Monday, 1 December 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (Review)

Yesterday was the last day of my challenge.  Today I went out and celebrated ... no, not by dashing into the nearest supermarket to stock up on all the goods I'd missed, but by buying my first mince pie of the season ... from one of our local independent bakers.

Because you see, this challenge has been much easier, and more enjoyable, than I feared.  True it's required more forward thinking, and seeking out alternative traders and ingredients, but even on days when I haven't had time to give it much thought I've managed to put something on the table.

A few observations:

I am very fortunate to live within walking distance of a not just one, but two thriving high streets and a couple of markets, without which I would surely have failed in my challenge.

It's difficult to tell whether I'm better or worse off avoiding supermarkets.  Independents can't always match Aldi & Lidl prices but I've been more discerning in what I buy and haven't been tempted to buy more than I needed or give in to irresistible special offers.

I've eaten even less processed food than usual, preparing meals from scratch based on grains, pulses and vegetables, with fish and meat thrown in at the weekends.

The percentage of Bristol Pound payments has increased.

I've discovered a new supplier for the Indian dishes I enjoy preparing, as well as a new baker and cafe.

There is a sense of satisfaction in supporting local traders and keeping my local high street alive.

So although I'll eventually return to some of the smaller supermarkets it will only be for the handful of items I can't buy elsewhere.  I'll also be setting a weekly limit to prevent me from succumbing to old habits.

Perhaps you could give it a go.  If you do I'd like to hear how you get on.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Front Room Art Trail 2014

No photos of the art but here are some of the gardens!

Friday, 14 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (The Bristol Pound)

One of the benefits of going supermarket-free is being able to make greater use of Bristol's local currency.  Launched just over two years ago the £B supports local independent traders by ensuring that every £B spent continues to circulate within the local economy, creating jobs and fostering links between local businesses, long after its sterling equivalent has flown the city.

There are now over 750 traders accepting £B in paper or digital form, including cafes, chimney sweeps, brewers, photographers, web designers, health food shops, publishers, plumbers, accountants, cycle couriers, buses ... but no supermarkets!

To find out more log on to, open an account and see where it takes you.  I promise you will not be disappointed.

Oh, and look out for the brand new Official Bristol Pound Directory 2015 hitting the streets as you read this.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (The Butcher ...)

I've mentioned North Street, my local high street, without which this challenge would have been extremely difficult, if not altogether impossible.

One of the stars of North Street is Rare, the butcher.  Chris runs a traditional shop but with a modern twist.  You'll find all the normal cuts, but there are surprises tucked in among them, such as the Southville sausage delicately flavoured with lemongrass, spicy lamb koftas and French onglet steaks.

I shop at Rare for quality and local provenance, but also for the friendliness of the staff, the helpful advice on what to buy and how to cook it and the cheery conversations in the inevitable queue.  When I leave it's not just with 500g of diced pork, but with a smile on my face and a new recipe to try out.

One of my favourite memories dates from the days of the previous owner whose wife, when I asked for a pound of ordinary sausages, gently corrected me, saying that there was nothing ordinary on her counter.  She was right!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (Homemade Alternatives)

I've been using up opened items of supermarket foods but a few of these are coming to an end and I'm going to have to find alternatives - or make them myself.

Pesto: As well as stirring this through pasta and chucking in a handful of pine nuts, half a dozen olives or crumbled feta, I've also been known to use it to to add flavour to sauces or a zing to a weekday sandwich.  Pesto is traditionally made with basil.  Now I don't know about you but I've never been very successful in growing basil, however we have kale in our back garden, and I'm told it is a reasonable substitute.

Mayonnaise: Mayo is the essential partner for tuna in sandwiches and baked potatoes as well as my favourite potato salad (along with crispy bacon, spring onions and mustard).  However, despite following various recipes to the letter, I invariably end up with a curdled mess at the bottom of my bowl and enough egg whites to make a dozen pavlovas.

Yoghurt: Yoghurt is something I have made quite successfully, using a a spoonful of live yoghurt, warm milk and a thermos flask.  The consistency differs from shop bought varieties but I prefer it.  I've also strained it to produce a soft cheese.

So I've got a bit of experimenting to do.

Have you any tried and tested recipes to share?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (Cooking in Bulk)

One of the occasions I find myself popping in to a supermarket is when I've a quick turn around between coming home from work and going out for the evening.  I hurriedly scan the shelves for a pizza or a pie to pop in the oven or a sauce to stir through a bowl of pasta, either option easier than cooking a meal from scratch.

Tonight was a point in case.  This time, however, I was better prepared than usual and we dined, as we had the evening before, on Jamie Oliver's aubergine dal with rice and lime pickle.  A dollop of yoghurt wouldn't have gone amiss had I remembered to add a pot to my shopping list.

Bulk cooking makes sense in so many ways. There are economic savings to be made in buying larger quantities of ingredients, energy savings in cooking two or more portions at the same time and time savings in not having to prepare a meal every night.

The aubergine dal was so delicious I didn't mind eating it two days in a row, but I could have frozen it to eat it next week.  The trick, of course, is to remember to label it clearly!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

30-Day Goodbye Supermarkets Challenge (Local High Street)

I didn't do much in preparation for this challenge, apart from making a trip to Bristol Sweet Mart, a veritable Aladdin's cave, to stock up on flours, pulses and spices.

I'm lucky to live within walking distance of that increasing rare phenomenon, a thriving high street, boasting two butchers, three bakers, a greengrocer and a deli.  We also have a weekly Sunday market.

So I've been able to buy croissants, liver, eggs, cheese, fruit, vegetables, split peas, dried fruit and nuts without darkening the door of a supermarket.

I've used up a few odds and ends from the freezer, clearing a space for stocks of sauces and soups.  Having the basis of a meal in stock should save me from an emergency visit to a supermarket after a long day at work.