How I have changed my shopping habits recently

October 2020

Images of empty shelves, queues that snaked around the car park, and the risk of exposure to a large number of people in close proximity meant that the traditional weekly supermarket shop that we took for granted suddenly became a rather unattractive proposition at the start of lockdown. Many of us switched to ordering online, but demand vastly outstripped capacity in many locations, and I, like many others, couldn’t get a grocery delivery for weeks during lockdown.

We were immensely lucky that our freezer and pantry were already pretty well stocked, and the vegetable garden gradually started to supplement these staples with more fresh produce, but there were a few weeks where food insecurity felt very real indeed. It gave me a wake-up call that I think I needed. And I was one of the lucky ones. Many people didn’t have such a safety net to fall back on.

Perhaps one of the main benefits to come out of this experience was that it radically changed how I shop. Initially out of necessity, but now out of choice. I thought it might be interesting to share the suppliers I now use, in case any of them might be new to you (as they were to me initially). I’ve actually found it a far more enjoyable way to shop, and have been really impressed with the reduction in plastic packaging we produce as a household, and boost in taste and flavour of these ingredients. There have also been a few welcome cost savings too, not least because I am no longer tempted to buy all those added extras that catch your eye in the supermarket, but aren’t really necessary.

fresh fruit and vegetables:

We use as much as we can from our kitchen garden, freezing, jarring, batch cooking as well as enjoying it fresh. We are pretty self-sufficient for the peak of the growing season, but outside of this (or if we are away) I get a Quick Organic Veg Box (Large) delivered automatically once a week from Riverford. I get an organic fruit box at the same time, usually with some extra bananas too. This works out cheaper than buying the equivalent organic produce from the supermarket (and involves a LOT less plastic).

eggs & dairy produce:

When our chickens are productive, they give us all the eggs we need, but when this slows down, I get 12 organic eggs delivered weekly alongside my veg box from Riverford, as well as some of their organic, unhomogenised milk.

nuts & seeds:

Once a quarter or so, I put a bulk order in with Real Food Source, who do great value nuts, seeds and dried fruit (including organic options). They’re a family run company, based in Scotland, who’s no bells-and-whistles approach mean that they can supply great quality products at significantly lower prices than found elsewhere.

health food products and cupboard staples:

Anyone who has seen this article will have already heard about Good Club, an online shop selling sustainable staples at up to 30% off RRP. They use a membership model (which costs around £30 per year – but they guarantee to refund the difference if you don’t save at least this much over the year). Plus if you refer a friend, they send a delivery to your local food bank, and are working on supplying zero waste products in returnable containers soon. I’m a convert, and put in a monthly order for tea, coffee, pasta, pulses, jars, plant-based m*lks, bread, flours, sauces, and wholegrains. Handily, it automatically saves your basket, so you can simply add items as you remember throughout the month before placing the final order.

home & personal care:

I’m a total convert to Bower Collective, who deliver really lovely personal care and home care products in plastic-waste free or reusable and refillable packaging. They stock Neal’s Yard, Bramley, TOTM, Natracare, Bio-D, as well as their own-brand (which is very good value).

fish & meat:

I now almost always buy my fish, meat, and chicken from our local butcher and fishmonger. Once a year or so, I will also get a bulk order of lamb or beef from a local regenerative farmer, who is responsibly and ethically grazing his animals to regenerate the soil health on his farm. This will last us a good few months as it’s all frozen and we don’t eat much. For those who aren’t so lucky as to have a local supplier, Newlyn Fresh Fish supply sustainably caught fish boxes nationwide and the Ethical Butcher supplies carefully and ethically sourced meat.

general:

And of course, because this is real life and sometimes I am not organised enough, I turn to Ocado and get a general delivery from them to keep me going.

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