Monday, 25 July 2011

Ethical Pickle

I thought I was going to be in an ethical pickle, but thankfully I am not. You see, an ASDA has just opened up in our town. For those of you who don’t know ASDA is the name of WAL-MART in the UK. I have real issues with WAL-MART. First, they totally dick their employees by hiring many people for the maximum part time they can be--because only when you get to be full time do they have to pay for health insurance. This leaves many people working at minimum wage in the US without health coverage and that is a crying shame. Secondly, they dick the farmers by paying them such low prices for their crops that farmers cannot turn a profit. They also often will not make a permanent contract with farmers so that from week to week they never know if they have a buyer for their goods. This is because the general public has gotten so accustomed to unnaturally low prices that we often don’t know what the true cost of food is. They are not the only ones who do this, but they are certainly one of the worst.

Here is my ethical pickle--I too want to save money on food but not at the expense of the farmer and the employee. Luckily the health insurance issue is moot here as we thankfully have the NHS and everyone gets free health care. I was afraid that the prices would be so low that I would be tempted to do all my shopping there. If the prices on their website are to believed we could cut our food bill in half. Thankfully it is a smaller shop--not a mega ASDA. Many of the things we buy are not for sale there. Their produce aisle was shockingly sparse, their World Foods aisle not much to brag about and their Free From aisle tiny. There was no soya yoghurt at all. But I did find a *few* things that were cheaper than I get elsewhere.
White Oatly--our preferred brand of non dairy milk was £1.06. Chocolate Oatly will still have to be bought elsewhere.
Nak’d bars--these whole food, raw bars are made from nuts and dates and are good for you and delicious. The cheapest we have seen them are 75p each but here they were 2 for £1. Limited flavours, but that’s ok.
Cashews--were cheaper than the health food shop but not when the shop runs the buy one get one half price sales as they often do. That’s when I stock up on more expensive foods like nuts and flax and hemp. But until a sale cashews are cheaper at ASDA. But they had no other nuts but peanuts.
Napolina tinned tomatoes-- these are the best tinned tomatoes--with 70% tomatoes and the rest tomato juice. Other brands have 60-65% tomatoes. ASDA sells these for 50p a tin--99p a tin elsewhere. But sometimes Sainsburys runs sales and sells them half price and I stock up.

But other than that everything was priced higher or the same as other shops. But mostly it was still full of processed garbage at a low price and not whole foods. For example there were only 3 sorts of tinned beans and one kind of dried beans. But ready meals--you betcha. Oh and not a fair trade item in sight. Not one. Not even sugar or bananas and I think every other shop I have been to has eat least these.

We are not shop loyal by any means. I keep a record of which shops have what items--e.g. you can only get the brand of curry paste we like, Rude Health gluten free multi grain corn cakes and chocolate Oatly from Waitrose whilst Sainsburys sells the best priced fair trade basmati rice and their spices are the cheapest by far. Specialty items like tofu and tempeh, tahini and nutritional yeast flakes come from a Health Food Shop. Most produce comes from the market. With the exception of tenderstem broccoli--3 bags for £2.50 at Waitrose and if I want stir fry veg with mushroom already done up to save time the Sainsbury ones are much nicer.

When I was at the ASDA the queues were enormous--all the way down the aisles--making getting to that bit of the shop difficult. I ended up having to get in the queue nearest the tinned tomatoes to be able to pick some up. I ended up next to a woman and we were talking about the size of the shop and she watched my buggy so I could nab my tomatoes and I did the same so she could get tinned pineapple. She saw I had a large bottle of white vinegar in my buggy and so she asked if I was going to do some pickling. I laughed and said no we use the vinegar for fabric softener explaining that we have sensitive skin and can’t use heavily artificially perfumed fabric softener. I neglected to say the kind with 100 artificial chemicals and beef tallow--that’s right folks Downey and other liquid fabric softeners contains beef fat (at least they did the last time I looked--I doubt they’ve changed the formula) but then she leaned over and SMELLED me. She said “oooo, you don’t smell like pickles!” and I laughed. The vinegar really does soften and your clothes really don’t stink. Good to know.

But there is my ethical pickle tale--the tale that begins with ASDA pissing on farmers and ends with being sniffed in a shop by a stranger. Glad it all worked out for the best.



  1. I think you're on a good base here, buying some things cheaper because your budget needs a little help from time to time, and still keeping to your values about ethical food production practices. And you are supporting the more local shops at the same time, while supporting yourself. I did think Waitrose and Sainsbury's were chains, but just British chains, not mega-world-chains. Am I right?

  2. So, obviously these 2 blokes have never been to ASDA? Alex and Liam Do Walmart -->

  3. I agree with your Mum...You can shop at a big store, even an evil one, and not compromise your values!