• Lifestyle

Why avoiding big supermarkets is good for the soul and your wallet

Shopping locally and avoiding chain supermarkets is easier (and cheaper) than you think

By Marieka Jacobs

Two months ago I decided to stop shopping at Woolworths, Coles and Aldi. My decision was fuelled by the realisation that since having children the gap between my beliefs and behaviours had grown.

Like any family, the pressures of feeding and raising multiple sets of hungry mouths on a budget are very real. Add to this the convenience of shopping at both big supermarkets and the deal was done, even though I regularly found the entire shopping experience unsatisfactory.

So what changed? Over time I became increasingly frustrated at myself that my consumer choices didn’t reflect my beliefs – I am in complete disagreement with the the duopoly of our food industry – so two months ago I decided to make better choices, ones that align with my beliefs and set good examples for my children.

Quitting the large supermarkets has not only allowed me to completely disentangle myself from the morally dubious corporatisation of food, but more importantly, it has created a better quality of life for myself and my family.

Here’s what I’ve learned…

I now make feel-good purchases

You inevitably end up buying from small to medium businesses, most of whom are deeply passionate about what they do. The supply chain is shorter, which means you walk away feeling very connected. It’s possible to ask questions (and actually get answers!). Even if the vendor didn’t make or grow the item themselves, 99 per cent of the time they have an intimate relationship with the person that did.

I support my local community

Shopping habits become far more localised because you are buying from small scale farms and local businesses. This means financial and emotional investment flows back into your community.

There’s less plastic

Bulk purchases are a mainstay of this type of shopping, which means you end up with a lot less plastic in your bin each week.

It’s the same weekly spend

This one was a surprise! While I pay more for locally made individual items such as curry paste, bread and cheese, I am spending less on filler items like rice crackers, tuna and dips that used to sneak their way into my shopping basket.

The quality is everything

Everything tastes better! This one has been the big drawcard for my partner (who was a little skeptical about the idea at first).

My favourite finds

I use the buying group The Honest To Goodness Food Buying Group. 

Open Food Network is a directory to help find local food co-ops, farmers markets, producers and wholefood stores.

Church Farm General Store for curry pastes. I buy them online but they have stockists across Australia.

Who Gives A Crap toilet paper do bulk orders of 100 per cent toilet paper, and half of their proceeds are donated to build toilets in the developing world.

Marieka Jacobs
Marieka Jacobs

How you can ditch the big supermarkets too…

Buy food storage containers, and lots of it! You will need somewhere to put all those bulk purchases. We love Fido glass jars.

Start a buying group in your local community, which means you will be able to access online goods at wholesale prices. 

Grow some essentials at home – for us that means a small, manageable veggie patch of leafy greens and herbs.

When all else fails, use your local independent supermarket to stock up on those tricky goods like cleaning products or nappies. 

Follow Marieka’s supermarket-free life

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