Arriving recently at a well known supermarket, I was greeted by three wire bins boasting special offers. The first was multipacks of chocolate biscuits, buy one get one free, the second held bags of jelly sweets, two for £1, and the third was proudly declaring “Buy one multipack of crisps, get two free!”
Hiding behind these special offers was the produce aisle. Competing with these offers were a four pack of apples, £1.49, a tub of blueberries, £3, and six orange for £2.50.
I came away from the shop thinking it is little wonder that we now have such an issue with obesity.
I thought of these offers in terms of filling lunch boxes. A family of two adults and two children would have to pay £7.45 to each be able to have one apple per working day. The crisps would last almost the whole week at £1.30 for 18 packets. To a family that are working hard to make money stretch, this looks like an easy win as far as cutbacks are concerned. Apply that logic to the whole weeks shopping, and you end up with a kitchen full of food that isn’t overly nutritional, full of sugar, salt, fat and additives, and generally not overly nice!
Don’t get me wrong, I am not an angel, and am fighting my own battle with obesity, which I feel, in some ways, qualifies me to be able to talk about these issues, and to be able to talk about them from the heart.
I feel that a lot of the issue starts at grass roots, at home. I was fortunate in that I was taught by my Mum how to cook. Ok, so it wasn’t fine dining, five Michelin star rated food, but it was a set of good, staple dishes to get me going in life.
It seems to me though, that this happens less and less now. We are living in a world of convenience, and it is easier to go through the drive through, or to grab a microwavable meal, than it is to set to preparing a homely roast, or a satisfying stew. It can also be a lot cheaper. 80p for a microwavable macaroni cheese, £1.50 for a shepherd pie or spaghetti Bolognese. I priced up, on average, how much a basic Cottage pie, with lean minced beef would cost if made from scratch to compare. The total came in at £1.68. If we again take our family of four, the home cooked option would cost 72p extra per day. Using this model, the microwavable option would save our family a whopping £262.86 a year!
This is why I feel that our shopping habits need to change. We need to stop rewarding our Supermarkets with our easily bought custom. Perhaps we might think twice if we knew the mark up on basic items bought from our farmers.
A quote from a former farmer on Bigbarn.co.uk states that they were selling their onions to a supermarket at £110 per tonne, only to find that they were being sold on to the customer at a huge £850 per tonne! It hardly seems fair to the farmer or the consumer.
I wanted to find a better way of shopping. One that meant fairness to everyone, that didn’t mean tonnes of packaging, lights shining on the produce all day, mass produced food that we don’t know the origins of (as the horse meat scandal has shown) that was better not only for our health, environment and local producers, but that was also better for our pockets.
I thought that the solution had to be farm shops. I set about finding a local farm shop (I have heard of people driving a fifty mile round trip to their “local” farm shop..!) near my home in Eastbourne, East Sussex. However, I have yet to find a farm shop that meets all of my criteria. It simply must be cheaper. How are we ever going to inspire others that they should eat seasonally, locally and healthily, if we are putting foods that meet these standards out of reach of so many?
It’s not necessarily all about education either; it is often a case of literally what is in your pocket. Robert Holman, an author and expert on the subject of social deprivation states “This is not rocket science. Poor health is a well-known feature of deprivation. Mothers are not daft and they do know fat and crisps are bad for children but they can’t afford the alternative. The Government has to give them the means. Initiatives are not going to change anything unless you’ve got the cash in your pocket. If you buy a salad at Sainsbury’s, it’s still very expensive.”
So, I have set myself a challenge. I am going to work towards spending less money, and spending less time in a supermarket. There are items admittedly that I can not currently think of a solution for, but if we all take one step at a time, there is no reason why we can not retrain ourselves to shop for us, our lifestyles, our pockets, and our environment.
Hello there! I’m Vicky Darvill, I am in my mid thirties and live in Eastbourne with my lovely husband Steve, and my five cats and three rats!
I am, like most people, keen to be as green as possible, but often encounter the challenges of having a busy life and not having a never ending supply of money!
I hope that by documenting the challenges and trials that I come across, other people will recognise them too, and we will find a way of overcoming them!