Supermarket supply chains are long and often unprofitable for farmers.

Reader letter: How I’ve boycotted supermarkets for 10 years

Wicked Leeks reader and former clown Jeremy Holloway on how cooking from scratch and a good local food network has helped him stay away from supermarkets.

In response to a report last month on how farmers selling to supermarkets often make as little as 1p profit, reader Jeremy Holloway got in touch to say how he makes a point of buying elsewhere. Let us know your own experiences in the comments below, and sign up to this week’s Wicked Leeks email for a community special.

I think it all started when I had my own shop in Weymouth, selling magic, balloons and juggling equipment, when I found supermarkets selling what I sold, but at prices I couldn’t buy at wholesale. It seemed extremely unfair to people like me who were specialists (I was a clown and a certified balloon artist), who couldn’t possibly have the buying power of supermarkets. That was about 25 years ago. So, I used supermarkets less and less over the next few years, until I realised: I didn’t need them at all.

I tend to eat organic and the choice in supermarkets (as far as I know) is very limited, but it is the power supermarkets have that influences me probably more than anything else, forcing prices down and squeezing farmers’ profits into losses.

I would often hear on the radio, comments like “this supermarket does this – other supermarkets are available”, when in fact it should be noted that there are other shopping options available.

I do live on my own, which makes shopping easier and I tend to cook from scratch. I also work in a petrol station, which sells organic vegetables so I can access raw ingredients when I want. And we also are blessed with a plethora of organic food shops in south Devon where I live.

I always read Wicked Leeks, which frequently reinforces my opinion on supermarkets; reading Wilding by Isabella Tree also had a huge influence on how I saw food production and the absurdity of some of our farming practices and consequently, the need to support farmers trying to amend how food reaches us.

Do I miss supermarkets? Definitely not. I live very happily without what they have to offer and do (very self-righteously) feel my health is a lot better for it, physically and mentally.

Jeremy Holloway

Top five ways to avoid supermarkets:

Re-visit your local high street. Make a note of specialist or independent shops and get to know your greengrocer and butchers.

Consider a veg box. Often they buy directly from farmers, cutting out middlemen and ensuring that with a shorter supply chain, more of the end pound reaches farmers.

Choose refills and local economies. There is a nationwide network of brilliant independent and zero waste refill shops. Very often, they are priced reasonably, with less packaging, less plastic and more money going back into the local economy.

Seek out the alternatives. Networks like the Better Food Traders act as a directory for ethical food businesses paying farmers fairly and allowing them to farm in a sustainable way.

Grow your own. Although gardening is not a magic bullet to self sufficiency, or a counter to the cost-of-living crisis, you can grow more than you think – even in a small space. The more you grow, the less you need to buy, all for the price of a seed packet and a boost of endorphins and fresh air to boot. Read our monthly gardening advice column from Garden Organic for tips on soil to seeds.


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  1. I completely agree and have for the past 3 months or so slowly been changing the way I shop and who I shop with. Now I buy beans and dried pulses plus excellent vegan cheese from a local zero waste shop, we make sourdough once a week and have a riverford box delivered when money allows. I would much support local small businesses than rather line the pockets of multi- nationals. Having said that I do go to Waitrose for odd bits – I researched their ethics and whom they support, for example I’ll buy Mutti tinned tomatoes, more expensive but a family business, and one tin not four at a time – I don’t need lots of ‘store cupboard essentials’ as the supermarkets would have you believe! Sometimes I buy a good quality sourdough pizza crust, researched the company, Crosta &Mollica, and it turns out they too are a small family business who are on their way to becoming a B Corp. I don’t eat meat but a new ethical butchers has just opened nearby, everything traceable and supporting farmers and my husband bought a few carefully chosen meats for Christmas, which I’m all in favour of. I also hate the way supermarkets buy land simply to prevent the competition from owning it. I think that the more we really think about where our food comes from and who we choose to support, the more powerful we will become and the louder our voices will be.
    Power to the people!

  2. I also have tried to shop away from supermarkets. When away somewhere on holiday it has mostly been difficult at that time to avoid supermarkets since I try also to buy organic. Coupled with the fact that we mostly travel by train it is often the easiest option. I do use Waitrose a bit as I like their ethos, mostly. I like buying at Riverford, as well as cutting down on packaging I’m also supporting what I believe in. I also use a refill shop, which gives me great pleasure. I’ve got to give my money, for food, to someone so I prefer the smaller trader.
    It’s good reading articles like this one as it gives me a fresh incentive to keep going with the way I shop and not be sucked into doing what most others do. It helps me to feel a bit of a rebel and not simply following the crowd, this is important to me. Although at times one feels a lone voice I try to do what is best for the Planet

  3. Moving away from shopping at supermarkets is definitely more possible if you live in a rural setting but I anyone, with a bit of thought, can do it. It is different to doing a ‘weekly shop’ and in some ways easier as often means things get delivered to your door. I have my milk and butter from How Now Dairy, my veg box (which is split three ways as a box is too big for one person) from the brilliant team at Spindlebrook Market Garden near Modbury, make my own sourdough with the amazing flour from Hodmedods, where I also get UK grown pulses and grains and order other dry goods from the Ethical Supermarket a few times a year, with the occasional top up at my local branch of Ben’s farm shop. I absolutely appreciate that this does not work for everyone but I work with farmers across the Tamar Valley AONB, I know that local produce grown with love and care for the environment is available direct from those farmers and that more of your money will go to make sure it will continue to be.

  4. I would love to shop at my local small shops – but I work hours that mean I do all my shopping in the evenings. My weekend involves care for a relative – farm shops not something we can easily visit. To be able to shop as Jeremy Holloway or to use refill shops – they would need to be open until 6pm+, none of them are.

    1. I too have to rely on supermarkets as I work when most independent businesses are open. Where I live these farm shops/markets are also not accessible by public transport; I do not have a car – and do not know anyone with their own transport who shops at these. We are not all fortunate to be able to shop where we would like.


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