As we near the end of week one of UK Covid-19 Coronavirus ‘lockdown’, I promised I would let you know how we had managed without joining the masses of people supermarket panic buying.
When I wrote last week little did I know that Boris Johnson was only hours away from interupting our TV with the announcement we all expected. The instruction to stay home. Restrict movements. Think ‘is it essential?’ The UK locked down overnight. It is absolutely the right decision and I am pleased I was already ahead of the game.
The pictures of the ridiculous gatherings outside supermarkets had already got me squirming. My plan to ‘shop small, shop different’ was already well underway. I was, and still am, self isolating with an underlying health condition.
So one week in and how did it go?
My Fridge Has Never looked So Fresh
My first ‘hurrah’ goes to a fruit and veg distributor. Primarily wholesale although they have always opened to the public. How did we not know that? I have often bemoaned the lack of farm shops in our particular part of Scotland. So when someone happened to share they were producing set boxes, with the option to add on bread, milk and eggs I was ‘count me in!’
Meanwhile, our local filling station basics shop has teamed up with an award-winning butcher in the next village to take delivery of fresh meat and pie orders. That’s our protein taken care of.
A much-needed bag of brown rice (now as rare as rocking horse poo) was sourced at a lovely local delicatessen. A cake, some game pie and a local gin might well have fallen into the basket too.
We have also made use of a couple of online distributors. Venison and even some sweet treats have arrived by post.
It’s been a week that has reminded me of how we shop when we used to have UK cottage holidays. Instead of seeking out the nearest supermarket, we would look for small retailers, and ideally selling local produce. Be that meat, fresh fish, or an allotment cooperative. Holiday treats supporting the local economy we were enjoying.
Hold that thought, I will come back to it.
Wholesalers Turn Retailers
As the week has gone on, more and more, businesses have started to pop up with their own initiatives to keep the nation fed. Genius plans to minimise their own losses when restaurants and cafes and hotels were told to close.
Meanwhile, we still need food, while we are cooped up at home.
When you think about it, it’s logical isn’t it? Literally overnight the biggest percentage of their trade had gone. Yet the supplies are still there. And there are still mouths to feed. The suppliers are now realising the marketplace has simply moved – to the sofa!
This week, for example, I have seen two or three social media posts advertising stockpiles of shellfish. Still landing, because fishermen still need to fish, but with no kitchens able to take them.
Many, too, have created the option to order online too. Refrigerated and fast deep-frozen produce could be on your doorstep within 48 hours. This is a well-practised process and one which we have used, even before the movement restrictions came into force.
One thing I have already found is we are more mindful of reducing waste. When our fruits and veg box arrived, they had also prepared a rather extensive herbs box too. Fresh herbs is a staple in our fridge. Yet we often clear out each week, putting the wilted remnants to the compost bin.
Now, we simply don’t know when we will get more. We are still refusing to join the supermarket panic buying frenzy. Not that I would expect to find much on the herb shelf t
So yesterday I set about looking for ways to hold onto my fresh herbs and chillis for as long as possible. I found a few really good sites:
Homemade dried herb powders – by Culinary Ambition, food and travel blogger
The freezer now has a collection of containers all filled with herbs and chillis which I can draw upon.
The next day or two I will almost certainly learn how to blanch and freeze some of the surplus vegetables. I didn’t over order, these were set boxes. And yes – I really did say learn – because I am ashamed to say at the age of 54 I have never frozen veg in any state except in another cooked dish.
Every day is a school day.
One challenge in all of this food shopping has been how to ensure that IT doesn’t then bring the virus into our home. There are lots of guidelines online around how long the virus lasts on certain materials. Metal and plastic at three days gets me a feeling more than a little bit ‘eek’.
Mr Smith is responsible for the correct flow of hand, glove, sanitiser and doorstep delivery (as he also collects for a neighbour too). My job is then to cleanse each item before it is allowed over the threshold. Extreme measures, but sensible ones. This video is a really great and practical demo of how to do this while keeping ourselves safe too.
Things To Be Grateful For
As I sit here today I can honestly say this week has made me really think about our habits.
We have become lazy. The supermarket provides the opportunity to get everything we need under one roof. But at what cost?
I only have to open my fridge door now to see exactly how changing our shopping habits this week has massively reduced the amount of plastic. Shelves normally stacked high with plastic trays of meat, fish and ready-made meals and now replaced with a wicker basket of vegetables, de-bagged bunches of herbs and paper-wrapped goodies from the deli.
Plastic wrappers too are greatly reduced. Not entirely, but the veg box came almost completely free of plastic. Only the herbs, lettuce and cucumber were individually wrapped. As the refuse collection services of recycled waste cease here tomorrow, we will be thankful for that. But much more important – I think the wildlife, our oceans and our planet might be a little more thankful too, in time.
I am also grateful to have met new people by shopping different too. We (Mr Smith, not me) collect their veg and fruit and they add a handful of essentials onto their supermarket shop for us. Small gestures, little acts of kindness. But already we have laughed and spoken on the phone several times this week.
The biggest realisation though is remembering that in changing our habits we are giving more to the local businesses. The smaller businesses are the ones who are in real danger now. Especially now. The ‘big sheds’ will survive this. Just look at the crazy supermarket panic buying. They will weather it – probably do pretty well out of it actually.
As I said before, we have got lazy. Driving 30 miles to one store and filling our home with unnecessary plastic. By gathering the things we can from the local butcher, deli, fish seller we shop cleaner. Often they wrap simpler. Certainly no trays. And in staying away from the big sheds we are leaving the supplies for those who have no choice but to shop that way, and keep ourselves a little safer too, I hope.
Week One Done – Bring On Week Two
I do feel like my week has been consumed by an obsession with food and cleaning (my poor hands are sore and cracked and needing more gentle care).
But in some ways, it has given me a focus. Now we know the ropes and have sourced some fantastic small suppliers then I hope the coming weeks will start to develop routines. Routines which mean I (at least) can get back to my day job and find a way to bring in some income. Routines which do not include supermarket panic buying. And routines which I truly think will mean we hold onto these new values long after this is all over.
Ten days without a supermarket – long may it continue.
I hope you find your own focus this week and wish, for you, that staying home starts to feel a little less alien. Stay safe and well.
Marie also writes for Medium as @marietsmith
Any links which take you to my Medium stories, from this blog, are entirely free reads – so fill your boots. Clap too if you feel the urge, because even unpaid reaction helps a story gain traction.