How to break up with the supermarket

Turns out loads of you are already supermarket-free – legends! What also excites me is how many people out there want to find new ways to spend their dollars. Ways that support community and food producers alike. What I'm hearing a lot is this: “I want to break up with the supermarket, but don't know how."

This post is going to look at some of the finer details and help you work out how to kick that trolley to the kerb(please don't actually do this).

Recap: why supermarkets suck

Before we get into the hows, including some great advice from Down To Earth Mother readers, let's remind ourselves why we want to ditch the big supermarkets.

My main reasons were: the dodginess of the supermarket duopoly, the crap they sell and the tactics they use to make us overspend, and also because I wanted to support local businesses, food producers, etc. You told me you wanted to ditch the big supermarkets because of ethical concerns, including the placement of pokie machines, trolley rage, expense and to create a sense of community.

So here's how to break up with the supermarket

  1. Go cold turkey. There is no such thing as popping into the supermarket for one item, or even two. If you really want to quit, I suggest you set a date and stick to it. If that idea freaks you out, make it for a set period of time. “I will not go into a supermarket for a week" seems easy enough, right?

  2. Get to know your options. There are heaps of other places and ways to buy food and household supplies. Take the time to explore your local shops and markets and see what they stock. Browse a few online stores or co-op websites and know what's available where.

  3. Write down everything in your fridge, pantry, bathroom, laundry etc and work out ahead of time where you're going to source it from. If you will now be buying shampoo from an online retailer, for example, it will take a couple of days to arrive.

  4. Be flexible. If you have used the same brand of toothpaste since you first sprouted teeth and have the same boxed cereal every morning, you may find it difficult to break up with the supermarket. Be prepared to try other brands or even non-branded versions of things you love (eg homemade jam from a roadside fruit stand). It will do you nothing but good to consume fewer processed foods. Just saying.

  5. Be a gatherer/French mama. Always be on the lookout for bargain buys, or even just stuff you regularly need at a reasonable price. These can appear in the oddest places. Don't just buy what's on your list, seize the opportunity to stockpile when you can. And on the flip side, if you haven't come across quinoa or capers for a while, use something else until you find a good source.

  6. Make shopping kid-friendly . I suspect the main reason most mums shop at the supermarket is because they can contain their children in an open-roofed cage… It certainly was for me! Let me state for the record that my children turn into eight-armed monsters of the deep the minute we enter a shop of any kind (with the exception of my organics shop, which has a kids' play area. LOVE that.) When you have the kids with you, plan to be fast and focused. Give them a job – I will give my three-year-old a two-litre bottle of milk that he has to carry in two hands, or let him hold my keys and wallet. Dangerous, I know. The great thing about smaller shops or markets is that people will help you out by chatting to the kids or slipping them a piece of apple. And they do learn. My kids are definitely better trained now they're out of the trolley.

  7. Allow yourself to evolve. In your first week without the supermarket, you are unlikely to get it right. maybe you'll spend too much, find yourself going to the local store every five minutes or have to make a few completely random meals. Shrug it off and do better next time.

Advice from someone who isn't me

Before I let you go suck on those ideas, I wanted to share this fantastic comment from a regular reader, Abbie, which she contributed to my initial post about breaking up with the supermarkets .

“I did this “goodbye to supermarkets" a while ago. I find that I probably make the same number of trips now to all the different places as I did before to the supermarkets, but it's less stressful, more personable, more friendly, and more enjoyable. The shop owners/assistants I see know my name, greet my kids, are helpful, chatty, pleasant, and there is no stress or overstimulation for the kids that you get in a supermarket.

To manage the different shopping options, I worked out who sold what I bought (as with all shops, some are cheaper on this, others are cheaper on that, some stock this, some stock that) and so who was best for what… I do buy some bits and pieces online (Going Green Solutions allow me to buy bulk boxes of recycled paper tissues – not perfect but guests don't usually bring their own hankies and tend to baulk when you offer them one ;) ) and I'm about to order from Who Gives a Crap to avoid the supermarkets on that one too.

Once you know who sells what, and where they are, it takes a bit of thinking to start with, but after a while, it's no more trips than you took to the supermarket, and without all the extra “specials" you do spend less, despite paying more for your goods."

Thanks Abbie! Hopefully between us we have given you some ideas to help you break up with the supermarket. If you want to quit but can't, please tell me why. A problem shared is a problem halved and I'm sure one of my readers will have the solution you're looking for.

So what do you think? Is it time you broke up with the supermarket?

for more information on this post read:

why I broke up with the supermarket

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