Last year, Australians spent $786 million on extra food at home over the Christmas period. Two businesses – Coles (owned by Wesfarmers) and Woolworths – control over 80% of the market for food and groceries in Australia so the bulk of that money goes straight to them and their shareholders. Many people recognise the power and control that these business exercise over the food supply chain may not be positive for Australia’s long term food security. Even though smaller players are breaking down the dominance for the big two and providing some diversity in the food retail landscape not all of their business models and practices are beneficial for our community and food system. So if ever there was a time to share the love around and shop outside a supermarket it’s Christmas. Here’s how:
Step 1: Plan for a supermarket-free Christmas
If you haven’t started, NOW is the time to make lists of everyone you want to buy presents for, every meal you are hosting or every party you have to go to that requires you to bring a plate. Especially if you are in charge of a big gathering, start a list of all the ingredients you will need to acquire. Then make a list of the places you will need to go to get those things. The heading might look like this: Butcher, Bakery, Fruit and Veg shop, Deli, Farmer’s Market, Food Coop, Farmers Market. After a little bit of research you might find that a butcher who smokes his own ham or a Free-Range Turkey costs more than you are used to paying at a supermarket so go back to your menu and rejig it to accommodate your budget. For instance, this year I was planning to have a BBQ seafood Christmas with some visiting relatives – because we all need to do that 3am-at-the-fish-markets thing once in our lives, right?. However, cold ham off the bone is also traditional in my family over the Christmas holiday and I found that the ham I wanted to order from local, ethical providore Feather and Bone was more expensive than I had planned, so I ditched the seafood idea and made this ham the centre of my Christmas meal. I’ll focus on side dishes that can be made with cheaper, in season ingredients in order to make this awesome-quality ham my centre piece.
Step 2: Pre-order
Good quality ethically produced hams, turkeys and the like sell out at this time of year, so preorder them as early as you can. Speak to a fishmonger or grocer about the things you are going to need well before you are ready to buy them so that they purchase enough for your needs as well as their other customers. In my experience, good retailers want to help you and will bend over backwards to source stuff for you, but they are stressed out in the week leading up to Christmas so be understanding. If you stand out as their loveliest, nicest customer it will pay dividends in the new year. Especially with butchers, trust me on that one.
Step 3: Make your own
You might find that if you get onto it early enough you can make all the chutneys, relishes, sauces and jams you need for Christmas day and have excess leftover for presents for the family. Start now in case they don’t turn out as planned. Baking big batches of biscuits, Christmas cakes, puddings and other Christmas treats also means that you will have plenty of gifts to give out in the lead up to Christmas, as well as a freezer stocked full of items for a no-hassle Christmas day. This year, I will have it will be Peach Chutney, Caramelised Onions, Easy Strawberry Jam, Mango Ice Cream and chic-chip biscuits (cookies) ready to go by Christmas Day as well as handmade soap to give teachers and friends.
No-one wants to have insufficient food or stingy presents, but more more more is not always the answer. Instead of 5 kinds of potato chips a nice bottle of olive oil, some dukkah and bread to dip can do the trick. It has the benefit of being healthier too! It can be the same with presents. Stay out of the big chain retailers and invest your money in local business. Trust me, I know this is difficult when you have kids who want the latest toys, but save a bit of money to invest in your community. Social Enterprises also give you real value for money so consider how you can purchase through them over this season.
Step 5: Subscribe!
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