops (on the Internet of all places) and found this blog about a family who decided to go a year without shopping at the supermarket.

I have to admit that Tesco’s and the other major supermarkets always make me feel uneasy. I feel like I’m being sucked into a whirlwind of subtle tricks and mind games that lure me into spending more money on items that are unethically farmed or produced and sourced from thousands of miles away.

So I thought, why not, let’s give it a go. I mean I can’t be that dependent on the supermarket? Or am I?

So I started today. I have started by signing up to a milk delivery. It transpires there is a milkman who delivers to my village. So I’ve got milk and water on a three times weekly order. It is slightly more expensive than Tesco’s but he does bring it to my door.

I obviously have a well stocked house so I suspect at the start it will be simpler. Things will get more complicated when I run out of toilet roll and the like. So I set off into my local town, which is Banbury. I’ve decided that I will make curry for tea and I all I need is the meat. I have everything else in the house. So this is going to be quite simple really, but it did occur to me that I have things like fresh coriander and ginger in the fridge which may not be so easy to source outside the supermarket.

The first thing that I encounter is that I need to pay for parking. Something I don’t have to do at the supermarket. So £0.80 buys you an hour’s shopping as opposed to the convenience of free parking at the out of town Tesco’s. I also need to walk further to get to the shops but that is a good thing really.

Banbury has a brilliant old school butchers called Steve Betts which was where I headed first for my pound of diced lamb. The good thing about going to the butchers is you can get exactly the quantity of meat you want and get them to prepare it for you in whatever way you want. In this case I got 314g of diced lamb for £4.00, Tesco’s diced lamb is £3.50 for 300g. So slightly cheaper. I was intrigued to find that the butchers also seem to double up as a mini greengrocer and also sells onions, tomatoes, fresh new season asparagus, potatoes, carrots, parsnips and much more including fresh ginger! Good to know… So that solves the ginger conundrum! They also sell eggs and I got 6 x free range medium size eggs farmed in Woodford Halse, a village a few miles away, for £1.10.

On the way back to the car I stopped in the the local thai supermarket. They sell a wide range of spices at much cheaper prices than the supermarket – bags of spices were around 80p for 100g! 85p gets you 43g of cumin in the supermarket. I also manage to purchase 100g of fresh coriander for £1.00 which compares favourable to 31g for 70p at Tesco’s. So I bought some along with some frozen kaffir lime leaves which smell devine. The kaffir lime leaves class as an impulse purchase!

In total I spent £8.40 for lamb, eggs, fresh coriander and frozen kaffir limes leaves.

In Tesco’s this would have been:

£3.50 lamb

£1.60 eggs

£2.40 coriander

£1.99 for kaffir lime leaves (only dried variety available)

Total: £9.49

So on the whole I have saved and it was a very pleasant experience. The thai supermarket was a veritable treasure trove of interesting and weird ingredients!

However, this is very early days and I have many more ingredients I am unsure of where I will get. For starters I am positively addicted to Yorkshire Gold loose leaf tea and McVities digestive biscuits – any suggestions anyone?

More anon….

 

 

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Veg Patch Update

So things are progressing in the patch. The weather has finally improved and some sunshine is encouraging things to happen. I never seem to have much luck with sowing seeds direct into the ground but the beetroot that I liberally sowed a couple of weeks ago has germinated! Also other exciting news is that, having nearly thrown my arms in the air and given up on my newly planted asparagus bed, I have a shoot! Just one! But it is a start!

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Apologies for the blurry image but it is small and I had to zoom in and the camera on my iPhone isn’t brilliant.

Other news – I managed to get some peas to germinate sown direct into the ground as well.

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I’m also starting to find I’m having to do battle with the pests. My marigold seedlings got devoured one night and I’ve discovered ants in one of the beds. So I’ve resorted to garlic spray. I just put a bulb of garlic and some water into a sprayer and let it steep all day. I’ve then liberally sprayed it on everything. There is definitely an aroma of garlic about my garden at the moment! I’d like to stay away from the chemicals as much as possible so I’m giving this a go.

I’ve harvested rhubarb, mint and mizuna so far this month to cook with. The rhubarb is giving us good excuse to have puddings every night!

On the whole things are progressing nicely. I’m feeling quite optimistic.

In search of a simpler, healthier lifestyle

I’ve always wanted my own vegetable patch and have always been fascinated by the idea of growing my own food. I also read about the practices employed to mass produce food these days and I feel that I really want to get to a place where I know where the majority of my food comes from and to produce a good proportion of it myself.

Last year I had a bit of go at setting up a vegetable patch in the garden. We had an area of overgrown weeds that had been untouched for some time and we dug it over and planted some vegetables with variable success. As you can imagine, the weed situation was interesting and soil was not very good quality. It was full of rubbish and masonry and very heavy clay. However, last was a good start and I learnt some things along the way. The leeks were brilliant and the peas were a disaster. The rhubarb is clearly endlessly forgiving and fed us well for a month or two.

This year my partner John persuaded me that rather buying a couple of cheap raised beds that we should lay out the patch properly. So we ordered some scaffold boards, bought some gravel and grit and set about creating some raised beds. I was not very sure about the colour of the wood preserver, which was advertised as Autumn Red, and let me assure you is in fact bright orange, but the colour is growing on me and the patch is starting to take shape.

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So far we have two beds in place and room for another two. I have also hankered after a greenhouse forever and have dreams of a dwarf wall wooden greenhouse but I need to wait for that. I don’t have the finances for a start! However, I have purchased a interim measure that I am extremely pleased with!

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So the plan is to try and produce as much of our food as possible at home. I am very inexperienced and this is a huge learning curve but so far it has been very enjoyable. More anon.