TOAST’s Web “Thing”

99. Purchase nothing from a supermarket for 30 days

I do not like the impact that supermarkets are having on our lives.  Yes, they’re convenient, yes, buy combining their buying power, they give the consumer theoretically lower prices.  But, people have become dependant on them, affecting both their health, and finances. 

I don’t mean to rant or be a naysayer, but I’m positive most of you have experienced most of the following:

  • Poorly cut, overpriced, mis-labelled, flavourless meats.  Try a real butcher, taste the difference for yourself.  If you don’t know what to get, ASK THEM.  Tell them “I’d like a good steak for myself, I don’t want to spend more than $10”.  They’ll even tell you how to cook it.
  • Meats/dairy/frozen goods improperly stored.  Chicken stored incorrectly and handled improperly can kill people.  The person in charge of this in a supermarket may be 16 years old and has never cooked a meal involving raw meat in their entire life.  Fast food restaurants solved this problem by training the living shit out of everyone involved, whether food preparers or not, and are happy to dismiss people on the spot for procedure violations.  Take a look in the meat case as your local supermarket, determine for yourself if these procedures are working here.
  • Flavourless fruit and vegetables.  Crap picked green, ripened with ethylene gas.  Sometimes sealed in a plastic tray, injected with carbon monoxide to stop it looking like it has spoiled.
  • “Convenience” foods loaded with white flour, sugar, fat.  Try eating a frozen dinner every night for a week.  See if you end up feeling weak and feeble.  The just once eat a big steak, vegies, salad, potatoes, heavy bread and see if you feel like superman.

And it’s not the fault of the people on the ground either.  One of the large supermarket chains here is the nations largest employer of butchers, and I’m sure they know their stuff.  However, their hands are tied by incompetant line-management as well as upper management who give no more than lip service to corporate social responsibility. 

I am concerned about myself becoming too dependant on supermarkets, spending too much money, eating too much low quality food.  My response to this is to see what happens if I purchase nothing from a supermarket for 30 days.  I’m not going to change the world, but I can change myself.

I’m considering making the timeframe for this a whole year.

What’s included in a “Supermarket”?

I haven’t completely decided yet.  Which of the following may I go to ?

  • Online grocer Very tough, but probably not.  I mainly use them for the delivery service.  A case of coke, one of beer, a whackload of TP etc is kinda hard to get home without a car.  However, heaps of places take orders online and deliver that aren’t supermarkets.  Plus, taxis can help haul stuff.
  • “Warehouse” club  Probably not.  They’re essentually supermarkets.
  • Local corner store  Probably.  It’s convenient, owned and run my a nice person.  Things are not cheap, but they’re convenient in a hurry.  As long as I don’t use them as a basis for shopping, I think I’ll be OK.
  • Asian/other ethnic grocer – Hell yes.
  • Large Asian grocer  – The one in World Square – Probably, the one in Market City, maybe not (maybe if I say “OK, but no supermarkety stuff”).  Partially because a lot of the smaller local Asian grocers, I physically only just fit into, and end up being a damn nuisance to a lot of people in peak hour.
  • Multinational hamburger chain Maybe not.  Sometimes if you’re hungover, or stuck somewhere remote where your dinner options are really limited.  Remember, on both of those counts, there’s always kebabs.  Plus, if you can’t find a local freshly made hamburger somewhere, twice the size and half the price of a “chain” hamburger, you’re not looking hard enough.
  • Multinational Fried Chicken Purveyor, Multinational Pizza Company  Probably Not.  Summer Hill has more than one good wood-fired pizza place, Ashfield has a fried chicken place,
  • Local snack bar/milk bar Probably. (I.e.  I can go there). 
    24 hour convenience store/petrol station (apart from petrol).  Probably not, except in case of emergency (run out of condoms at 3am.  Run out of ham at 4am.  Run out of toilet paper at 5am).
  • Hardware store Probably. Even though hardware stores are being taken over by conglomerates, and it’s hard to find a “local” one, I can get a lot of what I need from those cheap places on the main road in Ashfield.  The objective isn’t to avoid multinationals, just avoid supermarkets and bad food!.
  • Pub/RSL  Hell yes!
  • “Discount retailer” (K-Mart etc). Maybe.  Haven’t decided.
  • Restaurants (avoid where possible, but that’s related to a different goal)

Note that I’m not excluded from entering these places.  I find them tremendous fun !.

What do I buy from supermarkets that might make this difficult?

  • Meat, Eggs, Fruit, Veg, Bread, Cheese, Dairy, Ham – no problem.  Butcher, greengrocer, deli, baker.
  • Flour, Sugar, Pasta, Canned vegetables – Deli.
  • Baked beans – Tough.  These can be made.
  • Soap, deodorant, toothpaste etc – Chemist
  • Dog food – BUTCHER, Greengrocer.
  • Dog treats – Pet supplier.
  • Soy sauce, hoi sin sauce, lotus leaves – Asian grocer.  Ashfield has a heap of them.  By chance, my favourite is the one closest to my house.
  • Rice – Asian Grocer?
  • Plastic wrap, foil, washing up supplies – catering / kitchen supplier.  Hardware store.  Office supplier.
  • Insecticide – Hardware store.
  • Toilet paper – Don’t know.  Chemist?
  • Clothes washing powder – Don’t know.  Chemist?
  • Instant-soup – Don’t know.  Shouldn’t be eating that crap.  Make myself and freeze ?
  • Chocolate – Catering supplier, sweet shop.
  • Chocolate bars – Shouldn’t be eating that crap.
  • Soft drinks – Tough.  I do own kegs, have a bottle of C02, and skillz, so should consider making my own syrups.  Healthier ones with lower GI sweetners from the health food shop.  Cola might be tough.  Or just grab a can as I want one at a snacks place.  Plus “I shoudn’t be drinking that crap”
  • V / Redbull – Have a big cup of coffee, taurine and guarana can be bought in tablet form.
  • Herbs and Spices – Specialist retailer.
  • Nuts – Nuts to you.  (The store “Nuts to you”).
  • Cereal – I’ve been eating congee recently, but health food shops sell whatever puffed grains you want.  Add  a bucket of sugar and a fist full of cocoa and a spoon of salt, and you won’t know the difference.

The more I think about it, the “easier” it becomes.  The only real problem I have is logistics.  I do have a big-ass wagon, but no car.  Solutions can be found in finding delivery services, planning in advance, and buying in BULK where possible (I have plenty of storage place here and toilet paper does not expire).  It will involve some changes too (shopping at my butcher on the way to work, instead of the supermarket on the way home, hauling a bit more ass at lunchtime).

I’m sure doing this will make me healthier, happier and wealthier.  $120 this last weekend bought me more meat, fruit, veg, chicken, cheese and bread than I could carry in a wagon.  And it was enough to feed myself, the missus, and the dawg for a week, with some leftovers.  I’ll try and post some “before/after” data on the bling if you’re interested.

Next actions:

Define the terms

Complete this list

Figure out who can send me what

Make the commitment

DO IT

After this?  Supermarkets do have a number of benefits.  E.g, when one runs a “loss leader” item (selling an item below cost, in order to get you to make a special trip out there), items that most people don’t want, but are true treasures (Brie, marked down because it’s one day before it’s expiry date).  So, I think they have their place and offer benefits, but the only way I can be sure I’m not dependant on them is to go cold turkey for a while.


04/01/2006

So far so good.  I put an order in to shopfast on NYE for a few things to help me get started.

In fact, it’s been pretty easy so far.  About the only thing that’s come close is that I needed some meat for the dog’s dinner.  Apparently, there’s no longer a butcher in World Square (there’s one sort of inside the Asian supermarket there), but there is a fishmonger, so I got her 2 portions of Guatemalan something-or-other.  And she loved it!  She doesn’t normally get any fish (I don’t eat it, I’m very allergic to it), win-win !

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