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.
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.
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.
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 greengrocer 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!