sticking it to the supermarkets




I haven't always hated supermarkets.

In fact, I used to love them. I loved "grocery shopping" – as kid, when Mum did it once a month only, as a poor student buying up beans and rice, and as a traveller, relishing cheap wine on the shelves in France, unfamiliar meats in Poland and stuff I'd heard about on TV in the US.

But I've come to really really hate them. Not the shopping: if I've got an ipod and an unmolested twenty minutes of child-free grocery gathering, it can actually be quite zen.

I hate what the buying power of the giants mart represent for farmers. The cheap milk fiasco is a classic example. Every time I see another supermarket discounting milk, not only am I horrified that they don't have to declare the inclusion of permeate (a dairy by-product that effectively waters down milk) but you can count on another small dairy farm or ten going out of business. 

Anyway, there's lots of reasons to boycott supermarkets. The main one being to buy direct, buy from a farmer if you can, buy local and stop contributing to food miles. 

We don't actually have a farmer's market around here. Weird, right? We need one!

What we do have though is a spectacular farmer-to-consumer co-op which does pretty much the same job.

My lovely friend Tricia over at Little Eco Footprints launched a grand gesture up-yours to the big supermarkets for an entire year. 




This is her campaign. I intended to join in. I love a grand gesture.

We almost had an entire year (yes, this year), cooking from scratch. Like, 100%. Given what else we have going on I'm kind of glad I didn't follow through with that one. Maybe next year. 

I've been texting Tricia checking the rules. What about vegemite? (She buys hers from a local deli.) What about Weetbix? (They don't have packaged breakfast cereal.)

Neither of those things would have been permissable on my 100% from-scratch year either, but they do make feeding small people simpler some days. Also, the Arrowroot, pictured top. 

Yes I make biscuits for a living. Yes I still buy Arrowroots. Ivy loves them. Ah shucks, I love them. You had a cup of tea and an arrowroot at 5am when you got up to milk the cows when I was growing up. The Arrowroot is a biscuit I've attempted to replicate but cannot quite get. 

Also nappies. Ivy's in cloth, but not at night. Also, not at daycare. (Did you know she was in daycare? It's excellent! Three days a week, lovely lovely place, she loves it and I love it. Yes I feel guilty about it, some days more than others, but although she loves baking she's really not that helpful at it and the commercial kitchen benches are too high for her and mighty slippery.)

So I pop into a supermarket and buy the Naty eco disposables every month or so.

I also end up at the supermarket if I've forgotten something for a bake. Like today – I don't normally buy small containers of baking powder but I ran out mid-bake!

I love this challenge. It's really made me think. Could you join in?

I'm going to, after we've moved, and not for a year.

I'm sure Naty delivers in bulk. I can buy deoderant at the chemist. But maybe daycare would agree to use an all-in-one cloth nappy? I've never asked. And maybe I'll join in over winter when we don't need deoderant.

And it means I've got a month or so to get that arrowroot biscuit right.

Could you do without supermakets? And do you know for sure that the milk you're drinking doesn't have "filler" in it?


24 Comments on “sticking it to the supermarkets

February 16, 2012 at 8:15 am

It’s worth asking the daycare people about cloth nappies – I got a surprise last week when the lovely ladies at mine actually OFFERED to use the cloth nappies I use on Tobias when they found out I use them at home! Yep. Suggested it themselves – oh, cloth? Bring them in if you like, give us a lesson on how to use them, all good.

So you never know.

Good luck with the supermarket boycott… we’ve reduced considerably(because loathe them too, especially our local which must be the worst one in the world) but I have trouble imagining not buying anything at all there. Maybe a challenge for this household too!

xx J.

lily boot
February 16, 2012 at 8:51 am

Hmmm … I didn’t know anything about “permeate” – sounds dreadful, but stands to reason – how else could they sell the milk so cheap! (and we don’t buy it anyway, phew!) Does this grocery challenge mean no small grocery stores – like the independently owned Foodworks up the road? I try to avoid the supermarkets – and am getting more successful – but I do buy from Foodworks and the little Jewish grocer and the chemist. I’ll have to pop over to Tricia to check it out. I think it sounds incredibly worthwhile – the power of the supermarkets frightens me – especially as I watch brand after brand after brand disappear from the shelves.

February 16, 2012 at 11:14 am

Surrounded by dairy farms, but they can’t sell us milk direct cause they could lose their contract. Makes me CRANKY!! I’d much rather pay them a fair price direct.

island dweller
February 16, 2012 at 11:23 am

Great post. In our local area here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia/Maryland we have a farmers market each week May to September (in one of the quiet carparks). Not always a great turnout but local farmers with veggies, a bread man etc. Maybe your area just need a co-ordinator…like u need a new project! LOL

February 16, 2012 at 11:24 am

We’ve joined in also, just need to blog about it : / Time, more time! We use the local IGA also, which can help to get Arrowroot biscuts!!

February 16, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Hello Fi, I am grocery shopping today and was terrified at the proepect of no supermarkets for a year. Is it possible? we have a new farmers market at Balmoral High School every Sunday now. perhaps I will try to go to Woolies once a month, rather than once a week. But still, very daunting.
Love your posts! When you coming to Brisie (so I can make you a locally sourced, from scratch meal!)?

Mr Shell
February 16, 2012 at 1:26 pm

This is a great idea…but due to isolation (we are on an island 1600kms away from Oz) I buy some stuff online, which is just as bad as supporting supermarkets I know!! But I totally get the point you are trying to make! We have a farmers market here thank goodness, and we buy local meat. No local milk though….which is ridulous. Our milk is flown in from New Zealand. If it had permeate in it, how would I know??? Are such ingredients listed on the carton typically??
A few years ago our family did a year without buying anything new – only food, toiletries and medical neccessaties. It was awesome. I didnt miss Big W or Target after a few months and certainly learnt to love and appreciate op shops. It’s a challenge I’d recommend. I can’t stand to be in artificialy lit shopping centres any more….I just about have heart palputations at the thought!

February 16, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Once a week we have the Farmers markets (mostly organic) in town, then of to the local butcher (with local meat), pick up big bags of organic flour through a shop (GoVita) that puts in a special order in for me, also great for dried fruit/nuts/seeds,… I bake my own bread (daily), muesli (monthly), cookies (weekly),… But then there is still the dreaded supermarket trip for the last few bits. Milk & butter (organic because it tastes so much better), sugar, toilet paper, spices and cheese. The rest I can make from scratch or take out of the garden. I need milk to make yoghurt and I use a little for cooking, although I have space and a paddock suitable for a milking cow it would be to much of a hassle and expense for the 3litres of milk we use a week. Cheese making is on my list of skills to learn, but taking it 1 step at the time (with two young kids in a sling). I would love to skip the supermarket though, where all the locals shops and markets leave me energised, the supermarket trip always makes me cranky probably something to so with the screaming signs. I would love a dairy co-op that sells to the public.

February 16, 2012 at 11:58 pm

I would love so much to do this, but as I live in a very isolated town with no farming or industry close by (mining town) we have no choice… there isn’t even a fruit and veg market, apart from the supermarkets. I order my dry goods in from an organic place in sydney (not exactly local!) and would buy from the local butcher but don’t eat much meat…. Boo.

Melanie @ M&M
February 17, 2012 at 12:46 am

I keep reading about people doing this, and thinking about trying it. But it seems so daunting. We do use the Farmer’s Market in season, and it’s quite lovely. The money is pretty daunting as well. How to balance good stewardship (financially) with care of our bodies and the environment? I am considering this, but not quite ready to jump on the band wagon : )

February 17, 2012 at 12:48 am

This sounds so wonderful! We’re not quite there and I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to do this because of where we live, but we do have a couple of really wonderful farmers markets and a nice coop that I visit regularly. Also, this spring, I will be planting my first garden. I can’t tell you how insanely excited this makes me…and terrified that nothing will grow – I feel like such a dork over this. We’ll continue down this path and see where it leads us πŸ™‚

February 17, 2012 at 4:41 am

I’m off to have a look- it sounds intriguing. I’ve grown to hate supermarkets more and more over the years. French supermarkets tend to be different because they haven’t demolished the local independent shop trade and they sell French produce. Sadly it is changing, but their produce sections tend to sell French produce, so there aren’t a zillion varieties of melon to choose from, just the one they grow in Provence. Peppers are ugly, but not the shiny tasteless Dutch jobs we get at home.

Reading Shopped was the final straw. It’s UK-centric, but I don’t imagine the situation is very different in other countries.

I’m not sure I could avoid supermarkets totally (my family love breakfast cereal. I try to ration them,and I’ll only buy a handful of ‘plain’ cereals but I think cold turkey would result in mutiny!) but I’m prepared to see if I can reduce it even further!

February 18, 2012 at 9:33 am

We drank unpasturised milk on our recent holiday and man it was so good. My son who will not touch milk drank it by the truckload…which says something. Thanks so much for this post. I went out this morning to our local organic shop which sells local produce and as well as stocking up on fruit and veg I bought some locally produced milk – 100% milk with no fillers. I shop in a big supermarket chain as I am time poor and it is convenient but this has really made me think. I am going to try to cut down on my reliance on the big chain stores and this has been my first step in doing so. Thanks again – awesome post. xx

February 18, 2012 at 2:11 pm

I work in a childcare nursery and we have no objections to cloth nappies. As for the milk I’ve started buying brand name milk again from the stupid market but have been feeling the need to go to Fyshwick markets to buy fresh fruit and veg. It has bothered me about how the milk is so cheap and the effect it has on farmers. Also I have noticed different brands disappearing from the shelves. I really enjoyed watching the recent Arthur’s “The Peoples Supermarket” on ABC TV which was quite thought provoking. I’m not sure that I could go without the supermarket completely but would like to be less reliant on them. Thanks for a great post. Jennie.

February 18, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Not in a position to join in at the moment, but I am so disgusted at the milk war that we pay nearly double to buy un-homogenized locally grown milk from the local fruit and veg shop. Awesome taste, great for you and it gives me a sense of satisfaction to be part of them growing local cows!! The fruit and veg shop is awesome too, sourcing as much as possible locally, they provide details to where all products come from! Having said that, we are very excited to start our new veggie garden by winter. I have already ordered all the seeds and so forth from diggers πŸ™‚

February 19, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Me too, Margo, me too.

February 19, 2012 at 10:11 pm

heh heh – I’ve actually talked to the people who run our local monthly market and they asked me whether I’d set one up… not just this week…

February 19, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Hoping to come up later this year – would love to see you xx

February 19, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Dunno about NZ milk – Tricia sent me to this page re: dairies and quality

AMAZING, a whole year of not buying anything new? That is totally inspiring. Love it.

February 19, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Gotta love Diggers. Growing your own is so appealing, right?

February 20, 2012 at 1:41 pm

We try to shop at the supermarket once a month and fames markets and local shops around Sydney the rest of the time. I try to limit my purchases to non perishables.
I’ve started using Aussie Farmers Direct. They have a local franchise that services us here in Oyster Bay (South Sydney) so I get my milk, cheese, youghurt and some fruit and veg delivered to the door (like the old days!).

The milk tastes good and the ingredients say only milk. I grew up on full cream Jersey milk straight from the cow though, which is in another league altogether…..

February 20, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Thrilled your thinking of joining me in the challenge for a while! thanks for the mention πŸ™‚

Brittany P.
February 22, 2012 at 3:31 am

This is something that has been very strong on our minds lately and we have already began to dabble in finding alternative sources for many items we previously purchased at Walmart or other big chains. The beauty of it so far has been that the things we have found elsewhere have actually been cheaper. Walmart sales their friut trees for $16-20 each, a very nice lady who actually gets to know us and holds a lively conversattion with us on the various trees sales hers for $12 each, any kind of tree. Walmart sales potatoes in 2lb. bags for $6, a local ghardwrae store sales 12lbs.for $8. Pig food is $4 cheaper at a local feed store than we were getting it before at a chain. Now we are hooked!

Brittany P.
February 22, 2012 at 3:34 am

Oops, I should proof read before I post! πŸ˜‰ fruit trees… hardware store. My hand fly sometimes..


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