Tag Archives: shopping

A food poverty trap?

19 Dec


Interesting Guardian article by Zoe Williams this week, framing the links between poverty, bad eating and poor health as a consequence of economics, not just education.

It riffs on a lighthearted piece at the Student Beans website about cooking a cheap and cheerful/nasty Christmas dinner out of processed food, making the point that if a site was discussing hard-up people other than studes (“the acceptable face of poverty”) doing the same, the tone would be pretty different.

I wrote a list two weeks ago about some of the independent retailers I’ve found to buy good food for relatively little cash since moving to Bristol. Having the choice to shop at these places is down to a couple of factors:

  • Living in the inner city, close to the intersections of many different areas. On one side is a main road packed with independent supermarkets catering to local BME communities; on the other a neighbourhood heavily populated by relatively affluent hippies and their brethren in which local food shops are a given.
  • Being young and mobile enough to get to these different places by bike and therefore shop cheaply – or do the same at a big supermarket – meaning the lack of a car isn’t an issue.

In north Sheffield, where I worked for five years, many outlying areas where money is tightest and car ownership lowest have fewest amenities – so least choice – within easy walking distance. This pattern is typical of many parts of the UK, especially in today’s chilly financial climate.

Education about eating well is clearly important – it’s grim as hell meeting kids barely able to identify a vegetable or a piece of meat. But if keeping your family fed is manageable from your local cut-price freezer centre, and a struggle from the expensive supermarket franchise next door, then putting that theory into practice isn’t necessarily straightforward.

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Bristol independents: the no-Tesco challenge

29 Nov

Stokes Croft Tesco has been back in the news in the last week, owing to a petition calling for an inquiry into police handling of disturbances around the shop when it opened in April. This prompted me to get round to writing this post, which I’d been intending to do for ages.


I followed the No Tesco saga in the national news prior to moving to Bristol. I agree with protestors that Express-style supermarket franchises tend to be cash-vampires of the worst kind, flogging price-inflated branded goods and fruit/veg in individual eco-hating “plastic prisons” (© Tom James).

And yes, 40 outlets in one city smacks of a greedy monopoly. It’s encouraging that passing by the shop gives the impression residents are indeed voting with their wallets: it always looks pretty empty.

From the tone of some of the rhetoric at the time, though, you’d be forgiven for assuming that Stokes Croft is hiving with independent food marts, waiting to be cut down in their prime by the unwelcome agent of capitalism.

Not so (at least not at the moment*) – a quick walk from town to the junction of Ashley Road reveals plenty for those seeking pubs, cafes and massage parlours, and a few small outlets selling some groceries, but nowhere to buy a weekly shop.

Viable alternatives

After taking a flat in St Pauls – a stone’s throw from Stokes Croft – I wondered where, if you were working longish hours, on a moderate budget (£35 per week for two people in my case), and without a car, you could shop while avoiding a journey by bus or bike to a larger store such as the Tesco at Eastville.

Anti-supermarket diatribes frequently duck the issue of whether most people have the time or money to make using the alternatives viable (to be fair, the No Tesco blog did conduct a price comparison, but this only listed a few basics).

But after a couple of months here, I reckon all the shops on the list below are well worthy of support – if you’re reading this then I’d be interested to hear other recommendations, especially if you live elsewhere in the city.

I may be stating the bleeding obvious to longer-term residents of Bristol, but a visit to most of them is possible in a similar time – and at an equivalent cost – as a trip to a large supermarket.

  • Gardners Patch, 159 Gloucester Road: Ace greengrocers stocking well-priced, mostly UK produce including harder-to-find ingredients such as artichokes and pak choi.
  • Bristanbul, 137 Gloucester Road: Turkish bakery and patisserie selling gigantic flatbreads that you can live off for days – at 79p a pop.
  • The Breadstore, 45 Gloucester Road: Delicious English loaves at little more than supermarket prices.
  • Licata & Son, 36 Picton Street: When I saw this Italian deli and importers, I said something sneery about it looking like a nice place to shop if you’re minted. Then I went inside and realised you could get most of your canned and dry goods – plus cheese and cured meats – at megastore-comparable prices.
  • Grosvenor Supermarket, 102-104 Grosvenor Road: My local convenience store, stocking a decent range of fresh and store-cupboard food. Worth a visit just for the range of hot pepper sauces.
  • Malik’s, 24 Stapleton Road: A strong range of exotic (and not so exotic) veg, fresh herbs, pulses and spices. Open late and friendly staff – and thanks to their second business selling beauty products, you can now browse their products online.

*This situation could well be set to change in the near future, if the planned Stokes Croft People’s Supermarket manages to get off the ground. I’m aiming to be writing more on this some time soon.

Grosvenor Supermarket stocks a dangerously wide range of hot sauce

Shopping around City Road

22 Nov

Two of the things I like about Cardiff:

  1. The city has a sense of wholeness when compared to most big provincial English cities I’ve spent time in. Many of the inner suburbs feel intact and have distinct characters to them. It’s good that there are still loads of fully-functional high streets containing things like actual local shops, and banks you can go into rather than Link machines taxing you £1.50 to use them.
  2. As a result, despite a near-total Tescopoly (and yes, I do darken their doors too), there are plenty of alternatives where you can pick up exciting things to cook with.

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While looking for somewhere to live back in August, I was drawn straight away to the bustle of City Road (not to mention the fact that the street contains around 6000 grill houses, but more on these in a later post). Since moving here, my ability to cook interesting stuff without spending big has been boosted by the number of Asian and Middle Eastern grocers there. Here are my favourite three:

  • ShopRight: down at the Newport Road end, this my nearest port of call for spices, chillies and vegetables such as yams and okra.
  • City Bakery: just past the junction with Arran Street, here you can find really good fresh herbs, more types of olives and flatbreads than you could shake a sizeable stick at, and a large counter of tasty Middle Eastern pastries.
  • Masala Bazaar: ok, it’s just off City Road, but almost within actual spitting distance of it so it goes in. Mint & Mustard head honcho Anand George apparently swears by the place, which carries a head-spinning array of fresh and frozen veg (including four different types of aubergine when I went in last Monday), as well as huge freezers of Bangladeshi freshwater fish.
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