3 years ago... I gave up using Supermarkets!

3 years ago the 30 September 2013, I made a decision to stop using supermarkets. From where I sit today it actually doesn't sound much of a deal. Those who know we however might be able to cast their minds back to facebook posts where people often commented 'Have you got shares in Asda Chris?' such were the frequency of my visits there!

So have a think about what you buy in the supermarket; the convenience of it and maybe the cost savings? ... then think about where you might get those things if the supermarket wasn't there? Simple things like Razors, Toilet rolls, cleaning products... and all those little things... nuts, baking ingredients and possibly 'nik naks' like tin openers. Then think of all the time it would take to get around to all these different places and you will probably come to the conclusion that actually... I'll stick to the supermarket! ... and who can blame you? ... no one has the time, especially with 3 or 4 kids and hungry mouths to feed.

Why on earth would you want to put yourself through that hell of inconvenience 'on a whim' not even a necessity? So why did I do it?

The rationale behind what I did was two fold really. First, if you are going to beat the drum of 'Buy Local' which as you might know is an underlying principle of +Link4Growth then you need to do a bit more than just say it... you need to walk the talk too. Much more of the money stays in the local economy if you use local businesses... so to do the most good for our local businesses and community we should be using our local entrepreneurs and business owners. Of course there are many many spin off's from this in terms of reducing the distances products and services travel, less driving, more sustainable and much besides... so there is a lot to gain, especially if 10% or more of the population started to make adjustments in this area.

The second major reason was to discover could there be life after supermarkets? We can get anything we want fruit and veg wise these days 365 days a year, but please remember we don't buy what we want, we buy what the supermarkets want to sell to us. They market products to us that aren't necessarily what we should be buying or that are good for us, but item's that make most profit for them. Who are they really working for? You can't have two masters. It's profit first... customers second ... in my opinion.

So that 1st day October 1st 2013 was a daunting day. My life changed. No longer the convenience of 24/7 shopping, everything under one roof. Time to start investigating where I was going to source food from. No more freezer ready meals... you can't get them on the market, pizza's? No... actually the choices became... which healthy vegetable that is in season do you want to buy... if not that then this other one.

As time has passed I have got used to getting things 'as I pass by' places, being more aware of my local traders and where I can get things. My understanding of the community has widened 1,000 fold. I know probably 200 more people than I used to running local businesses. I feel part of the community, like I belong, in a much more connected way. I know the people I am buying from personally and I know that I am contributing directly to their lives. That means far more than I thought it would. It cultivates local connections that you don't get ordinarily, just by going about your daily life... wasn't that what community was? ... isn't this the very fabric of what underpins society and perhaps what has been sacrificed at the hands of the supermarket. Another nail in the community coffin? and the disturbing thing is that it just happened... on our watch... without us even so much as noticing it!

There are other things that I can tell you... not through hearsay and what I read in the papers but from my own personal experience. I spend less on food each week than I used to. I throw away less food than I used to. I eat better than I ever used to... and I spend less time shopping that I ever used to. I have a new routine. It's different, but it's more engaging, more connected, much more fun (I actually enjoy shopping now) it's part of my weekly routine and I actually speak to people! I feel like I belong and am part of the living breathing town.

Quite a lot has changed in the supermarket game over the past 3 years... the emergence of Lidl and Aldi has unseated the domination of the big 4 or 5 and eroded the low end. There is much greater change on the way to come I suspect and the land grab of organisations like Tesco and Asda has come to an end.

What I'm not saying in this piece is that we have to turn our backs completely on the supermarkets. That would be both reckless and unhepful. Many 1,000's of people work in these organisations for a start and there is no way that local shops and services could replace the huge volumes serviced by these supermarkets. What I am saying is this...

If we want to support our local businesses, if we would like to help our local communities, then... where we can... let us seek to source what we can from good local people. People who are our neighbours, people whose kids go to the same schools as ours. In this way we can help strengthen our communities, keep more money local and the most important thing in my eyes... more closely knit together our communities once more. Communities were our past... communities will be our future... so do something practical and positive for you, and your community today... think about where you buy, and wherever possible choose BuyLocal.

Give it a go... switch meat, bread, milk (local farmers), cakes and other things to local businesses... you won't regret it... and you might make some new friends too!

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