Rosie Millard: Thrifty Living

I Thought I Knew How To Shop, But It Seems I Was Wrong
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The Independent Online

After A conversation with one of the Junior Millards this week which went thus: "Darling, do you know where milk comes from?" Pause. "Yes. A café?", I realise I need to close the gap in my household between the production of goods, and their actual consumption. My offspring clearly think life is about marching around a supermarket and popping treats into a wire trolley. Whereas life probably would be better if it didn't contain supermarkets in any shape whatsoever. As was demonstrated to me this weekend when we visited our friends Martyn and Sally in Brighton. Bliss! The roar of the sea on the pebbles, the terrifying descent in a speeding plastic log high above the Pier into a shallow trough of water, and no wire trolleys whatsoever. Our Brighton pals have banned supermarkets from their life. Is this be possible?

I thought I was doing quite well, what with my new regime of fish from the market, meat from the butcher's and only the odd 15-tin pallet of 13p tinned tomatoes from Lidl, but Sally and Martyn have cut the likes of Lidl out of their life completely. With a brace of children, too. "You absolutely can live without going to the supermarket," says Martyn. "For the last three months I have done all our shopping locally. Veg from the greengrocer's. Meat from the butcher's. Everything else from the market." But what about loo roll, I ask? Nappies? Shampoo? "I get all of that from the chemist," he says. Sourcing a family shop purely from local outfits must take ages, I say. Apparently not. Martyn has plotted his route from greengrocer to butcher via chemist and has worked out that he does less walking than if he was to purchase the same items from his local Asda.

Does this stance save money, though? Again, yes, because if you shop locally there is far less choice. You therefore resort to the old-fashioned but rather pleasant necessity of actually cooking middle-class things such as blackberry and apple pie, rather than buying middle-class things such as blackberry and apple compote from Sainsbury's. Plus, as Martyn pointed out while squeezing me an actual orange (three for £1 at his grocer's) for a glass of juice, his refusal to participate in supermarket shopping gives him the thrill of knowing that he is not contributing to Tesco's or Sainsbury's profits, but helping his local shopkeeper.

I return to London with my lungs full of sea air and a resolution not to bother with shops with wire trolleys. Furthermore, locating vegetables from a market stall, or juicing a real orange in the morning will, I hope, help the Junior Millards understand where things come from.

Getting them to learn that things have to be paid for is the next task. No matter how much I march around the house explaining the direct correlation between money and work, and that work has to be done before money is earned and treats are bought, this simple combination of facts doesn't seem to sink in.

Perhaps the children need to experience a hideous comeuppance, as I did one year at the Edinburgh Festival. We all went up to the Festival at the dawn of time (ie in the mid-Eighties) with a play which was so unloved everyone involved in it went bust. I came home with my spirits low and my bank account in tatters. Not for the first time. My father came to my aid with a cheque for £300. But not before I had had a talking-to. "This money doesn't come out of air," he said severely. "It equates to work. Don't forget it." I didn't. But when I try the same thing with my offspring, they just laugh at me and ask me when they can go shopping.

This came to mind when I went to the first night of Frost/ Nixon, Peter Morgan's brilliant play about David Frost's TV grilling of Tricky Dicky. The play is a hit. People are murmuring about West End transfers. They are murmuring about Broadway transfers. The author is the talk of London. He also happens to be an old friend of mine. Indeed, he was the creative force behind that disaster in Edinburgh, and I haven't seen him since we all went bust 20 years ago. I meet him in the bar. "Rosie!" he enthuses. "Lovely to see you. How are your debts?" I look shamefacedly at the carpet. "Never mind, never mind," says Morgan, laughing uproariously. "I love a woman who spends!"

Mmm. Maybe I can be the inspiration for his next hit.

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