Reducing reliance on supermarkets 2016

Can we reduce our reliance on supermarkets? 

Transition & Permaculture Hull says ‘Yes we can’ 

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This page was written 4 years ago and has been updated regularly. Some of the material was moved to the Food4Hull site when it was expanded in 2014 to list local producers and suppliers.


After watching a Transition Hull showing of the film Food Inc in 2011, about the American food industry, we realised the scale of the industrialisation of the pig and cattle industries, and were shocked at the power of the supermarkets to drive such developments. We know from our experiences in the UK that supermarkets can manipulate the supply chain and the planning process, and that their out-of-town developments can mean that local outlets disappear.

Local, sustainably produced food is the focus of the national initiative  Sustainable Food Cities ( and in Hull the organisation Food4Hull is hoping to take this agenda forward locally. Contact Hilary Hamer for up-to-date information on Food4Hull (e-mail or phone 07939 569347 or 01482 844102)

With the idea that lots of small actions can have an effect, we’ve collected information on what non-supermarket outlets Transition Hull members use. Below is a list of non-supermarket options you might like to check out. Please note that all the local food listings that used to appear here (Local Shops, Farmers Markets, Community Outlets, Farm Shops) are now available on the Food4Hull website


When I had a young family, I got fed up with lugging toilet rolls home from the supermarket and, being interested in recycling and in fair-trade, I tried a bulk delivery of toilet rolls from Traidcraft. This was about 20 years ago. Since then I have moved to having a lot of bulk items delivered regularly – tea, rice, pasta, olive oil, orange juice, dried fruit and nuts, tissues, even wine on the run up to Christmas. I’ve always found the quality reliable, and the delivery service good. Not a cheap option, but if you take into account the time you save, and the petrol costs of getting to the supermarket, I’m convinced it’s worth it, not to mention the spin off for the fair trade suppliers.      There was also a local Traidcraft outlet in Hull, The One World Shop, useful if you like the goods but don’t use them in large quantities, but sadly this closed in 2016.



The Co-op does not have shareholders, it has members. If you join, your membership card entitles you to a share of the profits, usually sent to you as money-off vouchers. The Co-op has pioneered a more ethical way of sourcing its goods, being the first large food retailer to stock fair-trade goods over twenty years ago.  Co-op Farms produce grain, fruit and vegetables grown to high environmental standards. The organisation hasn’t addressed the issue of ensuring local goods are directed to local stores, still being dependent on national distribution systems. However, the Co-op does support many community initiatives, including local food projects, and renewable energy developments. See the following article on the Transition Network website for a personal perspective from Wales.


It takes more time to cook a meal from primary ingredients than to buy a supermarket ready meal and heat it up. However, the ready meal can be an expensive option and you don’t know exactly what’s in it. Once you get into the habit of cooking from raw ingredients all the time, there are ways and means of ensuring that not every meal takes a long time to prepare.

Basing every meal round a meat (or fish) ingredient can be restrictive, especially if they are fresh and need using up in limited period of time. Moving over to a diet based mainly on vegetables, pulses, nuts and staples like rice, pasta, flour, quinoa, couscous and the like can be a liberation –  buy in vegetables once a week, keep the store cupboard stocked with dry goods, and each evening all you have to do is decide which recipe to cook. Developing your knowledge and use of herbs and spices can create very different meals. And if you are not vegetarian, it means that the meat, fish and dairy meals you have from time to time will be real treats.

A good ‘alternative’ cook book can help you move in this direction – for me it was Rose Elliot’s Bean Book

If you grow your own fruit and veg, there are a lot of recipe ideas at Allotment Garden Recipes


DON’T BUY IT. GROW IT!  Growing your own is easy! Even if you only have a concreted back yard it is still possible to grow quite a good selection of food crops on a small scale. It doesn’t cost a lot and it’s not too demanding. It’s good for you in more ways than you would think. You are out in the fresh air and exercising – and gardening creates such a feeling of well-being you’ll wish you had started years ago! Then of course there is the reward. Home grown produce really does taste so much nicer!

If space is limited you can use a variety of containers, from shop-bought tubs and hanging baskets to old pots and pans (make drainage holes in the bottom) and even old boots.  Tomatoes are a good starter crop as are peppers and chillis. Beans are also easy to grow – you can trail them up a wigwam of canes, using a wide based tub. Other choices would include a variety of herbs, strawberries, some varieties of tomatoes in hanging baskets, and salad crops in tubs. Really, the list is endless.

Obviously if you have a garden  you will have more scope. Why not convert a flower bed into a vegetable patch, or even mix the two? A border of lettuce instead of pansies, runner beans mingling with the sweet peas? Go on be a devil!!  Packets of seeds cost as little as 20 pence from some outlets – apparently some Pound shops have a good selection. There are also many seed catalogues to be found, which are well tried and tested, but slightly more expensive.  I use both types and  have had success with each type.  I think I should point out here that I have also had total disasters! This has never  stopped me though, it just makes me try harder, and the funny thing about growing anything is that while the ‘dead certs’ fail the ‘difficult’ crops flourish, so you are never disappointed for long.

There is also the possibility of growing perennial vegetables, and if you are interested in this then the following site will give you more information:

I hope this has inspired you to grow something in the coming months. It’s fun, it’s simple and it tastes better than the stuff you buy in the supermarket!


Charity  Shops

Unless you spend a lot of money on purchasing clothes from proven ethical sources, buying new means you won’t be able to avoid purchasing goods made in sweatshops abroad by labour earning less than you and with less rights than you.  So before you buy new, check out if you can get what you want from a Charity shop. A  charity shop bargain is a little different – you are helping the environment by recycling something someone no longer needs, and you are supporting the Charity running the shop. It’s always worth a browse, not just for clothes but for household items, books and bric a brac.

Garden furniture from Recycling Unlimited,  Newland Ave

This charity constructs garden furniture from reclaimed timber and sells it along with other donated goods from its charity shop. The product range includes benches, bird tables, trellis, fencing, arbours, and other pieces of garden furniture as requested by customers.


The following information is taken from the Suma Website. Suma is the UK’s largest independent wholefood wholesaler/distributor, specialising in vegetarian, fairly traded, organic, ethical and natural products. They are a workers’ co-operative committed to ethical business.

“Setting up your own Food Buying Group is a great way to get high quality goods at wholesale prices, delivered to your door by our own friendly drivers. Buying Groups vary from individuals to groups of friends, neighbours, relatives, or large-scale community-based projects, all of whom benefit from buying our products in wholesale quantities. Buying in bulk can help to reduce your carbon footprint, minimise the amount of packaging you use, and save you money on your shopping. It’s also a fun way to get involved in your community and maybe test your entrepreneurial skills.”

OTHER LINKS  An alliance of organisations concerned with the negative impacts of supermarket power   US perspectives on a fundamentally broken food system Website for local food – find a local supplier, or trade home-made produce, order online from a variety of producers, find a recipe or add your own, view and contribute to blog discussions Organic food directory, East Yorkshire section. Organic shops, growers and specialists.  Directory showcasing eco friendly products online and at green events throughout the UK. Supports a greener lifestyle and aims to provide you with information needed to move to a cleaner, greener and more ethical world.

Updated June 2016

Any suggestions for incorporation gratefully considered – please use the contact form on the website.

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