Keeping it local in Durham


These days, it seems that one of students’ favourite haunts, being one of the only places you can leave your house for, is Tesco (or Sainsbury’s, if you are of the Gilesgate persuasion). I’ve heard all manner of stories about long queues, waiting for delivery slots, and hummus shortages (the horror!).

However, there’s an alternative to all of these things, and one that arguably does good for Durham as well: go local. Now, it’s not a perfect substitute–for those emergency packs of McVitie’s, crucial to the winter blues, supermarkets remain the most convenient alternative. But for things like cheese, fruit, vegetables, and dried goods, there are plenty of smaller, local alternatives which happen to be affordable as well.

Take eggs, for example. A classic Zennial, I grew up on increasingly disturbing social-media footage of factory-raised chickens. I’ve been fortunate enough that my mum buys humane eggs as often as possible for us at home. This meant that once I flew from the nest and had to feed myself, I was keen to buy local, more humane eggs. Alas, Tesco’s supply of local eggs seemed extortionately priced compared to their own-brand free-range. Enter Robinson’s (on North Road): alongside their colourful vegetables and reliable dried goods, they stock local eggs and sell them at lower prices than Tesco does. Are they as cheap as Tesco’s own-brand? No (by around 40p, not counting the student discount), but they’re infinitely tastier and more ethical.

Now that many of us are keen to keep as safe as possible, it can be very difficult to get a delivery, not to mention knowing that getting a delivery slot means that someone who is shielding or quarantining might not get one. However, plenty of local traders have made efforts to provide delivery services – the market does fruit and veg boxes and will be doing meat from the butcher’s soon, Robinson’s Greengrocers offered home delivery even before this lockdown, and Discovering Durham CIC offers assorted goods, from milk to beer, all sourced locally.

If you’re feeling up to venturing to the shops in person – perhaps you want to spice up your daily walk – and the queue in Market Square Tesco goes down to Starbucks, why not try Durham’s student-run Scoop? Following the weigh-to model and staffed by volunteers, Scoop provides an affordable and eco-friendly alternative to getting your chickpeas from Tesco to fill the hummus void in your heart. Providing dried goods and, most recently, sustainable toilet paper (a precious pandemic good), supporting Scoop is a great way to stock up on essentials and shop your conscience. 

Even in non-coronavirus times, I’ve greatly enjoyed finding Durham’s best and most affordable supermarket alternatives. There really is something to be said about going up to Claypath Deli for bread or down to the market for vegetables and being greeted by name and catching up with the traders (Claire and Mark, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re safe and well!). Who in a supermarket will take time to advise you on the best variety of potatoes for a roast or the right kind of sourdough for your sandwiches? Or introduce you to the other shoppers so you can have a chat while you queue to pay? Local stores in Durham provide an unrivalled sense of community. As an international student, getting to know the many wonderful businesses we have has been a lovely way to develop a sense of belonging in Durham.

So, if you’re up for a change, I highly encourage giving local businesses a chance. They’ll really appreciate your support and you’re likely to get tastier food in exchange. Winner, winner, (locally sourced) chicken dinner.

Featured image via Unsplash

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