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Divorcing The Big Supermarkets

Divorcing the Big Supermarkets
Written by Jennifer Nini

I was unhappy in these relationships for a long time. There were obvious signs from the very beginning that these unions were doomed, I just chose not to take any notice. After drifting apart for many years, I finally decided to end my relationships with the big supermarkets on December 31st 2014.

No tears, no sad goodbyes, no hatred, no nothing. I just walked away.

I wanted a clean slate for 2015 and thus made it my new years resolution to  no longer shop at Coles and Woolworths.

Looking back on both relationships though, I can see now why they were bound to fail. It was never going to be a happily ever after with these two.

I’ll admit, I was initially enamoured by their shopping convenience, variety of products and cheap prices but as the years rolled on, I began seeing cracks beneath the surface.

BAD ATTITUDES

First of all, Coles and Woolworths (Safeway) supermarkets are massive bullies. While I had an inkling that they weren’t playing fair, I only saw their true colours when suppliers accused both supermarkets of bullying tactics last year. In fact, Coles supermarket was fined $10 million and a further $1.25 million in legal costs for “[threatening] suppliers with commercial consequences, including not granting future contracts or promotion of products, if it was not paid to fund a supply chain improvement program or fill profit gaps” as reported in The Australian. Upon discovering this, I was appalled. I have zero tolerance for bullies: at school, in the workplace, in business and in the food aisles.

DISAPPOINTING PERFORMERS

Secondly, the ‘fresh’ fruit and vegetables you find at these supermarkets taste awful. From personal experience, it didn’t matter what I purchased and when, I was regularly disappointed with the quality of their food especially their tomatoes which I can only describe as tasteless. It is only when I began shopping at the Farmers Markets, switched to locally grown fresh produce and cultivated my own organic gardens that I enjoyed eating tomatoes again.

Eco Warrior Princess - Garden

 

EGO PROBLEMS

They are getting bigger, wielding more power and have become extremely greedy. Providing a retail space where customers could buy food wasn’t enough. They became so fixated on profit they started diversifying in other areas such as commercial property, credit cards, insurance, petrol and now produce their own lines of food too. They also charge premiums to businesses who want ‘prime shelf space’ and if you take a closer look, their food is almost always the cheapest in every category they compete in which gives them an unfair advantage.

SO WHAT AM I DOING FOR FOOD?

Well as you all know, our household grows our own food as we attempt to establish our farming business (refer to So You Think You Can Farm). At last count, we grow something like 46 varieties of fruit and vegetables on our property. As an amateur gardener I rely on the expertise of my future father in law Paul who has helped me with basic gardening techniques and who has much more experience in maintaining vegetables gardens and hobby farming. We have several vegetable gardens and thankfully he takes a lead role in this department, a godsend given I've taken on more clients as a freelance writer and have less time to spend in the gardens as I once did.

Although we live more sustainably than most, we aren’t completely self-sufficient. There are basic items that I need to purchase that we just don’t have the capacity to produce ourselves (not yet anyway). So I purchase products such as yoghurt, cheese, eggs, meat (for the boys) and other staples such as toilet paper. However instead of shopping at Coles and Woolworths, I shop at the Independent Grocers of Australia (IGA), farmers markets and our local green grocer Farmer & Sun.

While there is some planning and effort that goes into giving up the supermarket giants, it is possible to do without them as I have clearly shown. It’s been 5 months since I quit Coles and Woolworths and while many people thought this resolution was too great an undertaking, it really hasn’t been.

I quit Coles and Woolworths like I quit fast fashion: I just went cold turkey.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you thought about quitting Coles and Woolworths or supermarkets in general? Where do you shop for your food and household products? Share your tips and thoughts in the comments below!

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About the author

Jennifer Nini

Jennifer Nini is a writer, activist and the founding editor of Eco Warrior Princess. In 2010, after studying Fashion Business, she began this blog to explore her interests in fashion, politics, social justice and sustainability. Jennifer is also the founder of The Social Copywriter, a digital agency harnessing the power of copywriting and content marketing to help mindful businesses reach more people. When she's not perfecting a sentence or coaching business clients, you will find her at her certified organic farm reconnecting with nature.

15 Comments

  • I’m so lucky to live in an agricultural rich area in Ontario, Canada! I love that I have access to tender fruit like peaches and grapes, as well lots of veggies, well, at least in the Summer and Fall. What I’ve noticed is that not only are local products tastier, but cheaper! I would love to live more sustainably. I would like to give the “100 mile” diet a try! I’m a meat eater so sourcing out a local source of hormone antibiotic free meat might be a challenge. One that I might be willing to take this summer though!

    • How wonderful you live in an area where you get local fresh produce! I haven’t heard of that 100 mile diet but you’ve now piqued my interest. I think I should be safe given I grow much of the food I eat and try to source from local producers. Sourcing good quality free range chemical-free meat locally might be a challenge, but please let me know how you go! I’d love to share this with my meat eating readers 🙂

  • It wasn’t until I started buying my fruit and vegetables off a work colleague who had an organic kitchen garden of entirely heirloom varieties, that I understood how fantastic food can taste! I had to learn to cook new things and survive on what was in season. I thought my food miles were low before because I only bought Australian made, however I realised through this process the amount of out-of-season food I was consuming and that I could reduce those miles even further.

    • What a wonderful story! I love that you had the opportunity to discover it that way and isn’t it amazing when you do? I still remember eating the very first tomato we had grown ourselves. I had never tasted tomatoes so flavoursome before. I may not be the most accomplished of cooks but it helps when you have the freshest ingredients available. Thanks for sharing, I think more people would learn from us doing so 🙂

    • Thanks for sharing this, it is a sad part of the world. The demand for cheap products, food clothes whatever means somewhere along the lines someone or something pays. People usually. Or animals. Or environment 🙁

  • This is just what I needed to read thank you. I want to do this soooo badly, I just don’t know if I can with the kids. Trying to shop at the farmers market is a nightmare with them, in fact it’s impossible. I’m not sure what to do. x

    • I wish I had advice for you, but alas, I don’t have kids! I can just imagine it would be tough with them. I would probably go down the route of going shopping on my own and leaving them with the hubby, but that’s of course a hypothetical because I probably would do something completely different once I become a mum! Hahaha hope you’re going well with the not buying anything new challenge too xx

  • I made it anew years resolution in 2013 to never step inside a coles or woolies again and it was relatively easy, but the kids have grown + I work for myself so can spend the extra time needed preparing to shop and finding alternatives. It was a gradual process to find the least packaged items around. WE still go to IGA for essentials and fortunately our local shops have excellent free range butcher ( for hubby) & a health food shop you can buy by weight using our own jars. When we bought our house many years ago a very important factor for us was that we could walk everywhere we needed to go, even to the hospital. We live close to paddies market so can by all the misshaped capsicums & potatoes etc etc and find that the nut shops have a fantastic array of grains like rice oats + excellent coco, the list goes on all with minimal packaging. My shopping trolly is mos def a huge part of how cutting down on plastic. It is full of cloth bags, and ” no bags thanks ” is my mantra. I don’t think in terms of the 30c per item that I would save by going to Coles specially when I know they have ground down the supplier to make the saving.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your experiences Fiona, it is fantastic to hear. Learning how other people are trying to make lifestyle changes that align with their values is still something that fascinates me. I really think it’s important that people like us share our stories so that it’s not the ‘different’ and ‘unusual’ and becomes just the normal. It’s how people a century ago used to live so it’s really not that unusual..! I know not everyone can do everything that you and I are doing because of their individual circumstances, but it’s important to just show that there is another way and they have the power to choose. Thanks for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment 🙂

  • My husband and I are working on this ourselves. We have Walmart in Ontario and I cringe when I think how the person or child was treated or paid to make fast fashion.
    We are working to become off–grid sustainable. We are in Ontario Canada and we have four children whom we homeschool.
    Very excited to learn from you, and maybe one day share more!

    • Great to hear from you! It sounds like we definitely have similar values and looking forward to learning more about you. Do you have a blog? Are you on social media? Would love to keep in touch!

  • Unfortunate IGA is just as bad as Coles and Woolies, they are just a smaller competitor. My uncle works with lots of local farmers in Queensland and hates IGA as much as we dislike Coles and Woolies. Thank you for raising this point though!

    • Thanks for contributing your thoughts/experience Jessica! It’s interesting to hear this because my partner’s uncle runs two IGAs in his region of NSW and as he was born and raised there, he tries to help local suppliers/producers when the other supermarkets won’t. And in my experience liaising with the local IGA store, they seem much more willing to get involved in the local community than the others. Having said this, that’s not to say they are unfair in contract negotiations. Are you able to shed more light? I would love to investigate this further – particularly as not all IGAs are equal given they are run more like a franchise.

  • I am trying to stop shopping at WWS and Coles as well.

    So far I managed to shop most of my vegetables and fruits at the local farmers market,called Gosford Farmer’s Market.

    Because I am a retailer myself, so we order cooking oil, salt and snacks etc through our current suppliers and all our personal care, skin care and makeups are natural, sourced from suppliers as well. ( WWS and Coles destroyed a lot of small businesses )

    But I find that it is so hard to quit them completely as it is just so convenient to shop at these two super markets, because they are everywhere. So far we still buy milk, coffee pods and smoked salmon from them.

    Will try harder in 2017:)

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