Not only has it been a very busy week, but restricting myself to local, independent retailers and paying particular attention to the provenance of the food I buy has not been easy.
Usually, our family shopping is done like this:
we have a list on the go, broken down into sections (fruit + veg, dry goods, wine etc.)
one of us will do a staple supermarket shop once or twice a week, stocking up on cleaning products, laundry detergents, pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, bananas etc. You get my drift.
If we are not eating a Savvy meal, then meat and fish I tend to buy from the butcher and fishmonger as and when I need it. Buying meat up to 3 days in advance is fine, provided you store it correctly. Fish and seafood needs to ideally be bought and eaten the same or the next day.
We’re lucky that there is a good fishmonger, butcher, fruit + veg shop and bakery not far from where we live: but it’s still a 5-10 drive in the car + finding car parking, so I tend to do this not more than once or twice a week and combine this with doing something else in the area.
We also have several delis, a cheese shop and wine merchants within a short driving distance.
A farmers’ market is held once a month within walking distance, so this does not really count much towards our weekly food shopping beyond once a month being able to pick up some special goodies or fresh food which will eaten in the days that follow.
So, on top of the supermarket staples shop + one or two trips to the fishmonger/butcher/baker one of us will do another quick shop during the week, mainly for fruit and vegetables.
Once a month, I like to venture out to specialist (ethnic) shops and stock up on speciality ingredients, such as pickled lemons, spices and Asian groceries. This actually is the kind of shopping that I enjoy most, and going into some of these shops feels like a mini holiday.
Seeing it written down like this, it looks like we spend a big part of life gathering food!
So, this brings me to the lure of the supermarket which is convenience, without a doubt. And a trip to Waitrose is actually a nice experience!
The things that stick out in my mind most from the first week of “looklocal” is that shopping this way does require a certain amount of planning and cooking confidence (because shopping this way is less predictable than working your way down the list in the supermarket) and yes, it does take more time.
It is also a lot easier I think in the countryside; having spent the previous weekend in North Yorkshire, I noticed lots of signs for farm gate sales (eggs, soft fruit, potatoes) and farms shops are more numerous and more accessible both in terms of range of produce and how easy it is to get to them.
On the flip side, shopping this way is more of a pleasure, you chat to other shoppers and the sales staff (I do anyway) and probably end up being a bit more adventurous about what you buy. Also, you come home with a lot less packaging, which is a good thing for the planet.
Yesterday, I met fashion writer turned food blogger Karen Homer (appropriately at Borough Market) to discuss the “LookLocal” challenge which Karen has taken on.
Check out Karen’s well written blog www.acookslibrary.com where she talks about her experience of and personal take on shopping, cooking for and feeding a family and about what she eats and why. You can also follow Karen on Twitter @acookslibrary.
Next week, I’ll tell you what I have found out in terms of provenance and pricing.
Can you assume that independent retailers automatically stock local or British produce?
What about price? Is it more expensive to shop this way and if the answer is yes, how much more?
And, is it possible to eat fresh, good quality food everyday?
I think it is … and later this month I will share with you my approach to kitchen keeping. What to buy and when, clever recycling of left-overs, what to keep in your store cupboard and finding economical ways of buying good quality ingredients.
By then, The Big Treat which takes place on 16 & 17 July will be behind us and I will have talked “shopping MOT with SavvyCook, the Gok Wan of the kitchen cupboard” with hundreds of visitors.
Pop along next week to our urban pop-up health farm in the middle of London, it would be nice to see you!
And wish me luck … as I write I have yet to find a suitable kitchen cupboard/larder unit like the one below.
Happy shopping, best