So, we’re 12 days into November and I thought I’d give you a bit of an update about how we’re getting on without supermarkets. We’ve had some notable successes and failures over the past few days, which have provided us with much food for thought (no pun intended!) and set us on course for what comes next.
Here’s what I’ve learnt:
- Organisation is key to living without supermarkets. On the couple of occasions that we’ve failed, it’s because of a lack of organisation. Mostly discovering that we’ve run out of milk. Next plan – freeze some milk. Supermarkets are often the only place open on the occasions when you discover that you’ve run out of something vital, and sadly we don’t have a local corner shop that would fill the need for somewhere at short notice, or late at night.
- Vegetable boxes are great; we’ve really enjoyed using ours. BUT – in order to make the most of them, we’ve needed to be pretty organised. Eating the vegetables in some kind of order of their longevity, rather than leaving the salad until it’s a wilting, soggy mess is important, and has helped us minimise waste.
- To make sure that you can cook genuinely great food from a veg box, you need a decent stock of the other stuff – herbs, spices, carbohydrates, dairy, protein. In short, everything else. Otherwise you find yourself going “Oh, we’ve got a great squash in the veg box, we could make curry/risotto/soup”, only to discover that you lack everything but squash…
- Also, getting a veg box rather turns food planning on its head a bit. Often, we might decide to cook something because we’ve seen a recipe or have a hunger for a particular thing. Getting a veg box means that you cook with what you’re sent, not with what you’ve decided to buy from the supermarket. With Abel and Cole, we’re able to see a few days in advance what we’re getting, which means the cookbooks come out, and I have a lovely time planning what to do with what we’re having delivered.
- Because part of our hope for this project was to reduce waste, we’re making a lot more use of the freezer too; we’ve made breadcrumbs from stale bread, cooked in bulk, and frozen bananas to make smoothies.
- There’s a lot less packaging waste from this kind of shopping, simply because there’s a heck of a lot less plastic. It wasn’t part of the original plan, but it’s now something we’re actively seeking to do.
- We will never be able to do a one-stop-shop at anywhere but a supermarket – not even the central market in Leeds, which is wonderful, stocks everything we’d like. I think we’ve pretty much accepted this, and decided that because the time spent on food shopping in local shops or markets is a joy, rather than a chore, that helps to make up for it taking more time.
- Having said that, time is precious and short supply here. So, if you’re as busy as us, I recommend that once you’ve found your perfect butcher/baker/cheesemonger, it’s a good idea to stick with them and build some kind of routine, in order to reduce the amount of time you spend on food shopping, even though it is fun! A great case in point is the Leeds Bread Co-op . We’ve just signed up to a regular order, that we will collect every Wednesday, hopefully it will help us stay a bit more organised (see point one!) and the bread is splendid.
Overall, the whole project is going really well. It’s making us appreciate our food more, think about what we’re buying and how we’re cooking it. We’re wasting less food, using less plastic, and really enjoying ourselves in the process. We’ll be continuing with this beyond the month of November, that’s for sure. And even if we do end up buying last-minute milk from a supermarket, if the overwhelming majority of our food comes from elsewhere, then I think we’ll still consider this to be a great success…