Monday Thoughts: Should we return to independent traders food shopping?

Victoria and I were watching a BBC documentary about plastic waste and at one point they mentioned how butchers, greengrocers and milkmen are making a small resurgence and that got me thinking about how much I use their services and actually how much I want to increase using local traders rather than supermarkets for my food purchases.

A happy growing trend I have seen is how people are actively opening businesses that have refill stations in Northern Ireland. I am very jealous at how in England there are shops that offer loose fruit and veg and refill stations, so you can just fill up your pasta or oats or whatever (Victoria is fond of the quinoa) and just have it already in the jar. Hands up who buys the stuff like pasta or rice, from a plastic bag, to then pour the same contents into their glass jars? I am not criticising btw. I did the exact same until Victoria and I went to a place in Saintfield that had a refill section.

Looking for a milk man

I know that milkmen (or milkwomen) have been slowly fading away for years, but I thought for sure that there would still be some left in Belfast that I could begin an order again. Especially as some also include eggs etc to the deliveries. I want to get my milk and eggs this way so I began to search. To my dismay, I struggled to find anyone that delivered to North Belfast (There were a few delivering to East and South Belfast), so a bit more research is going to be needed on this one. I know a neighbour in my street receives juice from someone in what looks like a milkman vehicle, so maybe I will ask them what they get and that persons contact details. Otherwise, I may have to beg one of the milkmen /milk companies who delivery elsewhere to make a little stop to me every so often!

It saddened me a bit to find so few about though, I had hoped the role was still going, but the rise of the supermarket has appeared to have done away with the role. Though if I am right and more people start turning their back on supermarkets, they may very well be needed once more!

Not minding the added expense

Without a doubt, the reason why people started to flock to the supermarkets to buy their groceries was due to how much they were undercutting the independent trader. By doing so they were making sure everyone went to them. Now I love a good deal and regularly buy the plastic-wrapped veg in the supermarket instead of purchasing the loose stuff. I do not like doing so, but I have plans with my money and I need it to stretch as far as it can. Victoria, when she can, will go as plastic-free as possible and I love that. I want to do that and from now on, when I have the opportunity to buy a vegetable without the wrapping I will.

Getting that cheap meat and veg from the supermarket is handy, but I have found that the quality just isn’t the same. They appear to go off a little quicker (veg) or they are a bit fatty (meat). So whenever I buy the meat I try to go to the Supermarkets butcher section as although you get less meat and are paying a bit more, you can see the difference and it is shocking how big the quality difference is in the meat sold by a supermarket to what that supermarkets butchers also sells.

So maybe having to splash out that extra few pounds more a week won’t be a bad thing in the long run.

Why people are turning to it

I think some people also want that personal experience again with their shopping. It is why some independent retail stores do so well. That personal experience is something I have noted while visiting some greengrocers and butchers recently, I found the whole experience a lot more appealing as it is a bit more hands-on, you talk to someone who wants to know what you are buying and they give you a few suggestions depending on what you require. When we were at a butcher in Saintfield I noticed how welcoming the server was and how it was easy to have a conversation. In supermarkets now you can go in and out without ever having to speak to anyone and it is just a bit… soulless really.

Now I am sure there are great workers in supermarkets, but you rarely get to see them as they are on the till or stocking up. I also imagine a lot of people like to be left alone as they shop. I am one of those, but if the shop worker or employee is able to be conversational and know any signs if the customer isn’t wanting that experience, then they should be utilised. It is like seeing the older person at the front of the shop as a welcomer really. But due to businesses being businesses, those folks soon stopped being there too.

Customer service isn’t an easy thing to master either, you have to be quick to adapt to persons (I hate to say it but, vibe), you have to know your stuff as well, as you don’t want to be wasting that person’s time by rambling on. We all have places to be after all. Working in retail made me appreciate that side and the meaning behind staff approaching you.

Going local

I think a big thing is the local side of it as well. People are wanting to get things locally sourced nowadays. That could be because of environmental reasons or it could be they like helping out local businesses. I like a combination of both and I hope to start promoting a few local businesses in the future as the blog goes on. So if you like things made from Northern Ireland, you are in for a bit of luck here!

Monday Thoughts: Moving away from home

Monday Thoughts: Did I make the right choices after University

Monday Thoughts: Little things I notice on my walk into work…

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