Sunday, 15 July 2012

How far would you go for a supermarket?

So, we have reached a little bit of a crisis point in life and are tightening our belts, as are many people right now. An area where we can definitely save money is food. This doesn't distress me in theory, as I know I can provide cheap tasty food  but it does bring into sharp focus a couple of issues that are annoying me.

I live in a small village near a small town surrounded by other small towns. There are three larger towns within 45 minutes drive. Our nearest food shops are five miles and the largest of those is a small Co-operative. Otherwise, there is a Spar, a weekly market, a bakers, a butchers and a few speciality shops. I shop using a mixture of these shops. I like local shopping.

When it became clear that we needed to cut back substantially, I began to take more notice of exactly what our food cost. I was horrified.  I love the Co-operative in general as I like their ethics but I am aware they are more expensive and this store in particular is pushing the boundaries of acceptable expense. No point moving to the Spar as that is a convenience store and with a few exceptions is no cheaper than Co-op. We don't need the butchers any more, and I use our breadmaker for bread so that leaves the weekly market. 

I know from doing food for the pub that fresh vegetables and fruit, like all food, have gone up in price. I think I can get my food cheaper at the weekly market than at Co-op, though it varies from food to food and I haven't done a detailed comparison because it's just too daunting, with four stalls to compare. The downside to the market is it's only once a week and with the quantities of veg we get through (it's our mainstay) I need to shop twice a week really.

So what's my plan? Well, the nearest larger supermarket is 1 1/2 hours round trip away so the petrol is not inconsiderable. Also, I don't want to do this once a week let alone twice. I have no reason to visit these towns on a regular basis other than food shopping. None of them deliver to us so that's not an option. However, when I did a shop recently in one of them I estimated that it was at least a third cheaper than a comparable shop at our Co-operative. A third! Shocking. And that's without buying the very cheapest own brand items every time.

I've decided to do a dry goods shop occasionally, hopefully no more than once a month once I am used to it. Since I generally see my parents at least once a month, and they live 1 1/2 hours away close to the English border where there are supermarkets at every turn, I am doing on online order using MySupermarket and getting the cheapest supermarket to deliver to my parents house. The shopping stays there until we see them. Isn't that mad?

For now I can't see a better solution to my fresh food issue than the weekly market topped up by Co-op or anywhere better I happen to pass on trips out. I will just have to get much more savvy on prices so I can compare as I go along. I buy as much as possible in season which helps.

As for the luxury items, or the buy on the spur of the moment items, I stick to my list and that's pretty much that. I also meal plan now which is so useful. We do have to buy a few plant diet specific items such as ground flaxseed and seaweed and I like to make sure the babe has things like avocado and a variety of nut butters regularly but these are low-use items so their initial higher cost is stretched quite far.

I love living where I do and I relish the remoteness, and I'm lucky I have my parents close enough by that this weird system is actually quite practical.

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