The Community Farm in Chew Magna, near Bristol, has just launched its ‘Supermarket Free Challenge’ which is encouraging people to sign up for a year of independent food shopping. Through taking on the challenge, participants will explore the central questions - Is it possible? What benefits does it have? Does it save money, reduce waste, improve your shopping experience and provide you with better quality food?
It is hoped the challenge will raise awareness of some of the key issues facing our food system such as over-packaging, food security and waste, so why not join the challenge and record your own observations (if a year sounds too intimidating try signing up for a month). You can sign up on their facebook page here.
Alison Belshaw, Project Director at the Farm has put together some guidelines to help you get started:
- When we say ‘supermarket’ we mean: Any of the big chain supermarkets – you know who they are!
- A year too long? Try it for a shorter time – two weeks, a month
- Don’t Panic! You don’t have to suddenly stop using supermarkets on the 01 February! (Although it is more of a challenge if you do). The idea is to start exploring the challenge from that date.
- Food – OK – but what about other things? This is primarily a food based challenge – but can extend to other items you would normally buy in a supermarket if you choose to do that e.g. cleaning products, toiletries, pet food, cat litter etc..
- What about Independent shops? If it’s independent – it’s allowed e.g. The Better Food Company, Bristol Sweet Mart, Wild Oats, Farm shops etc. and even though the ‘Chinese Supermarket’ in Bristol is called a supermarket, it’s independent so is allowed. Go seek them out! In Bristol there are lots of independent shops here and many take the Bristol Pound too http://bristolindependents.co.uk/ There are also lots of independent shops in Bath, the Chew Valley – and in London too!
- Involve others - Get your friends, family, neighbours, work colleagues involved too! It can be even more fun if you do this as a group and you can swap tips too!
- Don’t be hard on yourself - Don’t beat yourself up if you do use a supermarket – just note why and how you could shop elsewhere next time.
- Keep a log - of your spending and compare it with your regular supermarket shop to see how much money you are saving
- Share – share – SHARE! - Share your experiences with the rest of the community that have signed up on our Facebook group! We are sure they’ll have plenty of ideas and suggestions if you get stuck
- Are you a blogger? Let us know if you intend on keeping a blog about your experience – so we can share it – and also if you’d like to write some pieces for our website and newsletters. That would be great!
- Have FUN! Yes this is a challenge – but it is also meant to be fun! Don’t think of it as a chore – think of it as an adventure!
- Celebrate! We’ll celebrate the end of the challenge – details nearer the time.
The Community Farm
Signing up to The Community Farm’s supermarket-free challenge? Go for it! It’s fairly straightforward once you get into it but you may need to do a little planning. In case it helps, here are a few things I learned when I started:
PLAN: I looked at my recent supermarket receipts and worked out where else I could get everything. It sounds obvious but once I’d decided where to buy basics like loo roll (from a local discount household shop) and vegetables (green grocers, farm shop or box scheme) I wasn’t left wondering where to go when I’d run out.
COOK: If you can batch cook and freeze a few things, it really helps. There’s nothing worse than arriving home late from work to an empty fridge, particularly when the only place still open is the supermarket.
BULK UP: If you can afford to spend a bit extra at first then purchasing dried foods like rice, pasta, beans, lentils and cereals in bulk (try online if you don’t live near a wholesaler), does save money and means there’s always something in the cupboard.
GO INDEPENDENT: Research shows that we bought 85 per cent of our fruit and 84 per cent of vegetables from the major supermarkets last year. What a waste: fruit and vegetables at supermarkets are expensive, over-packaged and often flown halfway round the world. Buy local at independent farm shops, green grocers, markets and use fruit and vegetable box schemes.
FOCUS: Supermarkets: who needs them? Whatever your reason for doing the challenge – to buy local, support independents, avoid packaged foods or save money, keep it in mind. There are plenty of reasons to wave goodbye to the grocery giants and when the supermarket van arrives at my neighbour’s’ house or I’m walking past one and I’m peckish, I find it helps to remember them.
JOIN IN: There’s a whole community of foodies out there doing everything from growing vegetables to volunteering on food-sharing projects and swapping recipes online. Even if you just follow someone new on Twitter or join a Facebook group, if you skip the supermarket, you’re bound to connect more with the food you buy and eat.
Guardian columnist Joanne O’Connell has pledged to avoid supermarkets and charts her experiences so far here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/blog/2012/aug/09/cut-grocery-bills-avoiding-supermarkets. You can also follow her on Twitter @byesupermarkets.
We’re planning to get involved and will be posting some updates here – good luck!