Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Green Market Shopping

I don't think I shop like most people over here. Folks seem to either slavishly attend the supermarket they feel most closely identifies the class of people with whom they wish to be associated -- I wish I were joking, but I'm not. Over here where you shop for food actually labels you and I know women who look down at others (me, for example) for shopping in a less prestigious supermarket. I laugh at them just as I laugh at the prices they are paying at Sainsburys or Marks & Spencers.

Some people use their village shops: the baker, butcher and green grocer all being separate. This might be because public transport takes them there, or it may be that they've found that establishing a relationship with the local butcher gets you the best special order turkey at Christmas, and the like. This may be the best option if your transport is limited and you have time to shop little and often. I'm not sure the prices are the best, however, and these shops are suffering fierce competition with the larger supermarkets. Not every village has a full complement of shopping facilities anymore.

Another option is to use the newer, smaller supermarket's that have a name for being inexpensive. I know some of these have branches in the US: Aldi, Nettos, Lidl. They put out weekly flyers advertising their 'sales'. These are not the same as the loss leader items in the flyers I got in the US. I find that they are overly liberal with their use of words such as 'only' 'extra' and 'sale'. I trust what my price book tells me over their words. [If you don't have as much money as you would like, I would urge you to develop a price book.] There are some good deals to be had, however, if you know enough to recognise them.

I seem to do a little of each. My shopping days start at a street called Double Row, in Seaton Delaval, about 8 miles north of us.

There are a group of shops, one of which is a green grocer, another a butcher and finally a funny little corner shop that sells a bit of everything; there aren't many great deals there, but I generally poke around just in case.

I first learned about Double Row from Bill, when he mentioned the price his care home in Blakelaw paid for meats from Prime Cut compared with our local supermarket. We went one day to check it out and I've gone back ever since.

I mentioned in the past that I don't do weekly menus, but more fortnightly (that's a commonly used word over here, meaning 2 weeks, or 14-nights). Beans and fish are the more frequently recurring sources of protein I aim to serve, with cheese and meat the least common. I try to have a little bit of everything on hand at all times and when you buy chicken breasts 10 pounds at a time and make a meal for two out of one large breast, it takes a while to run out. What we eat more than anything is fruit and veg and so I'm delighted to have found Laidlers.

Last Friday I paid £17.91 for:

a small box of strawberries
2.15kg (4.7lbs) of carrots
10 kiwi fruit
3.676kg (8.1) of onions
10 satsumas
a large cucumber
1.21kg (2.67) beetroot
.904kg (1.99) mushrooms
.56kg parsnips
2 packets of radishes
2 small boxes of cherry tomatoes on the vine
2 large bell peppers - 2 red and 2 yellow
1 bunch of asparagus,
a bag of red seedless grapes and
2 heads of broccoli
(pounds in parentheses for non-metric readers)

This will last us at around 2-3 weeks. The race to eat it all before it goes off helps keep our eating very healthy and of course this is supplemented with produce from the garden.. If necessary, I blanch and freeze the veg or just freeze the fruit for later use in spice cake.

I didn't need anything from the butchers and so proceded to Morrisons, the supermarket nearest me and one whose prices compare very favourably with other big chains, such as Tesco or Sainsburys. Morrisons bought out Safeway a few years ago, a name I knew in the US.

Morrisons is on my way home from Double Row. There I bought everything I put on my list when it ran out: bread making supplies, condiments, oatmeal, tinned and frozen vegetables, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc. I've done the price per unit comparison on most everything and though their prices have risen, they are still lower than comparable supermarkets. (I check on them now and then.) However, their fruit and veg prices -- with the exception of bananas -- are well above what I pay at Seaton Delaval.

Then I proceeded to Nettos in North Shields, only about a mile out of my way. I bought a couple of jars of coffee at about half of what Morrison's wants. For a long time Nettos had milk for 5 - 24p cheaper than other stores, but they've caught up now. I picked up a couple of boxes of (sinful, I know!) macaroni & cheese. It's one of the few convenience foods I buy, mainly because it reminds me of home and I absolutely love the stuff, even though Bill isn't certain it qualifies as actual food. I notice he eats it, though. It saves me buying a whole brick of cheese when cheese is on the menu. We have never managed to resist consuming the things within a couple of days unless I grate it all up and freeze it quickly!

Doing my shopping at those 3 stores takes me a couple of hours every 3-4 weeks. The two of us eat very well on only £50-60 a month, what most many people pay per week -- or for a meal out! I plan to carry on in this way where ever I live, seeking out the green markets or farmers markets, the best deals at supermarkets and finding the thrify shops. I think it makes purchasing food more fun and far less painful.


Rick Stone said...

Huh, I guess Wal-Mart has not made it to your part of the world yet. Everything you want in one place, from bread to bullets, and all at a lower price than anyone else. You poor, deprived Brits. ;->

Shelley said...

Well, we have Asda, which is owned by Wal-Mart, but my research indicates their prices are not lower. And though I have talked to the Wal-Mart gun sales department when estimating the value of my soon-to-be ex's gun collection, I don't foresee a day when Asda or any other supermarket in Britain will sell bullets! What a laugh!