Brisbane Local Food

Growing local


It’s been two months since I split up with the big supermarkets and, you know what? I’m okay. Great, actually.

I still have toilet paper and toothpaste, there’s food in the fridge and cupboards, some of it’s even in packets. It’s taken a while, but I’ve found almost everything I need from other sources. And, although I am yet to really analyse the money side of things, I don’t feel I’m spending more than I used to, as I’ll explain in a moment.

So why ditch the supermarket?

There are three main reasons I decided to stop shopping at supermarkets and they all come back to this quote by author and sustainable food guru Anna Lappe: “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” This is the motivation behind my decision:

  1. I’d prefer to support local businesses than faceless, nameless corporations.
  2. I’m uncomfortable about the fact that two mega companies control more than 80% of the food and grocery market in Australia. Why? Because together, they control how much we pay – and that can be too high, or too low (in the case of the $1 milk scheme that has put numerous Aussie dairies out of business).
  3. Supermarkets are designed to make you overspend, buy unhealthy food and cheap, toxic cosmetics, cleaners etc

Where do you get all your stuff?

Coles and Woolworths only began to dominate the food and grocery market in Australia from 1995 (source). Before then, most people shopped at independent stores and specialists like butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers. Today, of course, you can buy candles in Coles and these independent stores are few and far between. But they’re still there.

In my area, a small peninsula of 50,000 people, we have three Woolies and two Coles, with another on the way. But even in an area so heavily dominated by the Big Two, there are plenty of smaller shops. And of course, there are other ways to buy what you need that doesn’t compromise your ideals (too much).

Here’s a snapshot of where our food and groceries come from:

  • Veggies: Food Connect box, delivered to our organic store.
  • Milk: organic store or locally-owned IGA that stock a local milk (Cooloola)
  • Meat: awesome local butcher and Mitchell Grass Meats
  • Grains: organic store or in bulk from Go Vita
  • Spices, tea, beans/pulses: Sunday market stall
  • Cheese: the Cheese Man at Sunday markets
  • Cleaning supplies: organic store or Go Vita
  • Personal care products: chemist, market, organic store or Go Vita
  • Nigh-time plastic nappies, wipes: Go Toddler (online store)
  • Toilet paper: Who Gives a Crap
  • Oils: I make a special trip to Aldi to get their olive oil, coconut oil from the health-food shop
  • Asian essentials (soy sauce, sesame oil, black-bean etc): Asian supermarket

What have I missed? Put it in the comments and I’ll tell you where I get it!

Written like this, it looks like I spend all my days schlepping around, gathering. This is absolutely not the case. Apart from the organic shop, which I visit weekly, I go to one of these sources per week. The point I’m trying to make is that there are alternatives to the big supermarkets.

The benefits of shopping locally and more widely

When I talk to people about how I shop, they focus on what I’m missing out on: the convenience, the cheap own-brands, the variety, the specials! Here’s what else I’m missing out on: the shopping centre, those parent-hating “rides” that swallow $2 coins and cause massive tantrums, the carpark jammed with angry people, the absolute tedium and monotony of traipsing up and down aisles with two kids and a trolley.

My kids come with me when we visit the “vegetable shop” or the “peanut butter shop”. We visit Go Vita on the bike, or stop at the bakery or butcher on the way home from day care. We talk to the proprietors, the kids are often involved in what we buy – choosing it, carrying it, paying for it. It’s a better experience in every way.

Isn’t this a really expensive way to shop?

In my experience, no. Why? Because I have a small list, and I tend to stick to it when I go to smaller shops. The minute I get into a supermarket, my defences are down and I become a mindless a consumer, lulled by all those marketing trickeries. While it’s true the acutal pricetags on certain items are higher, I simply don’t spend money on stuff I don’t need. DVDs, clothes, magazines, cheap snacks – they practically leap into your trolley at the supermarket. This is far less likely to happen in an independent shop.

Final words (I promise)

I went cold-turkey and can honestly say that I will happily never shop at a non-independent supermarket again. But I’m not suggesting  anyone boycott the supermarkets, and I get that they are very convenient and that we’re all crazy busy, but I do ask that you think about where you’re spending your money and what kind of a world you want for your children – one where you can ask your butcher for a recipe, or one where you can read it on the back of the packet?

Thanks for reading this post. If you’re inspired to break up with the supermarkets, click here to read the follow-up, “How to break up with the supermarket.”


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Cool! We dislike the big two mainly because they squeeze the supplies (usually farmers) and they support liquor outlets with large numbers of poker machines. We are not tee-totallers nor anti-gambling but personally know people who have wrecked their lives by becoming addicted to poker machines. As an ex-smoker I know something about addiction. Yes it is the absolute responsibility of the person to run their own lives. However ... folks are not all perfect and have challenges they need to face and deal with. These two behemoths sit there raking in the shekels for their shareholders providing all-too-easily-obtained temptation. Aldi is far from perfect either, nor indeed is IGA, selling a lot of overseas-canned goods. Both are owned overseas too but so far as I know, neither own poker machines. Aldi sells liquor online and I suppose down south where it is allowed to be sold in grocery stores, but Aldi do not sell tobacco. There is no one neat solution which ticks every box and we've solved our challenges as best we can. With no farmer's market anywhere near, we buy from the Redcliffe organic shop, Coco's (an IGA), Aldi and Simply Good for bulk dry goods.

Good on her! It's lost of fun shopping at the markets and you get a sense of actual human interaction. None of the supermarket zombie shuffling. It's also great to spread the wealth locally instead of it all going straight to the big corporations.

good job!  I stopped at a little farm stall yesterday and it just felt right - I want to do that more often....

This article really hit a cord with some people :)

Doesn't she write well and entertainingly (such a word?)?

Did you check out the link for Who Gives a Crap? toilet paper. Really quite a good price and delivered free.

Great article! A local Worthless opened up here 9 years or so ago, I still have not been in, ever. Eggs and veggies from the backyard, fruit and extra veg from the locally family owned shop, no meat or fish as vegetarian, other goods either online from Australian owned businesses delivered to work or a local IGA if I have to top up on the way home. Coffee from Abrisca in East Brisbane (special mention!), need to order Laucke bread mixes from somewhere to round things out! It can be done, stay away from Worthless and Coles pubs and bottle shops, buy online! Stay away from their fuel outlets too;)


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