This month is Supermarket Free Month in Australia, an initiative which encourages buying from independent and local shops instead of the usual supermarkets. There are a number of reasons why we might do this; from health, to avoidance of food waste, to environmental protection. Here we go!
The company which promotes Supermarket Free Month makes many good points about why we should avoid shopping in supermarkets. For instance, did you know that for every dollar spent in Australia, 23% goes towards shops owned by Woolworths Inc and Wesfarmers. These companies control 70% of the market share for groceries in Australia, far higher than many other countries.
Even having a contract with one of the big supermarkets doesn’t help small producers, as they often need to cut their selling prices to these – sometimes to below the cost of production. Most recently the cost of milk was revealed, with some farmers being paid 54 cents a litre which cost 64.9 cents to produce. Farmers are losing out big time, and have shut down in record numbers.
So where can you shop as an alternative to one of the larger supermarket chains?
- Farmers markets are springing up everywhere, and are a great opportunity to buy locally-sourced food at a fair price, including some great value basics!
- Local retailers such as the chemist, butchers, bakers and greengrocers.
- Wholefood shops, which normally sell a great selection of various groceries.
- Grow your own! Even with a few small pots you can grow enough lettuce and tomatoes to keep you going through the summer.
- Box schemes which deliver food to your door – these are often filled with local produce, but do double check.
- Internet shopping for more specialised items
Whenever possible, purchase products which come from Australia – but since it isn’t always easy to tell with labelling, this should help:
“Australian Made” means that the product was substantially transformed in Australia, with more than 50% of the production costs incurred here. This means a company could import fruit juice, mix it with water to substantially transform it, and then label it as Australian Made.
“Australian Owned” only means that that ownership of the company is held within Australia – it has nothing to do with the products.
“Product of Australia” is the one to look for – it means that all “significant ingredients” originate in Australia, and almost all of the manufacturing and processing is done here. While not perfect, this is the best indication of local produce.
Food waste is another huge problem not being dealt with. In Australia alone we throw away 361kg of food per person every year – around 20% of our food! Here are some ways to avoid food waste –
- Don’t go shopping unless the fridge is empty of produce
- Use the leafy parts of vegetables, and most vegetable skins
- Make your own stock from leftovers (both meat and vegetable)
- Make lists to only buy what you need
- Ask for a doggy bag for leftover food at restaurants – if you get it in the fridge within two hours, it can be eaten within four days
- Don’t worry too much about expiration dates, they’re mostly a guide – if you store it right, and it looks, smells and tastes alright, it’s probably okay. Exercise proper caution with meat and dairy products!
So in the interest of reducing food waste and giving business to local markets, why not buy your vegetables from the market and then make this wonderfully diverse soup? Start with stock made from leftovers –
You will need:
- Locally-sourced vegetable scraps (keep a bowl in your fridge and top it up through the week)
- Remaining liquid from cooking vegetables
- ½ small onion
- 1 carrot
- 2 stalks of celery
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Simmer for 2-3 hours with the lid on
Towards the end, remove the lid and allow the liquid to thicken slightly
Take out the scraps (these can now be used for compost!) and keep the remaining stock in airtight containers, once cooled
- 700ml stock (the one we made above!)
- 200g raw vegetables (onions, celery and carrots do well)
- 300g potato
- 1 tbsp oil
- Crème fraiche and herbs
Fry together in the oil for a few minutes until soft
Cover with stock, and simmer for 10-15 minutes
When the vegetables are tender, blend them until smooth
Season and serve with a dollop of crème fraiche and the herbs, or freeze for up to a month!
If you haven’t been doing Supermarket Free Month until now, it won’t hurt to start!