Prompted by a post on Down To Earth Mother we decided to sign up for Supermarket Free month in April (yeah, I know, I should have let you know earlier…). We agreed to steer clear of all supermarkets for the whole month. We almost made it! In the end we made one emergency trip to Aldi the night before Little Fearse’s birthday for cake supplies, other than that we managed to go for the whole month without stepping foot into a supermarket. Let me give you a brief overview in an annoying question myself, answer myself conversation.
The cake that made us break our pledge. Worth it!
Was it hard? Yeah. It was hard.
Will we stick to it? Some of it.
How long did it take us to go back to Aldi? One day. Just one.
Was it cheaper? No.
Was it convenient? Nope.
Was it worth it? Yes, it was definitely and totally and absolutely worth it. It has entirely changed our outlook on food and our community and our resources. Not to mention helping us realise how little we actually need.
Mostly we wanted to try and do this without changing the types of foods we like to eat. We have limited our use of Woolies / Coles (more about why here) over the past year to, mostly, the eco-nappies we buy for day care and outings and the disposable wipes we use for the same purpose. Unfortunately no other local stores stock the brand we like. This was our first challenge. I solved it by purchasing our nappies in bulk online from a small business. They were delivered next day. The nappies were cheaper than in the supermarket and the delivery costs were reasonable, even though I ordered two large boxes ($8.95). These should last us about 3 – 4 months. Until recently we have also been able to buy our preferred brand of natural dishwasher detergent from the same site. It has now been discontinued so we’re trialling some health food store varieties. We were not able to get the same brand of wipes but found something similar, though more expensive by about $3, in the local health food store.
We actively sought out alternative places to purchase the things we use a lot – flour, beans, pasta, tinned tomatoes, butter, milk. The health food store had a lot of these things but was quite expensive. I don’t mind supporting the store – it is a small business that has been around for a long time – but we can’t sustain buying these things there permanently. Since April ended I have taken to buying organic tomato paste (it is in a glass jar which I love for our zero waste challenge), organic tinned beans, Moo Goo products, tooth paste and our disposable wipes (we only buy one pack a month) from the health food store. I like the fact that you can develop a relationship with the people who work there. I had a great conversation with one of the women when I went in to buy hot cross bun supplies that made the difficulty I had parking, the fact that I had to go out of my way and also the extra $$ spent worth it!
I’ve also made a few trips to the Dandenong Market for flour, dried beans, pasta, pop corn, fish, bulk yoghurt (think soda bread for bulk baking quantities!) and spices. This is something I plan to continue doing when I can. It was easy and fun and pretty close to home. Little Fearse has become very interested in trains, so we might even catch the train there once in awhile.
We visited our local farmer’s market to see what we could purchase there. Most of the things available we are able to purchase at our regular Sunday market, but we were stoked to find a local guy who makes yoghurt. Unfortunately the yoghurt we bought (which was quite expensive at $8 a kilogram) went bad well before the use by date. I’m willing to give him another shot, but if it happens again we’ll be sticking to the Aldi organic yoghurt which is well priced and Little Fearse loves. Unless we need it in bulk for something, in which case I’ll buy it at Dandy market where it is $6 for 2 kilos. Yeah, seriously.
At a second farmer’s market in another near by town we found a local guy who makes apple cider vinegar. Stoked!
We opted to buy our toilet paper from Who Gives a Crap. This was recommended by DTEM and friends and was also sponsored by the Supermarket Free Month. We will continue to do this because the quality is good, the price comparable (somewhat) and postage fast and free (next day). We have room to store bulk toilet paper and I love that buying the paper helps others in third world countries have access to something we consider a basic need – safe, sanitary toilets.
We discovered our local green grocer stocks bulk spices, flat breads, milk, a variety of condiments, frozen berries and a large array of different types of flour. A handy little store which we have only previously been to for the occasional fresh food item during the week.
There were some things, like Vegemite, that we just had to do without for the month. I imagine this is something we’d be able to find online if we searched for it hard enough.
We started buying our bread at the local bakery earlier this year. It was one of those things that made us feel like fools to have done it any other way. The bread you buy in a supermarket is basically not bread in comparison. This, of course, will continue.
Those of you that are following along will know that we buy all fresh fruit and vegetables, plus cheese and nuts from the Sunday market. For two glorious months we were also able to buy our meat there, but the butcher has since bought a food van and left us meatless. When we need to buy fruit or veggies on a different day of the week, for whatever reason, we will go to the local green grocer. Occasionally I accidentally lose my senses and buy some fresh fruit from Aldi. This is something I have no intention of continuing (but we’re all human…).
We now buy our meat, mostly, from the local butcher who can tell us where everything is from and what it was fed when it was alive. He also makes a wide array of his own sausages, much to Little Fearse’s delight (pineapple, cheese and chicken? Ugh.).
We buy organic butter and milk at Aldi, along with their wholemeal pasta, passata, frozen peas, water crackers, Vegemite, sanitary products, sometimes chocolate, sometimes ice cream. The reason we chose Aldi is because we don’t want to support what Coles and Woolworths does to local suppliers (pulls the price down, down, down…until it is entirely unsustainable). We have reservations about Aldi, most of which are echoed in this post, so why not go there and read that? ;) (Was that super lazy of me? Yeah.) We also shop at our local IGA sometimes. We go to the supermarket about once a month, sometimes dropping by quickly for milk or butter outside of those shops. Going super market free wasn’t a huge leap for us. By making gradual changes we’ve really made this a lifestyle we can sustain and adapt to our foodie desires.
As a side note, this was a great opportunity to try making our own stuff, from mustard (marginal success) to biscuits to cereal. There is a lot we can make here at home that is good quality and tastes pretty good. The best about that, of course, is knowing what goes into it. I was surprised at how easy it was to find recipes for things that I wouldn’t normally even consider making myself.
Have you ever tried going super market free? What do you think the biggest challenge would be for your family if you never used a super market again?
PS Reading back, I kind of feel as though someone had challenged me to get as many DTEM mentions as I could into this post. This is not so, but if you haven’t read Jo’s blog, I highly recommend it (clearly). It is well informed, well researched and well balanced.