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Weekly food shopping in the UK


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I've now arrived at the point where I'm fed up with alternating my food shopping needs between Sainsbury's, Waitrose and Ocado. I'm sick of buying terrible produce bandaged in plastic packaging and meat that tastes like cardboard. I would love to be able to afford the time and money it requires to shop at Borough Market every week, but sadly that's a pipe dream. I find it impossible to get to my local butcher before they shut at 4:30pm (and they're not even that good). I'm also worried about ordering organic fruit and veg boxes because I know in a house of two people a lot of if won't get eaten. As I'm a creature of convenience, who is shackled by time constraints, one-stop shopping appeals. As much as I would like to, I simply don't have the time to devote to running between speciality shops. The problem is, I hate what I get at supermarkets.

What I wouldn't mind is combining a number of these options; buying a few staples from the supermarket and ordering deliveries of produce and meat. Has anyone been able to do this successfully? And who do you use? How do most of you tackle the chore of your weekly food shop?

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Hallie have you tried Abel & Cole? We are a household of 3, and usually eat all of their mixed box plus extras such as strawberries, each week. I know some in eGullett have had bad experiences with A&C but I think they are good: they sell many food basics like bread meat fish & milk too. I'm lucky though in that they deliver to us on a Friday

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Hmm Abel & Cole actually deliver here, I didn't know that. What's their produce like? I'm all for organic, but having just paid through the nose for my new house, it's gotta be worth the increase in price.

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Now, I admit that I am fortunate to live and work in areas with good local butchers, greengrocers, farmers markets, etc, but I find the following approach works well for me - I live alone.

1.) Ocado for bulky and storecupboard items on a monthly basis or even less frequently

2.) A small mixed box from Abel and Cole once a fortnight to stock up on fruit and veg

3.) Magic stay-fresh bags from Lakeland to keep these in good condition in case I don't get a chance to eat them quickly

4.) Top-up shop from butchers, greengrocers, farmers' markets or Budgens for storecupboard items, when I decide what I want to eat for dinner (or forgot to order from Ocado).

One thought - what about stocking your freezer with quality meat and fish once a month? So long as you don't leave it in there for months it could still be preferable to inferior fresh meat.

Janice

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I am similarly a bit strapped for timing and fine the abel and cole boxes are really good because of that - saves the weekly schlep to the supermarkets.

We are a household of two who get veggies, meat, eggs, fish etc from abel and cole and then probably go to Waitrose once every three weeks for bulky stuff, and that seems to work fine. Only thing I have found though is that it does mean you have to be quite disciplined in using all the abel and cole stuff - even if it isn't what you particularly fancy that evening, otherwise you can end up wasting vegetables.

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I can't help you with the fruit and veg side, since I just go to my local market and Turkish shop for that .

But ...

One thought - what about stocking your freezer with quality meat and fish once a month? So long as you don't leave it in there for months it could still be preferable to inferior fresh meat.

As far as meat is concerned, that is exactly how I solved the problem.

Like you, two or three years ago I got fed up buying tasteless, pointless, cardboard meat from the supermarket. I had a kind of epiphany one day eating a bit of supermarket chicken when i realised that all it really tasted of was the flavourings I'd put on it; it was not much more than a lump of protein, so what was the point in eating it?

Problem was, I didn't think I could afford 'expensive' organic meat. But then I figured it would make sense to pay more for my meat, even a lot more, but eat it less and actually enjoy it! But, also like you, I really don't have the time to keep on going to the local butchers, and their meat isn't much better anyway. So I looked on the web and I found these guys:

Real Meat company

Their meat was way, way better than the supermarket stuff, and noticeably cheaper than other organic/'real' meat suppliers. I had some really good meals out of them, and started to understand what meat could really be like.

Then, after a year or two, wanting to be able to afford to eat meat more often (I'm on a pretty tight budget) but not wanting to lose the quality, I bought a small, cheap chest freezer from ebay and started to buy my meat from these guys:

truly fabulous meat

I have to say, their lamb, their pork, their beef, their mutton - all of it is truly superlative. Supermarket meat really is cardboard compared to this. It's amazing. I didn't realise when i first ordered from them, but they supply restaurants such as Moro and the Ivy, and their mutton just won some big food award.

The only catch is that you can't buy it by the joint, but rather by the half/quarter animal, in the case of lamb/mutton and pork, and by the box for beef. They also have a wonderful range of game (which is a lot more extensive in winter, during the season). At first, I was kind of scared of buying half a lamb or quarter of a pig at once, thinking it would be a huge amount of meat. But either will easily fit into a drawer in your freezer, and because you are not buying it by the joint, it comes out a lot cheaper, and it means that your freezer is always stocked and you can just peruse what's in there and decide what to have, instead of heading for the butcher.

Oh, and the meat, obviously, comes fully butchered - they have a 'standard' way of butchering each item, but you can vary this exactly how you like, and they will butcher it for you accordingly.

Good luck in finding a better way to shop!

Edited to add: I/we are a household of one and a half (one during the week, two at weekends), so I think this approach would work just fine for two.

Edited by pigeonpie (log)

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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Surely there's small independent shops near you that you can use, living in London. Cheaper, and they often have a better and more interesting range of things than the supermarkets which I only ever enter to buy bran flakes in bulk. I go about three times a week - not a problem cuz their local. I've also found that a lot of smaller shops have the same things that 'specialty' shops do, and for cheaper. Except for meat. My local Turkish is just as exciting as Borough Market.

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I agree that buying good frozen meat is far superior to what's stocked in supermarkets. I'm lucky enough to have a good amount of flex in my day, so can pick and choose where I shop here in Dublin, but I still buy quite a bit of frozen meat at a farmers' market on the weekend from a company called Terryglass Organics. The meat is well hung, full of flavour and unbelievably good quality; and better still, it is cheaper than my local organic butcher... so I would agree with the posters upthread, buying good quality frozen meat should make life more interesting for you.

Pigeonpie... I like the idea of getting a small chest freezer and buying half an animal. It would make an interesting thread, if you fancy posting how you work your way through the different cuts.

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My local Turkish is just as exciting as Borough Market.

I absolutely have to agree with this. When I lived in London, I did just about all of my fruit and veg (and numerous other things) shopping at my local Turkish shop. It was far better, quality and variety and value for money wise, than the street market that filled my street once a week. When I moved to Brighton, I really missed that Turkish shop, but now two have opened near me. Heaven.

Edited by pigeonpie (log)

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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Pigeonpie... I like the idea of getting a small chest freezer and buying half an animal.  It would make an interesting thread, if you fancy posting how you work your way through the different cuts.

Interesting idea. I might just have to do that ...

Buying meat this way - and meat of this quality - has transformed the way I think about and cook meat. What's more, it worked even greater wonders on my SO, who went from someone who thought cooking was a bore and eating just something you do to fill your belly, to someone who will now actively engage with me in both discussing just how to cook that joint of pork and enjoy cooking it with (or even for) me. That was a revolution indeed, I can tell you!

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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That would be great!

Why not call if something like: Devouring the British Beast. If you keep a UK slant on it, it should work well in this Forum, (as opposed to the Cooking Forum), and everyone can chime in on what's local, seasonal etc.

I look forward to it.

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Going to the supermarket probably takes up about 3 hours of your time. Sitting down and ordering different produce from different suppliers, who may or may not deliver and then having to sit in a wait for their delivers (which to be competitively priced has to be morning or afternoon) proably takes up to 2 hours. Why not just find a good area in London that meets all your requirments - meat, fish, veg, cheese, dry stores etc - and go there weekly. Places such as Turnham Green (Macken's Butchers), North End Road (Dickenson Butchers), Northcote Road (Randle's I think), etc, etc. Or local markets that don't trade on the Borough Market name such as Marlybone, Stoke Newington.

This way, you get to choose the best and freshest produce that should last a week, learn about it, haggle and generally extend the whole experince of eating proper food. Sure it takes effort and a while to get into a rountine and learn who the best traders are, but I think the other options are false economy.

bakerestates.

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Pigeonpie... I like the idea of getting a small chest freezer and buying half an animal.  It would make an interesting thread, if you fancy posting how you work your way through the different cuts.

Interesting idea. I might just have to do that ...

It will probably have to wait until the autumn though - I'm stocked up at the moment with various bits of various beasts, and it would make sense to start the thread when I order my next half a lamb, which won't be until at least August/September when they are available again (this is a seasonal product). That way I can start it off with a complete half beast.

In the meantime, I have half a mutton shoulder defrosting for the weekend (it needs to go into its marinade tomorrow) ... yum!

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.

Virginia Woolf

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  • 2 weeks later...
My local Turkish is just as exciting as Borough Market.

I absolutely have to agree with this. When I lived in London, I did just about all of my fruit and veg (and numerous other things) shopping at my local Turkish shop. It was far better, quality and variety and value for money wise, than the street market that filled my street once a week. When I moved to Brighton, I really missed that Turkish shop, but now two have opened near me. Heaven.

I'll join this chorus.

For me, it goes something like this.

Saturday: Veg box delivery from Riverford.co.uk -- I used to get an Able & Cole box but it was more expensive and they don't deliver to our current address. Riverford is cheaper, a bigger box for the money, and always top quality produce. You can't choose what you want exactly though, so it's a bit potluck. If you want the ability to say "don't you dare put another cauliflower in my box" then Able & Cole are better.

Mid-Week: Trip to Vietnamese supermarket in Poplar. I work at Canary Wharf and this gets me out of 'pin stripped suit land'. Pick up fresh herbs/Asian staples like noodles, sauces and spices. There is one near Greenwich I can access as well.

Mid-Week: Waitrose to see what meat I can get on sale. There just isn't a butcher I find convenient to get to, unfortunately. When I lived in Enfield I used to stop off at Highbury to go to one there and stocked up on enough meat for 2-3 weeks at a time. I don't like supermarkets but Waitrose is the best of a bad lot and they often have stuff marked down. Only pick up what's in season, so Welsh lamb at the moment, for example.

Occasionally: Meander up to a Turkish supermarket in Stoke Newington/Palmers Green area. Stock up on haloumi, olives, as much as I can carry.

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or you can always try www.natoora.co.uk ;) i can't reccommend it either way as it would be a terribly biased opinion...we do try to give consumers an alternative to supermarket shopping.

-che

Oh I would so love to do all of my shopping through natoora. Especially since you can get me burata. But I just can't bring myself to drop £18 on a package of fresh pasta.

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If I had all the money in the world, I wouldn't spend too much time at Borough Market. It's over-rated, over-crowded and over-priced. A sad state of affairs when a market becomes a tourist destination.

It is no secret that supermarkets cater to their catchment customer base. If you live in Dalston you won't get goose fat or leaf gelatine, but may do if you live in Stoke Newington (as I used to)

I do a monthly delivery from Sainsburys which, where I live, does goos fat, gelatine leaf, typo OO flour inter alia.

I suppliment this with a weekly shop to my local Waitrose for fish, meat and dairy products.

Fruit and veg are picked semi-weekly from our vegetable allotment (currently enjoying a bounty of strawberries).

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or you can always try www.natoora.co.uk ;) i can't reccommend it either way as it would be a terribly biased opinion...we do try to give consumers an alternative to supermarket shopping.

-che

Oh I would so love to do all of my shopping through natoora. Especially since you can get me burata. But I just can't bring myself to drop £18 on a package of fresh pasta.

that particular pasta is very expensive, but it is fantastic. it truly is hand-made in Italy to order. Funny thing though, that kilo of pasta will easily serve six people, which means for £3 a person you have incredible fresh (pasta minus the sauce), not bad for a dinner party. plus, you can't find anything like it anywhere in London.

i had a walk through waitrose the other day and was appaled at the prices - £7/kg for cherries, cherry vine tomatoes for £6.65/kg, baby cherry tomatoes for £8.95/kg, £9.97/kg for apricots to name a few. without even going into the difference in falvour, freshness and quality between our products and theirs, our prices are £5.80 for apricots, cherries (from ardeche cal 28 rather than the puny things at waitrose) £6.40/kg, cherry vine tomatoes £5.82/kg comparable to their "baby cherry". it is a disgrace. On our end we need to be better at pointing out these these differences to consumers.

-che

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  • 4 months later...

I have managed to source all my food from this fantastic co-operative. For those living in the North West I can not reccomend this enough. The produce is definitely top notch, and that which is sourced abroad is via artisan producers. They periodically do the most delicious rose veal. I notice it has recently been nominated for the BBC4 farm and food awards.

northern harvest

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I have managed to source all my food from this fantastic co-operative. For those living in the North West I can not reccomend this enough. The produce is definitely top notch, and that which is sourced abroad is via artisan producers. They periodically do the most delicious rose veal. I notice it has recently been nominated for the BBC4 farm and food awards.

northern harvest

I met these chaps at a NW food fair in earlier this year, but sadly forgot to order from them. Will do so soon thanks to this prompt.

Cheers

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I have managed to source all my food from this fantastic co-operative. For those living in the North West I can not reccomend this enough. The produce is definitely top notch, and that which is sourced abroad is via artisan producers. They periodically do the most delicious rose veal. I notice it has recently been nominated for the BBC4 farm and food awards.

northern harvest

I met these chaps at a NW food fair in earlier this year, but sadly forgot to order from them. Will do so soon thanks to this prompt.

Cheers

No probs Bapi hope you enjoy their extensive bounty, let me know what you think.

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Mid-Week: Trip to Vietnamese supermarket in Poplar. I work at Canary Wharf and this gets me out of 'pin stripped suit land'. Pick up fresh herbs/Asian staples like noodles, sauces and spices. There is one near Greenwich I can access as well.

can carry.

Really, where is the vietnamese supermarket? I live in Canary Wharf.

I buy weekly from Portobello food. But they don't have much of fresh produce, except for some Italian veg.

I live very closed by Billingsgate market, so if I can get up, I'd go there for fish, mainly on Friday. I cannot even think of Waitrose very death fish :biggrin: . Actually, if there are neighbourghs interersted in buying jointly :biggrin:

Although I hear people complaining I like to go to Borough market for meat and vegetables, living on the East side is very convenient.

Sometimes I go to Lewisham, to the Turkish supermarket for particular items (like yufka), exept for the eggplants, when in season, I find the quality a little lacking. Also the market in Lewisham and the one of Dalston junction I have not been really impressed by the quality.

Any other market suggestions?

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I am lucky enough to be near a Booths supermarket (North/Northwest only) which is a tremendous company with a genuine commitment to local producers (ie all meat is British, all beef and lamb is from the local producers in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and Cheshire, interesting game in season). Fruit and veg very clearly marked as to origin and local producers strongly promoted. lots of specialist local products (Richard Woodalls bacon and cumbrian air-dried ham, eccles cakes, lancashire plum bread, Toppings pies, Bleikers smoked fish, bread from Melmerby and Ukrainian bakery in Bradford etc etc). The wine selection is fair with a superb bottled beer range which won them a camra award (literally hundreds on display). Good range of organics too and far more fresh/chilled than frozen - in fact only a relatively small frozen section. They also have an unusually mature and skilled workforce who know what they are doing and making shopping a very enjoyable experience.

They regularly win awards and do deserve it, I'm lucky enough to combine the convenience with a good, ethical and interesting range.

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