I no longer do a weekly shop at the supermarket. I haven’t taken part in this ritual since July 2012, when I signed up to Plastic Free July and pledged to stop buying disposable plastic forever. It wasn’t my plan to stop shopping in the supermarkets, but once I limited myself to items not packaged in plastic, it didn’t leave much left to buy. The odd jar, a bag of flour, that was about it. Once I’d traipsed up and down every aisle and only filled my basket with a handful of items, the novelty wore thin. We started shopping elsewhere, namely the markets and the bulk food stores.
I’d never liked giving my money to the supermarkets, but their convenience lured me in. I wanted to support local businesses, local producers and sustainable practices like organic farming, but it was a big change to undertake. Once the supermarkets stopped being convenient and I had a reason (along with the drive and motivation) to go elsewhere, I did, and I haven’t looked back.
It was only once I’d stopped going to the supermarkets that I realised that most of the food I was buying from there wasn’t food at all, but a mix of additives, preservatives and flavours that looked like food. The promotions would lure me in, even though it was the same things on offer, week in, week out. Things I didn’t need and didn’t want…but the bargain factor meant they often ended up in the trolley. Not such a bargain, buying things that I didn’t intend to buy, is it?! It was a habit, one that I didn’t know I had until I broke it.
If you happened to go into my local supermarket this week, this is what you’d be seeing in pride of place at the ends of the aisles on “special”. See if you can spot any real food amongst it all.
Once you’ve looked past the junk, preservatives, additives and over-packaged “food” you’ll find there’s not much left. Plus, you notice how all of that stuff is branded? That’s because companies pay the stores to put their products on display there. It’s why you rarely see non-branded goods in these premium spots.
Buying this stuff isn’t a bargain. It’s not real food. It’s bad for our health, it’s polluting the environment (did you see how much plastic there was?!) and it’s lining the coffers of the big multinational companies and the supermarkets at the expense of smaller producers, local growers and independent retailers.
We all want choice, right? Supermarkets aren’t giving us much choice. You may not live in Australia but I suspect if you went to your local supermarket the same things would be on offer. By giving our money to these places and these companies we’re only strengthening them and limiting our choices in the future.
Where we spend our money matters.
This weekend, visit your local farmers market. Seek out real food and meet the people who grow it, prepare it, make it and bake it. Have a chat with them about what they’re doing, how they do it, why they do it. Learn their stories. Support your local community. Connect with the seasons (local produce means seasonal produce). Let your taste buds be amazed.