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Home » Members Blog

The Slow Shopper goes Self-Sufficient

Submitted by on June 20, 2012 – 9:33 pm5 Comments

Happy Slow Food Week! Until Sunday Slow Food UK is celebrating the wonder of good British food, with lots of flavour and an interesting story behind it. There are various foodie events going on, which I would definitely go to if only they weren’t all in London and Scotland.
If you are lucky enough to live near these places, look at the Slow Food UK website to find out more.

So back to the subject of slow shopping, and it’s been almost three months now since I last shopped in a supermarket or chain store. To be honest, the novelty’s starting to wear off. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I miss the rows upon rows of overly-packaged convenience foods, or the garishly bright signs boasting about BOGOFs. More that I’ve overcome the initial thrill of discovering all the local independent shopping hotspots and have settled into a comfortable routine. I buy the bulk of my veg from a farm shop on my way home from work, get toiletries from a hardware shop on my local high street (and occasionally hardware too), and clothes from a well-stocked cluster of charity shops in a student area of Leeds. Sorted! The things I buy are generally more expensive than what you’d get in a supermarket, but on the other hand I’m less tempted to buy stuff I don’t need just ‘coz it’s there.

Jimmy stands up for dairy calves


Did anyone watch the series ‘Jimmy and the Giant Supermarket’ on TV recently? As a regular milk drinker, it was distressing to hear that thousands of newborn calves in the UK are shot days after birth, so that their mothers will continue producing milk that we can drink. The baby cows are considered to be a ‘waste product’, as they cost too much to rear and there is little demand for their meat. This upsetting news has certainly encouraged me to drink more soya milk, and only choose organic dairy products; certified organic farmers must have a plan in place to end the culling of their calves within the next five years. Still less than ideal, but I struggle to imagine my life without cheese in it. If you are interested in watching the series, you can probably catch it on Channel 4 OD.

Having bought the chickens and baked the homemade bread, I decided to go on a self sufficiency course to find out what other steps I could be taking to live more sustainably. My husband James and I spent a very hands-on day with smallholding guru Sue, learning all about growing veg, how to keep our chickens happy and making cheese from fresh goat’s milk. It was great fun, and I can’t wait to get a couple of acres of my own and start living the good life! I can dream…

Sue teaches us her self-sufficient ways


The self-sufficiency course I went to was at Garden Farming near Hull and I’d definitely recommend it, but wherever you live there’s probably a course near you- just Google ‘self-sufficiency’ or ‘smallholding courses’ if you’d like to give it a go. Even if you don’t plan on having your own small farm, it’s great to see food being produced with care and respect for animals and the environment.

Don’t forget, if you want to find out more about any of the things I mention in this blog, have a look at these useful resources.

To read previous blogs in this series, click here.

5 Comments »

  • Amy Beeton says:

    Great post Emma!
    I echo your voice on the dairy industry, it is actually very cruel and the animals suffer as much or more as any animal reared for it’s meat. It’s one of the main reasons that made me go vegan.

    You are making the avoiding the supermarkets sound so easy – go you!

  • Nick Roebuck says:

    Very inspiring.

    Did your small holding course cover bee keeping? Bee keeping is reasonably low maintenance and high reward without some of the issues that may put a vegetarian off keeping chickens eg what do you do with them when they get too old to lay?

    I think the outlay for a hive can be quite high but I bet you can find some bargains if you look. Then you can either catch a swarm of bees (unlikely for a beginner) or get a small colony posted (yes really, via Royal Mail) to you. Bees seem to be in short supply at the moment so a couple of hives should be a welcome addition to any kitchen garden and surrounding area.

    And of course once you have honey you can start brewing mead……

  • Emma R says:

    Hi Nick,

    The course I went on didn’t cover bee keeping, but it seems like there’s a lot of courses available through places like the Soil Association. I like the idea of keeping bees, especially since bee populations seem to be in decline at the moment. Homemade mead is a good incentive too…

  • Dee Weaver says:

    Interesting post, Emma.

    Before I went back to being vegan, I used to buy organic milk, cheese etc, or goats milk products, telling myself it was more humane than standard dairy practice. But the abuse is embedded, whether it’s organic or not. The only way a cow will produce milk is to have a calf. Whatever the organic dairy industry comes up with in five years time, it will still involve the forcible separation of the calves from their mothers, and eventually their slaughter. There is no other way to deal with the surplus calves. So, if you drink milk, you may as well eat veal or beef – there’s no difference to the calf.

    The only way to end the slaughter is to break the supply/demand chain. If no one bought dairy products, the dairy industry would disappear.

    I thought I would miss cheese, but I don’t. There are plenty of ways and means to create a cheesy taste without it. I have to confess, I do miss eggs though, and if we had the space, I’d have a little flock of rescued battery hens. Until then, I can live without them.

  • G. Chatham says:

    Dear Dee,
    I would be very interested to know what you do for a living and how the thousands put out of work when you have done away with the dairy industry will earn theirs?
    The larger supermarkets are doing their best to kill the dairy industry without the consumer even trying. An interesting fact you might like to know:- In a radius of 5miles, 15years ago there were 8 dairy farms, there are now 3. Although they worked 12hour days they couldn’t earn a living from it anymore.
    I hope you read the label carefully on the soya milk because it isn’t always easy to find soya that is GM free.

    Oh if it were more straight forward to live out our principles.

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