Posts tagged ‘supermarkets’

October 25, 2013

A month without supermarkets.

Last month, I had a bit of a meltdown in the local supermarket. I’ve written before on the paradox of choice and how, sometimes, when faced with too many options, I go into some kind of paralysis. When forced into a supermarket, I often find myself wandering aimlessly round  as though drugged, then like the proverbial deer in the headlights, standing in front of an entire aisle of soup, unable to drag myself away, nor make a decision about which to buy.

And that’s precisely the reason that I’m quitting them. That, and the knowledge that half the world doesn’t have enough to eat and the other half, well, me at least, is deliberating over what seems like an endless variety of food.The balance is quite clearly off and it makes me uncomfortable. I want to have a better feeling about my food than I do now.

So. What to do? Well, I’m about to move to a new area of Leeds which has an array of small independent shops. I’ve just started getting a weekly veg box delivery again. And I’m determined to make the most of my allotment produce. All of these things add up to one answer. Stop going to the supermarket. See what other suppliers are out there; the Leeds Bread Co-op that delivers locally, the farmers’ market, Leeds City Markets, Handpicked Food Hall, and a myriad of other folk. I want to know where my meat comes from, try raw milk, eat seasonally, cook more, meet the people who produce the food that I’m buying and eating. I don’t want to be that person that I become when I’m in the supermarket, making choices like a zombie. This isn’t about me being a ‘foodie’. I don’t really understand that term anyway; surely everyone who eats is a foodie? This is about making more sustainable choices, being comfortable with what I’m eating and enjoying myself. Fewer, better options feel better for me than the vast warehouse-style supermarkets that just make me uncomfortable.

It’s also not an exercise in deprivation. I’m no Jamie Oliver with his unthinking ‘ buy ten mangetout from the market’ type comments. I appreciate that this is going to take more time and is likely to cost more money. I also know how completely fortunate I am. Believe me, if I worked awkward shifts or had a very tight budget, I would stay in the supermarket, without question. I am grateful that I can make this decision.  I’m also hopeful that perhaps I’ll waste less food, use less packaging and appreciate what I’m buying, cooking and eating a bit more.

So, my statement of intent: For the whole of November I  will make sure I don’t step foot in a supermarket. I’m very hopeful that my lovely boyfriend will join me in this challenge. I think he will. As long as we find a decent beer shop! Who am I kidding, I shall need that too. At this moment in time I can only think of one problem. I need fishfingers. So, I need a non-supermarket place to buy or a great recipe to make fish-fingers. Otherwise my lovely, incredibly fussy, four year old boy will starve. Any ideas on that?

During the month, I’m going to blog about the places I find along the way. I’m also doing the Blog Every Day in November Challenge with Rosalilium, so November is going to be a busy old month on Margot & Barbara. If this month works out well, then the plan is to keep going to the end of 2013. And then, who knows. Can we get through the whole of 2014 without Tesco? Sounds good to me…

 

Bloggers: Fancy joining in? Let me know, and we can link up. 

Readers in Leeds, are there any places I should try? I’m thinking of independent food growers, producers, shops, markets etc. Let me know! 

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November 5, 2012

The Paradox Of Choice.

I’m banned from the supermarkets these days. Not by the stores themselves, you understand, they’d be only too happy to have my time and money. It’s a self-imposed ban. Not for any  ethical reasons, although I do have plenty of those. For my sanity.

I have come to realise that I don’t cope well with too much choice. In a restaurant, I behave as though it’s my last supper every time I order, and I often struggle to choose my lunch (when I’m not using up leftovers, that is) but the time it really comes to the fore is in the supermarket.

It begins in the fruit and vegetable section. If I’m buying apples, for example, I’ll look at the variety, the condition they’re in and where they have come from. I prefer to buy UK grown fruit and vegetables, but if I’m buying from abroad, then I’ll look for a Fairtrade label.  There are pros and cons to air-freighted vegetables, so I’ll make decisions about that too. So far, so complicated. But in fact, this is now the easiest section of the supermarket for me to be in. When it comes to packaged food, I find myself looking at labels relentlessly, searching for ingredients, working out who owns the company, which type is cheaper and what looks the most appealing. It goes on and on. My husband says I go into something like shock; the proverbial deer in headlights. The last straw came when he had to drag me away from a whole wall full of tooth-pastes. I mean, why do we need so many options? Whitening, fresh breath, gum health, complete care. Do I want spearmint, fresh-mint, sensitive? Is one of those stand-up pumps better than a normal tube? Which works out cheaper? And what are blue micro-beads for anyway? There is no wonder I go into some kind of choice paralysis. Coupled with the bright lights and Christmas music in October, it’s a wonder anyone gets out alive.

These days, we order our supermarket shopping online. Using the information from the last shop, I can quickly whip through the list and, even when I change things ( I always check for special offers and cheaper deals) it’s so much less stressful in front of a laptop and away from the store. An added bonus is never having to take my small children with me. Not for them the opportunities to throw extra sweets into the trolley, destroy the magazine aisle or have a ginormous tantrum because I won’t buy them everything they want. Those days are over.

Of course, it’s not just supermarkets. The paradox of choice is everywhere – from choosing a mobile phone (uppermost in my mind, after losing mine) to a pair of jeans, and much much more. The size of the market, which is allegedly one of the greatest successes of a Western society, does not do me many favours after all.

At the moment, I’m in the throes of yet another de-cluttering of my house. This time I’m being more ruthless. I’m getting rid of lots of things that I have been keeping for sentimental reasons, despite them being hidden away and forgotten about. I’m looking for voluntary simplicity. I’d like to have far fewer things, and only buy things that I need or truly love, and keep them forever. I want things that are not trend-led but designed to last, and for my surroundings to be peaceful instead of feeling as though the house will explode if we bring one more thing into it.

It is a difficult enough thing to do with a small family for whom more is better. My son in particular is a collector and is desperate for every single engine in the Thomas Take’n’Play collection, so I will have to accommodate that to a certain extent.

Yet, the real challenge comes from within me. It is becoming easier and easier for me to get rid of things. I’m far more comfortable with that now – and I can tell that clearing out the house is doing wonders for my mind too – it’s as though as weight is lifted from them when I give away yet another bag of unwanted belongings to the charity shop. But what about when the time comes to buy something new? To replace something that is worn out and cannot be repaired? I’m not talking about the occasional luxury here (those things tend to be used up anyway, given that my favourite treats are things like a bottle of fizz or a luxurious bath oil) I’m talking about the things that I hope will last forever.

If I want to have far fewer things, then any new things that I buy need to be the very best choice there is for me. That doesn’t mean the most expensive, it means the best suited to what I want and need. I already prefer to have fewer clothes that are well-made than lots of cheaper clothes, so it’s just spreading that to other areas of my life and making the best choices about the things I want in my life. But given that I cannot even choose a tube of toothpaste without assistance, that might be something of a challenge…