A supermarket free Lent: the first few days…

So Lent started on Wednesday, and I’m proud to report the family haven’t set foot inside a supermarket for over a week.  Given that we have a well stocked freezer, and I only do one weekly supermarket shop, this hasn’t been too difficult so far.  I phoned our organic veg box people on Monday morning, and added some more carrots, potatoes, apples and bananas to our regular order, and we’ve popped to the corner shop for milk on a couple of occasions.  So far so simple.

Today – Saturday morning and shelves looking a bit empty – it felt like the challenge was starting in earnest.  I dropped 9YO off at her music lesson and headed off with a shopping list and a resolve to avoid Sainsbury’s.  First stop was the tiny ‘Bahi’ supermarket down a side street in between Aldi and Waitrose. Husband and I have convinced ourselves that this doesn’t count, as despite calling itself a supermarket, it’s clearly an indpendent business. I’ve never actually been inside, despite living within walking distance for nearly a decade.  But it’s reasonably well stocked, and I pick up our normal brand of bread (Warburtons toastie loaf, can’t beat it!), milk, pasta, a 4 pack of Heinz tinned spaghetti (3YO’s favourite lunch), tuna and ketchup.  Compared to a bigger supermarket, it feels very spartan.  I’m conscious that while there’s a good range of products, there’s only one or two of everything; when I pick up the spaghetti I’m aware of the empty shelf behind it.  Does this matter? Not really, I suppose.  But I don’t feel tempted to buy anything other than what I came in for, which is different to bigger supermarkets where the sheer quantity of everything almost seduces you into loading up your trolley.  Even so, the man behind the counter does the tiniest double-take when he sees my full basket.  He’s very chatty – not surprising given the absence of any other customers – and I get the feeling that he’s really pleased to have someone to talk to.

Then it’s on to our local butcher, who I’ve mentioned before.  In addition to our usual meat (chicken fillets, sausages, pork chops) I spend a lot more than usual on the cold counter.  2 boxes of eggs, some sliced ham (if I was going to Sainsburys I’d get salami to go on the pizza I’m making tomorrow night.  Butcher doesn’t sell salami – “no call for it round here” – but he assures me the ham will be lovely on a pizza), a block of cheese and 2 tins of tomatoes.

In total I’ve spent just under £39 on this haul.  As a comparison, if I’d bought the same items at Sainsbury’s, I calculate I would have spent about £36.  But in reality my weekly Saturday morning shop at Sainsburys is always more in the region of £55-60, because I buy a lot of other stuff too – things like extra (imported, out of season) vegetables which I know the kids will like, yoghurts for their packed lunches ( I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to give them as an alternative, must check out if any other local shops do yoghurts, or see if there is a local milkman??). So on the one hand, I’ve saved by only buying what I need, but on the other hand some of it has cost more because I’ve not had the option of the Sainsbury’s Basics range, and I’m also going to need to do more shopping soon. To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve saved any money or not. But I feel good that I’ve spent it in local shops, and that hopefully I’ve contributed to a good day’s takings for a couple of friendly local traders who are trying to stay afloat in tough times. For week 1, that’s enough to be going on with.



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