Now that 9YO has provided her summary of our Lent challenge, I really ought to provide my own. So here goes:
First of all, the money. Did we spend more or less by avoiding supermarkets? I’m not very good at keeping track of my finances at the best of times, but thankfully Husband is a lot better than me, and he’s been keeping a running total, which I’ve just added up now. Over the 6 weeks of Lent our non-supermarket shopping has amounted to… (drum roll) £608.58. Divide this by 6 to give a weekly amount and then multiply it by 4, to give a like-for-like comparison to the 4 weeks of February, and it comes to £405.72. By comparison, as I noted at the start of Lent, we spent £400 in Sainsburys in February.
So going supermarket-free for six weeks hasn’t saved us any money at all (no surprise there, the supermarket fans will no doubt say). But it hasn’t cost us a dramatic amount more either – in fact the similarity between our supermarket and non-supermarket monthly totals would suggest that it’s perfectly possible to keep to your monthly food budget without using supermarkets.
However, behind the ‘headline figures’ there have been some big differences over the last six weeks. We’ve shopped almost daily, walking down to the local off-licence for milk and basic groceries (and occasionally a bottle of wine, admittedly!). We’ve had fewer biscuits and snack foods, and haven’t had our usual brands. And – this is the thing that surprised me most – our consumption of dairy produce has been a fraction of what it normally is. A typical weekly supermarket shop for me would include: milk, 2 different types of butter or spread, large pot of natural yoghurt, small ‘petits filous’ type yoghurts for the kids’ lunchboxes, cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, soft cheese, and more often than not, ice-cream. Over Lent, this has been more like: milk, margarine, block of cheese. In fact, with the amount of dairy we HAVEN’T consumed over Lent, our final total really should have been a lot less than February, which probably suggests that overall, shopping without supermarkets is actually more expensive.
I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to buy our usual range of dairy produce outside of supermarkets, and until we started this challenge, I had never really realised how much dairy produce we were actually eating. Whether this is good for us or not, I don’t know – or what this indicates about the relationship between supermarkets and the dairy industry. It suggests they are pretty closely tied up, if it’s virtually impossible to get anything other than milk and basic cheese without going to a supermarket. However, in the last couple of weeks we’ve started getting milk and orange juice delivered by a local milkman, which I’m very pleased about (even if 9YO is convinced that milk left outdoors at 5am will go bad, and is refusing to touch it!).
As 9YO pointed out last week, we have admittedly… cheated/ wavered slightly by going to the Co-op. Originally we came to the conclusion that if the Co-op didn’t count as a supermarket because of its member-owned status, then you could apply the same logic to Waitrose. A supermarket-free challenge but still going to Waitrose isn’t really much of a challenge at all, so we decided originally to avoid both, but Husband has been to the Co-op a few times over Lent, because it’s close to the petrol station. Is this cheating? Let me know what you think! I’m trying to justify it on the basis that with all the trouble the Co-op group seem to be in at the moment, we’re just doing our bit to try and rescue a failing business!
To summarise the last six weeks then: On the downside, it’s been time consuming, I’ve been ripped off at least once, it’s been slightly more expensive and we’ve – arguably – cheated. On the plus side, going to farmers markets has been fun, and provided REALLY tasty food, we’ve got to know the staff in our local shops, we’ve started getting milk delivered and have eaten a lot less junk. And the priceless moment in Out of This World, where 3YO dragged Husband up to the shop assistant, shouting “Dad, Dad, this is the nice lady!” will live long in the memories of all concerned.
However, I’d better stop here, as Husband has just walked in with a bag of shopping from Sainsburys, which I need to unpack…