Friday, 1 March 2013

Island Life: Shopping

Living on an island means that we do things slightly differently when it comes to going shopping. We have two Co-Ops on the island (a big one and a small one) and a little Spar, we’ve also got a couple of butchers and a grocer’s shop, but shopping at the Co alone makes for some very expensive shopping bills. Plus there are some things that you just can’t get on the island; options for clothing are somewhat sparse and there’s something really nice about just being able to wander around a shopping centre and see things that people have mentioned online that you don’t have at home.

Not to mention the fact that, when your world largely consists of a five by fifteen mile stretch of land, it’s really nice to get a change of scenery every once and a while. What with family hospital appointments we usually have at least one trip off the island every month and we use that as a chance to stock up. It works out quite expensive to take the car off the island (there are a couple of people on the island who offer collection services if you order your shopping online with Asda or Tesco, but there’s nothing quite like heading off yourself to do your shop), but when you do a full six-week shop it ends up being comparably cheaper than buying it all from the Co-Op.

Waiting to unload
And so that’s what we’ve taken to doing. It’s even better now that we’ve got our giant chest freezer (more about that in another post) because we’re able to buy things to freeze. We’ve got it down to a fine art now. The day before we go, we scour our cupboards, fridge and ice box (and now we’ve got a freezer to check too) and make a list of everything that we’ve still got left to eat. This is a useful thing to do because you always find something that you’ve forgotten you have or something that’s getting close to its use-by date. For the past few months we’ve had the same tinned steak and kidney pie that keeps on ending up on our list month after month, purely because we were given a couple of them and didn’t like them very much so weren’t in any hurry to eat a second one.

Once we’ve got a list of what’s left, we plan some of the things that we’d like to eat; first based on what needs using up and then we come up with new ideas which we’ll need to actually buy things for. When we first moved into our home here, money was very tight, so this was a good way to make sure that nothing got wasted. As food wastage isn’t really a good thing, it’s something that we’ve continued to do to this day.

Where we lived before meals were planned to the day so on the Xth day of the month you knew exactly what you’d be having. I really don’t like that; we like to be more flexible and working shifts it’s just not practical – things change or sometimes you just don’t feel like having whatever’s been planned. Generally we come up with ideas based on things like whether I’m working an early shift or a late shift, but we’ve got to the point now that we’ve got our favourites which are sort of staples and so go onto the list automatically. We are getting a little more adventurous now though, we’ve recently added fajitas and tacos to our repertoire.

When we know what we feel like eating, then we go through the meals and make a shopping list. From force of habit we sort it into Lidl/Aldi and Tesco/Asda/Morrisons so we know where we’re getting stuff from. We tend to pick up a bit of fruit or veg off the island, but as we can’t expect it to last for six weeks, we get the rest locally. I used to add a note of the prices of things from the last shopping trip’s receipts, it’s something we don’t do any more mainly because we’ve got a fairly good idea of what things cost (and it’s usually a lot less than at the Co-Op, comparing a six week Lidl shopping bill of around £70 to a week’s shopping from the Co for about £30).

And then it’s the fun bit; shopping! I quite enjoy wandering around the supermarkets, checking out offers and filling up our trolley(s). It’s particularly amusing to watch the reactions of fellow shoppers as you load up fifteen bottles of lemonade, three packs of toilet roll, enough bread making supplies to feed a small army and other miscellaneous foodstuffs. We always make it well worth our while by filling up the car with stuff for ourselves and also for anyone else who’s asked us to pick things up.

Probably my least favourite part is unloading it all from the car when we get home; heavy bags which dig into your fingers, reusable shopping bags which are on their last legs deciding to give out on the front doorstep, the repeated trips from the house to the car (particularly if it’s really cold out), the bending down and lifting and carrying. But it’s fun when it’s all in the house and you have to find homes for it all. Sometimes Mr Click does a shop while he takes his parents to hospital appointments and he almost always leaves the shopping in the bags (bar the frozen or chilled stuff) so it’s a bit like Christmas when I get home; he usually throws in a little something extra as well so there’ll be a treat or two that wasn’t on the list.

I always enjoy my trips to the mainland for shopping, we’ve got such a good routine now that it’s like a well-organised military routine (except we stop for a meal at a Chinese all-you-can-eat-buffet place in the middle). It’s always a bit tiring (which is why we try to plan them when I’ve got a long weekend) and you can walk miles, but it’s so satisfying knowing that once it’s done you’re all stocked up with food and it’s not cost a fortune. There’s something really nice about going into the kitchen and seeing that all your cupboards are full.


  1. That's amazing. Back in the day of the once a month paycheck we did something like that. However, I was not as planned out and at the end of the month our meals could get VERY interesting.

    1. I like to go through everything like that to make sure we know exactly what we're buying and what it'll get used for. When we've cut it close we've had some interesting meals too, but luckily that doesn't happen too often. ;-)


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