Giving up supermarkets for Lent (a guest post)

Now today we hand over to a lovely lady called Jackie Spurrier who is a Dorset artist and part of the big (and fantastic) campaign to stop Tesco opening a store in Sherborne in Dorset. Jackie decided to give up supermarkets for lent and we asked her to tell us all about her experience. We hope you enjoy the post. We’ll be back at the end of it to add our thoughts.

tesco 2I live in Sherborne in Dorset, one of England’s most beautiful towns. We have a market twice a week, a plethora of interesting independent high street shops and two supermarkets within walking distance of the town centre.  When I heard that Tesco were threatening to build an out-of-town superstore on the site of our largest tourist hotel, I got involved in the campaign to try to stop Tesco coming to Sherborne (www.nothankstesco.co.uk) and potentially ruining our high street.  This heightened my awareness of how wonderful our town centre is, and how as a community it is our responsibility to support the independent shops that we are lucky enough to still have here. 

lemon 1On pancake day, my ten year old son announced that he was giving up chocolate and computer games for Lent. The pressure was on, I had to find something equally impressive to give up. Then I found @teampughblog on twitter and Bingo! That is what I decided to give up for Lent – Supermarkets.

 To start with, I was quite daunted by the prospect of not nipping down to the local Sainsbury’s whenever I wanted.  However, my first visit to the market soon injected an excitement about the next 40 days. It was exhilarating – I talked to the fishmonger about sea bass, tasted cheeses, was spoilt for choice at the bread stall and picked out my own vegetables at the fruit and veg stall. Immediately, I was impressed by three things – it is just more fun shopping at a market, it really isn’t that expensive and you don’t go home with bags full of plastic packaging.

 Since then, I have been really good, shopping at the market on Thursdays (which also counts as a dog walk as I get pulled there and back by my puppy), nipping to the greengrocer and butcher, baker and pet shop on other days. My larder and fridge are much clearer – I know what I’ve got in there.  We’ve eaten delicious fresh fish and made all our meals from scratch. I haven’t thrown anything away either because there aren’t any stupid BOGOF offers to make you overstock your fridge.

 Two weeks in and I had a frozen pea crisis.  Luckily for me, I met Alex Renton the food culture journalist who was writing a feature about Sherborne’s protest against Tesco (shops shut down for an hour in protest, hundreds of people marching led by Valerie Singleton). The journalist, who knows his food and his shops, told me that I was allowed to shop in the local Budgens.  I had assumed this counted as a supermarket and so was avoiding it, but no, they are independently owned. So off I went and my pea crisis was over (also the looming Special K disaster was averted).

tesco 1I have no wish to go back to supermarkets now, but I suspect I will when the pressure is on, the kids need feeding and I have a hundred and one other things to do. For me there is no excuse – I can easily work my day around when the town centre shops are open. If I had to go out to work though, I don’t think I would realistically manage to get my entire weekly shop on a Saturday morning from the town. It strikes me that to encourage people that don’t work at home to shop in town centres, there should be at least one night of late night shopping per week with incentives, like tastings, street food and music and free parking to make it more enticing. Town councils and chambers of trade could do a lot more to encourage more people to shop locally. In the meantime, I will continue to support my local high street whenever I can.

Thank you Jackie! It is fantastic to see a town standing up for themselves and showing that they do not want a supermarket in their town, sadly Tescos are on their way to Faringdon. It seems that there is a real sense of community in Sherborne and as they say, ‘power to the people’!!!!

We have been touched by the number of people who have been in touch with us to say that our little blog has inspired them to go partially or completely supermarket free, it is great to know that others out there are sharing our journey and it is lovely to hear from them.

Just as a point, we do have a local Budgens, but for our project we would definitely class them as a supermarket, although they are independently owned, and as nice as it is we have not passed through their doors since 5th November. They even had a refit last year, we have no idea what the place now looks like inside as we have not even stuck our head through the door to check!!

If you want more information on either Jackie or the No Thanks Tesco campaign you can visit her website, www.cowsoncanvas.com or find them on twitter, @cowsoncanvas and @nothankstesco.

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3 thoughts on “Giving up supermarkets for Lent (a guest post)

  1. Hi Jackie, great to hear about Sherborne & your fight. I moved to Cirencester 6 years ago, it’s a beautifiul small town & we have a tescos & waitrose which has just about killed our market trade. When I was first here we didn’t even have a greengrocers, and just one really expensive butchers but now we have 2 greengrocers which are both excellent and always busy! I moved from Barnstaple which has a lovely market and the very best local produce at reasonable prices. Barnstaple has a covered market, which was built in Victorian times and is a lovely way to shop because you get no rain etc problems. But they do need later opening times, I used to finish work at 5pm and lived miles away in the middle of the country so it was impossible to get there after work. I used to quite like wandering round a supermarket after work cos it sort of unwinds you, but I would much prefer that to be in independent shops.
    Maybe we could have undercover markets like the do up north? I’m told Swindon had a beautiful old market till not long ago they knocked it down! Grrhhh!!!

  2. As a newbie supermarket free shopper (and sadly not entirely supermarket free yet) I noticed some of the same things as Jackie. Shopping at the market and smaller, independently owned, shops, is much more relaxed than shopping at the supermarket. It’s more fun, you end up with much less packaging and I even think it’s cheaper. You also get to eat healthier food, because you aren’t tempted to buy all that over processed industrial rubbish.
    This week, I spent €82.60 on my groceries (including cat food!) and that much less than I’ve been spending every week for the last couple of years. I’m writing about my (almost) supermarket free shopping in the Netherlands on my blog, “The Greedy Minimalist”. 🙂

  3. Great blog Jackie and well done on fighting in Tesco. I grew up in rural market town in south wales and miss the market. I now live in Bristol which has every supermarket under the sun but farmers markets always seem distance from me. Newport/Cardiff have fab indoor markets.I have not banned supermarkets but do use more independents now. Heard good things about budgen,s but not got any here.

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