Did you know using to your local shops may improve your wellbeing? A few years ago I made a decision to stop using the major supermarket in the town and start using the local shops instead. There were a couple of reasons for this;
I felt quite strongly that suppliers were being unfairly treated by a lot of the big names, and having had to deal with a couple of big-name stores, I felt they were acting in ways which didn’t align with my core values,
But the main reason was that I simply hated it. By far the worst hour of my week was the weekly shop. What distressed me most was how many people shopping looked so miserable, I lost count of how many times I was bumped into and there were long queues at check-out. Then having to try and pack my back as quickly as the stuff was coming off the conveyor as the completely uninterested looking checkout operator moved my goods over the scanner. I would barely get half the stuff in my bag before I got “that will “£103.97”, which was followed by a look which could have said “Now hurry up, can’t you see there’s a queue”
Hated it! Hated it! Hated it!
The Decision to Change
It was a week or so before Christmas and I’d just finished a Christmas party, and standing outside waiting for a taxi I bumped into a friend of mine, a dairy farmer, who has to be said, didn’t seem full of Christmas cheer.
“ I don’t know what I am to do” he told me “ the supermarket which buys my milk has screwed me so much I don’t have enough money to buy presents for my kids” He told me he was getting out of farming and in the new Year was getting rid of his herd and moving on.
I told him I would support him by boycotting the supermarket. I know the money they wouldn’t notice at all the paltry sum that I spent every week, but there was now a principle at stake and it was my money so it was up to me how I spent it.
Having wandered along the local high street, I worked out that I could get around 90% of what I needed from local shops and deli’s. The other 10% I could either live without or get from the local convenience store. So, one Saturday morning I ventured in to town to do my weekly shop.
I soon found out why the overwhelming majority of the population shopped at the supermarket. The first challenge was parking the car. The supermarket had a big free car park with plenty of spaces, whereas the town centre has a couple of small crowded car parks which I had to pay for the privilege of using.
The other advantage of supermarket shopping was the convenience of having everything under one roof. By the time I’d visited the 2nd High Street shop out of at least 5, I had to make a trip back to the car to drop off some bags, and then go back to finish my shop. In total, I made 3 trips to the car and back.
Finally there was the time issue, the supermarket shop would be done in under an hour but shopping on the high street was at least double that. Needless to say, I was starting to seriously doubt my decision.
Despite all the inconvenience I decided to continue with my High Street experiment. I would give it a month and then go back to my old shopping habit, at least I will have deprived the supermarket of a month’s worth of my money ( I checked the share price and my stance hadn’t made the slightest difference as the shares had actually gone up).
Sometime around week three or four, something I wasn’t quite expecting happened. I really started to enjoy it. For one thing, I was enjoying the food a lot more, as much of it was locally sourced or just better quality than what I was used to. I was eating seasonal vegetables from local farms, locally produced cheese, and some very interesting jams and pickles. I actually started to feel that I was eating healthier. I’d also cut out a lot of the snacks and biscuits etc (especially the 2 for 1 offers which were making me eat twice as much as I needed to). Was it this that was making my mood change or something else?
It felt so nice to walk into a shop and see somebody smile at me and wish me a “Good morning”. By week 4 I was on first name terms with most of the shopkeepers, and as weeks went by I got to know more about them and they got to know me. They knew about my likes and dislikes, in many cases, I was offered samples to try and asked my opinion. As weeks went by I was building up friendships with quite a number of shopkeepers, even to the point of joining one of them for a beer in the local pub.
After a while it wasn’t just the high street, I started to discover farmers markets, buying goods straight from the source. It wasn’t just food, I discovered English wines, soaps, and beers from local craft breweries.
The decision to shop local has made a huge difference to my general wellbeing, something I absolutely hated became something I really enjoyed and looked forward to. Whilst the quality of food and goods felt better, what really made the difference was the people I was dealing with.
Over the last 10 years I’ve lived mostly on my own, and whilst I do have a busy social calendar, I often miss the day to day interactions with people., so going to a local shop where I feel welcome and have a brief conversation with the shopkeeper makes a huge difference. I feel part of the community, I get to know what’s going on, I learn about local events, and I’ve made friends, not just with the shopkeeper, but other customers too.
I know I am lucky on a number of counts, I don’t have a busy job or a family so I do have a little more time on my hands to explore the local community. I can imagine that someone with both those commitments would find it much more convenient to go to a supermarket once a week.
I also live in a town where there are a number of good local shops, with a good variety of produce. I appreciate that there are many places where there isn’t very much choice of local shops.
But being in the position I’m in and living where I do I intend to take full advantage and regard shopping as an important part of my social life.
Finally, I saw this caption recently “ when you buy from a small business, an actual person does a little happy dance” Now that has to be good.
Read more about Steve Emery and his other articles HERE
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