A greengrocers, a farm shop and a community shop – some thoughts on shopping!

Lunch at Abbey Home Farm

Lunch at Abbey Home Farm

Last week we didn’t do much shopping at all which has left us with not a lot of food. Well….. This is not strictly true as we have been given a huge bag of lettuce, spinach and beans by Grandad Gray. We also still have some cheese from the huge block we bought a few weeks back. We also have eggs a plenty and….. Loads of meat in the freezer. We can’t remember if we told you all about Derek mark two? The pantry also has lots as does the ingredients cupboard but….. we somehow felt foodless. Ridiculous when in terms of living below the line we are food rich. Perhaps even a little shameful when we take a look back and realise when we said we had no food we actually meant we didn’t have the food we wanted to eat.

shop 6So off we went to shops. Shop done and a sense of guilt sets in concerning the above paragraph and actually to write it we feel quite sad. If we actually really practised what we preached ie less is more, only buy what you need etc we could have most definitely fed ourselves for a little longer before we pranced off to market. Truth is we are humans, we like eating and we like shopping.

What are we talking about? This isn’t an experiment in being miserable and we haven’t broken any of our rules but……. Becksie is currently reading a book that promises it will ‘change the way we shop, cook and eat forever’!!!!!!!!!!!!

It doesn’t lie.

Oh very dear. Now Becksie doesn’t read at ET speed but a full review is coming just as soon as she’s finished the book.

shop 1All this aside and we were thrilled with our greengrocers haul. Then it was off to the organic farm shop where Aunty Janet treated us to a lovely lunch and we got a few bits. shop 4Then it was back to Mammar and Grandad Gray’s and a much over due visit to their community shop.

Coln Community Shop

Coln Community Shop

It was in this community shop that we had a great time and got a few now rare bits of shopping for us. We purchased some products! Well we are being harsh on ourselves when we say products we don’t exactly mean a horsemeat ready meal we mean:

shop 7Marmite – we haven’t had any for ages and we missed it.

Golden syrup – we’ve blogged about its delights before and we’ve also found it much more expensive out of the supermarket but here it was at £1.40 so the cheapest we’ve found it outside of the supermarket.

Brown sauce – Becksie loves brown sauce and has been craving it for a while.

Weetabix – a story here; it was priced differently on the shelf to the till so we ended paying more than we bargained for and despite a feeble effort we felt bad arguing our consumer rights in a community shop (more in a mo).

Garlic purée – this is a VERY lazy product but it has a nice flavour and Becksie has always been a fan. We’ve never seen it out of the supermarket so we were excited to purchase some.shop 5

So total shop weighs in at £42.88. Still under budget. Still no rules broken but somehow we feel confused, we even feel sad.

This experiment has saved us money – Fact! This experiment has made us eat better and lose weight – Fact! This experiment has been been fun and exciting – Fact! But this experiment has also been hugely confusing – Fact! Our shopping and eating ethics have been developed and as we are now looking towards the end of this project we feel like its time to start planning our summing up speech.

So many questions! Has this been a waste of time if after 8 months we still want to buy food even though we have loads in? Has this experiment been a waste of time if we get excited to go into a ‘good’ shopping place and purchase ‘products’? Who knows?

Now we said we’d mention the price of the weetabix more – the shelf price said £2.19 for 24! Now we know in the supermarket you can probably buy 48 weetabix (or equivalent) for less money but we have come to expect to pay more for products and this is why we buy less. So £2.19 seemed a good price. When they went through the tills they rang in at £3.20 – we mentioned this to the volunteer shop assistant who…… gave us some half arsed answer about ‘price marking’. We tried to explain politely our consumer rights and received a blank face and a repeat response. Had this been us a year ago in Sainsburys we are 100% sure we would have kicked off. However, in this lovely, well stocked community shop that residents had raised thousands to set up and to someone who we could see has NO idea what the answer or correct procedure was we somehow felt we should just take the pound loss. This has however left a VERY bitter pill our mouths. You see the problem or maybe the success of this project is it has changed us. Changed who we are and what we believe and therefore how we behave. This is fantastic but its also a little scary to be shocked by ones own actions. We are free from the supermarket and have become new versions of ourselves. But where does this leave us?

Who are we?

How should we shop?

What should we eat?

Lets hope the remaining tine until the end of this experiment, and quite possibly this blog can help us work it out.

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14 thoughts on “A greengrocers, a farm shop and a community shop – some thoughts on shopping!

  1. mmm…very thought provoking Becksie but I know what you mean. I experimented with WW2 rations and in a similar way it completely changed my relationship with food. I guess anything that makes you stop and think is good. It is great that I know that I can survive on a lot less food than I thought was possible. I feel guilty if I waste food, that’s not a bad thing either. But I do remind myself that I don’t have to, it is my choice and I will I hope avoid being obsessive about it….I know I’m not going to be as wine often(more often than not) finds its way into my recipes. so I will settle for reusing my teabags but wine in the spagbol is not negotiable!….sure you will find your own way Becksie…ie no rules but your rules!

  2. Indeed a challenging posting! I wonder which book it is you are reading? May I suggest you see if you can borrow a copy of “We want real food” by Graham Harvey. I was loaned a copy at just about the same time you started this blog and together you have changed the way I think about what I buy and eat. I go through similar conflict though, I cannot afford or always obtain the kind of food I have come to believe we should be buying. Although buying at the local market supports local traders the fruit and veg they sell still comes from the same sources as the big supermarkets and the farmer’s market isn’t frequent enough. I shall be interested to hear the results of your considerations.

  3. Ive quickly skimmed this post (its late and I really shoudl be in my bed), one thing stands out for me tho and that is that you shouldnt have to accept a poor standard of service wherever you shop and just because you are helping the local economy it doesnt mean your rights should be any less. I might come back to this later, night night.

    • Well the poor service means we probably won’t be going back, which is a shame, still we were happy with the items we bought despite the overcharging on a few!

  4. As a community shop volunteer myself I’m disappointed with the reaction to the difference in pricing. The volunteer should have either a) accepted that the pricing was wrong and charged you the price it was displayed on the shelf at or b) called on a manager to sort this out. You are quite right in that if it’s advertised at a certain price then you can buy it at that! Sloppy management! Don’t feel bad about arguing and don’t accept the brush off you clearly got!

    You are doing well – yes, it’s changed you but for the better I’m sure! Stick with it!

    • This one made me go and double check because as a long time retailer I was pretty certain that by law you do not have to sell an item at the displayed price if a genuine pricing mistake has occurred…(according to Citizens Advice website this is in fact the case)…..however as a former shopkeeper my own policy would always be to send a customer away happy, especially for the sake of a pound….as we can see by this event, just one unhappy customer can lose you a huge amount of business and be very damaging. I can understand Becksies dilemma because this isn’t a profit making venture or a paid member of staff, the young lady in question has presumably given up her time to help her local community. It would seem that staff training and management are at fault here. I would have thought a politely worded letter to the shop management would be a positive solution to help them operate in a more professional manner, I would certainly welcome any feedback from a customer who had a less than perfect experience and Im sure they would really appreciate it too… a “customer feedback” form or book in the shop would help them identify very quickly any problems with procedures or volunteer attitudes!

  5. I don’t think you need to feel this past year has been a waste of time at all. I think what’s happened is that the goal posts have moved. I haven’t followed from the beginning, but from the older posts I’ve read, I think your starting goal was to support local shops and keep towns with a sense of community and this automatically reduces the amount of processed food you (can) buy.
    Talking to producers, the Living below the Line week, books that you’ve now read and us lot throwing in our two penn’orth now means that you’re examining the ethics of food and your motives for buying it, the industrial food system, the developed world’s attitude to farming and food production- the whole caboodle! That’s brilliant, but it’s different from your starting goal and doesn’t take away from your achievements. It’s just more than you initially bargained for.

    In the developed world we don’t expect to eat the same food over and over again. As affluence increased over the last century this was exacerbated. Good housewives didn’t serve the same meal day after day- your husband and family deserved better and although using leftovers was a Good Thing, they should be disguised (curried, devilled, fricasseed, etc) whenever possible. It came up when you were Living below the Line- if you’re that poor in the developing world gari fufu or rice and dahl is all there is available. You COULD eat egg salad day after day in England in June, but none of us expect you too! And if giving in to temptation is a jar of Marmite and a bottle of brown sauce, I think you should be proud of yourselves. And realise you can only change one thing at a time, otherwise you beat yourself up and feel like a failure…

    And on book recommendations, can I suggest Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal? It’s not about food ethics particularly, except in encouraging people to buy well (but not necessarily the most expensive food) and then using every little bit of it. It’s not a cookbook as much as a book about cooking. She uses quite flowery language, which I was worried would annoy me but it didn’t bother me in the end. It’s very Californian, so lots of Parmesan and olive oil, but that’s not a bad thing in my opinion! Also lots of poached and fried eggs…Her way of cooking suits me and I loved it.

    • We actually started the blog initially as a way to save money and document Lizzie’s first year, so those goal posts haven’t changed/ What has happened is that we have learnt a lot and as they say knowledge is power!

  6. Maybe you’re questioning your results because it’s actually been easier then you initially thought? From what I’ve read, you’ve consistently spent less money than you’ve allocated yourselves, which is very impressive considering how much food prices have risen. You’ve also managed to live on half your allocated amount, and below the breadline. You’ve gone from cleaning products, etc, being excluded from your budget to being included and still had money to spare.

    Does that mean you feel that the challenge you set yourselves initially wasn’t challenging enough? I think it was, I think you’ve also proven that when given the incentive (and a little time) you have managed to be inventive, resourceful and learnt more about food and your relationship with it, than most of us get chance to do. You’ve also been educating the rest of us along the way. So what if you’re excited about marmite – ex-pats are exactly the same about certain foods they can only get back in the UK, even if they have access to the best foods in the world. And bad service is bad service, whether it’s from a volunteer or paid employee (I should know, I work with lots of volunteers and some of them make my hair stand on end with their lack of people skills).

    Don’t beat yourselves up, you’re doing a grand job. 🙂

    • Thank you for your lovely comment – you have summed this up really well – it was indeed meant to be a really hard challenge but the actual none supermarket part is ironically the easiest part 🙂

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