An alternative way to shop

The Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted to people that you cannot always rely on the big supermarkets. Three weeks ago as we were heading for lock- down people went into stock piling mode, even though the powers that be said it was not necessary. People panicked. It was horrid. We went into Asda on a Saturday late afternoon to do a quick shop to get some basics that we were running out of and it was like the end of the world was happening. The place was packed, people walking around with full shopping trolley’s the aisles empty and so many shocked faces at what was going on. We headed for the gluten free aisle and it was barren. Not a bag of pasta or flour to be seen, the normal pasta and rice aisles completely empty, there wasn’t a tin of pulses to be found. We queued to pay with only half our list ticked off, and you could feel the stress and tension in the air.

This seems to have continued and supermarkets were forced to restrict how many things people were buying.  Video’s went online of people fighting over toilet roll – what was going on. Throughout this and even now,  people have posted about how their local corner shops still had good supplies of everything. Now I know corner shops are normally more expensive and its not an option for everyone, but surely its better to pop in there to grab a couple of things than go through the stress of the supermarket.

As we have progressed into lock-down more and more people on Twitter and other social media sites have been posting about alternative ways to shop, keep it local and support local businesses. Many restaurant and trade suppliers of fruit and vegetables have turned their business to domestic customers offering vegetable and fruit boxes as well as staple goods. Those websites like Farmdrop, are a great idea but you cannot get any delivery slots, just like the big supermarkets.

We normally have a vegetable box delivered every two weeks from Oddbox, but we needed to supplement this so we decided to try Knock Knock by Smith and Brock, who normally supply restaurants. We went for a large essentials box and it was brilliant. All the items were of  a great standard, the apples are still going strong two weeks later. It was value for money and it meant we didn’t have to go out to the supermarket.

I caved today and had to visit Sainsbury’s as we have run out of some basic things that we use all the time. I arrived later than I had hoped and was faced with a queue but it moved quickly and once in the store was faced with a fairly serene atmosphere. It was quiet, the fruit and vegetables were well stocked. Moving between aisles was easy. There are still huge parts of the store void of goods, e.g. flour and tinned pulses etc. but I got everything on my list bar one item.  I stocked up last week on an order from Sous Chef’s for the more random items we wanted.

In an attempt to avoid the supermarket madness we have been looking at local and online suppliers and found a lovely little butchers about 20 minutes walk from our house that we never knew about. We also found via other recommendations online The Courtyard Dairy, which sells cheese online and have decided to treat ourselves to some lovely looking cheese and wine.

There are of course all the normal brands still delivering, such as Majestic Wine. A case of wine we ordered arrived today as we were running low.

There are lots of blogs and articles online at the moment offering advice on local and online businesses supplying food beyond the traditional supermarket, and having tried some of them I would recommend it as it opens you up to new products and helping small businesses. I know these options are not viable to everyone, especially if you are living on a tight budget but if you can afford to shop elsewhere then do as it leaves the supermarkets for those who have no other choice.

A few suggestions on where to start looking for independent businesses and food suppliers,

  • Eat Like a Girl : Niamh knows good food and has her finger on the pulse of local and independent vendors. She has been using Twitter to collect her list and is keeping it updated on he website.
  • Jimmy Garcia a pop up king and caterer is setting the tone by turning his catering company around to provide dinners in association with Age UK during this time but also provides hampers with his trademark style.
  • The Independent has a good article about meat delivery boxes in the UK.
  • The Local Food Britain website has schemes for all over the UK.
  • Eater website has a London based list of local producers/ shops still open
  • Not actually anything to do with suppliers or shopping but Jack  Munroe’s is awesome for making ordinary tins into lush meals so I highly recommend checking out her website and social media! She is great for ideas of what to do with store cupboard staples and beyond.

This is just a small selection of articles and websites that have lists on them.

I do hope after this that it will make people think more about where they shop and keep up shopping locally once life returns to normal. It has certainly kept me busy looking up these companies and seeing what they have to offer.


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