The challenge was as blunt, immediate as it was unambiguous. Can you go for a week without darkening the doors of Coles or Woolworths?
After all CHOICE will be asking others to consider switching more often to independent grocers, fruitologists, butchers and bakers and even fishmongers for their grocery needs.
How realistic is it to buy for a family of four, which requires regular refills of everything from brown shoe polish to ice cream cones and chicken schnitzels, without relying on the major chains?
I said I’d try it. We were well stocked in the pantry. No visitors coming to stay. We live within walking distance to good alternatives which tend to open good hours. No problem.
Of course I hadn’t consulted with my wife.
On the first night as I broke the news she said she had to get lunch box fillers for the boys for the next week. It was 8.35pm. There were no alternative or convenient supplies. There was no point in arguing. Lesson one don’t try this alone—consult first.
The next two days were better: Discovering that the local Vietnamese bakery made bread the nippers would actually eat and finding out the IGA supermarket sold eggs and milk at much the same price as the majors.
Our local fruitologist, yes it is called that, usually knows its onions when it comes to keeping the customers happy. The blueberries did cost more than the special at Woolworths but the strawberries and mangoes were pretty much on a par.
The quality and presentation was certainly better. The parking if you can’t walk is hit and miss. And bananas are now pricey everywhere.
I admit I fell off the wagon before the end of the working week. CHOICE is tantalisingly close to a very handy supermarket with short queues and I needed the only breakfast cereal the fussy youngest will even consider devouring.
I could have shopped around but time is tight for everyone.
The weekend was completed with a visit to a large produce market. Swordfish and Yellowfin tuna for $12 a kilo. Zuccinhi flowers at $1 a punnet. Three massive mangoes for $5.
Not all of it might have qualified as the very first grade but if you don’t mind the odd blemish or need hyper polished apples the prices and atmosphere were terrific.
Did I succeed in the challenge? No. I admit the human failings of being part of a family where not everyone agrees, where time is at a premium, and where convenience can be overrated as being king.
Did I succeed in discovering some alternatives? Certainly, and many which made real sense in the endless juggle which involves our time and money.
The supermarkets are just too easy which of course is why they exist. But the competition in many ways can be just as good. Try it and see.