Monday, 1 April 2013

#CamShopLocal - One Week, Independent Shopping in Cambridgeshire

I've been chatting on Twitter, and this always leads to some kind of plan taking place - usually visiting a new cafe or trying a new recipe, but this time the challenge is much greater. Fresh from the EAT Cambridge food festival, the foodies in the area are buzzing with enthusiasm about what our local Cambridge producers and suppliers can offer us. So with that, a group of us are challenging ourselves to shop locally and with independents for 1 week, from the 2nd April - 7th April.

No supermarkets or chains for 1 week. Supporting the little guy or girl, whether that be visiting the local butcher, baker, farm shop, clothing shop, restaurant or cafe. I am not going to lie, it is going to be hard and it will be interesting to see how my opinions change.

At the moment, I love independents and the unique things they can offer but I see supermarkets and chains as very much a part of my life. I am busy. I work 9am-5.30pm 5 days a week, making jewellery is my 2nd job, I blog, I bake and I do occasionally like to sleep. So being able to pop to the local Tesco (of which there are SO many in Cambridgeshire), Waitrose, Sainsburys or M&S is very much what I need to be able to get on with it.

To be fair to them, I think supermarkets have been getting it right recently too, current horse related mishaps aside, they are stocking more interesting produce, they have local sections and (particularly useful for me) world food sections along with stocking interesting cheeses, meats, niche brands and seasonal products.

But I think basic produce in supermarkets isn't good quality- fruit and veg, bread and meat either don't taste of anything or don't last long enough. But I make do, I buy them anyway and I expect what I can out of them. I add more spices, more salt, more herbs to make them taste better. Unfortunately they aren't even that cheap anymore either.

And I do visit Starbucks and Costa. I need time for a restorative coffee and cake during the week! I prefer Costa but it is not a patch on my favourite tearoom, Teacake, who I also visit equally as much. Cambridge is teaming with independent cafes, a lot of which have opened up recently.

This is also not just about food. What about household items- washing up liquid, bleach, loo roll, cat food? A lot of these are dominated by big brands, but I am not ruling out shopping for brands because seriously is there an artisan toilet roll producer in Cambridgeshire? But I will buy them from an independent rather than a supermarket. It may well cost me more, we'll see how that goes. I have to admit we do have most of these things in the house already so I may not need to buy.

I'm afraid I'm drawing the line at petrol. Judge me if you like but petrol is already bankrupting me as it is. And the two independent petrol stations (which, let's face it, still get their oil from big multinationals) are about 15 miles from my house, and about 12p a litre dearer.

So, petrol aside, I'm going to challenge myself to be less of a lazy giraffe consumer - to plan my shopping better and to really think about how to be smarter even if I am busy. Over the Easter weekend I've used the extra time to get some supplies from a local baker and Gog Magog Farm Shop along with a veg box from the Cambridge Organic Food Co.

There was something that came up during the Eat Cambridge food debate that there wasn't as much of a food scene outside of the city, which I very very much disagree with! I live and work outside of Cambridge centre and there is plenty going on, and I am very good at finding it, my list below will show you :)

I've got a list of places in my head that I will be shopping at - close to work and/or home. In no particular order:

Leech & Sons in Melbourn (meats, cheese, bread, fish, cakes, bread, eggs and 5mins from my office)
Bury Lane Farm Shop, near Royston (although I don't rate them much, it is a bit like a theme park farm shop. Might be good if I need something quickly)
Teacake Tearoom in Shepreth - my favourite tearoom. They also sell 'household staples' like loo roll, milk, bread, eggs, baked beans...
The Country Store, Sawston (cat food and litter, and I think logs for the fire, because it is definitely still going to be freezing in April)
The Ickleton Lion  - my local pub!
The egg lady, Ickleton (I hope her ducks start laying again soon)
Cafe Cou Cou, Saffron Walden (amazing shortbread and fruit bread)
Gog Magog Farm Shop & Cafe (all manner of things! Their fruit and veg, meat, cheese, food cupboard bits, bread, tea, coffee. It is one of my regular haunts and I've seen them grow into a fantastic local business who really care about what they do).
Several butchers in Saffron Walden
Saturday Market in Saffron Walden (fruit, veg, fish and seafood, brilliant bread, olives, tapenade, houmous, plants)
Walden Local Food - veg stall in Saffron Walden on Sunday
Jigsaw Bakery in Linton, blog post coming up about this soon - brilliant new bakery run by one man in a tiny little shop/kitchen

Wish me luck! I'll be tweeting using the #camshoplocal this week and blogging my progress/frustrations/achievements :)

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  1. You must live very close to us because you're describing all our local haunts - Teacake is in the next village across the A10 from us, I agree with your assessment of Bury Lane and the Gog Magog, and I know the chap who owns Jigsaw! Excellent selections :-)

    PS The log man in Shepreth is really very good too. But I expect you already know that!

    1. I work in the area so all those haunts are right by my office, which is lovely :)
      I've visited the log man too! I plan another trip this week, although I would rather I didn't have to buy logs this time of year..

  2. Aww Deepa... Teacake is just a gem, they are worth the visit every time, no matter what you have!
    I may well take a visit to Jigsaw Bakery when I'm in Duxford to see the inlaws... any excuse ; )
    Have fun this week and report back - Miss Sue Flay xx

  3. My parents live in Shelford so I know a couple of these places, but not all of them. I'll put them on the list to check out, next time I visit!