Shopped- The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets


I’ve just finished reading this book- SHOPPED: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets

– it’s been on my reading list for years and I spotted it in a charity shop! I wish I’d read it sooner, it was eye-opening. It has a lot of points that are relevant to becoming Zero Waste or Minimalist. I’d encourage you to read it, but I will try to give a flavour of it here.

One of the things which I knew a small amount about, was the buying practices of the supermarkets. But here, you can read about it- in all its horrifying detail. Waste is built into the supermarket system. They specify produce by size and weight and all that doesn’t meet specification is destined to be wasted. Even though it is perfectly good food. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was amongst one of the high profile people who highlighted this last year. Most of the reason they specify this, it because they want produce- for example, apples, to fit neatly into their plastic packaging.

All of the so-called offers you get at supermarkets, are usually funded by the suppliers themselves. Even though they know that it won’t gain them loyal customers, as British shoppers are so accustomed to moving onto the next ‘deal’. They are powerless to do anything about it, or they will be de-listed by the supermarkets. Since the majority of people do all their shopping at the supermarket, this could be catastrophic for the supplier. However, supermarkets are aiming to deal with less and less suppliers, as they streamline their systems to make the most profit. This means suppliers are going out of business anyway.

In their drive to reduce their costs, they do not care about quality- they just care about appearance. They want the fruit and veg they buy to sit on the shelf for days on end, looking just as pristine as day 1 when it was harvested. They have even developed particular varieties of fruit and vegetable, that have nothing to do with their superior taste and everything to do with their appearance. For example, Elsanta strawberries have no flavour, but are very firm and hence won’t get bashed around in transit. Furthermore, they encourage the use of way more chemical pesticides than farmers think healthy just to keep up this specification. Supermarkets don’t really support local produce, hence so many areas of the UK are facing the extinction of local varieties and dishes. They just don’t fit into the mass production model.

I have been shifting a lot of my spending to independents in trying to go Zero Waste. I aim to buy all my fruit and veg from my local green grocers now. Although occasionally I run out of carrots or something like that, but I can still buy these loose in the supermarkets if need be. But after reading this book, I want to try and shift all my spending. We’ve virtually cut out 75% of meat from our diet lately, partly for health reasons and partly for cost. But when we do buy meat, we try to use our local butcher. He also sells local, free range eggs. I am trying to find a local fishmonger, but it seems that they are all but extinct. We have a great local health food store where I can buy all kinds of loose dried fruits and nuts. They also sell locally milled flour and lots of other groceries. I will aim to spend more with them, although it will undoubtedly cost us more and we don’t have an infinite budget. However I feel so much happier knowing I am supporting the livelihood of local people and they are not part of the wasteful supermarket system.

Over to you, where do you do the majority of your shopping? Do you still have the option of independents?

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