Sunday, 22 February 2015

BBC Radio Devon and my five minutes of fame!

Christmas eve 2014 was on a Wednesday. This was also #Devonhour time on Twitter between 8-9pm. I hadn't planned to take part as I'd had a jar or two (read .... quite a few) however I saw a tweet about the madness of supermarket shopping because it was Christmas and responded with the fact that we'd almost completed a year without supermarket shopping. Well here it is............


I then had a tweet from Michael Chequer a broadcaster on BBC Radio Devon asking me to get in touch so we could discuss supermarket challenge ............

On the 7th January at 7.25am he talked to me live on air during a five minute phone interview about our year of supporting local. 
I was then invited down to the BBC Radio Devon studio to take part in one of Michael's Saturday shows.

So on 7th February at 9am I found myself sitting in front of a microphone opposite Michael Chequer and next to another guest called Bob in a Plymouth radio studio!

Although I didn't feel nervous (no butterflies or dry mouth etc) I realised that as I unwrapped the cheese that I'd taken with me my hands were shaking and I couldn't do anything about it. It was totally involuntary! 

Anyway after this initial nervousness I thoroughly enjoyed my hour talking to Michael and Bob about our year without supermarkets and then guiding them through our cheese as they tasted them.
As you will see there was no expense spared for the cheese plate ..... two sheets of A4 paper!

We then popped into Tavistock on our way back to buy a few things from the local shops and pannier market.

Thank goodness we did ......... 

.......... on the way home the road was blocked by an accident and as we turned back the emergency services were just arriving.

It did make us wonder whether supporting local had actually saved us from being involved in an accident. 

Something we'll never know though.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The challenge has finished!

So here's the thing ......... the challenge has finished and unbelievably the year is up!  

At the beginning we had a few hiccups but I guess that was going to be inevitable as with anything new and yes on a few occasions frustrating but all in all it has actually proved to be an enjoyable experience and soon became a habit.

We found Keith and Anne at the village shop, Southview Stores to be extremely helpful from the start sourcing and stocking  things for us and if it hadn't been for this support whilst we got used to no supermarket shopping we may have had second thoughts. They also use local producers as much possible.

We found an abundance of locally grown or supplied fruit and veg in shops that normally we'd have passed by ........and mainly shared our custom between Copplestone Farm Shop, Zanadu in Torrington, Kellands in Bideford and Hallwood Veg in Okehampton.


 As well as from Hatherleigh Market

And we also had a good supply of fruit and veg from our garden

The thing I found I liked was being able to check over the fruit and veg which is mainly sold loose and its nice to be able to buy ripe fruit rather than pre packed home ripening fruit from the supermarket which either stays as hard as bullets or is bruised and goes off before it ripens. It is fresher and I've also found there is a far wider selection to be found  than in supermarkets and a lot of it is British.

What about price?

Well we've found in general that it is cheaper and certainly no more expensive than supermarkets and that includes Lidl! 

At the start of the challenge we made it clear that if we couldn't get something other than from a supermarket or it was needed for the business then we would step over the supermarket threshold. This wasn't an experiment in deprivation but to see if it was possible to shop locally and avoid supermarkets for a year. And yes I started with every confidence that we could. However there are three things that we have had to concede can only be found in  the supermarket and two things which on occasions we have been to buy there. 
Firstly creme fraiche seems to be the most the most elusive and although initially  the village shop got it in for us unfortunately no one else in the village bought it and we only needed one pot a week at the most so the rest went out of date so they stopped stocking it.

I mentioned in my previous post about the washing tablets and the dishwasher tablets. 

Now if you've been with us from the start you'll remember the saga of the unsalted butter at the village shop. Well this went the same way as the creme fraiche, no one else buying it. We had found it in Landsdowne Dairy in Bude early on and when the Farmers Market started in April, Chris was able to buy it weekly whilst he was there until the end of August. After that if we had errands to run at Hatherleigh we bought it at The Cheese Pantry but for the last few weeks we have had to buy it in Waitrose. 

The other thing is my once a week need for oily fish and salmon is the good old standby. Again during the summer it was easy to get from the market or the fishmongers in Bude. Even mackerel seemed to elude the fisherman for weeks too so sometimes the salmon has had to come from Waitrose.

Other than when we came back from holiday as mentioned in the last post there was one other occasion when we had to pop into Waitrose to buy shampoo, tissues, and soap because we found Lloyds pharmacy was closed for refurbishment. Things we had run out of and needed that day.

Now down to money ........ 

We initially decided we should have a budget of £50 a week or £200 a month but then exceeded it so went up to £240 which was then too much. What we also hadn't taken into account is that some months have five weeks or that larger purchases like dishwasher tablets and washing tablets always seem to be needed at the same time. In the end we decided to give up on a budget and see what happened at the end.

So time to add up the receipts! 

Total £1866.86

Then there are the things we buy from fellow traders at markets which I haven't receipts for but is roughly £250

We also bought some pork and goat for the freezer from a friend £120

This is the first year we haven't reared our own Christmas dinner, made the pudding or cake but bought from friends instead plus smoked salmon and a few nibbles  £80

And of course the the few purchases from Waitrose £77.82

Total spend £2394.68

We used cash for all the purchases and withdrew £2400 over the year

Total left £6.18

So for those of you who can do maths there's an 86p overspend!!!!

The question is have we saved money?

The answer is a most definite yes! 

At a conservative estimate looking at our credit card bills and not taking alcohol into account (as discussed at the start of the challenge) we were spending around £75 a week in Waitrose which adds up to £3900 a year. This also didn't take into account the extra £250 or so spend at markets and any extras. So we appear to have saved £1750 on this reckoning!

Was it worth it?

Oh most definately yes!

It was hard to start with until we got used to it and we have had to make lists and plan what we need bearing in mind where we are going to be shopping. Also when its pouring with rain and howling a gale its not much fun walking through a town but its been a joy to talk to shop keepers/assistants and other shoppers, also not to have to queue behind grumpy shoppers with laden trollies or have people behind you huff because they're in a hurry!

Will we continue with it?

Again definitely yes!

Not only have we saved money, we've also only bought what we've needed, so no food mountain in the cupboards, fridge and freezer. The logistics of it has involved planning more, making lists and not going to the same towns week in and week out. It has also cost us to park in some places but by trying to combine it with some other reason to be going there it hasn't mattered,
and funnily enough it is quicker than pushing a trolley around the supermarket. We are of course so lucky to have the village shop too.

I would recommend it to anyone thinking of giving it a go. Its not for everyone in this busy world but even if you just buy a few things every week from your village shop or local green grocer you'll be supporting local! 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Ten months on ........

I can't believe that its six months since I last posted on this blog. I hadn't planned to be so neglectful but various events conspired against me and consequently time has marched on and its now November!

 I'm sure that due to my silence you decided months ago that we had given up on supporting local and gone back to supermarket shopping ...................

So what's happened since April?

We've continued to buy from the village shop all the regular items that were on our list before.

 We were able to buy unsalted butter from Landsdowne Dairy in Bude until the Farmers Market finished for the season and we had no need to go to Bude. Luckily we found it in the Cheese Pantry in Hatherleigh, so we're sorted for the winter. However crème fraiche has proved to be more difficult and we've had to buy it in a supermarket.

All our fruit and veg has come from green grocers, farm shops or markets and a small amount from our garden.
Back in the spring we did have to buy a bag of frozen cauliflower from Waitrose as none of the green grocers or Waitrose for that matter had any fresh ones (due to the weather we later found out) and Chris needed it for the curry he was cooking that night.

We were buying dishwasher tablets from the village shop until the dishwasher stopped dispensing them properly so have resorted to buying liquid capsules from Waitrose along with Persil washing capsules due to my sensitive skin. The only other occasion we have had to resort to Waitrose was on our way back from Gatwick after our holiday at 7pm when we needed a few bits such as milk and something for supper.

Apart from this it has become second nature to do our shopping in independent local shops and we're definitely saving money too. We have found that £200 is lasting us five weeks.

It's strange to think that in six weeks time we will have come to the end of this challenge!!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Copplestone Farm Shop

Once a month I have to go to a farm between Crediton and Tiverton. On my way I pass two farm shops. One of these is Copplestone Farm Shop, located on a main road and with a large carpark, so no excuses really for not popping in............ I've only been in once before - last summer.

Well one month I fly past in the afternoon and am always running late so can't stop off. Sounds like an excuse? Yes, you're right, it is! I should leave earlier!

This month it was a morning trip So on my way back I paid it a visit.

As I was waiting to turn in I saw the sign advertising English yellow tomatoes and Jersey Royal potatoes ........... I'd made the right decision.

Before I'd even got in the door I was clutching yellow tomatoes, spring cabbage and cauliflower.
Inside I picked up a basket and soon filled it with purple sprouting broccoli, celariac, Jersey royal potatoes and lots more ....... see for yourself!

It was so good to be able to touch and feel everything to make sure it was fresh and ripe.

Also there are blackboards up inside the shop with everything priced and smaller tickets for the outside displays. Also all the English produce is flagged up.

And of course I had a lovely chat with Mrs. CFS.

Now for those of you taking note .............. I'm sure you'll point out that I've just bought a lot of fruit and veg for £17.21 on this months budget ...........................yes you're right...........

However it was  too good an opportunity to miss, as tomorrow Chris is at a market and I've got errands in Holsworthy. Also I want decent fruit and veg for a change!

Soooooooooooooooo I'm bending the rules and this is actually going to come out of next months budget. (its only a day after all!)

Incidentally this last month we have spent £234.88 out of our new £240 budget!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014


So the last you heard we were going to give the new fruit and veg supplier at Ye Olde Village Shoppe another chance.

On Friday I went to collect my order from the shop and discovered that they had sold my melon. How this could happen I don't know as my order comes in a separate box with my name on it, but it did.

Anyway I'll give the shop assistant, who lives in the village her due as she popped home and came back with a melon! Of course it was a from a supermarket but I have to accept that it was a damage limitation exercise and I wanted a melon! (and I guess if I hadn't turned up when I had, I would be non the wiser).

How was this weeks produce then???

One very manky onion and six seriously bruised kiwi fruit with inedible cores. (that's a new one on me)

On Saturday we were at the fabulous Ruby Country Market and bought  some lovely purple sprouting broccoli and a huge cauliflower from Hallwood Veg  They have a shop in Okehampton but unfortunately we rarely have the need to go in that direction.

Yesterday I was in Holsworthy for a haircut so popped into Mr. Dynamic for gram flour and turmeric ...... oh yes, did I tell you that last week when I went in for yeast (the very yeast that he ordered in for me at the start ) had sold out and he hadn't noticed! aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrr
So back to yesterday, I then went to the fruit and veg shop ......... where there are no prices displayed and always strange people congregating in it, for a melon.

'Can I help you?'

'Yes have you any melons?'

'They're very expensive and not ripe'

'What is very expensive?'

He didn't reply but got a melon out from under a cloth and fondled it before declaring 'its not ripe' and covered it up again.

Now this isn't the first time he's told me something is expensive ........... a while back I picked up some leeks from his outdoor display, walked the gauntlet of strange men commenting on the size of the leeks, to the till for him to tell me that they were very expensive.
Well £2.55 was a bargain as far as I was concerned.

Back to yesterday ....... I then homed in on the kiwi fruit .......

'you need to pick the ones on the left, the others aren't very good'

Now I know why we gave up using this shop 17 years ago when we moved here...................

How can you run a business like that?

.....................and please let me decide what is expensive!

So I now need to work on where to get our fruit and veg this week ..............

Where's Baldrick when you need a cunning plan???

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Seriously not impressed .....

What's the latest in parish news I hear you ask?

Well, the village shop have changed fruit and veg suppliers.

Their reason? (not necessarily in this order)  daily delivery, fresher, cheaper and some items pre packed compared to their previous supplier. Can't argue with that.

We've been very happy with our fruit and veg order via the village shop since we started this challenge and apart from a couple of things being left off the order and a very manky garlic during the three months we've been doing it we haven't any complaints and as I've mentioned before we've liked the freshness and variety of it.

Fan fare new supplier ....................

So far we've had three orders and to be honest I'm not impressed......

On the first one the beansprouts were missing and the first red onion I picked up to cook with was completely rotten and mouldy .......  you didn't need to peel it to find out.

.................... and the white onions ........

Well, I'll ask you. If you ordered a kilo of white onions, what would you expect?

Yes, like me small to medium.

Nope ........ four huge buggers at 250g each. That's all well and good if you're a catering establishment but not for two of us despite our love of cooking. Yes we cut them in half and wrapped in cling film but...............

My kiwi fruit felt soft in places but not overall and when peeled were actually bruised not ripe.

The pears which I ordered as NOT conference pears were delivered as conference pears ...... ok it may have been lost in translation. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

The clementines were fabulous though, the best we've had all season.

Next order ...........

Another manky red onion......

Four large white onions = 1kg

Pak choi ... two of which had bolted and I'm surprised hadn't been composted and two of a different variety which were very fresh.

1 kg tomatoes ....... they were soft, sqidgy and battered. Trying to find good ones to serve for lunch on a cheese making course two days later was seriously difficult as although I didn't count them ... (there must have been about sixteen) nine were bad. (Chris and I ate the bad ones after I cut the mouldy tops off )

Fabulous grapes and clementines though.

So to todays delivery ......

This evenings meal was vegetable stir fry ....... well it was until pak choi or beansprouts in the box.

One of the clementines was completely rotten and the NOT conference pears were conference pears.

We did get 1 kg of replacement tomatoes.

Now, Keith is very happy with his deliveries from Edds and looking at the fruit and veg he has on display I have to agree it looks lovely and fresh, however comparing what we've been sent by Edds it looks like we're getting completely different stock....... the second rate stuff.

Against our better judgement we are giving them one more chance ........ if Edds leave stuff off or send us rubbish next week we're out.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

We've completed twelve weeks!

Well its a month since I last wrote about our challenge and I hadn't intended to be neglectful of the blog even though I ended the last post with 'I'll let you know on the 27th March' .............. I thought I'd have posted something but I don't know where the time has gone!

I have had to go into Waitrose this month but only to buy milk and a couple of things for the cheese making courses. (allowed in the rules) The only other thing I have to confess to buying was some flowers for a friends Birthday. We were going to Bude two weeks ago to do our shopping and I'd planned to get the flowers from the florist there, however there was thick fog and a fatal accident so we didn't get any further than Holsworthy. As they were a present and also not paid for from the housekeeping money I think it was allowed.

It now feels quite normal, shopping in the village and at the other independent shops and not popping into Waitrose. Its a lot quicker too!

I also think that we are eating a far more varied diet than before. When I order the fruit and veg I have no idea how much things are or whether they are available. By trying to stick to fairly seasonal stuff it generally is! If I was in Waitrose and thought that something in the fruit and veg section was overpriced I wouldn't buy it. By ordering blind as it were I have no choice over price but to me that's an advantage as I'm still able to have my 8-9 portions a day with a good selection.

So how did we do with our £200 this month?

Well, we spent £218.61

You can tell that the food mountain has gone down ........ in fact almost everything is now in date in the cupboard!

As we had no idea what budget to set when we started this challenge and rather plucked £50 per week out of the air, Chris has suggested we up it to £60 per week and see how we do with £240 for the next four weeks.....................................