I’m writing a series of blog posts exploring the books “How to be Free” and “The Idle Parent” written by Tom Hodgkinson. I enjoyed a lot of the ideas expressed in these books, and think that exploring them further will help me to explore the principles behind my own way of living and parenting.
Tom starts this chapter by declaring “Supermarkets are evil” – they control what we eat and what we buy, they lend us money and sell us holidays, they keep an eye on our habits and manipulate us to spend more. They exploit labour and suppliers, they kill town centres, and they don’t look after their customers. In the UK £1 in every £3 spent on groceries goes to Tesco.
We can’t complain about this situation, after all we are all complicit in the way it has evolved. Who can say that they don’t shop at the supermarket? Who can say that large, free carparks, everything under one roof and long opening hours aren’t convenient? But is convenient always better? Now that we have all given them licence, the supermarkets have destroyed everything else, so now we have little choice. Small towns often no longer have a butcher or baker or grocer on the high street, they’ve all closed because we chose to spend our money in these giants, and now we have no choice.
Shopping and working in supermarkets is pretty tedious too – compared with the animation and diversity of a busy market.
So… stop buying from supermarkets and claim back choice. Bake your own bread, grow your own veg, shop wholesale and shop locally.
I’m all for this philosophy, but it’s harder in practice than it is in reality.
I tried ignoring the supermarkets for a while and shopping in my local village, where the butcher/grocer is a local legend. It was fine for my day to day shopping, but where was I to buy loo roll or flour, rice and pasta? The corner shop only sell those in expensive brands and small bags, which makes things more expensive. Plus, the reality of shopping through several shops in winter with two small children hit home – you can’t carry all that much at the same time as holding two little hands.
So I tried ordering a larger shopping delivery each month from the supermarket, and doing the smaller shopping locally. But I live in a small village, and doing my day to day shopping then involved a six mile round trip in the car, which I wouldn’t have needed to do otherwise. So I started to do my grocery shopping while I was already out in the car, so inevitably ended up back to a weekly supermarket shop.
I really would like to use them less, and to support small businesses more, so I am going to look into the idea of buying wholesale, particularly when I’m already buying from a wholesaler for parts of my business, and then making a weekly trip to another village about 9 miles away where they have an excellent green-grocer and butcher among other lovely shops, and which I could combine with a beautiful dog walk.
I am quite pleased that I do already grow some of my own vegetables (a work in progress) and bake my own bread, but I could definitely do more to break free of the tyrant supermarkets.