Food at some cost

The new food banks

By Duncan Harley

Land army memorial duncan harley 

We have a new store in the shire to compete with the high street giants. As if the big five’s presence was not enough we now have an Aldi in town to drive down prices and attract bargain hunters.

The local media are full of advertorial pieces about the newcomer to the Garioch. Seemingly they sell food at rock bottom prices. They of course also buy advertising features.

Intrigued, I went down to take a look down the aisles.

Food was indeed on the agenda as were sparsely crowded aisles full of folk who had also come down to peek at the latest incarnation of supermarket retailing in the shire.

There were shelves full of cheese, meat and butter at well below the price of the neighbouring big five outlets where fast food microwave burgers often vie with cheap cakes and slightly sugary biscuits.

With fun size apples and “wafer thin cooked honey roasted ham” on view at an amazing £1.29 and Kid’s Fromage Frais at 65p for six you could be forgiven for seeing a bargain.

In some aisles however the sell by date was quite close leading some shoppers to worry that they might be looking at the purchasing of old food.

Mind you what can one expect when buying bargain basement food?

Now, in past shopping exhibitions, I have often been asked if I need help.

With the outside appearance of a helpless old grey haired man replete often with a walking stick, I can completely understand the question and usually politely reply, albeit in a grumpy sort of way, that I have been gathering shopping for the last 20 years or so since the time when my kids were young and my ex decided that supermarkets were dangerous places best avoided.

“Do you need help to pack?” is the greeting often prompted by the till display. Indeed the new Tesco prompts apparently include the command’s “How are you today? “Do you need help with  packing?” and “What have you been doing today?”

It’s a far cry from the hairdresser’s potential tipping chant.

  • Have you been working today?
  • Do you have a holiday planned?
  • Is this your day off?
  • What do you think the weather will do?

More like …

  • Do you need a bag?
  • Do you have a loyalty card?
  • How do you wish to pay?

A few years ago I had the task of clearing out an old auntie’s house.

She was dead and had burned the furniture to keep warm and we suspected that the family photographs had suffered a similar fate.

Every four weeks she and her brother had paid the council tax. For the next three weeks auntie Margaret and her brother shopped at a bargain store before paying the council tax yet again. Council tax benefit was not on their mind.

They were well known as bargain food shoppers and the cupboard, far from being bare, was full of tins of chicken soup bearing the brand name of the local bargain supermarket outlet.

In the course of the house clearing I and my lads tasted the soup.

  • Soup guys?
  • Yep, sounds great. Any chance of a roll dad?
  • It’s chicken soup.
  • So?
  • It’s thick and hearty. Full of nutrition really. Plus there’s no bread in the cupboard.

It had cost my aunt about 9p a can at 2004 prices and was perhaps the most watery disgusting excuse for a nutritional meal that we had ever eaten. Even the original hen would have agreed had she been alive.

We all agreed that no poultry had ever died making this excuse for soup and in the course of conversation wondered if the soup had contributed to her untimely death.

Shop local is all I can say.

In addition to the local bargain basement supermarkets, Inverurie has a food bank.

There is more information at




About Duncan Harley

Author, photographer and feature writer.
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