Before I get too carried away, I’d like to clarify that I am not totally anti-supermarkets! I actually started writing this blog in October 2011 and wasn’t quite sure how to formulate my thoughts into an articulate blog rather than a long-winded rant! Apologies if that is what this turns out to be, but I now feel the time is right to publish my current thought pattern! What with the current horsemeat scandal saturating the current media headlines, I think and really hope, that we are finally realising as a nation that fresh and local really are best on so many levels – for local and British economy, health benefits, the environmental impact, and for British farming to name but a few!
I used to be a Sainsburys girl back in the day when I did a big weekly shop (long before I had children and could be super-organised about such things!). However, as the years have gone by and I have learnt more about food, how to eat, how to shop and the impact that my consumer choices make, I have moved further and further away from doing a big weekly supermarket shop. I’m pleased about that. I’m pleased to say that I now get the majority of my perishable grocery shopping from local independent suppliers. I have a FABULOUS green grocers (which I have previously blogged about – please see the post Loving my Local) and an AMAZING butchers that not only do fabulously fresh locally sourced meat, but also deliver locally. I am very fortunate indeed. However, there are some things that I do still tend to get from a convenience store or high street chain store – things such as nappies (they seem to have been a permanent feature in my shopping over the last 8 years!) chopped boxed/canned tomatoes, canned fish, dried pasta, rice, frozen peas to name a few. I am now well aware that I could make alternative and better consumer choices with each of these items. If I actually thought about it more, I could either go without certain items and substitute for fresh or dried alternatives, and I may even find a cheaper alternative (I recently decided to buy packets of dried chickpeas and cook the whole lot up and freeze them rather than opting for cans). Or I could use some items less frequently (such as pasta) and therefore afford to spend a little more on buying these items in my local grocery store! But sadly, I continue to feel the need to “supermarket shop” on occasion because it is either more convenient or because some of these products are much more cheaper at the supermarket than at my local independent store. If money was no object then I would totally ditch the supermarket, but I am trying to feed a family of 5 – and not just feed them, but provide healthy, wholesome food on a rather tight budget! I don’t think I can afford to ditch the supermarket completely yet – or can I? Actually, I think I am just kidding myself. I think I am just a selfish consumer happy to carry on regardless as it is convenient or familiar to me. Anyway, I am at risk of repeating my previous blog here, but recent media headlines have caused me to rethink and realise the importance of sourcing food that is fresh and local.
With current news focusing on the appearance of horsemeat in so many convenience foods, I have been thinking again about how this wouldn’t be such a huge problem for so many people if we all ate more fresh, local food. At first I was completely unconcerned about the horsemeat scandal as I never buy ready meals, or convenience meat products such as beef burgers etc. In essence, I don’t think I mind eating horsemeat, but if I am going to eat it, I would like to choose to do so and for it not to be disguised! However, what has concerned me is that if something such as horsemeat can be snuck into these food products, then what else is finding its way into factory produced food?! If the main ingredient of a food item is not being scrupulously checked and confirmed to be complying with food regulations, then how much easier must it be for the smaller things to go unnoticed?! For instance a part of the machinery not being thoroughly cleaned, or a workers hands not being thoroughly washed, or an unnoticed sneeze on the production line! How often are these things checked if the actual food is not being sufficiently monitored! Anyway, best not dwell on these things. And alas, the latest headline to appear was that one large retailers cafe consumables were indeed found to be ‘contaminated by faecal bacteria’. Nice! My thinking is that this raises very significant issues for consumers and I am quite excited that recent news items seem to be picking up on this too.
My two eldest children have been learning about Fairtrade at school as we have just had Fairtrade fortnight here in the UK. They’ve been asking some great questions which I suspect that if I thought through I would actually find would change the decision I make as a consumer. I am so aware at the moment that I continue to do what is most convenient to me as I make choices of what produce to buy, but if I really put myself in the shoes of the producers of so many of the things I consume everyday (tea, coffee, sugar, fruits), then I think I may consider how and where I shop a LOT more. And of course, it is not just about farmers and producers overseas that we need to consider, but also those right on our doorstep, who, unless we support them and their produce, I fear will not be part of British society in the foreseeable future.
Recent discoveries within the food industry have highlighted to us that we cannot really be certain of what we are eating unless we are sure of where it came from. It seems obvious that the best way of doing this is by producing it ourselves, and/or by sourcing food that is fresh and local, not mass-produced. I really hope that recent events do have the effect on us as consumers that cause us to consider what we buy and the impact that has both on ourselves and others. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that I believe it is vital that we continue to wrestle with these issues until we see personal changes that make a positive impact on society’s consumer habits, and consequently on our local economy and communities. Of course, you can be sure I will be writing about this in future blogs, but until then, I hope this post will encourage you to consider taking steps to sourcing food that is fresh and local, and being enriched by your experiences .