I try to buy all that I can from independents by which I mean small businesses managed by their owners, that have a real shop, on a real high street. Local shops for local people. Here’s why…

A Tale Of Two Cities
In Huddersfield (yes, I know it’s a town and not a city), there are many local shops ranging from traditional grocers to Polish Delis by way of Asian, and Caribbean food stores. And, being as it is close to the countryside, farm shops and pick your own places. Add to that a covered market in the center, at least two local breweries, and our very own fair-trade coffee importers, Huddersfield is well supplied. Plus it is so small they are all within walking distance.

How different it is in Manchester that great sprawling conurbation and powerhouse of the North. In this huge and increasingly prosperous city there are whole areas with no shops at all. And lots more have only one “convenience store” selling mostly pre-prepared, processed, long-life food. There are surprisingly few high streets that still have shops where you can buy all you need to cook a balanced meal. Fast-food outlets, scented candles cafes and hairdressers yes! Butchers and bakers? Not so many left.
There are some of course. In the more affluent areas there are urban villages where you can get artisan bread and very expensive cheese and, (more useful and affordable), some frantically busy immigrant communities with numerous shops selling everything from yams to basmati.

But the rest is large housing estates studded with big supermarkets, chainstores and chain pubs. But so what? After all….

Supermarkets Are So Convenient
And they are much cheaper than local shops.
You can get all you need in one go, do your shopping all at once.
You can drive there… and park.
There is more choice
They are are open all hours so you can go after work.

All of which is true but consider what is being lost along the way. Supermarkets are killing the high street. Local shops are closing in their thousands because they cannot compete on the above terms. And all of those conveniences come at a price. It might not be apparent but it still costs you. There really is no such thing as a free lunch especially when its being brought to you by supermarkets.


Lets talk money first. As many people point out local shops cost more than supermarkets which is true but shop locally and you get that money back in other ways. Shopping locally is investing in your community. According to the Guardian, research by local authorities shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business 63p stayed in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business. And the American Express High Streets Ahead study found that houses near high streets full of prospering small traders increased in price more rapidly than those else where. It is in your self interest to shop locally. Source -Guardian Newspaper. Source –Guardian Newspaper.

Over Purchasing
It seems that bulk-buy convenience, supermarket shopping makes you buy too much. Once in those huge malls of food, the desire to get the weekly shop done all at once is irresistible. After all that’s what you drove all this way for. And judging by the huge trollies filled to overflowing at the checkout, it leads to a kind of stockpiling frenzy.
Research shows that people are buying more food than they need, lots of which gets thrown away. Of course they might have bought this at local shops but as we do most of our shopping at supermarkets I don’t think so. Supermarkets encourage this overspending with a range of sophisticated techniques.
Read this report on how supermarkets entice you into spending more  or this 

Food Waste
Too much food leads to food being wasted which costs millions.

You can get all you need in one go and do all your shopping all at once. Which it seems may not be such a great way to shop after all.

I can drive there
And the point of local shops is that you can walk there. If you only want a loaf of bread and your centralised supermarket is is some distance away, you have get the car out, negotiate the traffic, avoid the rush hour, circle round looking for a parking space and walk through miles of aisles to find what you want. Is that really so convenient, labour or time saving?

And you have to have a car which is another cost in itself. More importantly you are dependant on the car. And that can be a problem if the car is at the garage or you can’t afford the petrol. But worst of all this dependance on transport results in food deserts.

Food Deserts
The lack of local shops and centralizing the shopping experience into a few widely spaced super stores leads to the development of what is now termed food deserts.
J BAINES writing in 1973 (The Environment) first applied the term desert to the urban environment to describe a culturally sterile area so lacking in certain facilities that normal social interaction no longer took place “The large suburban estates that are a recent feature of the townscape are epitomized by the regular rows of similarly styled houses that have earned for themselves the title of suburban deserts.  They often lack the shops, churches, public houses, and social centers that allow a community life to develop”.
Food desert was first quoted, by S CUMMINS (British Medical Journal, 2002, Vol.325, p.436) when researching into life on Scottish housing estates. It is now used to refer to areas where people cannot access sources fresh and varied food.Food is imported into such places to be sold from large centralised trading places or supermarkets as we know them. They can then benefit from the economies of scale that make them so cheap. Competition forces most of the local shops to close leaving the community with perhaps one convenience store selling alchohol and a limited range of long life processed food. If you can’t get to the supermarket you are in trouble.

Reports indicate that food deserts are boring places to live but more importantly often socially exclusive and in poorer communities bad for your health! Some places people simply cannot access fresh reasonable priced food because they have no transport or cannot afford to travel.
And people in more affluent areas who can afford to travel are now dependent on the car to provide them with basic food stuffs. For the less mobile, the sick, the elderly and any one who cannot drive, life becomes more difficult.
All suffer from the lack of a community hub that a local, accessible high streets provide.

The Valley Centre shopping precinct. Most businesses are now boarded up. What a sad place right in the heart of Rawtenstall’s commercial area. Two twenty-four hour supermarkets have opened nearby.  Wikimedia

Or the illusion of choice? Supermarkets look like that they are giving you a huge amount of choice. Racks of crisps, rows of different shampoos even a whole range of cocoa. But is there really that much difference in the shampoos on offer apart from colour? And of course packaging. Packaging helps to sell products. How would you know that one kind of crisps was was different from the other if it wasn’t packed differently?
Because sometimes there really isn’t any other difference. Generic painkillers are just as effective as branded. They are the same product but packaged differently. Yet so effective is the branding that cheap painkillers sold in a cheap pack are considered less effective then the same tablets sold in a flashy box. I’ll just say that again the same product is considered, in consumer tests, to be less effective at dealing with pain. That is down to packaging and advertising. So much of that “choice” is illusion.

The Waste Of Choice

And so much choice means a lot of waste. Of course supermarkets do stock a wide range of products but again that comes with an environmental cost. All those exotic, out of season or organic fruits and veg are carefully packed in plastic for a reason. Plastic packing helps maintain product life. Shrink wrapped cucumbers do last longer.

The longer food will keep, the longer there is to sell it and the further they can transport it. Green beans out of season will be plastic packed to prolong not just shelf life but enable an increased travel time. All of which means more choice, with the high. environmental cost of plastic waste and product miles as a result. Eating locally and seasonally generally means less choice but tastier (many argue more nutritious), and more often unpackaged food.

But a huge reason to plastic-wrap food is to enable self service, the raison d’être of the Supermarket. Obviously you cannot have piles of unpacked steaks for consumers to rummage through, so shrink wrapped onto polystyrene trays they go and now the consumer can help themselves so cutting down on labour costs. Which makes your food cheaper.
Not surprisingly however heavily packaged supermarket food results in huge amounts of plastic waste. Which ultimately you pay for to dispose of. To have it taken away to landfill, burnt or in a very small number of cases recycled. All that costs you a lot in waste disposal costs. You are paying a high but hidden cost for all this convenience and choice.

And of course pre packaging determines the amount you buy. You may only want 10 biscuits but they come in packs of 20. Packaging food like this is also said to contribute to food waste. More money down the drain.

While independent shops are not guilt free in this respect they are less likely to sell plastic packed produce because they are serving you themselves. You go in and ask for 2 steaks and they pick them up and pack them for you. In which case you can supply your own plastic free packaging. And it is also far easier to ask a butcher you have a relationship with to use your own compostable bag in lieu of their plastic one. You can then go on to explain to shop keeper your objections to plastic packaging and he is more likely to listen.

Power To The Local People

Increasing our dependency on a few big suppliers of food we are putting the most important choice ever, how we take nourish ourself, into the hands of a few multi million dollar business. They help dictate how farmers farm, what price food should be, what is sold and when. If they stop feeding us we don’t eat. and while they may not ever threaten to starve us into submission, there can be doubt these huge businesses wield a massive amounts of power.Giving these unaccountable organisation  so much control over the very basics could easily become extremely inconvenient.
Shopping locally is using your consumer power to create a range of independent businesses who depend on you. They are answerable to you.
And you are supporting local business further down the supply chain. There is no doubt that supermarkets use their dominance in the market to bully suppliers.

Dairy farmers have faced an ongoing struggle, but things reached a crisis point this year following falling prices, with supermarkets selling milk cheaper than water and dairy processors cutting prices paid to farmers. It costs farmers around 30p–32p/litre to produce milk, but many have been earning little more than 20p/litre. Sustainable Food Trust

Dairy farmers have faced an ongoing struggle, but things reached a crisis point this year following falling prices, with supermarkets selling milk cheaper than water and dairy processors cutting prices paid to farmers. It costs farmers around 30p–32p/litre to produce milk, but many have been earning little more than 20p/litre. Sustainable Food Trust

After Hours Shopping

Back to time; I guess there are few who would deny that out of hours shopping is a boon. They might go on to say that taking time out of a Saturday morning to shop locally is a chore. Perhaps – but again there are benefits too. If we value where we live, want to see property hold its value, encourage community hubs and want there to be local shops – and most people say they do want all of the above – then obviously we have to invest some time and money in maintaining these resources. Is it really such hard work? More a matter of timetabling.

Slow Shopping

And rather than call it a chore we could try and learn to enjoy slow shopping. To relish a leisurely stroll round the shops. Believe me, this is not trying to find silver linings; shopping locally really is far more pleasant and satisfying than charging round the aisles, fuming at the wonky trolly and scanning your own basket on the way out.
As for waiting for a bus or driving and parking, if you have local shops you don’t need to do this. You can walk there. Which save you money, keeps you fit, makes your city
roads less congested and your planet greener.
Shopping locally is a healthier option in other ways. If you think you haven’t got time to shop properly than chances are you probably think you haven’t got time to cook properly either! And supermarkets cater to that belief by tempting you with a wide array of ready made, convenience foods from the humble tin of baked beans to puddings to pre-prepared salads. Masses of mass produced foods many of them laden with extra salt, sugar and chemicals, unpronounceable flavorings and additives. I used to smoke so I cant be be giving health advice to anyone but speaking from experience I know a damaging lifestyle choice when they see one. Eating ready made or even ready prepared is not a good idea. These meals are expensive and bad for you. Independent shops on the other hand tend to sell ingredients rather than meals. They sell meat and veg, cheese and bread. You buy and then you cook what you buy.

Shopping Locally On a Budget
I have a minuscule income. So I feel that every penny I spend needs to be spent wisely, it needs to be valued. I value my cash not just by what I can buy with it but the good it can do. If I pay a bit more to keep a local business in business it feels good. Consider this. If every adult in a town with a population of 10,000 adults spent £5.00 a week in a local shop that would be £2.6 million pounds more being spent with independent businesses in the town.”
And it needn’t cost more. Changing how you shop and eat, cuts bills and comes with added advantages. Local markets are always good value and a great community asset.
These three are well worth a visit Leed, Todmorden and Huddersfield.
Seasonal, local food tends to be cheaper and is certainly a greener option. You can even pick your own. Find a farm near you here. Cutting back on meat saves money and the environment. But if you do buy, buy from a local butcher. Cheese as a treat is healthier than cheese as a staple. And so on.

Valuing Time
Time is even more important and should always be spent as pleasantly as possible. The high street is slower shopping and I may even get wet walking to the market – but it is so much more pleasant. I like knowing the people who I buy my food from and that I can talk to them about my plastic free shopping needs. I like the greengrocers corny (!) jokes and that the butcher discusses sustainable farming with a passion.

Personally I feel it is worth making some time for and spending some money in local shops. I’m not saying I never use supermarkets but don’t only ever use supemarkets. Investing locally will pays dividends. They might not be immediately obvious as the pounds saved on the weekly shop but there are other savings and they are advantageous.

Loosing your Local Shops?
These guys can help Totally Locally is all about creating strong, vibrant towns and sustainable local economies. We use clever marketing tools, and unique ways of working that engage communities and get people talking and working together both locally and across the globe.”

Visit the website.


Bags & Packaging
Shopping plastic free means taking your OWN PACKAGING.Check out the plastic-free shopping kit here.
Which Shop

Buy British and cut those air miles. Some ideas HERE

Food Here is a list of food types category with purchase details

Loose Food
Find out if a shop near you sells bulk food loose. This is stuff that that normally comes plastic packaged. A list of towns with shops selling loose food.

Supermarkets & Chainstores  because sometimes you have to and Yes you can get plastic free and zero waste stuff. Read up HERE.</a

Delivered in glass bottles but double check before you order

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