Yesterday I went to Iceland and spent nearly £30 quid stocking up on basics like bread, cheese, milk, apples, peanut butter and yogurts. Everything I bought (with the exception of bag of chocolate mini eggs) was relatively nutritious, but a lot cheaper than Sainsbury’s, Tesco or other “regular” supermarkets.
A few years ago I would have shuddered at such behaviour. Iceland was not for someone like me – dear me no. It was for people like this:
In my snobbish brain, Iceland was for fat, poorly uneducated plebs, for chavs ( a word I used liberally in the pre Owen Jones days). Although I baulked at Waitrose and regular trips to M&S (a waste of money), wild horses would not have dragged me through the doors of Iceland. I mean, someone I knew might have seen me going in there!
I’m not quite sure when I changed my mind. I think it might have something to do with buying some of those disposable barbeques and seeing that they were half the price in Iceland (and perfectly ok). Then seeing that 4 pints of milk costs a quid – a lifesaver when your kids drink literally buckets of the stuff. Then seeing that you could get a decent loaf of bread in there for a pound – brown with seeds not some white crap. Then I was hooked. I also like Morrison’s as well (somewhere else I used to sneer at), probably because food has become hideously expensive in the past few years. I reckon the big price rises started in about 2008, but don’t quote me on that.
Basically a loaf of bread you used to be able to buy in Sainsbury’s/Tesco/Co-op for a quid back in 2007/8 for a pound now costs about £1.60. Yesterday I saw a 250 gram jar of Marmite on sale in Sainsbury’s for £3.26. And I’ve seen tins of tomatoes (which in my mind should cost about 50/60p) on sale for over a pound in Tesco.
Yes there are lost leaders, BOGOFs and no small number of “meal deals” (M&S lure in the population of austerity Britain with some tempting offers).
A lot of supermarket deals focus on highly processed, sugary, fatty stuff – it’s rare to get a deal on lettuce or eggs. Which goes some way towards explaining why poorer families eat a lot of rubbish – yes, of course you can make your own soup/bread/knit your own polenta – but this takes time and who can be arsed to do this when you’re working nights/cleaning houses/wiping arses for a living. Or you’re fed up of trying to keep your head above water and think “Sod it, I’ll have a frozen pizza/tube of Pringles/bag of mini Mars bars for dinner tonight.”
I know all about special offers as I scour the shops for them in an attempt to keep the food bill under control without feeding my kids crap/eating a boring and depressing diet. I like to eat well and buy fresh, nutritious food. I reckon we spend about £120 p/w on food – 2 adults, 2 kids, one baby. How anyone manages to feed a family on Jobseekers (or even feed a single adult) is a mystery. I guess you just have to eat a lot of pasta (which has shot up in price) or sandwiches (as we’ve already discussed, bread is hardly cheap these days).
Ah yes. When I noticed that the food bill was shooting up and that bread (and other wheat based foods) was becoming ridiculously expensive, I assumed that there must have been a bad harvest or a shortage somewhere. After all, in a “free market”, price is controlled by the interaction of supply and demand.
Wrong. A little light reading on the subject proved to me that the rising costs of my shopping were fuelled by speculation in commodities.
It’s explained here:
And also here:
There are many, many articles on this subject and the message is clear: the global surge in food prices that is not only behind the vast increase in the cost of living (in a recession) but also hunger and starvation in developing countries, is largely man made. What is driving up the price of food is speculation – the same force that created the sub prime mortgage crisis, the credit crunch, the bank bail out, etc etc etc. Food is getting more expensive because people are making bets on the price of commodities, not because of any real shortage or increase in demand. The conventional reasons for inflation – an overheating economy, lavish wage settlements, consumer confidence are conspicuous by their absence.
The irony is that this kind of speculative activity would have been unheard of in the dark days of the Seventies/early 80s, when inflation was the big issue. Possible causes for inflation back then included the 1973 oil price rise, Nixon printing money to pay for the disastrous war in Vietnam and of course greedy trade unions haggling for big pay rises for their members.
Thatcher loved to position herself as the inflation buster – here she is pretending to be ” an ordinary housewife”.
Thatcher’s inflation busting policies crippled British industry, but hey, they put the unions back in their corner. Big business now set the agenda – an agenda that includes food price speculation, cartels (supermarkets are an obvious example) and the religion of the free market as the only thing that matters. Anyone who complains – about say, the promotion of fatty, sugary crap food – or the rotten way companies like Tesco treat their workers is seen as some kind of throwback.
Supermarkets are great – they’re even helping reduce the dole queues now by taking on armies of loads of unemployed people to stack their shelves and push trolleys round their carparks. Woo hoo!
Obviously I’m the worst kind of hypocrite as I spend a disproportionate amount of my time and our household income in supermarkets. I can’t afford not to.
After all, there is no alternative…..
Of course that’s utter rubbish, as shown by the success of the Co-op supermarkets and fantastic ventures like The People’s Supermarket in Bloomsbury.
David Cameron tried to hijack the shop as some kind of example of The Big Society (or B/S as I prefer to call it) because it uses volunteers who get a discount on food in return for putting in a few hours into the shop. But don’t let that put you off – it does all sorts of cool things like buying cucumbers that have been rejected by the major chains for being too curly
Curly cucumbers aside, it’s not really practical for me to do more than the odd bit of shopping in The People’s Supermarket but I do love the place. It’s genuinely inspiring.
I’ll shut up now (at last, they all chorus), but before I go away, I recommend you read this:
You won’t be able to put it down. Trust me xxx