My housemates and I recently moved. We were living on the Main Street of our town, two minutes from the nearest Coles, and never thought twice about whether it was the most economical way of spending our money. Now, we live ten minutes away. It’s no great distance, but for early morning milk runs or the urgent need for bread before we head to work, the supermarket is no longer the closest option.
Instead, now our closest store is the family-run greengrocers. This change has revolutionised how I feel about small stores. Instead of spending more money, we’re actually saving. Here’s why.
The Benefit Of Limits
In many ways, we’re incredibly lucky. The greengrocer carries bread, milk and cheese as well as fruit and vegetables, so all of our essentials are covered. The major change we’ve noticed, however, is how little impulse spending is involved. Without the temptation of an entire supermarket, we tend to spend money on fruit and vegetables and little else. Almost overnight, chocolate and beauty products and a little something from the bakery section have disappeared from our shopping bags, and we’re saving money as a result. Additionally, all those extra things that have crept into supermarkets- microwaves and ironing boards- are nowhere to be seen in smaller stores, saving us the urge to spend on useless ‘necessities’.
The Benefits Of Necessity
Similarly, we’ve noticed we’re far more likely to make do with what we have in the kitchen because the option of running up to Coles to make the world’s greatest carbonara is no longer so viable. With the staple of fruit and vegetables, we supplement with the pastas that have been dwelling on the shelf, with the cans of tomato and bags of flour. All of a sudden, our pantry is being used to it’s full effect.
A Comparison Of Prices
It’s worth noting, on top of the behavioural shift, that the myth that supermarkets carry the cheapest options has been well and truly busted. On some items, say milk, the supermarkets have the edge. But fruit and vegetables are competitively priced. We’ve carried our experiment further, and tried to buy meat and fish from smaller stores, and have found the same thing. In some cases, while the actual item might be more expensive, we can control how much of it we buy and save money by buying in the right quantities, as opposed to bulk purchases from the supermarket.
Quality, Not Quantity
It’s got to be said that living near a greengrocers has, by necessity, increased our veggie intake and decreased our late nights on frozen pizzas. That has clear health benefits. But what has become apparent over the last couple of weeks that buying quality produce doesn’t necessarily have to dent your wallet. Buying from smaller stores has meant a decrease in packaging or brand items (something I despise paying for, and am glad to save money on), an improvement in the freshness of the produce, enabling us to keep it for longer, and reconfigured our diet so we’re healthier and more satisfied by the food we eat.
Of course, we haven’t been able to exclude Coles entirely from our lives, still needing it for house essentials. But we can now go in with a shopping list of five or ten items, and stick to it. Our impulse spending is down, and because we have to plan which shops to visit, our meal planning has improved. It’s certainly worth a shot, if you’re looking for a way to reconfigure how you shop and spend money on groceries.