Over the years I have become increasingly anti-supermarket. In my local area the big supermarket chains keep taking over empty retail spaces as, unlike many smaller businesses, they can afford the council’s ever-rising rents. Even the idea of buying their cheap milk and veg when the producers can hardly make a living because of price squeezes seems just so wrong!
But if you want to stick to a limited grocery budget, how can you manage without supermarkets? Their ethics and tactics may not please us all but they are still a convenient one-stop shop with some seemingly great offers. Often small independent grocery stores simply can’t compete with the price or range. Luckily there are affordable alternatives that also support local businesses and communities. I haven’t been able to stop using supermarkets altogether (yet!) but more and more of my grocery budget is spent elsewhere.
My home city has several vibrant farmers’ & community markets that provide not only fresh organic veg from a local farm but also free-range eggs, beautiful bread, and various lunch bites from home-made samosas to sushi, just to mention a few of the goods! Especially the fresh produce is very comparable with supermarket prices plus you get friendly service and that good feeling when you know where your lush spinach or mud-covered organic carrots have come from! Farm shops are great for local, affordable produce, too.
Refill stations, such as SESI in Oxford, encourage you to use your own containers to reduce packaging waste. You can buy whole foods from rice and beans to muesli as well as household detergent refills, all at very reasonable prices. In addition to a permanent food depot, they sell their goods at markets and pop-up shops.
Asian stores are a great place to buy rice, spices, and other staples of Asian cooking. Buying a 20 kg sack of rice is not the ideal option for everyone but luckily smaller sizes are available too!
Community run food co-operatives operate on not-for-profit basis and often rely on volunteer support. By ordering food in bulk direct from suppliers they enable their own customers to buy good food at a more affordable price. Some suppliers may sell their surplus stock cheaply, which brings the price to the co-op customer right down.
Grow your own herbs and vegetables if you have a patio, allotment or just an empty window sill. If you have a tiny space you won’t get a year’s supply of potatoes but how great is it to make pesto from your own basil or add your home-grown peppers to a salad? Use old pots and tubs for seedlings and buy cheap compost from a garden centre.
Bake your own bread and rolls. You don’t need a bread-maker for it.
What are your favourite budget-friendly alternatives to supermarkets? How easy is it to find what you need from independent shops and markets? It would be great to hear of your experiences!