6 great learnings on my anniversary of stopping using Supermarkets!

Initially stopping using supermarkets was a massive challenge. I had been used to shopping virtually daily, being able to get everything without thinking in a one stop shop, and boy had I bought the dream... Convenience, time, lower costs... Asda was my poison of choice, and those that have known me for years could quite rightly have suspected I was on the payroll such was my enthusiasm for the shop and extent of my delusion.

I used to go to Asda 3 maybe 4 times a week... I used to buy things I didn't really need... I used to throw away quite a lot of food... The vegetables, salad and fruit kept an inordinately long time... Fruit was often not ready to eat... you had to leave it for days on end sometimes... You never really knew what food was in season as everything was available all the time...

When I stopped using Asda's 30th September 2013, it was like saying goodbye to a trusted friend... It wasn't going to be difficult to replace food I knew I could get that from the local market, but what about soap, toilet rolls, cleaning products, light bulbs, shaving gel? ... And all manner of other bits and pieces, these actually proved the most challenging! ... Although of course I managed to find these in time... I want to talk mainly in this blog about the experiences with food and the very significant changes that buying from other local traders has made to my life... Every single one for the better I hasten to add, and not what you might expect either...

Now first... The practicalities... How has my experience altered my life? I shop Saturday mornings... In fact first we gather for a coffee at 10:00am and network for 90 minutes or so... Catch up with each other... Share news, welcome new people, have conversations about what is happening around Watford. We also talk about Link4Growth, new events... Contacts we can help or support.

After the networking it's shopping time.. I regularly use the meat counter, fish counter, deli, nuts & spices, Sushi bar, Indian food bar and the fruit & veg stall... I now know all of these people personally... Details about their lives, common connections, what they do out of work etc. they also give us the heads up on what is happening, best items like cuts of meat, fresh fish, and on the fruit & veg stall I am often a recipient of items that are overstocked or near to finishing; all for free.

I am also eating what is in season. Natures own specials! This year I have eaten cherries, plums and many more melons as they came into season. The price was low, the taste great and... ready to eat! There is something right about eating what the earth is making available at the moment and not artificially growing things and warping the seasons.

I look forward to my Saturday mornings, this is no longer a chore to do the shopping, it is actually entertainment, a chance to be part of the living breathing community and it definitely opens up doors of opportunity... Especially if you are community building! I've met so many new people... And people are starting to pop in, grab a coffee and be part of this new local energy as they know where Alex & I will be on Saturday mornings... The market... Possibly the hub of community regeneration? ... Could it work in your town too?

So how about the cost? Well the first thing you begin to realise is that on the market you can't be tempted with 2 for 1 on Pizza's, pre-cooked meals and aisles of salt laden, sugar infused products... It is fresh products all the way. Then you get to realise the impulse buys might be a couple of bunches or Spinach or Beetroot or Medjool dates (these are awesome) ... Comfort food of a Medjool date with a Brasil nut inside (feeling tired? what a massive late afternoon pick you up).

And guess what... When buying fresh products, you find the time to make soups, stews (use a slow cooker)... Put some love into the food and ingredients and realise that preparing good food, with fresh ingredients that are healthy is the basis of everything... Health for you and those around you (exploding soup an exception... Don't wear your soup), happiness as you serve others, this creates family, giving, community... All sounds good Chris, but I don't have time for all this, I'm far to busy? ... Ahh yes, who has time? ... And yet if we do not make time for this, then be prepared to make time for illness, perhaps unhappiness, loneliness.

The preparation of food, to sustain life, to share time, tell stories... To build relationships is at the heart of everything. We have been systematically re-programmed away from that which knits us all together, interaction, talking, conversations. We have been conned into re-organising our lives for 'convenience' to suit the agenda of big supermarkets and their lust for money. And we have been sold products that are not the best for us but that make the most profit for them.

What this year has taught me is that re-alignment needs to happen at this really low level of buying locally... On the surface it is making sure more money stays in the local economy... But as I have learned it also does so much more as it focuses us on

  1. Giving first... re-entering our community, i.e. Stepping out and going out to engage with these local traders... They don't know how to come to us they can't...
  2. It makes us think about our food, what are we going to cook? what is in season? How to get the most from the food we buy
  3. It teaches us how to live more frugally, spend less, utilise what is in season... Be grateful for the food we have.
  4. We begin to waste less... There is too much waste in the world... We can learn new skills of discipline and creativity with food.
  5. We can be more healthy, vibrant and enjoy our lives more

We begin to learn skills almost killed off by the supermarkets, how to cook, how to make delicious, healthy meals. As we move away from thinking purely about ourselves and our own individual existence, we start caring for those around us, our families, friends, and sharing the gifts we are now harnessing freely with others... Hence ideas like the Link4Growth Cook book.

Our health comes from the nutrients in what we eat, we have got lazy and sold the idea that shops, the food industry and the medical profession have our best interests at heart. They do not. They want one thing... Your money. They want you to buy more of what makes them richer... Period. To change this we have to change, change is never easy, they don't make change comfortable for us, yes going without supermarkets wasn't easy for the 1st few months, but I created a new way of doing things that worked for me, so that I wanted to change it... i.e. Gave myself a big enough set of why's....

  • Started the Saturday Coffee... So I had to be there
  • Made myself speak to the market traders, hear their stories
  • Help promote their businesses and take a genuine interest in seeing how I could help them
  • Start sharing recipes, food pictures to get people interested in how easy it is to cook delicious food
  • Find people who know about nutrition, learn from them and then talk to everyone about healthy eating and about the importance of nutrition
  • Be a sponge for information, ideas, stories
  • Enjoy the journey, blog about it, open other peoples eyes, build a tribe of like minded people

It doesn't require all of us to completely stop using supermarkets... It requires us to switch some of our money to local independent traders... Maybe it's a commitment to use the local butcher, local fruit & veg stall / shop or some other independent local convenience store... But it us our responsibility to change where we are, one person at a time... And lead others through example... Together we can reverse the health of a nation with #L4GBuyLocal and then teaching people through sharing, how to prepare and cook healthy, nutritious food, we can reverse the trends of obesity and diabetes... Our parents learned these skills by watching and participation from their parents... This process and tradition almost became eradicated through greed, so in my humble opinion it's way past the time to reverse the trend...

Who's in??

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