I'm dreaming of a local Christmas

Big name shops may invest heavily in mass-produced festive cheer but, as our Food Editor Tracy Carroll explains, it’s the high street that puts the real sparkle into Christmas shopping.

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Supermarkets do their best to convince us that festive magic begins when we step through their doors.  From the moment we are greeted by Wham lamenting the events of “Last Christmas” (29 years on, I think we all know what happened to poor George’s heart “the very next day”), they want us to feel all warm and fuzzy as we glide along; our trolleys twinkling under the fluorescents, faces lit with excitement at special offers on peanuts and Quality Street. 

Supermarkets have their place, but we must never forget they are driven by profit, pure and simple. And it’s the supplier who pays the price of cheap food, while communities lose the independent shops that breathe real life into our towns.

So, in this season of goodwill, let’s take a genuine warm and fuzzy route – the one that leads to our local high street. After all, Christmas is a key time for traders and we can all help sprinkle some fairy dust by putting business their way. If we want towns and villages to sparkle with interesting, independent shops and eateries, we need to stay switched on to supporting them.  

It’s easy to be tempted by the one-stop-shop appeal of supermarkets, especially when we’re mad busy getting ready for the festivities. Yet Christmas is a magical time to pull on coats and scarves and head to town with the family. There’s nothing like the spectacle of twinkling lights, jolly window displays and waving Santas to get us in the seasonal mood. 

No matter how hard they try, the multiples simply can’t compete with quirky local shops that ooze individuality. 

Shopping locally for Christmas food can be tremendously rewarding.  Take turkeys.  Check out butchers and you’ll soon find turkeys that have been reared locally, the traditional way. It’s important these birds are allowed to grow slowly and reach full maturity, that they are given chance to display natural behaviour and lead contented lives. It’s better for the turkeys - and stress-free birds produce better meat. Opt for a smaller, truly free-range bird rather than a giant that has been cheaply and quickly produced. After all, there’s always too much turkey on Christmas Day. A 10lb bird will feed 20 people, bearing in mind that children often opt for a couple of thin slices, granny eats like a mouse and there will be mountains of roast potatoes, chipolatas, stuffing, vegetables and ... well, I doubt anyone will go hungry.

Talking of trimmings, when it comes to selecting sprouts, parsnips, sweet chestnuts and King Edwards, there’s nowhere like a proper greengrocers. I have been saddened over the years to see so many closing down, as consumers deserted them for supermarket-supplied, air-freighted exotics that gleam seductively through wasteful polythene wrappers. Lately, however, I have noticed some terrific new grocery stores laying down their roots in the high street – let’s help them flourish by marching in with our shopping bags and stocking up on winter produce grown in frosty British earth. Most fruit and veg shops will happily take orders now and have our Christmas supplies ready for us – and you’ll often find they go beyond greengrocery to offer carefully-sourced extras such as condiments, artisan pies, puddings and patés. You’ll discover items you won’t find in the supermarkets, as many suppliers simply refuse to work with them, staying loyal to the independent sector.

If you can’t spare the time to go to the shops, check out a local food delivery business such as Yours Locally run by Local Mum Cherie Williams. All products are sourced within a 40 mile radius of their base at Lower Kingswood, and they deliver to your door with a genuine smile. Fantastic.

Let’s face it, it’s not always realistic for busy mums to shun supermarkets altogether. They have their place. But who wants Christmas to be played out to the tune of laser scanners and advertising jingles? Another New Year punctuated by reports of record profits by the grinning multiples while more local shopkeepers reluctantly – and permanently - pull down their shutters?  

The truth is this - it feels good to buy local food and know we’re supporting our communities. So, magic wands at the ready ladies; together, we can help local traders have a Christmas that really puts the icing on the cake. Tad-ah!

Learn more about the benefits of buying local and what Surrey’s local food scene has to offer with Local Food Surrey.

Tracy Carroll, Local Food Editor

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Tracy Carroll (centre) is a Local Mum of one teenage daughter and runs Local Food Surrey, a website all about enabling people to find great food and drink in Surrey. Tracy blogs for us about fantastic local food finds in our area.


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