The madness of Christmas Food shopping in the UK.

Its time for our Annual Feeding frenzy….


All week I have been reading from online friends how they hate the mad dash of the supermarket food shop and that many have done it early and are feeling pleased and relieved. The weather has turned stormy today and so many of us are now safe at home with well stocked fridges, freezers and larders.  I did my final supermarket shop in a quiet Newhaven Sainsburys  on Friday morning thank goodness and my main vegies last Wednesday to supplement the root veg  from Dymock farm shop safely stashed in the garage.

So when I woke up this morning and saw on TV that today is the day for the ‘big shop’ I began to think about why we put ourselves through it all? The supermarkets are closed for just one day and lets face it there will be convenience stores and garage shops open on the big day if anything has been forgotten. I have just been into Seaford to pay a bill and was amazed to see some of customers  struggling into  Morrisons today are the  elderly using walking trollies. I have to ask myself why they choose to go there today? Through the window I could see it was heaving with queues 10 deep by 11am.


There was even a queue at the local butchers –probably because people were collecting turkeys etc. I then realised why the butcher told me to go yesterday –a Sunday to collect my small piece of steak  and sausagemeat.  In fact many of the town shops were open yesterday even the charity shops so I hope they did well with last minute bargain hunters.




So after the frenzy of all this food shopping – I cant remember how many pigs in blankets they said on TV Asda alone were expecting to sell;  the nation will settle down to eat and drink their way through an excess of  food shopping. I hope that many of those shoppers will have put something decent in the Food Bank baskets that are appearing in most of the big shops now and spare a though for those with only processed food for their Christmas dinner or none at all.

Sadly on the day after Boxing Day , much of this food will be consigned to the bin uneaten along with the turkey carcass which is no longer made into soup or curry in many households (I can see my late dad doing that now and me sighing over the apple and sultanas that went into Anglo Indian curry!) A new frenzy will be in place – sale shopping- either online or another expedition to the shops. The following week the food buying frenzy  will all happen again as people restock up for New Years parties.

For me the key questions to ask are;

  1. Did I stick to the list and avoid the BOGOFs when I knew they would not get eaten?
  2. Did I plan the meals and only buy what we really needed?
  3. Did I spread out the treats throughout the week so nobody got indigestion and felt ill!?
  4. Is there  got nothing  left over or wasted?.
  5. Have I kept a record of the menus and shopping?- easy on OneNote or Evernote for future years?


I wish  this to be reflected across the nation  and  the true spirit of Christmas  food  sharing   to prevail.


A Lidl bit of Love –Alternative to the Big Boys


As I am currently disenchanted with the big boy local supermarkets  (yes that means you Sainsburys , Tesco and Morrisions) I decided to respond to a catalogue that came with The Sunday Times (yes that middle class missive we can spend hours reading at the weekend rather than doing chores or getting out for  a walk) The catalogue was for all things Lidl…the store we loved to hate when it proposed building a tin can monstrosity in our previous Surrey  surburbia.  I was also tempted by some biscuits I had eaten at a coffee morning recently … They came from the local branch and were very good indeed; as well as encouraged by others who said the fresh produce was good quality and  value.

So off I trekked to the Newhaven Industrial Estate with my list of pickles (thought they would be good being a European brand) and Christmas goodies based on marzipan and ginger as seen in the catalogue.

My first challenge was to find a pound coin for the trolley then undeterred I set off to check out the aisles. Mysterious brands of tea coffee etc but no porridge oats -clearly not popular in Europe.

As had been suggested the fresh veggies were very reasonable but not as much choice as I am used to and some things prepacked in bigger sizes than I wanted , but did buy a nice big swede for £1 which is probably half the price of Sainsburys. Butter, cheese and milk all seemed cheaper , bacon was a no go as not marked British so I could only assume this was not the High welfare I wanted. Also bought some large jars of passata which Sainsburys simply does not stock despite my moaning tweets.

However the stars of the store were the Christmas goodies, mini stollens, ginger cookies dipped in chocolate and a whole range of pickles at very good prices.  I also bought a big pack of uncooked  frozen Greenland prawns  so I am all set for some Christmas love now. Incidentally if we were keen on vension I would buy the controversial  reindeer steaks too!



Nearly fell at the last fence on checkout when I discovered you have to pay cash or debit card- no credit cards allowed here. Probably a good thing meaning customers can only buy what they can really afford.

Will I go again- yes when I run out of pickles but sadly they do not have the range of things I want to eat  such as whole wheat  pasta, ryvita and nut milks ( nor Persil non bio for my sensitive skinned partner!)

In the meantime I will spread my custom and love  around the butcher, fishmonger and  Co-op which are within walking distance and  drive to the  nearest farm stall / visit Sainsbury’s a couple of times a month.  I am fortunate that I have time to go to this trouble, it would be so much easier to get it all from one place.



Why is there such poor availability of Healthier Options in local supermarkets? rant!

My other half has been trying to get me to do a food blog for ages but I have always felt it was an overloaded l area on the web, however since moving to beautiful Seaford on the South Downs  of East Sussex UK   in August I am finally moved to share my frustrations.

As an older woman  I have been working hard since I left teaching  2 years ago to have a healthier lifestyle. I now walk by the sea or on the Cliffs nearly every day.  I have also managed to lose nearly 2 stone in weight  (thanks MFP but that’s another story) and get rid of most of my middle aged spread. My partner has also lost weight, changed his eating habits  and is no longer type 2 diabetic. He has long called me ‘The Food Police’

I was looking forward to being able to access fresh fish from the fishmonger (who is great and tells me good ways to cook it) , use a real butcher and  enjoy all my usual products and more at the enormous Sainsburys in Newhaven which is about 4 times the size of the old one in Warlingham. From my first visit to the latter I could not have been more disappointed and frustrated.

Where was my regular spaghetti ?– the Hi fibre  white (with oat fibre) that we use so much of to help keep our  cholesterol down. I spent time on the phone with their customer centre  but they did not seem to know what I was talking about.  Where were Blue Dragon whole wheat noodles and Alpro Unsweetened Almond milk about which I also wrote to the manufacturer.  The customer service desk said they have no power over what comes into the store – in fact I was told today they only stock what there is demand for.

Aagh if you don’t stock things they will not build up a following will they ? and how many customers just go elsewhere – I was told the Eastbourne Sainsburys is much better but why should I drive 15 miles how ecologically unsound is that?  Anyway this has turned out to be untrue because would you believe it about a month later I was doing my weekly shop and there they were- my spaghetti and my noodles- the following week the two hi fibre pasta versions appeared.  Next came Alpro unsweetened almond milk though I have to say this has not always been there since. Still no sign of the Sainsburys own brand plain passata jars though of course you can buy all sorts of pasta sauces with added  flavours sugar etc. The store stocks far more highly processed food  including endless cakes, biscuits and ‘snacks’ than I am used to seeing  on display which is a bit depressing in an area like this.

Seaford and Newhaven is a community where there are many older people  who  need to manage our modern day ills like type  2 diabetes and heart disease There is also a significant sector of low waged working  families and people living on benefits. Surely they  deserve the choice of  healthier options? My initial foray into Morrisons in Seaford filled me with dismay- such poor quality fruit and vegetables and you can’t even get  a couple of slices of  unpackaged cold cuts from their so called deli counter. They cut it and pre-package.  The less mobile  and  many of them  appear very elderly tend  to shop here and they are not well served as far as I can see.

So the straw that broke the camel’s back was yesterday when I went to get the Non dairy Koko milk with added calcium which I enjoy after my daily walk. The shelf was bare- was told they get one case at a time- 12 cartons and for the first time ever I actually ordered it meaning I had to waste time and petrol returning today to collect it.

It makes we so angry that the big supermarket chains who let’s face it have so much power over the growers, manufacturers and  consumers can’t even stock a few wholegrain staples like  large packs of plain brown rice, pasta and a wide range of vegetables both fresh and frozen. They have the chance to show social responsibility and promote these products instead of forever coming up with new pre prepared options. There  is a place for the latter in our busy lives but not  for everyday or at the expense of real food for good health.

 Does anyone agree?