Convenience shopping

The ease of buying everything once a week, all in one place, has become an unquestioned habit for the majority of us. (Yes we’re talking supermarkets again!) We want easy access to a huge array of food that is cheap and convenient for us. Yet I only have to look back two generations, to my Grandma, to see how much of a modern phenomenon this is.

But why, I hear you ask, would you want to think about how your Grandma shopped? Haven’t we got it all now, easy access to a huge range of cheap food all year round.

Well yes, this may be true, but as with many of the benefits of modern life, these come at a cost, just not one that we see in our trolleys or on our receipts.

To provide us with the large variety of fruit and veg we have all year round, it’s needs transporting half way around the world from warmer climates to reach the shelves of our supermarkets. This comes with a huge carbon footprint and by importing food, it drives up the price of food in the countries where the food is grown, making it less affordable for the residents of that country.

Our demands for cheaper and cheaper food has knock on effects. If you demand a cheaper price from a farmer, they have to find a way to provide a cheaper product. If you demand a cheaper price from a supplier they have to find a way to get hold of cheaper products. This results in a number of things low paid labour, bad working conditions, poor animal welfare and environmental damage.

On top of all this giving our money to supermarkets, means all the profits they make go to their share holders and is not reinvested into local economies. So the rich get richer and money moves away from our high streets.

Now it can indeed be said that that our buying power is limited because so many decisions have already been made before we, the consumer, can make a choice at the point of purchase. But I have to believe that if we do make the small decisions available to us, together we can at least make a statement that we do not support the ‘cost’ of this cheap food.

So back to my Grandma. She couldn’t get everything all in one place, so she went to the green grocer who had fresh, local, seasonal produce, the fish monger who had the catch of the day and the baker who had that mornings fresh loaves.

Ok, we don’t all have time to traipse around the shops all day and not all of us have the space or time to grow our own vegetables. But one easy and super convenient thing we could all do is sign up for a veg box scheme. Not only do companies offer local, seasonal, organic produce. They do your shopping for you and its good value for money! Easy!

My local veg bag scheme is Growing Communities, a not-for-profit social enterprise run by local people in Hackney. Not only do they source organic produce direct from small scale, local farmers, they grow produce themselves in their urban market gardens. On top of all this I can pick it up on my way home from work. What more could you want?

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As the produce is always seasonal, the contents vary from week to week and season to season. I love the challenge this gives me, having to come up with new recipes for unfamiliar vegetables as well as trying to think of imaginative things to do with the staples of the bag, potatoes and carrots.

I made pesto from leafy carrot tops after feeling annoyed about throwing them in the bin each week.

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Looking back to my old shopping habits, I can’t bare the thought of mindlessly wandering the aisles of the supermarket, buying the same old thing each week without being aware of whats in season and where the produce has come from. I’m a total veg box convert!

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