30 June 2017

10 Good Reasons To #SupermarketSwap Now!

Nigel: Serious about #SupermarketSwap

I am right in the middle of reading a very informative book about Supermarkets and the amount of power they have over the food industry and how the more we spend in them, the more power they have and the less choice we have.

The book is called Shopped. The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets and is written by Joanna Blythman, a leading investigative food journalist. The book was written in 2004 and things have disintegrated a lot further since then! Take for example two pieces of news this week,

The first being that Sainsbury's have announced in a meeting with Fairtrade Farmers, that they are going to create their very own brand of Fairtrade, their own Fairtrade label and they will put in force their own regulations and monitor themselves. The Fairtrade Farmers are extremely concerned that there will be no Fairtrade premium and that there will be no minimum guarantee and that the public will be confused about what Fairtrade is really about. Supermarkets take the Fairtrade Logo and use it on some of their products and yet happily screw their British suppliers into the ground by negotiating lower prices retrospectively and other massive companies like Nestle, will put a Fairtrade logo on some of their products and yet insist that access to clean water is not a human right and tempt African Mums to bottle feed instead of breast feed!  So, from taking small steps to support the ethos of Fairtrade, the supermarkets are now beginning to do what they usually do, take someone else's great idea, let that someone else pay for all the development that goes into it and then just do it themselves, where the only way they measure their success is profit and the bottom-line, rather than any ethical aim, or the long-term viability of a community, or of the world.

The second piece of news is that Tesco would like to buy out Booker Wholesale. Booker Wholesale actually supply independent shops across the UK! It doesn't take a genius to work out that this is going to make it virtually impossible for any independent using Booker Wholesale to be able to fairly compete with Tesco. Tesco has this week asked the Monopolies Commission if they could possibly speed up the investigation into whether they can go ahead with the transaction or not. Some board members have resigned over this idea and not one shareholder has been heard to show any enthusiasm over the idea, from reports online.

10 Good Reasons To #SupermarketSwap Now!

1/ You'll spend money on local traders who will pay tax, if they earn enough and then in turn will spend their money on other local businesses in the community, thus contributing far more to the local economy per pound than any supermarket.

2/ You'll enjoy a more personal service, where the number one aim is not necessarily to make a profit but to create a long term relationship that is a win/win situation for everyone, the supplier, the business and the consumer.

3/ No long queues. Mainly because everyone is standing in the supermarket queue and not in the independent shop's queue!

4/ You'll buy little and often, which is much better as there is less food waste and buying in an independent means you are less likely to over buy and over spend on stuff that you didn't want anyway. Read more about the waste generated by supermarkets, in an article by Joanna Blythmann, the Journalist who has written the book I am reading at the moment!

5/ It's good to support a local family that you know personally and you know they are getting your money, rather than a few directors at the top of a chain, that already have lots of money.

6/ You can ask an independent trader to get an item in that you specifically require and they will do their utmost to get it in, or point you in the right direction to another independent business.

7/ Each independent shop has it's own unique atmosphere that lends a unique character to our high streets across the UK. A local shop has its own individual brand of personality that stems out from the proprietors running them. A supermarket is a clinical practical place, there is no joy in Supermarket shopping,for most people. Going into an independent shop is a whole experience in itself, you connect with the shopkeeper at least and even with the other customers. Which leads onto my next point...

8/ Community! A good high street filled with independent shops, like the one we have in Shepton Mallet is an easy way for individuals to access the community, without actually knowing anyone in the first place.

9/ To promote choice. If the supermarkets have a monopoly, they can then charge as high as they like prices to the consumer and pay as low as they like prices to their suppliers. Every time you make a concerted effort to divert your spending into a local business, you are helping to shape the high street.

10/ Supermarkets want you to see them as the answer to your shortage of time and sell you pre-made meals at a premium but it really only takes a few minutes to create a dish from scratch with fresh ingredients bought from your local market, or shop. If you buy smaller amounts less often but better quality and containing better nutrition, those cheap rows of custard creams and fizzy pop look less and less attractive, especially when we take into account the unaccounted for costs to our environment, our health and our communities.

In Shepton Mallet high street, we have the Friday Market every Friday and independent shops up and down the high street, as well as some great charity shops too. Now is the time, more than ever to make one small change to your shopping habits. I am not saying that you should completely drop your supermarket shop, I am just saying try to challenge yourself and make a small change. When you are in a supermarket or chain, put just one thing down and come and get it on the high street instead.

When you find yourself in my shop, ask yourself what you can get from us that you would normally get from the supermarket and get it from us instead.

If you don't find what you want, order it in, talk to us about it! If you don't have the time to come in, tell us what you want and we will bring it round to you.

We can all decide that it's not worth taking up the challenge, we can all decide to keep shopping in the supermarkets and we can let our high streets slip away but we have to do something to challenge the way things are, the cost of your food is not just the price you see on the label, it's the price you pay with your health, your children's health, the well-being of our community and of our world!

You have the power of the pound in your pocket, please use it wisely.

20 June 2017

Travellers and Townsfolk all agree Collett Park is beautiful!

What is the definition of a Traveller? What do I have to do to be one? Can you only be born as one? What if I want to be free and travel in my caravan and camp up, am I allowed to use the Traveller Sites provided by the council? Ok, so I am quite ignorant about all of this. Who's allowed to camp where and when? Where can a Traveller go, where can their families live without being hassled? Where is there, with proper rubbish collections and amenities? Where?

A group of Travellers have moved from the Shepton Mallet Football Fields and are now trying to set up camp in Collett Park. Being a nosy and natural Journalist type, ten years of travel reporting has left me a changed woman, I had to see what all the traffic queues were about. So, I followed the high street up to the blockage and found lots of police and a queue of caravans. Police have blocked off the Park Road on the approach to Collett Park and there are queues on all of the approaches to the Cenotaph Roundabout and Shepton Mallet High Street has been closed, right at the St Paul's Road Junction.

I went up to a group of people, standing at the edge of the road, one of the women there was filming. I asked if they were travellers, I was a bit nervous about asking that, in case it was the wrong phrase but the lady that was filming said that they were and she asked me what I thought about the situation where they would like to set up camp in Collett Park. So, with the camera still filming, I said there should be more places available for them to camp up in and said there should be proper rubbish collections for them and amenities and she nodded her head enthusiastically, which I was pleased about because it's just nice to agree, especially with the weather being so hot. Then she tried to get me to agree that it was wrong that the police had blocked the park off, as they were now separated from their children. I reiterated that it would be nice if there was a field with all the facilities they needed but I don't think that went down well. I reminded the Police and the Travellers that they are all human and they need to be respectful to each other and kind. I don't think that went down too well with the Police or the Travellers and I joked that I was going to get beaten up by everyone involved. I found the group of people that I was talking to friendly and relaxed and feel as a group they suffer a lot of prejudice because of a few individuals that might behave badly.

I feel a bit ignorant about the rights and the wrongs and the legality of it all but there must be some moral obligation for Travellers to have a good choice of different sites to stay and there just isn't. There is a problem about landownership, who said that anyone ever owned any land? How did that come about? I thought that we should share and be kind to each other.

I am typing this, sitting in my coffee shop and all around me people are chatting about it passionately and disagreeing with each other, well, disagreeing with me actually! I keep joining in the discussion from time to time and putting in my tuppence worth but nobody in here agrees with me.

Let's get this straight, Collett Park, the park gifted to the town by John Collett is not an appropriate place to be used by travellers to camp in. Well, that's my first instinct but I wonder what would John Collett say? Could there be a little bit where Travellers could be welcomed, the toilets open to be used and for regular rubbish collections to be organised? I mean, personally, I don't want anyone to camp in Collett Park because it's so beautiful and sculpted and looked after, however maybe that's a really good reason to camp up. I think that's a point on which we can all agree. Collett Park is a beautiful, beautiful place. Who wouldn't want to camp there?

I wanted to see for myself how the Travellers were settling in at Collett Park. There was a calm and peaceful family atmosphere, washing drying on the line, children playing. No loud music, or smoking of drugs, or any aggression. Dogs on the site were friendly and run up to greet us, children spoke to us quite openly. It was a safe and calm spot to be, I almost felt like joining them. Then, slowly and quietly, everyone started to call their children in and packed up their possessions and picked up any litter and then left. They were cheerful and cheeky and left as good sports. The police handled the situation excellently, with great respect to the travellers and I think they did really well.

Most of all, the park wasn't an unsafe place to be. It was probably one of the safest places to be, with a high police presence on the circumference of the park and relaxed families inside.

19 June 2017

Low Cal Choc Cup Cake

Ooo, nearly lost a really good recipe there, someone asked me to make a carrot cake in a cup this morning and a healthy one at that, I thought I'd just tweak the Low Cal Choc Cup Cake recipe that I created last week and make it into a carrot cake. Whoops, I'd forgotten how it went, so kind of improvised and out came a soggy mess from my nuked cake, tasted amazing but it really wasn't presentable to the customer! Luckily, I have been using My Fitness Pal to help me lose weight and having eaten one of the cup cakes last week, I had to log all the ingredients in the recipe, so thank goodness, I have got a record of it after all. So, I am blogging it straight away for your nuking pleasure.

I will also be writing about the carrot cake recipe, as I don't want that lost forever either!

This Low Cal Choc Cup Cake is created in the microwave, it's a specially and individually created cake made on demand, with a small amount of ingredients, so there is no wastage and each little creation is absolutely fresh and warm from the oven.

There are two tablespoons of sugar in this recipe, which is quite a high amount, plus the sugar in the chocolate that is used, however, as you make each individual cake, you can experiment with the taste and needs of each member of your family. 

Next time I make this recipe, I am going to try just using 1 Tablespoon of sugar. The really good thing about this recipe is that it has 31% of your daily iron contained in it, which is great for me, as I realised I was finding it hard to get iron on a Vegan Diet. There is no Vitamin C in there, so make sure you drink or eat something with Vitamin C to help your body process the Iron. There is, however, very low calcium in this recipe, which is good, as Calcium inhibits the body absorbing the iron.

I think I might create an Orange Chocolate Cup Cake Recipe, so that you don't need to worry about the extra Vitamin C, to help absorb the iron! 

Low Cal Choc Cup Cake

1/ Choose a medium sized mug, with no silver or gold decoration on it.

2/ Put the following dry ingredients into the mug and give it all a stir:

2 x Tablespoons of Doves Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour

2 x Tablespoons of Traidcraft Raw Cane Caster Sugar

2 x Tablespoons of Essential Cocoa Powder

1/4 Teaspoon of Doves Farm Baking Powder

A pinch of salt

3/ Then add the following wet ingredients. Stir it all in well, making sure that you reach all the dry bits down the bottom and on the sides:

3 x Tablespoons of Almond Milk

1 x Tablespoon of Apple Puree

1 x Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract.

1 x Teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar

4/ Take half a chunk of  Divine Dark Chocolate 70% and put it into the mixture, help it to sink down a bit by spooning mixture from the sides to cover it. 

5/ Put the mug into the microwave and cook on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds. You might find you have to experiment with your microwave times, to ensure the perfect result.

6/ Wait for a bit, for it to cool down, as when it comes out, it is very hot and then ENJOY!

I like to drizzle a little melted chocolate on top but that does add a few extra calories, about 12 extra, if you use half a chunk of Dark Divine Chocolate.

Nutritional Information:

Nutrition Facts
Servings 1.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 173
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 5 g7 %
Saturated Fat 2 g8 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg0 %
Sodium 153 mg6 %
Potassium 25 mg1 %
Total Carbohydrate 37 g12 %
Dietary Fibre 4 g18 %
Sugars 17 g
Protein 3 g6 %
Vitamin A1 %
Vitamin C0 %
Calcium6 %
Iron31 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

14 June 2017

Easy Vegan and Gluten Free Blackbean Brownies with NO OIL!

So, I am still on a plants only diet, since Veganuary January 2017 but did you know, you're not automatically slender, if you only eat plants? There are some products that are 'accidentally vegan' and I have been enjoying those, like the original Oreos and some others that I can't remember now because they are so off my radar, as I am now concentrating on a vegan diet and a healthy one. 

I still want to enjoy tasty things though, like Brownies! The Black Bean Brownie recipe that I have shared on this blog is in itself quite healthy but I am using My Fitness Pal to count those calories and make sure that I am getting the right nutrients and I have seen that oil in cake adds quite a few unnecessary calories. Swapping in apple puree instead of oil doesn't work in all recipes but it works in this one and gives the brownie a truffle-like dessert texture. I ate mine whilst still warm and enjoyed moist pockets of melted chocolate, however, I can imagine it also tasting great if kept in the fridge, as a cool dessert.

So, here's how to make your very own batch of easy vegan black bean brownies with no oil!

1/ Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2/ Take a 9" x 9" square brownie tin, line with grease proof paper.

3/ Place the following ingredients into a blender:

400g can of drained black beans

Two tablespoons of Divine Cocoa powder.

1/4 of a cup of Essential Applesauce.

1/3 of a cup of Chantico Organic Agave Sweetner 

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 x teaspoon of Taylor and Colledge Vanilla Bean Extract vanilla essence 

1/2 a teaspoon of Doves Farm Gluten Free Baking Powder.

1/2 a cup of gluten-free Oats

A pinch of ginger and a pinch of chilli, or leave out, or put more in according to your taste!

4/ Blend it all together, I use the smoothie setting on my blender.

5/ Smash up a 100g bar of Divine Chocolate and stir it into the mix.

6/ Then pour the whole mixture into the brownie tin and cook for 24 minutes. 

Don't forget, you can buy all the ingredients you need in our shop, online and instore.

Enjoy but if you can't be bothered to make them yourself, just pay us a visit in Shepton Mallet and we will make them for you.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
calories 173
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 6 g10 %
Saturated Fat 3 g16 %
Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg0 %
Sodium 15 mg1 %
Potassium 128 mg4 %
Total Carbohydrate 25 g8 %
Dietary Fiber 4 g16 %
Sugars 13 g
Protein 5 g9 %
Vitamin A0 %
Vitamin C0 %
Calcium1 %
Iron6 %
* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.

8 June 2017


Today, it was the General Election and that made me think about the way people vote, whether tactically, or with their heart, or any other method they choose. I thought about how important voting is and then I thought about how we vote with the pound in our pocket for the shops that we want on our high street, every single time that we go shopping and every single time we buy something.

When we first moved to Shepton Mallet, I was riding on the crest of a wave of organising over twenty one Shock Cash Mobs in the Enfield area, where at least £100 was re-directed in the course of each mob into the businesses of local traders. The Shock Cash Mob campaign captured the headlines in our local press, when we were based in Enfield and even resulted in TV and Radio interviews and the idea spread across the UK, with copy cat Shock Cash Mobs being set up by others independently of me!

Then when we moved to Shepton Mallet, we discovered there was less disposable income and people were not able to just traipse into a store waving their tenners and buying lots of goodies and there were just less people in general, available to join in this mad and merry scheme. I like to go with the flow and not flog a dead horse, so I stopped that and I have been keeping my mind open to something else. Something that I could do in my business, as an individual, that would help already loyal customers and friends to make sure that we make a profit and we are still around in the months and years to come and today, I realised that I have been doing just that very slowly and redirecting money that might have been earmarked for a supermarket, into our little store instead. I don't know if you already know but in the 6 months up to the beginning of this year, we only broke even. There were no wages for us, we were depending entirely on our tax credits and also on housing benefit. We are still in the same situation but we are now tweaking things and we will start making a profit. We would love to be able to pay our own way, at least starting off by being able to pay our rent for our home.

Over the nearly four years that we have been open here in Shepton Mallet, some of our customers have noticed that they can enjoy supporting us even more by choosing something that they might usually buy from a supermarket and getting it from us instead. Maybe a bar of chocolate, maybe a some Miso Soup, maybe some tea bags, maybe a specially made up gift basket. We generally try not to stock exactly the same things as a supermarket, as we are here to fill a gap in the market, a certain niche, however, there is a little overlap here and there and supermarkets do go and check out what local stores are selling and if successful, they then stock those items. So, we always have to be one step ahead and one of the things I love doing is researching new products and recipes and visiting trade shows! 

I am creating a campaign that will not only help me and my shop but that others in Shepton Mallet can replicate and perpetuate. It is a simple campaign that hinges on the use of a hashtag phrase, that we can use across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and generate support from our loyal customers and remind them to spend mindfully and to support their community directly by swapping at least one thing they would usually buy from a supermarket, to buying it from a small, independent and local business instead! It's not a case of totally abandoning the supermarkets either, they are there, they provide employment, they are convenient, they fill their own gap that a small family business cannot fill in the same way. I believe there is room for the big corporations and the little businesses too. This is not a fight, it's more about making people aware of their choices and the power they wield with that little shiny pound coin, I do especially like the design of the new ones!

We will be the first shop in the UK to launch #SupermarketSwap on 9th June 2017, on the very day that the election results are known. We know that as other independents in Shepton Mallet see how we increase our sales, they in turn will make use of the phrase #SupermarketSwap and encourage their customers to divert their pounds into their local store instead of habitually spending in the supermarkets and chain stores! 

Any small, independent, local business is free to take this campaign and use it for themselves, please comment here and let us know how you are doing.

If you know a small business owner, please share this blog with them and let them know about the power of the #SupermarketSwap.

If you are a small business owner, please use this phrase and share with your customers what you have that other people could drop from the supermarket and pick up from your shop!

Get it from your local shop!

We are just saying that if you are in a supermarket, put one item down and get it from your local shop. If you are in a local shop, think about your shopping for the week, what do you need to get? What meals are you making, what clothes do you need, what gifts do you need? Then get one more thing than you usually would, from that little shop. That one extra thing makes such a massive difference to the viability and sustainability of that one little business. 

So, even if you might have felt that voting today was hard, or you felt like you might not have made a difference, all I can say is that it is really important to vote and it is really important too, to realise that you get to vote about the changing face of your high street and your local economy nearly every single day.

Don't forget to vote!

Update 27th June 2017:
Thank you to The Shepton Mallet Journal for covering this story!