I am lucky enough to live in a town that has a Waitrose in which I can do my weekly grocery shopping. I know that most people think that you need to have unlimited funds in order to shop there, but we have found that we actually spend less there than in other supermarkets. Although some products are more expensive, it is so much more pleasant to shop there that I am willing to pay more.
My other half and I have increasingly found ourselves looking at the origin of the food that we buy and tryto select produce from the UK, or at worst, from parts of Europe (I think the food miles from the north of France are probably less than those for produce from the north of Scotland). There are obvious exceptions to this – for example I don’t know of anyone supplying UK grown bananas, but we always buy Fair Trade bananas from the Windward Islands.
There are people who think we are mad, but as I see it, not only does the food taste better when it is fresher, hasn’t been refrigerated or stored in a preservative gas, it is good for the environment and supports the British agricultural industry (or what is left of it). Why buy Mange Tout imported all the way from Africa when you can buy Pak Choi from England? Importing food may seem a cheaper alternative, but the jobs that are lost as more and more farms become uneconomical result in a bigger burden on the tax payer, not to mention the environmental consequences of numerous farms being sold for housing.
The plus side of this approach is that food shopping and subsequent cooking has become more of a hobby. Buying seasonal, British produce has resulted in the discovery of crops we had never tried before: – Jerusalem Artichokes (not sure about these), Cavolo Nero (delicious in pasta and high in iron), red cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli (we bought this today and haven’t tried it yet). In addition to this there is the fun of trying out different recipes with the seasonal ingredients.
I will be trying to go one better this summer and grow some of my own produce and will hopefully have more luck than last year which resulted in lots of courgettes (although I have since found some recipes to use these) and green tomato chutney (which I believe is better than most as there seemed to be a lot of blight about last year).
So, next time you are in the supermarket and pick up those South American berries, South African pears or African beans, think of the environment and the farmers and try something different and British instead.