After taking care of yourself with Dry January, why not take a challenge and go through February without supermarkets? Originating in Switzerland in 2017, the idea is not so much of a boycott, but rather of re-learning to buy food from several sources and supporting small businesses. You might already be familiar with Plastic attack, consisting in dumping packaging plastic in front of supermarkets to urge them to reduce waste. February without supermarkets goes one step beyond to encourage people to reduce their reliance on supermarket’s “convenience” and find solutions to common concerns about long supply chains, excessive packaging, and a myriad of supermarket practices that have been leaving a sour taste time for some.
But how does one go about changing habits? The first thing is to locate some good places to shop. In some neighbourhoods such as St Gilles, St Josse or Schaerbeek, there are many green grocers, but they might only have fruit and vegetables and not offer products in bulk. Through Bioguide, you can find shops near you with quality products and reduced packaging. Another option for fresh fruit and veg is to sign up to a box scheme, through which a weekly box of fruit and veg is delivered to your door or to a pick up point near you. If you are also looking for products such as meat, cheese, granola and other processed products, the Ruche qui dit oui (the hive that says yes) allows you to order products online from small producers and come pick them up once a week.
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A challenging aspect might be that you will likely not find the breadth of products available in large supermarkets. The secret is not to be a purist and aim to use supermarket alternatives as much as it is convenient: you will probably go to a supermarket by convenience (when passing by) or because some products you use can only be found there. I consider that to some extent we vote with our wallets: if some of your regular spending is shifted to these local alternatives, they will grow stronger and support the local economy. So, don’t beat yourself up over it and take small steps: Ecoconso offers advice on a multitude of ways to adopt more sustainable habits from shopping to making your own cleaning products.
Finally, I have found that switching to local alternatives to supermarkets meant I gradually bought less processed products and more in season. This meant that I had to learn new recipes and cook vegetables I had never heard of. If you join a box scheme, they usually provide recipe ideas to cook whatever they send you. You can also join the February without supermarkets group for recipe ideas. Remember, the idea is that this is a challenge so go slow but know that it will sometimes be difficult – only after some time will these new habits settle and you will be happy not to be under a supermarket neon light.