When mums dragged their offspring along to act as bag carriers and item spotters.
When the shop keepers knew your name and what you liked to buy because you visited the same shops every week.
When the promise of a cola or lemonade and a cream bun in the local cafe, once all of the items on the seemingly never ending shopping list had finally been found and purchased, was the only incentive you needed to keep up with your mum and try not to squabble with your sibling because failure on either count would result in a direct route to the bus stop/car park …….. do not pass go (or the tea shop) and do not collect cream bun en route.
Saturday was both loathed and loved and was probably about the only time in any given week, when my sister and I did our best to get on – or at least look like we got on 🙂
First stop was the butchers, as he was closest to the bus stop and he most obligingly kept our meat order until we were about to board the bus home, or return to the car if my dad happened to be with us. Then it was on to the greengrocer, the fishmonger, the haberdashery, the market, the chemist, the newsagent and then, finally, the tea shop before collecting various bags from the numerous shops and heading for home.
Those were the days before supermarkets, the days when the high street was just that, the high street. Where everything you could ever need could be found and where markets were bustling, noisy places with traders shouting out their produce/products and prices. Oodles of character and a myriad of little shops nestled between the main ones and books, toys and clothes could be found in the appropriately named Book Shop, Clothes Shop or Toy Shop – wow! What a concept.
As for on-line shopping!!! Had such a thing been suggested then most ordinary folks would probably have considered the very idea fantastical, something straight out of a Doctor Who episode or futuristic Si-Fi novel.
For the last couple of years we have been doing a monthly shop on-line, after Mud and I conceded that trying to do a major shop on a weekend, with two small children was just too stressful. Weekends are precious to Mud and he really resented having to spend part of even one day in a supermarket. At first this way of shopping seemed to suit us. We had been doing monthly shops for a number of years, as this enabled us to buy in bulk where possible and save money.
However, over recent months we have become more and more disillusioned with the whole process. It seems to us that the more we shopped on-line the more a certain supermarket was able to pigeon hole us and suddenly, the cheaper own branded or even value branded items that we bought every single month, weren’t available at the time of placing our order “but would you like to try this more expensive alternative which is on offer.” Invariably the offer price would still be at least 3 times more expensive than our usual and so we didn’t order it and that was a separate trip into the local branch to get those items which were unavailable. Kind of defeated the object somewhat!
Then there was ‘price match‘. I remember the first time I got a price match item. Muds’ whiskey was on offer, a 1 litre bottle for £16! Fabulous! We’ll get one of those. Unfortunately, by the time the order arrived, the whiskey was ‘unavailable‘ and a ‘suitable alternative has been sent‘ and ‘has been price matched‘. True they had only charged us £16 for the whiskey BUT it was for 70cl NOT the 1 litre bottle we had ordered. How was this price matched, was the question I put to the hapless customer service advisor a little later?
A similar thing happened the very next month when the own brand 4 quarter pounder beef burgers ( that is, I think they were beef :)) was ‘priced matched’ with a 2 pack of Aberdeen Angus burgers. The finest range I’ll have you know but, and this was the point I made to the customer service person a few minutes later, we are a family of 4!!!!
In all, out of the last 6 on-line orders placed, I spoke with customer services 4 times. Added to this and my general dissatisfaction of relying on someone else choosing ‘lean stewing beef’ and decent apples etc was the continuing upward spiral in price, despite my best efforts. Then one night, Mud and I started reminiscing about the Saturday shopping trips of our childhood and we decided to give it a go and see if we could cut the overall cost of our monthly shopping bill.
So yesterday (Saturday) I drove to town and, armed with my pre-priced list (I had put together an on-line shopping basket to get price per unit and/or weight comparisons) I did the butcher, farmers market, and traipsed around several local shops to get the best price I could for the other items on my list. I still had to do some of the shop at the local supermarket but in all, by trawling round the shops on the high street, I saved over £16 on just the weekly parts of the shop. So potentially, that’s a saving of £64 over a four week period.
As for the produce bought, the quality and taste (we had the beef brisket pot roasted today) was far, far superior and as for the apples, the market stall produce put the supermarkets pathetically small, bruised and sometimes rotten offerings to shame and for about the same money. We’re going to give it a couple of months to see how things pan out but it’s looking good based on yesterdays’ experience.
It goes to show though, that loathed though I am to admit it, my mother and mother-in-law knew what they were doing back then and I am happy to have found my way back to the high street.