No supermarkets? At Christmas? But where did we get the…
Insert your family’s traditional item here.
Because, like it or not, many of the things we hold dear at Christmas time put profit into the hands of the big supermarket giants.
And it’s not just the pigs and their blankets.
Wrapping paper, sellotape, paracetamol, tea lights. You know, all the things Mum (other Christmas makers are available) will have some of.
Where exactly do you buy them if you don’t shop at the supermarket?
I imagined back in November that avoiding the supermarkets at Christmas would be a joyful, slightly smug experience.
- That, in the Christmas run-up, I would trot around the high street, basket in hand, delivering words of seasonal joy to all who took my custom.
- That my days full of seasonal baking would be a blissful, frilly pinny, Instagramable experience.
- And that my garden would suddenly sprout carrots, sprouts, parsnips, and perhaps even a turkey without me having to plant them.
Well, it was all a bit more grumpy than that.
And I didn’t have time to take photos, let alone Insta-friendly ones.
The reality of a Christmas without supermarket shopping
We were seven for Christmas dinner (we haven’t finished yet). I didn’t find a basket big enough to carry my sprouts, let alone my potatoes, my pinny has been permanently smothered in flour, and the few winter onions, frightened rocket, and one tenacious apple in the garden were never going to be enough to feed anyone.
Not even the unstirring Christmas mouse.
That said, we are now mid ‘feeding period’ with enough nutrition stuffed in the fridge, hidden in cupboards, and balancing on windowsills to last at least some days (to be honest my head is in a one-meal-at-a-time state). Most of it was made ages ago and even I’m not sure where it all is.
I’m desperately hoping leftovers will fill the meal gaps.
We nearly didn’t have enough cups.
But most of the family brought camp chairs so at least we all had somewhere to sit!
At least two of them brought campervans too.
Which, thinking about it, probably contained cups and forks.
A supermarket-free Christmas has been overwhelming
But I’ve made it to Boxing Day
We did it!
Christmas was purchased with only one supermarket trip (not me but I will be drinking the booze Mr D brought home). It’s just as well I love cooking Christmas dinner because…
Gathering it all in was harder work than usual.
So what was I thinking?
To be honest, I’ve been asking myself the same question. Christmas for the ‘Christmas maker’ (you know who you are) is a darned hard slog (one that nobody else seems to understand).
Nobody likes extra work so here’s a brief explanation of why I chose to add to mine.
Why I’ve opted for Christmas without supermarkets
At the start of 2023, fed up with the way these big corporations treat our growers and farmers, I decided to try a year without shopping in supermarkets. We’ve made it through the year with a few ups and downs.
So I felt I had to attempt a supermarket-free Christmas.
It’s predicted we will have spent £5 billion on food in the seven days up to Christmas 2023.
Not just me, all of us.
That’s spending power that matters. Pounds that perhaps don’t go where we would like them to. Pounds I would rather see invested in farmers and farms than lining shareholder pockets.
Get off that soapbox Fi!
Reluctantly steps down… The question you actually want to ask is in the subtitle below. But before I tell you, I should admit that it’s all been a bit…
How I put together a Christmas without shopping in the supermarket
Before I start, I want to say that, whether your reasons are financial, time-bound, or value-led, I understand that ditching the supermarkets isn’t for everyone. But if you are interested in trying something different for Christmas 2024, here’s the rundown of my attempts at a supermarket-free Christmas.
A no-present Christmas
As there are currently no children in the family, and to alleviate both what-to-get and financial stresses for everyone, we decided on a no-present Christmas.
It’s been blissful!
The no-presents thing has also meant no last-minute dashes to buy wrapping paper, sellotape, and what I’ve always referred to in my head as ‘spare’ presents.
Definitely an experiment I want to repeat.
Buying Christmas food without the supermarkets
This week’s queues to get even vaguely near the supermarkets suggest that ordering food in advance should have made Christmas food shopping easier but I discovered there was a time-related issue with this. At least there was for me.
Because I forgot to write down all my pick-up and delivery dates
Here’s what I ordered in advance (not as far in advance as I had planned!)
- Turkey – free range, local Devon farm, local butcher, ordered at the start of December. Four times as expensive as the average frozen turkey so it’s going to have to do us four times as many meals. Cue the pie-curry-soup loop.
- Potatoes – local, 25kg sack from my local fruit and veg wholesaler, lasts us the winter, I share them around the family and plant whatever’s left over in the spring.
- Sprouts and parsnips – UK and local, the same fruit and veg wholesaler, they deliver with just a day’s notice but I ordered these earlier in December.
Here’s what we’ve made ourselves.
- Pavlova – homemade, eggs and cream from the milkman (I’m hoping to go even more local in January), other ingredients ordered online from a wholefood store (we buy in bulk to save money and deliver miles). Fruit from a Too Good to Go food waste box
- Stuffings – one veggie, one meat, herbs from the garden. Both were based on oats (because I had used the bread crumbs for bread sauce). Made to a traditional Scottish stuffing recipe
- Nut roast – foraged chestnuts, Too Good to Go vegetables, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds
- Bread sauce – made on a day we had too much milk and frozen (we usually keep stale bread cubes in the freezer to use as croutons)
- Red cabbage and apple – made back in apple season
If all that being prepared sounds like too much to you, well at times it felt like too much for me too.
But it helped that…
We’re a zero-food-waste household, so I’m used to cooking whatever I have available and then freezing or preserving the results.
It also helped that I like cooking and was brought up in a restricted-budget, home-cooking household, and at a time in education when the government hadn’t devalued cooking skills in schools.
Perhaps the most helpful thing was that I live with my very own sourdough baker.
So not only was the best Christmas bread freely available, but I got to use a big catering oven to cook the turkey.
I also got space away from everyone to do the cooking.
Would I recommend a supermarket-free Christmas?
The thing about hard work is that it’s often stressful at the time but rewarding after the event. My whole year has been about trying to find new ways to shop and feed the family.
I guess Christmas was a kind of type-two fun.
I would recommend ditching the supermarkets to anyone because I think it’s important not to put our food security in the hands of global business but my advice would be to take things step by step.
And a supermarket-free Christmas might be a step too far.
At least to start with.
Will I be doing things the same way next year? Don’t be silly. I’ve already started looking for tiny cottages in the middle of nowhere!
Two duck breasts and a bottle of whisky will be all I need.