Support Your Local Greengrocer

Supermarkets are damned clever.  They spend a lot of time and a lot of money researching our shopping habits and have figured out that we can only track half a dozen prices at any given time.

One of these is milk.  While most politicians are routinely caught out by the ‘how much is a pint of milk?’ question, most normal people aren’t.  A litre of semi skimmed in the village shop is £0.95, two litres of organic milk in the big supermarket is typically £1.65.

It’s a simple calculation; milk is cheaper in Sainsbury ergo Sainsbury is a cheap place to shop.  Yes, like two and two is five.

Supermarkets gamble on us making simple but wrong calculations to milk us (sorry, that was shameful).

I’ve long suspected that my favourite local greengrocer is cheaper on a lot of things than the Sainsbury in Tunbridge Wells.  So I decided to put my suspicions to the test.  Donning a yashmak (I made that bit up) I scooted round the fruit and veg aisles in Sainsbury and subtly made notes.  Then I went to Leach’s in Ticehurst and compared prices.

First, a caveat.  As Chris Leach pointed out, it’s difficult to compare like with like.  With supermarkets you pay through the nose whenever you go for the non-basic option or they make you buy more than you wanted to get a good price. On the other hand with a good greengrocer you get the standard price even if you just want one small one – and, or should I say AND, you have the benefit of someone who knows about fruit and veg. and who values their customers making sure you get decent produce.  Anyway, here is how big old Sainsbury and little old Mr Leach shaped up;

Leach’s of Ticehurst Sainsbury
Leeks £2.20 per kilo £2.59 per kilo
Broccoli £3.99 per kilo £2.00 per kilo
Peppers £3.99 per kilo £4.00 per kilo
Courgettes £2.20 per kilo £1.80 per kilo
Onions white £1.10 per kilo £1.00 per kilo
Potatoes, King Edwards £1.00 per kilo (Ambo, like King Edwards) £0.80 per kilo but only in 2.5kg bag
New Potatoes £1.50 per kilo £1.50 per kilo standard£2.00-£2.50 per kilo variety
Speciality new potatoes £3.00 per kilo (ttd)
Carrots £1.10 per kilo £0.90 per kilo
Sweetcorn 2 for £0.75 (local) 2 for £1.99 (ttd)

So as soon as you deviate from the standard with Sainsbury you pay more.  Sweetcorn is a good example.  Sainsbury’s taste the difference (ttd) sweetcorn comes prepared and packaged, Chris Leach’s doesn’t.  However with sweetcorn you really want it to get to the table from the field as quick as possible as it gets starchier and tougher with every passing day.  The time it takes to get through Sainsbury’s packaging and supply chain means that you will taste the difference – as Chris Leach buys locally, his will taste way better.

Elsewhere he scores with potatoes (he even has some cheapies out the back which he doesn’t rate for just 50p per kilo) and leeks, comes even-stevens with peppers and close with onions, carrots and courgettes.

And even with broccoli, where the supermarket wins hands down, as soon as you buy it from Sainsbury plastic wrapped (£3.33 per kilo) the difference narrows.

Lastly factor in the other benefits of shopping locally.  If you live in Chris’s neighbourhood and your car does 45 miles to the gallon (or 10 miles to the litre) then it’ll cost you around £2.80 in fuel to get to Sainsbury and back (wear and tear not included).  Or if you’re single or you want just enough for the next couple of days Sainsbury’s often pushes you into buying in larger quantities to get decent prices.  DEFRA has estimated that around a third of food gets wasted.  This is why.

The bigger question is how supermarkets can promise with a straight face that they deliver great value when a small greengrocer, like Leach’s, can often match or better their prices.

Supermarkets put the screws on farmers.  They have vast economies of scale.  They only pass on savings to us when they have to.  In short they surely don’t deserve our custom.

Moreover think how shameless they’d be without local greengrocers to keep them on the straight and narrow.  All the more reason to support yours and make sure your town or village has plenty of independents shops where people who really know their onions give you expertise and service the supermarkets can’t match and at prices that are pretty comparable and, in a surprising number of instances, better.

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2 Responses to Support Your Local Greengrocer

  1. Robbie says:

    So true!

    I’ve only recently discovered how much I’ve been ripped off over the years by Sainsbury’s. In November a new market building opened in my city (Sheffield) and I first visited it two weeks before Christmas. I was really surprised how much in percentage terms I was saving compared to Sainsbury’s for fruit and veg and fresh meat. An example would be Broccoli – £2.90 KG in Sainsbury’s and at a market stall I only pay £1.94! Similar percentage savings have been achieved on pears, black grapes and plums.

    I’ve become really anti-supermarket lately because I’ve realised their presence has damaged my local area and me – my health! For too long I was caught in the trap of buying products I didn’t need but bought because they were on offer. The reality was that I’d often buy the high sugar and fat foods that did me no good. I still go to a supermarket (Iceland) to buy things I can’t get at the market but I feel much better that I’m no longer contributing to the growth of a very big problem and, most importantly – I’ve lost a lot of weight due to eating more really healthy food thanks to my market and local greengrocer.

    • I think you’re right Robbie. The supermarkets are very good at maintaining the illusion of value but they’re even better at squeezing every last penny out of shoppers. It’s a power problem – the supermartkets now have so much that local and national governments won’t stand up to them.

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