After last week’s plastic-laden supermarket shop I vowed to do better this week.
I’ve come to the conclusion that a low or zero-packaging shop can’t be done in mainstream British supermarkets, especially online.
Finding alternative shops is the only way to reduce waste, especially plastic waste. But your alternatives have to be convenient to make this work. We’re lucky that Charlotte’s Cupboard, Barcombe Nurseries and Milk & More offer home delivery in our area; it’s also fortunate that The Husband can pick up supplies from Infinity Foods pretty much daily. Yet even with these shops available to us we’re not able to buy everything we need.
You can imagine my delight when The Husband’s parents told me that Sussex’s award winning farm shop, Rushfields, is just 5 minutes around the corner. And that they’ve just started selling loose produce. It’s very exciting but I’m also astounded that I had no idea it was there!
Lots of lovely loose produce.
The farm shop sits in the heart of the garden centre. There are lots of wooden crates of loose onions and garlic as you approach the shop. I pick up some red onions and a garlic. Paper bags are provided. So far, it’s idyllic. As you wander towards the main shop, there are more tables of loose produce. Lots of beautiful cabbages, squashes, apples and pears. It’s everything you’d hope for. Yet, in amongst the loose produce are some items packaged in plastic, including a plastic wrapped cucumber. Disappointing.
There’s not a lot of unpackaged soft fruit although there’s plenty of loose citrus fruits. I pick out a couple of loose satsumas and a (plastic) punnet of plums.
Once inside the main shop there’s a fridge with veg (I need celery) – mostly plastic wrapped – and tables with cakes, biscuits and gifts. These are all packaged in the usual plastic tubs and films. However, there’s an impressive selection of unwrapped bread. I don’t need bread today as I’m planning to make a loaf later but it’s handy to know for next time.
There’s a final room with a meat and cheese counter; fridges with packets of deli meats, fish, pates and dips; wooden shelves stacked with store cupboard items; and an impressive bulk section.
Unpackaged, Rushfields Farm Shop
There are plenty of options for zero waste shopping here: grains, dried fruit, chocolate buttons and deli olives. You can use the supplied paper bags or bring your own containers.
It’s a beautiful shop and there’s no denying that it’s much more pleasant and relaxing here than buying groceries in the supermarket.
The Best Bits
I bought a small bag (38g) of banana chips for the Little One for 23p. This is great value for money when you consider that a bag of Pom Bears or Wotsits (approx 15g) from a multi-pack is about 20p. There’s a lot more snack from Unpackaged for your money and a lot less packaging too. I don’t know how these chips compare to an equivalent packaged weight from the supermarket. As far as I’m concerned, they’re a fab low-packaging, low-cost snack option.
Cheap, healthy and very little packaging. Next time I’ll take my own containers.
They sell lots of store cupboard essentials like tinned tomatoes, stock cubes and pasta sauces. I grabbed a jar of puttanesca pasta sauce, a tin of organic plum tomatoes, tub of houmous, ricotta cheese, a jar of pesto and some toast francais (I buy these when I see them as they remind me of happy breakfasts on French exchange as a teenager and aren’t alway easy to get hold of). Everything is roughly the same cost as Ocado. It’s pricey but not extortionate.
There’s a wonderful cafe next to the shop. I read a book and sip a flat white before heading home. The food looks good and there’s an impressive selection of cakes. It’s table service, which is great if you have small children with you (I’m alone today). I love the charity bookshelf with a £1 per book honesty box. Last year, they raised £750. It’s the little touches in these sorts of places that add an extra feel good factor. Next time I’m after a book I’ll remember to have a look here.
The Not-So-Great Bits
Some of the produce is more expensive than the supermarket and there’s limited choice too. For this reason, it’s not realistic for me to do all of our shopping here.
I’m already buying lots of loose produce from Charlotte’s Cupboard. It’s great that Rushfields have introduced a bulk section but Charlotte’s Cupboard is much more convenient for us. Plus most of the produce Charlotte sells is organic. I’m not so sure it’s organic in Rushfields.
This evening’s Charlotte’s Cupboard order.
Charlotte also sells household refills, toiletries and a wider variety of grains and things like loose chocolate and coffee beans; HISBE in Brighton have a much more comprehensive range of loose and refill options available too.
I’m disappointed that so much fruit and veg is packaged in plastic punnets and film.
Not perfect but much better
At the end of my shop, there’s a lot less plastic than last week’s supermarket shop. They don’t advertise as zero-packaging but it’s clear that they’re moving towards a lower-packaging model, which is to be applauded. I’m impressed by the range of packaging-free produce in their Unpackaged section; the tables of loose fruit and veg at the entrance of the shop are a feast for the eyes.
Less is more
Because there’s less choice than the supermarkets, it’s easier to see everything and you can explore the shop fully. I’ve found new things to try and I’m excited to come back and try some different new things next time.
Open All Hours
The shop has the added bonus of being open all week, unlike some of the shops on our high street and everything is under one roof. There’s plenty of parking space and there’s a lovely homely atmosphere: staff helping people with heavy bags to their car; kitchen staff checking that everything is to the customers’ satisfaction.
The shopping experience here is much more joyful than the supermarket, without question. A delightful way to start the week. Rushfields, I’ll be back!
Rushfields Farm Shop
Rushfields Plant Centre, Henfield Road, Poynings, BN45 7AY