Although I don’t think I would have admitted it even to myself three months ago, when I set myself this challenge, I needed to find something to distract me and give my mind something else to focus on other than the fact that I was in the middle of selling my shares in my family business, in which I had worked for 27 years. I was feeling lost and anxious and needed to occupy my thoughts. I’d already created this blog a while ago to encourage me to record my recipes and thoughts about food: I’ve always been passionate about independent businesses and so why not combine the two? Setting myself the challenge was a way for me to have something of my own to focus on, separate from everything else that was happening.
Today I’m writing this from my home office and my main task for the day is to chose the logo for my new business – HillStart Coaching & Training. I never realised how different I would feel, and how amazing this small part of my journey has been. My biggest take-away from the last few months will be how many fabulous conversations I’ve had with people about this challenge. I think everyone, without exception, has been genuinely interested, people are keen to ask questions and chat, and they themselves have made more of an effort to shop locally: I know this because they delight in sending me their pictures and telling me their own stories! I’m humbled by how supportive everyone has been, and was thrilled when my sister-in-law Ali announced that she was going to do her own shop local challenge as she had been so inspired by mine – check out my blog in a few weeks to read her story.
I love my blog, and couldn’t imagine not doing it now, I get some amazing comments from family and friends who read my posts, and I’m really proud to have been asked to be the food blogger for The Best of Lichfield as a result of my challenge. I’ve visited lots of shops that I probably wouldn’t have done without both the blogs and the challenge, and I’ve met some amazing business owners that are proudly flying the independent flag.
A few weeks ago I made the bold comment ‘if I never have to set foot in a soulless supermarket again it would be a blessing’. I can’t say in all honesty that I won’t ever set foot back in a major chain supermarket again, but what I do know is that I feel happier when I shop locally and independently, knowing that my money is going to support people that I know, that I’ve met, and their families and the local community as a whole. And that my shopping experience is much better, simply because I’m buying from people not faceless corporations.
There are two very pertinent questions that most people tend to ask me. Does it take longer? Does it cost more? The short answer to both is no – if you want the longer answer then read my blog here.
I don’t want to paint a picture of this perfect idyll where every day is sunny as I skip around the farmers market swinging my wicker basket: many local shops fall very short of the high standards set by the larger supermarkets, not least because I can’t fit my damned shopping into those stupid wicker baskets. There are some really good independents, but if I’m being brutal, with the exception of those that are specialists (bakers, butchers etc) they have geared themselves up to be a luxury shopping destination, a place to visit on a rainy afternoon to pick up some unusual treats, rather than the place you visit to do your weekly big shop. That’s not to say I’ve not been able to buy what I need, but it’s frustrating when there are six choices of grainy mustard, but only one type of tinned tomatoes.
We are all creatures of habit, and mine was to peruse one of my many many cookbooks to find something of interest to cook, then pop off to the supermarket to buy whatever I needed. I didn’t pay too much respect to what was seasonal, as I didn’t really need to. How my culinary life has changed the most in the last three months is that now the ingredients themselves dictate what I am cooking, and whilst I am still reading my beloved cookbooks I’m using them much more as an guide, and I’m getting very creative with substitutes! I have no doubt that over the year my diet will be more varied overall, and that I will eagerly await each season and its delights. That my cooking will naturally adjust as the produce changes, and I already look forward each week to finding out what my veg box will contain.
Shopping locally is no longer a challenge, it’s just the way I shop. I’m not going to give myself a hard time if I need to pop into a supermarket every now and again, but I will continue to post weekly updates on my blogs because I enjoy it, and hopefully it will inspire others to make their own efforts to support local shops and independent retailers.