As my rule was to shop locally, my first stop was our town green grocers. I often mean to use local shops, but when you’re in a hurry it’s all too easy to get everything at the supermarket. But a friend recommended this shop and I wasn’t disappointed. There was a good selection of produce at a reasonable price. And I felt pleased knowing my cash was supporting a community business.
But while the shop was local, obviously not all the fruit and veg was. While I found locally grown potatoes and English onions – presumably stored over winter – I spotted US and Chilean apples on the shelves as well as the usual Israeli oranges and lemons. I’m fond of tomatoes but the only ones were from Morocco, so I passed. Instead I bought a big bag of onions and potatoes, and compromised with some French apples and Dutch peppers. The total came to just over £6. Not bad at all.
Next I headed to Waitrose on our high street. While it’s hardly frugal, the supermarket came second to M&S in the 2007-8 Compassionate Supermarket of the Year Awards. Usually if we’re doing a big shop we’ll visit Asda, but owner Walmart has been accused of anti-union activities, conflicting with my intention to support workers rights.
Waitrose fruit and veg is lovely but not cheap, so I was glad of the green grocers. We were short of chopped tomatoes and sweet corn, so I headed to the canned food aisle. The tomatoes weren’t British but they were from Italy, so not so far away as Morocco. I felt a pang of guilt though and determined to grow more of our own tomatoes and store them in jars, as DJ has suggested. I bet they’d taste much better. The sweet corn on offer was vaguely described as ‘produce of the EU’. I chose Bonduelle’s organic sweet corn, costing 89p. I wonder if the chickens will taste the difference…At least Waitrose own brand oven chips for £1.39 were made from British potatoes.
I used to buy Ecover washing up liquid regularly but recently downgraded to Cleanfresh liquid for 43p. At £2.15 for a litre bottle, compared to 86p a litre for Cleanfresh, Ecover is pricey. But I could save cash by getting a top up from our health food shop and recycling the bottl.
I considered buying king prawns but while Waitrose stocks ecologically farmed ones they are still – of course – from Indonesia and Ecuador. I felt torn between supporting these communities and the food miles, so I passed. Two free range chicken breasts on offer set me back £4.73 but they were from the UK. However, on visiting a butchers closer to me to buy more, I found two free range chicken breasts selling for £3.55.
At £1.99 for 340g, Whole Earth peanut butter was 42p dearer than the Sunpat I buy. But Fairtrade Jackson’s tea worked out cheaper (60.8p per 100g) than the Yorkshire tea we’ve been spoiling ourselves with recently (79.6p per 100g) (I hate cheap tea). Last but not least, I braved Waitrose diet cola. Coca Cola has been accused of suppressing union activity, so it was off limits. Obviously it didn’t taste the same but at £1.45 for six cans (£2.63 for Diet Coke) it was over £1 cheaper.
How the prices compared:
Waitrose diet cola 6 pack £1.45
Jackson’s Fairtrade tea (80) £1.52
Waitrose free range chicken breasts £4.73
Whole Earth peanut butter £1.99 (340g)
Boudelle sweet corn 89p (326g)
Waitrose chopped tomatoes £2.19 (Italy)
Ecover washing up liquid £2.15 a litre
Waitrose oven chips £1.39 (1.8kg UK)
English onions 1kg 77p
Local potatoes 1kg 29p
French golden delicious 1kg £1.96
2 Dutch peppers £1.64
Waitrose recycled toilet paper (4 rolls) £1.84
My usual shop
Diet Coke 6 pack £2.63
Yorkshire tea (80) £2.54
Waitrose free range chicken £4.73
Sunpat (340g) £1.57
Asda sweetcorn 38p (326g)
Asda 4 tins chopped tomatoes £2.24
Cleanfresh 86p a litre
Asda oven chips £1.16 (1.8kg EU)
Onions 1 kg (UK) 87p
White potatoes Asda (UK) 1kg £1.38
Asda golden delicious 1 kg £1.37
Asda peppers 63p each = £1.26 (origin unknown)
Asda shades toilet roll (4 rolls) £1.50
All in all, I was surprised to see just how close the shopping bills were and that the ‘ethical’ shop was only a few pence dearer. Although of course it may be different with a bigger shopping list. I will be making an effort to buy locally from now on because not only is it supporting community businesses when times are tough, but often the prices are better too.
Do you think we should buy locally and support community businesses when times are tough? Or have your local butchers and greengrocers disappeared in the march of the supermarkets?
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