Confessions of a Tesco Clubcard holder

My move from west Cumbria to the Home Counties commuter belt has been a challenge for my personal budgeting as I have adjusted to a much higher cost of living. I feel ‘squeezed’ between being unable to expect welfare or charity and finding it harder to save for a ‘rainy day’, for a house deposit or a pension. I’m fortunate to have survived the threat of redundancy but I haven’t had an inflation-busting pay rise for at least three years. I spend 10 per cent of my net salary on a season ticket to work and I’m not guaranteed a properly functioning train – let alone a seat. I spend 10 hours per week commuting to work – time that might be better spent building the ‘big society’. I say this not to beg for sympathy but to articulate the reality of life for millions of people here in the southeast.

In order to straighten out my finances, I’ve sought to relearn the grocery shopping techniques I picked up as a student. The problem is that a tin of Tesco Value Baked Beans now costs 28p. When I was a student they cost roughly 9p. That is a more than a 200 per cent increase over the course of 10 years. People who shop on a budget know this. They also know that buying a tin of baked beans at the local store will cost much more than 28p. So, however nostalgic they might be about supporting local independent traders (as Ed Miliband indicated in his speech to Progress on Saturday), it is for many, a luxury they cannot afford.

It would be wrong to assume that Tesco Value is the preserve of students and benefit claimants. When I made my latest trip to Tesco’s in ‘True Blue’ Hertford I noticed that they were sold out of Tesco Value Bread and Tesco Value Weetabix. In both cases, there was a gaping hole with surrounding brands piled high.

I have also signed up for a Tesco Clubcard. It makes me feel like a slave to big business but it’s another way to save money – something I can’t afford to turn my nose up at. The proverbial ‘hard working family’ can a save a fortune in vouchers with a Tesco Clubcard.

Everyone I know is finding ways to cut costs – whether that’s cycling to work or not eating out. It’s how we are managing to keep afloat without decent pay rises.

Farmers are also receiving a raw deal from the supermarkets – another reason our conscience pricks at propping up supermarket chains. When I lived in west Cumbria I used to buy eggs from a teenager who lived on a farm and kept his own hens. He sold them to me for less than Tesco Value, they were much tastier and the hens were better treated.

So perhaps the way forward is not oppose the building of supermarkets but to encourage and empower farmers to trade directly with consumers. Or perhaps local councils can issue cards similar to Tesco Clubcards to be used in local independent stores.

Our nostalgia for a bygone age ought not to make our future more expensive. But if it can make our future cheaper then it will never be short of buyers.

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