October 9, 2014 by Tess Riley
My latest obsession is carrot juice. It’s a funny obsession, one that begins healthily enough with the supportive reassurance that drinking vegetables can’t really do much harm. Like anything though, once you’re hooked and searching for that next hit of carrot wherever you go, you start to wonder if it hasn’t all just gone a little too far, particularly when your mother starts to ask you if you aren’t turning a little orange.
And so it was that I decided to try and reduce my CJ intake to a glass a day, preferably freshly made but as that’s not an option at home at the mo due to lack of gadgetry, a good bottle of James White organic CJ also does the trick (don’t go for the non-organic one – it’s sour). Now, I’ve tried most of the bottled CJs out there, and Mr White is onto something special – the juice is smooth and rich, the aftertaste is sweet and satisfying, and the bottle is so designed that as you pour your CJ, it makes the satisfying glug of wine… so much so I now drink my CJ from a wine glass actually.
So there I was, being all “I must be restrained about this whole carrot juice thing” when suddenly a major spanner in the works appeared in the form of online supermarket errors.
At home, we buy 90% of our food locally, get our Ecover cleaning products refilled at our local health food store and make many of our own soups, stews and sauces from scratch. However, we occasionally do an online supermarket order to fill up on some of the staples that we can’t find locally, such as Green Tabasco (key ingredient for any avocado-based meal) and tonic water (G&Ts just wouldn’t be the same without it).
So back to the spanner in the works. There I was, stocking up on Tabasco and tonic when I spotted it, a major blunder de la century: a certain unnamed brand of CJ was on offer at the most bizarre price – one for £2.69 or two for £2.
Surely not, thought I. There must be something wrong with them, thought I, or they’re almost out of date, thought I. I mustn’t order the whole stock, thought I…
Restraining myself, I began by ordering 8 bottles, calculating that that would cover me for a month (or two bottles a week). Then I realised that as we only did an online order once every three months or so, it actually made more sense to get three times that many – 24 bottles! Before I knew it, I’d rounded that up to 30 bottles, which at two for £2 came in at a rather stunning £30 – less than I’d pay for a round of drinks with friends dans le pub.
Sadly I’d finished the whole lot after 4 weeks, with a little help from le boyf (the one of the crosswords) and occasionally maman.
I blame the Unnamed Supermarket entirely. While there may be a humorous point to this cautionary tale (and I’m not talking about my glowing orange skin), there is a deeper one to be made about the way supermarkets operate. By minimising the price they pay farmers to the point of putting those producers out of business, by creating lost leaders to draw customers to their stores while overlooking the massive social and environmental problems associated with prices that don’t reflect the true cost of the food available, by doing deals with big brand names that enable two-for-one type offers on sugar-laden unhealthy foods, and by being so detached from their operations that ridiculous pricing mistakes can slip through the net, supermarkets are doing our food system and their customers a major disservice.
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This post first appeared on The Food Assembly blog. If you’d like to read more from us at The Food Assembly, head right here.