Six months ago I decided to stop shopping in supermarkets as an experiment. I haven't bought anything in a Tesco, Sainsburys, Asda, Aldi, etc. since December 31st 2013.
I didn't do this because I'm anti-globalisation (I love Starbucks), into the slow food movement (I'm not really sure what it is), or trying to convert people to local shopping. I just had a bad trip to a supermarket two days before Christmas, got annoyed, and wondered if there was another way.
After six months I've concluded my experiment. Here are my incredibly scientific findings:
- It's surprisingly easy to get most stuff you need without supermarkets. A weekly veg delivery and a monthly meat delivery for the freezer sets you up well. Plus the corner shop sells most things, and the internet sells everything.
- Milk rounds still exist and are great. You can manage everything online and they also deliver bread, bacon and even cat food. The only downside of getting a milk delivery is that, as anyone who has watched a 1970s British comedy knows, the milkman will inevitably sleep with your wife. It's a small price to pay for fresh milk though.
- When you don't have an ingredient it is really annoying to have to travel round endless delis and independent grocers when you live 300 yards from a Tesco. You hate yourself and wish you weren't such a dick. Your family start to hate you too. And you still don't have any turmeric.
- Shopping locally/independently is no more expensive than shopping at a supermarket. In fact I think I've spent less on food, possibly because I've been getting seasonal produce and making things from scratch. But...
- ...I've spent lots more on takeaways because I wasn't organised enough to have food in. When the curry delivery man says "I haven't seen you this week", you know you have problems.
- Most supermarket veg (and to a degree meat) is flavourless and awful. I guess this isn't surprising if it's been on a boat for a month. If the supermarket has had to get its strawberries from Peru, don't be shocked when they taste like sadness.
- Supermarkets are the brightest, most colourful places in the world when you haven't been in them for a while. I can't explain how amazing they look. They're a credit to their marketing departments.
- Getting a box of vegetables delivered and googling recipes is an excellent way to cook new things. There is a recipe online for every combination of ingredients you can imagine.
- When you tell people you don't shop in supermarkets they hate you and think you're an arsehole (perhaps justifiably).
In conclusion I don't think I'll ever go back to doing a weekly supermarket shop, but it'll be good to be able to pop in and pick up ingredients as needed.
If you're thinking about shopping independently for a bit, I'd say go for it. Just make sure you've stocked up on turmeric first.
Robbie Knox is an award winning writer, producer and director. He is a founder of the production company Cinema Campesinos, who specialise in creating content and commercials for brands and media owners.