Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Why I don't do internet food shopping any more

When my son was a baby, I used to get internet food shopping all of the time.  It was convenient, it meant I didn't have to traipse round a store with a crying baby, it made sense to me but after years of doing it, I went away from the practice and this is why.

Image from Meat Free Monday
I didn't find it to be any cheaper

Loads of people say that they find they spend less as the amount tots up as they go.  I don't know if I have a crazy number mind but I never found this an issue anyway and, in fact, when I was on a really tight budget, I would count up my supermarket shop as I walked around.

I find I'm more aware of offers not less

I know how supermarkets are laid out, aisle ends, offers, promotions, things that they want you to buy.  Out of habit I pay very little notice of them.  Online, targeted offers to me can be used which is far more difficult to avoid.

The random substitutions

I read a recent Mumsnet thread about substitutions and there were some fantastic ones on there.  My favourite was this:

"Was chatting to our delivery may who once said he made a delivery to a woman where an order of KY jelly had been substituted with strawberry jelly cubes! Apparently she cheerfully said she'd make a trifle."

The "we don't have any in stock"

If I'm out in a supermarket, I can decide, if there is no stewing lamb to make a beef stew instead or if I was planning a lamb curry, perhaps making a vegetarian one.  But without being armed with this information, only learning it on your doorstep means you have 90% of the components for a dish but not the key one meaning you either have to go out and buy it, manage to cobble something else together from what you have or end up wasting ingredients.  (Admittedly that rarely happens in my household but it can still be annoying.)

It doesn't save me any time

I find I spend more time compiling and tweaking my shopping list than doing the shopping.  Adding up the time I spend is easily 1-1.5 hours when I can be in and out of my local supermarket in 30 minutes, especially as I tend to go to the supermarket at odd times of the day.  Even if I do the odd top up fruit and vegetable shop in the week, it's still no faster.  The only benefit is I can do the shopping in my pyjamas (although looking around in supermarkets, this is no barrier to some people) and I can shop on a Sunday afternoon when the retailers are closed.  Whoop whoop.  (Contain excitement.)

It encourages the "big weekly shop"

Because all retailers charge for delivery and have minimum order quantities, this drives us towards that big weekly shop we all used to do in the 90s and early 2000s.  Nowadays though most people are moving towards multiple weekly shops.  Why?  Well it allows for more flexibility, more fresh foods and why not?  It's only the advent of the big supermarkets which encouraged a big weekly shop.

This TV series from the UK called "back in time for dinner" has a really interesting piece on 1990s massive supermarkets (the whole programme is really good but from 17 minutes onwards is the bit I'm talking about.)

"There's probably a whole lettuce aisle somewhere"

It puts me out of touch with food

Food is something to be enjoyed, relished, treasured.  Choosing a piece of steak for a special meal or what vegetables look great today is not the same through the bland anaesthetic screen of a laptop in comparison to being there, in person.  I know people swear by making strict lists and meal planning as a great way to encourage nutrition and limit waste but I prefer to rely on my ingenuity in using up ingredients and go for "what looks good today".  No chef would choose to make a tomato tart if all the tomatoes look bland and insipid.  Buying fresh produce is not the same as buying a book or a DVD.

Look, it has it's place, it's really handy when you're busy and it saved me doing a Christmas shop with a 7 month old one year but I get the feeling that in a few years time we will look back on the boom in internet food shopping with confusion.  Like these hyper-mega-markets now hanging onto the outside of cities like limpets on an ocean liner, they look strange, ugly and we never really understood why we liked them.

There is a resurgence in local shops

It's not hit my area yet but I visit London regularly and there are some fantastic businesses which deliver what customers want.  I've been saying for years that small shops need to open hours that suit customers.  How great is it though to build up relationships with your local butchers, fishmongers?  When I lived in York, I used to regularly go to Scotts Pork Butchers, now sadly closed after 130 years and Cross of York fishmongers.  What is fantastic is having that conversation with a specialist saying "what's the best way to cook this?"

But I think it's a long way off and is probably just for 10-20% of a weekly shop but how lovely to walk out and enjoy food shopping rather than just being another chore?


  1. Hear, hear! I shop at local shops and local supermarkets and it suits us better than when I was shopping online. It was the nonsensical substitutions that annoyed me, because I would plan what I was going to cook and then I couldn't do it. You can compare things better, too, by shopping for yourself. I like to be able to tell where my food has come from, which is not possible with online shopping. I don't like to buy things that have travelled halfway across the world to get here. Nothing quite like fresh local carrots from the greengrocer's. I can be a far more efficient shopper in terms of budget, health and environment, by shopping locally.


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