Back to Basics and Thursday Night Tea

basic 2Today it is time to get back to basics. We started this project to save ourselves money. We started this project to see if it was possible. Somewhere along the way we started to care hugely about trying to support our local economy. In trying to do so we got a huge sense of being in a community. We learnt that local shopping matters for so many and on so very many levels.

Just the other day Lizzie and Becksie were shopping in a local shop when a fellow customer said to the lovely shop keeper that that shop was literally keeping her elderly parents alive. The conversation was a beautiful exchange and a) made Becksie’s eyes well up and b) with a bump and a start made her realise a new how our local shop keepers are providing a lifeline service for many on many levels. What if we don’t use them and by the time we are old the lifeline has gone? The human contact given by local shops really is part of the life blood of communities. As usual we add a sentence or so about the fact that we recognise that supermarkets also offer this contact to many and that they do great things (don’t worry we’re not about to announce a trip to Tesco). But…….. We still believe the smaller guys to be where the real magic happens.

basic 3We have found a real sense of delight in being known to our market and shop keeper friends that often just reminds us that life is good. When at the market the other day the fruit and veg guy came over and said ‘blood oranges over there I know you like them’ Becksie’s heart swelled as that (although a tiny thing) made her feel valued.

Feeling like the person selling you your food gives a stuff about it is really important – to them its not just a commodity, a disposal thing, each item is of great importance! And they know all to well that food is a privilege and not just a commodity.

Sorry to get a bit deep but we’ve really been reminded of the importance of this lately. The added bonus is that we are still saving money. We have got slacker with our weekly shop posts but we needed a rest from this feature’s regularity and it felt like we’d run out of things to say. But……we are still saving money and yes we still think this is a great thing to do. We guess we also ran out of steam to answer the same emails / comments which said ‘you don’t seem to buy enough food’ ‘how can this be cheaper’ ‘it’s not cheaper for me’.

This weeks shop £47.88

This weeks shop £47.88

We guess compared to many we don’t buy much but live below the line proved a little can go a very long way. A chicken can feed us for many a meal. We buy what we need and delight in making it stretch. Delight in being creative and really caring about each and every mouthful. We see food no longer as our right but as a privilege for which we are grateful every day. Knowing those who sell it to us feel the same is worth the odd price rise and made up for in the savings to be had in our new way of shopping.

Ironically our new way of shopping is extremely old fashioned and we conclude those who have gone before us are older and wiser.

As you know we been trying to get a feel for the impact of our year without supermarkets. Every time we get ready to post the results another reply comes in – its unbelievable to see the results and without repeating ourselves we’d like to put another call out to fill in this form if your shopping has changed as a consequence of reading our journey. Then we will reveal how much of an impact this has had.

We’d also like (whilst we are mid rant / slightly gushy post) to say another huge thank you for reading what we write and getting in touch (even the you don’t buy enough food emailers hehe) it means a lot. We also promise to get organised and document a ‘how we use a week’s shopping post’. We know people request this a lot but we always forget to do it until midweek and then having a young family (washing, cleaning etc) get in the way.

basic 1Talking of eeking out a chicken, tonight’s Thursday night tea was leftover chicken, leek and ham pie, homemade chips and Vegetables (with loads of gravy). The pie was made from Sunday’s leftover roast for Tuesday night’s tea (we were joined by Gannie and Poppa) and so technically tonight’s tea was leftover leftovers! basic 6

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Impact Scale

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Just wondering……….

As we’ve said a million times this experiment changed our lives for the better. On us it has had a huge impact in many respects. We also hope that our actions have had an impact on our local economy. Even a few months after the end of our official year it’s so exciting to receive so many emails, tweets and facebook messages from our lovely readers who have decided to go supermarket free (either totally or just a few elements) as a result of being inspired by our journey. It is extremely humbling to hear your stories and experiences and we thought how interesting it would be to put a figure on the wider implications of our very personal journey.

 Obviously this is probably completely flawed but bear with us. We thought if we had a list of people, what they’d done and the amount of money they used to spend in supermarket and for how long they had moved this money elsewhere we could……… do some sums!

This weeks shop

This weeks shop

impact 4

This is for no reason other than interest but we also thought you too might be interested to see the figures as well.

So if in any way our actions have changed your shopping actions please fill in the below form and ……. watch this space.impact 2

One of our lovely followers who has done a bit of the old ‘life without supermarkets’ is the lovely Heather. We were really excited to hear about her experience and we thought you would be too. We haven’t had a guest blog for ages so with a rather excited cheer…….Heather…… It’s over to you.heather

Hi, I’m Heather and I live with my husband Neil and our 2 boys aged 9 and nearly 7. We / I decided to have a month of being Supermarket Free for January 2014. It was very difficult to know in the beginning as to whether this would be a success or not. For me I want to make better ethical choices about shopping, for Neil it’s the cold hard facts of saving money. He was also very anxious about the number of Nectar Points he was going to miss out on (we’re Sainsbury’s shoppers).

To start off with we entered January with a lot of food from the Christmas period so we didn’t have to buy much, which is helpful. Although we’ve historically always spent a lot of money on food, we don’t waste any and will always use up everything we have.

Our first big food shop came and it was tipping it down with rain! To make our lives easier we left the boys with their grandparents for a couple of hours and embarked on the shopping ourselves. We had some interesting experiences, like discovering a gorgeous parmesan cheese in an independent Italian Deli and chatting with market stall holders in Watford Market. Another plus was the whole thing only took 1 hour and 15 minutes even though we’d been to 4 shops and the market. That certainly was surprising! However all in all it was a mission as we had to carry bags of heavy food through the driving rain back to the car.

As January went on I discovered a large ish Asian grocery store in North Watford that I have used for a top up shop most weeks. Their fruit and veg is unbelievably good value and they sell all sorts of interesting Asian foods which we love in our house.  Then every Saturday I have completed the bulk of the food shopping at Watford Market. They have a great Fruit & Veg stall, a butchers, a small deli counter and an “ingredients” stall which sells all kinds of nuts, seeds, oats, spices and so on.

We have a weekly veg box delivered from Abel and Cole www.abelandcole.co.uk and we have daily milk delivered by the milkman, we’ve been doing that for about 9 years or so.

Toiletries, and tinned or dry goods have come from B&M Bargains, Wilkinsons or Superdrug. We had to allow those as there isn’t anywhere else. I have had cleaning products delivered from www.ethicalsuperstore.com and I checked out other online food retailers as well such as Approved Food.

The main points which I’ve had to adapt to is: meal planning and making more from scratch. Now, I’m a meticulous planner with food and I love making things from scratch. However I had to make sure I had a concrete plan as to what we were all going to eat each week and where that was going to come from.  I’ve also created a new routine of cooking up a batch of soup every Sunday to last me the week for lunches. Previously I would go to Waitrose near my work and buy their ready-made chilled soups. I’ve also been home making bread (I was given a bread maker) and pesto sauces for pasta. Again things I’ve made before but only as one offs, not a regular event.

There’s only been a couple of down sides to not shopping in supermarkets. One is that the boys missed a couple of food items that they love but I just couldn’t source from anywhere else. Also the carrying of the food – it’s heavy and occasionally needed multiple trips back to the car when I was shopping alone. One other point is it’s hard to be caught on the hop. If the boys suddenly fancy something for dinner or as a snack it’s not usually available and they have to wait until I go shopping. Also if we have a friend back from school for tea that’s unplanned then it sends me into all sorts of panic!

CONCLUSION:

Neil really wasn’t on board with this process in the beginning but these facts speak for themselves: In January 2012 we spent £592.75 in supermarkets and Abel & Cole. In January 2013 we spent £577.42 in the same supermarkets and Abel & Cole. In January 2014 we spent: £316.63 in no supermarkets and Abel & Cole. WOW!!!

We have now decided that we’ll continue in the same way with shopping. Most of our food is bought at the Market and other independent stores around Watford. However if we really need something that can’t be bought elsewhere then we are allowing a bit of Sainsbury’s shopping. For example this weekend we spent £27 in Watford Market and £8 in Sainsbury’s and I think we can live with that.

A little Challenge?

shop local 2Well that’s it folks, Christmas has been and gone and we are now in those weird few days between Christmas and New Year. Presents have been played with, admired and are starting to make their way to their new homes. Lizzie is pleased to be home and play with her ‘titchen’ and Becksie and Ian are cooking up some ideas for new blog mini series. And……. as soon as this blog post is done and dusted we are planning to watch television for the first time in a month.

That’s right we did it, we managed (over) a month without television and it really wasn’t all that painful, it has really got us thinking and we will post our thoughts about it very soon.shop local 4

Yesterday was an exciting old day as we made page 3 of  The Daily Mail. Ian was looking very dapper, Lizzie looks very beautiful and Becksie (whilst looking very Daily Mail) didn’t really look like herself – oh well. Of course there have been many comments on the story (some not so nice), mostly about the shopping lists not being comparable, Becksie having annoying hair and looking 39 eeeekk and double grrrrr) – it would seem that people have forgot to factor in that the pictures and list were an example shops – oh very dear. Today Becksie also did an interview with Larry Lamb for LBC radio, he was jolly nice and seemed very positive about finding alternative shopping methods and the interview seemed to spark a good debate. Anyway we figure if your reading this you get where we are coming and can see the merits of local shopping.

Which bring us to the point of the post……….

As we said its nearly New Year and what happens at New Year? Of course we all make New Year’s resolutions. Last year we decided to get more organised and we think on the whole we have succeed. We are spending some time thinking up our resolutions for next year and thought that you might also be doing the same.

shop local

Well…….. we have a suggestion, why not make a pledge to make 2014  the year of local shopping. We know that our challenge is perhaps the extreme and some of you have said it would be impossible where you live, however (again) if you are reading this you probably are already doing this at least a little and certainly care about local shops, so why not get involved (even in a small way), for example challenging yourselves to only buy meat from the butchers?

You could also pop over to the Shop Local website to pledge your support for what we think is a brilliant and worthwhile campaign. Who knows you might even get information about campaigns and events and……top tips on how to make this local shopping lark work for you.

We’d also like to put a little appeal out…………………….we would love to feature some guest blogs from readers who are either currently local shopping or take it up as part of a New Year’s resolution – please do contact us!

And if we don’t see you before, Happy New Year!!

#ShopLocalSaturday

supporting-sls-thumb1The 7th December is a very very special day! It’s a Saturday, it’s festive and…… it’s #ShopLocalSaturday! What’s that we hear you cry……well…..it’s pretty much what it says on the tin. Its a special day (namely a Saturday) where nationwide people will be trying to shop locally! What a great idea – Team Pugh love local shopping and Saturdays so it would seem that #ShopLocalSaturday is right up our high-street!

where's 7

As you know we are going to be doing a daily advent blog and of course they will be a surprise but…..we wanted to give you advance warning of our challenge / activity for 7th so……. you could join in too! On #ShopLocalSaturday we pledge to try to buy 5 Christmas gifts from the local shops in our lovely little home town Faringdon (apparently one of the top ten towns in the UK to bring up small people – result)! So….. fancy joining us? Please do, after all if we don’t use them we’ll lose them and in our experience local shopping saves us money. We know for some folk its not possible etc etc but if it is and you’d like to try and do what we’re doing we’d be mighty pleased!

Here is a link to the #ShopLocalSaturday website and twitter account. You can even print off these fun posters and get people to pose for silly photos! We’re thinking this could be a bit of fun to get our local shop keepers in a good mood!supporting-sls-thumb1

In other news here is this week’s non-supermarket shopping, a total of £35.70! Included in that were some bits and pieces from the deli and some meat but……we forgot to photograph it and were too lazy to get it back out of the cupboards again but it was some beautiful wild rice, 2 blocks of butter (we have bakes to make for WI) and some yogurt covered nuts! Yummy!shopping 4

shopping 3

 

shopping 2

shopping 1Oh and…… hows the no TV challenge going? Easy so far although it hasn’t made us go to bed any earlier.

 

 

A Little Update

update 6Well it’s nearly been a week and already we miss blogging but it is also nice to not have the (self-created pressure) of daily blogs! Firstly we must say a HUGE thank you to everyone who sent us such lovely comments and emails. We were truly overwhelmed by your kindness and so touched by people saying they would miss our daily blogs. We are also thrilled that after reading what we consider our ramblings some folk have changed their shopping habits or also gone supermarket free! Wow! This gives us (and hopefully you) hope that you really can change the world from your living room!!

update 5So what have we been up to? Have we been to a supermarket? Well…… We’ve been up to lots and…. no we haven’t been to a supermarket. We seem to have had a busy week and already we are unsure how for a whole year we managed to blog every single day! So what have we been busy doing? update 7Becksie has been sewing and out and about doing her voluntary work and WI bits and pieces and of course looking after the smallest member of our team. Ian has had another busy week at work and Lizzie has been super busy being uber cute and amazing!update 4

Whats really interesting is that Becksie who usually LOVES cooking has found it hard work this week – perhaps she is taking the blogging rest to include cooking! Despite that we have eaten lots of tasty meals which as requested by some readers we will list in a moment. We are amazed that people are interested in what we have for tea as we would imagine this to be uninteresting but…… here goes  – sausage and mash with cabbage, carrots and sweetcorn, homemade leek and potato soup and homemade focaccia, , homemade meatballs (using some of Jane from Dews Meadow farm awesome pork and apple burgers) in an italian sauce (using our tomato sauce) with rice, fishcake and homemade chips and Lizzie’s favourite peeeeeeeeeereeaaasssss (always shouted) and last night a quick lamb tagine type thingy ma bob with spinach and sweetcorn rice. Tonight’s tea cooked by Ian…….. beans on toast!

update 9Our shopping was done at Faringdon farmers market and the lovely Hare in the Woods deli. We did allow ourselves a trip to a local bargain shop where we bought beans and a few other tins and….., a box of Rice Krispies – to make….. Krispie cakes!!! update 10Can not wait to do this! It was odd shopping there but we feel it still isn’t a supermarket and as we keep telling ourselves we have finished our year after all. So a total spend of £34.98 – don’t worry we had plenty of vegetables in stock already so have not gone vitamin deficient hehe.

update 3We had a little article in the Oxford Mail yesterday which is exciting – we had a call to say the photographer was coming within the hour so we had to do an emergency tidy (you know ram stuff in cupboards type tidy) and at the last second change Lizzie out of the PJ and tutu combo she had been wearing since playing ballet with mummy in her bedroom. And then today a lovely lady called Katie knocked on the door to tell us we were on P33 of The Times! To say we were excited was an understatement – double triple eekk! We feel really proud of this achievement along with our features in other papers and of course on Radio 4 – all we need now is an interview on the Jeremy Vine show (this is Becksie’s dream – she loves Mr. Vine).update 8

We have been thinking about whats next for us and so far nothing has struck as a ‘good’ idea (this is a dangerous time – we could decide on anything hehe) so we will for a while longer rest (our version of resting). We are hoping to share some recipes soon and perhaps a few more thoughtful thoughts so stay tuned and thank you once again for your support.