All these shots are of Pangbourne shops.
Our BIG Challenge for 2012 is saying "NO thank you" to the supermarkets and "Hello" to the High Street and small retailer. We will not shop on a weekly basis anymore at the big supermarkets (or their little branches or cousins for that matter). We will NOT shop on a monthly basis at them either, we will shop at them only if there is absolutely no other means of obtaining what we need.
Earlier this month I asked my readers for their opinion on Marks and Spencer, was it a High Street shop or a supermarket, I was half hoping it would be a high street shop, and indeed as an ex -high street shop manager we were indoctrinated that they were 'one of us', but if you Google 'supermarkets' guess who now pops up half way down the list. So it are now included in our list of shops not to frequent for food.
Last week after signing the lease on our new home for the next three years, we took a drive to the High Street (and yes it is called that). Luckily our nearest town is Pangbourne, in Berkshire, and guess what ...... it has virtually every shop we may need over the next year.
A butcher, a baker (not quite a candlestick maker but a couple of gift shops that do sell them!), a greengrocers, a health food shop, a couple of banks, a Post Office, two hairdressers, a large pub that serves meals, a chip shop, a pizza shop, a pet supplies shop, a couple of charity shops (woo hoo) and even dentists, doctors and a couple of coffee shops. It does have a supermarket, a nice neat little Co-op, which is actually one of the good guys in the supermarket world, with lots of Fair Trade products and it acts ethically too, especially with it's money, but we won't be using this on a regular basis for this year at least. All this and a village hall that has a Craft Market once a week and a Producers Market once a month.
Just how lucky can we get, this is a lost commodity in many villages and small towns and one that we will be supporting on every step of our journey. These are nearly all shops that I see us frequenting over the next few years.
We have both been brought up in a completely supermarket obsessed age, so we are not being as short sighted as to completely ban ourselves from entering them if we really have to. In case of a real need I have given us six Jokers to play over the course of the year, of course I hope we don't have to but sometimes there may be no choice and rather than fall at the first hurdle it would be more satisfying to have an ace up my sleeve (or in this case a Joker).
Each time we have to visit a supermarket to shop (for whatever reason) we will play a Joker, we have given ourselves only six and really hope that we still have at least some of them left at the end of the year.
The reasons for doing this Challenge are many -
1. To take away our perceived dependence on the supermarkets.
2. To support local businesses, small producers and suppliers. To try to help them stay in business, what will the country be like when the supermarkts have total control of all our food. It's not as far in the future as you think, once they have control they will be able to dictate the prices we pay for everything.
3. To stop us wasting money on things we don't really need .... 'Buy 2 Get 1 Free' is tempting, too tempting at times, but it lightens your purse and overfills your cupboards. And since I found out that it is the supplier NOT the supermarket that pays for this 'offer' it has not looked nearly so appealing.
4. To encourage us to think even wider about what we can grow to feed ourselves, and to make better use of all the things we do grow.
5. To satisfy my soul....... who can resist a greengrocers display of fresh organic seasonal produce, true they try to replicate it in the supermarkets with their row upon row of perfect, blemish free, same sized tasteless mass produced, picked too early fruits and veggies flown from all around the world. Lovely to look at in the supermarket with the high stacks and bright lights but how disappointing when you get them home and eat them, hence the snacking later, our bodies need nutrients and flavour to be healthy, and these foods just don't supply them.
How much better to find we have a gap in our produce say of a cucumber, go to the greengrocers or Farmers Market find an local English grown freshly picked one and still enjoy the flavour I could have grown myself. And even better get home with just the makings of the meal I want and not have to find room for 24 toilet rolls that I didn't want or need but bought because they were 'just too good a bargain' to miss.
Yes we will be looking for bargains when we shop but NOT at the expense of the grower/producer/manufacturer. We are looking to 'jump off the consumer bandwagon' with a satisfying thud, become more aware of what we need, what we want and how we get it. It may take us all year to get used to this or it may come naturally..... I'll let you know.
We have cupboards and freezers once again full to capacity with bought foods, bargains I couldn't resist, treats I perceived us to deserve, so firstly this month we will be working our way through them, and emptying the worktops of foods that we couldn't even fit in the cupboards, rifling through the full to the brim freezers....where did it all come from .......the Supermarkets mostly. Well thank you very much Mr Tesco, Master Asda, posh cousin Waitrose, nice Mr Sainsbury, glamorous Granny Marks and Spencer et al, but we will not be darkening your doors for a long time.
We thank you for supplying us with these 'must have bargains', for lightening my load by emptying my purse and my bank account so regularly over the past years, but now we are doing something so very satisfying we are taking back control of our lives. The most important part of our lives, the nourishment we put into our bodies.
January will be a virtually 'No Spend' month as we eat our way through our stocks of food, the only thing we should really need to buy is milk, that will be purchased from the little shop in the next village when I go to buy my Radio Times or post a letter. I have bread in the freezer and flour in the cupboard to make our own when that runs out.
Last year we took lots of small steps forward in our drive to be self sufficient and self sustaining, this year we are striding forward more confident, with our purses and wallets firmly tucked deep in our pockets and our spades and trowels near to hand, but most of all with a firm resolve that we will take control of our lives.
Join us on our journey .... as before you are very welcome. If you have tips to share or just moral support to offer, comment on our posts, let us know if you think we are doing it right or if you think we have gone to far. Let us know if you are doing something similar yourselves. The more of us that make a stand like this the better it will be for this countries high streets. We are gradually losing more and more of our 'little shops', if you can make just one extra purchase from the high street shop instead of a supermarket you will be helping the shops we really shouldn't be losing. It is so easy when you just stop and think for a minute.