Notes from Catherine Rowett, former Green Party MEP for East of England and deputy coordinator of the Eastern Region Green Party*(UK). Biographical reflections on life as an MEP. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Things useful for bringing up children without a car

Here is the standard response when you tell someone that you don't own or run a car:

"But how do you do the shopping?"

Well, right now, with no children at home, there's so little shopping to do that it's almost never worth going shopping, least of all with a car. But with a family to feed, you'd certainly need to be able to source some supplies.

Here's how we do it/used to do it, and then some other suggestions.

  1. Use the milkman for daily deliveries. In our case this means that we never have to go to the shops for milk, eggs, bottled water (not that we need that), orange juice, grapefruit juice. That deals with most of the heavy stuff. In the past we also used to have the milkman deliver a large sack of potatoes for the winter (or you can have smaller bags of potatoes more frequently).
  2. Bake the bread at home, and have the bread flour delivered in a sack periodically by the local bakers.
  3. Walk to the local butcher for meat, baker for yeast and walk or cycle to the market for fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, cheese. In Oxford we used to go to the local Asian shop for loose eggs and a few other things. At Christmas, fetch the turkey from the butcher using a trolley or cart, or a sledge if it's snowy.
  4. Cycle to a local wholefood store, occasionally, or more often, depending, how far it is. That's for beans, rice, oatmeal, yeast extract, malt extract and other store cupboard stuff. In Oxford that was Uhuru. In Cambridge Daily Bread or Arjuna. In Norwich the Green Grocers.
  5. Cycle to Newmarket Road or Cowley Road or wherever the nearest convenient small supermarket is, for the residue of basic needs. In our case this means once a week, to buy flour, butter, toilet rolls, yogurt, breakfast cereals, coffee. Go on a bike with a basket and a back carrier (take a bungie or two to fasten the toilet rolls and other sturdy items to the back carrier). If there's some special occasion and there's a lot to buy take a second person as the donkey, with another bike with a very large basket.
  6. Grow some herbs in the garden.
Here are some other suggestions for how to make it even easier:
  1. Order more things from the milkman: for instance, bread, yogurt, probiotics (yakult), potatoes in various sized bags, fizzy drinks, butter and so on can all be ordered as a regular or one off order. They also do organic vegetable boxes now.
  2. Have a weekly organic fruit and vegetable box delivered from a local farm.
  3. Grow vegetables and fruit in your garden or on an allotment.
  4. Order from the supermarket online.
By my reckoning, this should mean that you only need to go two or three times a week with a small basket to the best local butcher, cheesemonger or fishmonger, and you'll eat like a king, never go hungry and never have to go very far, carry very much or buy any petrol.

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