Support Your Local
I can't say that I'm not guilty of shopping at the major supermarket chains, I actually do it a lot. It's easy, it's convenient and when it comes to buying those things that are needed, like washing powder, toiletries, bread, milk, butter it's great. But when it comes to buying my fresh meat, fruit and vegetables, I go to my local butcher, fish monger and greengrocer.
Well, because they have the best quality, I know where it comes from and how long it's been there. It's not frozen, or injected with hormones, or made to look "pink" so it's more appealing to the eye. It's locally grown, farmed or caught. If I can't smell or see meat that's not in a vacuum sealed container, I ain't buying it anymore. That same piece of meat I use in a curry, slow roast or casserole from the supermarket seems to take twice as long to cook as the same piece from my butcher, and it's still chewy! So what does that say about where it came from, how long the meat was aged for, or is it really lamb or mutton? Or how was it fed and treated before slaughter? I can't count the number of times I have purchased meat from a supermarket only to open it and find it is off or on the verge of going off. I don't care what the date say's on the packet, it's only a guide. There was this one place, I bought a whole chicken to cook on the weekend. Luckily I peeled back a sticker when I got home that "they" had put on the label so I could find out a weight to determine a cooking time. Well "they" had added an extra four days to the use by date on the chicken. So by the time I was to use it, it could well have made me and my family very ill. When I returned to the place of sale, I was accused of being unfair and made to feel like it was no big deal, "These things happen" was what I got. Needless to say their management got called, and action was taken by the head office of this particular chain.
Never been there again! Never will!
I get my fresh coffee beans, cheeses, pasta, cured meats, organic eggs, oils, vinegars and anything else that can be used in cooking, all from a great little shop that caters for genuine Italian produce. It is always packed on a Saturday or Sunday morning, and with good reason, they're awesome! It's just across the road from my butcher, fish monger and green grocer...it couldn't have worked out better for me!
I also get peeved at all the "specials" that supermarkets have. "Buy 5 bottles of Coke for $10.00, save $1.50"...I don't want 5 bottles of coke, or 3 packets of chips for $5, or even 4 packets of toilet paper for $12. To what? Save 50 cents or a dollar, big deal. Yes, some specials are genuinely great deals...mostly they aren't though. But I still always get to the checkout and feel as though I am ripping myself off, maybe I should get 5 bottles of Coke? But then my bill would soar way past my budget, and that's all they want. They're not trying to save you money at all! They still make a hefty profit on everything they sell, and then some! It's like the "4 cents off a litre" petrol dockets you get when you spend $30 or more (this is something that we have in Australia, not sure about anywhere else). Well they own the service station you need to fill up at. I'm not winning here. You are Mr Big Corporation! That 4 cents is made back in your high prices at the supermarket.
So, go to your local butcher, greengrocer, delicatessen, small goods store or farmers market. I know that many people don't have the time to do this, running around from shop to shop with work and family, but try to do it at least once a week. Make a day of it. Travel out of the city to the country and visit local growers, farmers and market owners. Where I live we are lucky to have some of the best produce in the world and only an hours drive away, if that. You'll love it, the kids will love it, and small business will love it. I go shopping like this almost daily, I take my bike out and ride off to the shops, or walk with my boys on the weekends. I don't like to have fresh food sitting in the fridge for too long, fresher is better. I buy it and cook it on the same day as much as possible.
Get a relationship going with the owners and workers of your "local". You'll be better off for it, and so will your cooking. Your cooking's only as good as the quality of ingredients you use. Small business knows the value of a good customer, a returning customer, a customer who is happy with the produce the get, something that the surly looking young lad or lass at the supermarket checkout doesn't understand. The best part is, you go to the butcher, they know you and the kids, the kids get a piece of fritz or ham, you get a dirty joke and a few extra sausages thrown in for free. At the fruit and veg shop, the kids get a handful of grapes to eat, or an apple to munch on. They have pride in their work, always happy to see you, have a kind word or a hearty handshake. If it doesn't look good to them, they don't sell it. If it's not in season, they don't sell it.
Do yourself a favour, support you local.