Step away from the yellow label
I am a sucker for a yellow label. I love those cabinets in the supermarket where you can get almost-out-of-date pizzas, ready meals, vegetables and bread for bargain prices. I often bemoan the fact that my freezer is too full for me to take advantage of the half price roasting joint, or have to tell myself that I do not need a profiterole tower, just because it's only £1.88.
I got caught out the other day, though. I snapped up a 'bake at home' garlic bread because it was reduced to 40p. It wasn't til I got home and was gloating over my bargain that I noticed the original price: 47p. Yes, I had 'saved' a grand total of seven pence on an item I hadn't intended to buy.
And here's the thing: I could have afforded to pay full price for that item. By God's grace I am currently in a position to buy garlic bread for 47p, and a pizza for £2.60 and a loaf of bread for £1.15. I don't have to scour those shelves for bargains, thankfully. I could leave them for someone else.
In Leviticus 19:9-10 God commanded his people:
“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God."
The most famous example of this happening is found in the book of Ruth. After moving to Bethlehem with Naomi, Ruth went out to the fields where the barley harvest was just beginning, and gleaned the grain that the harvesters had missed. She 'happened' to find herself in Boaz' bit of field (2:3) and found favour with him. So much so, in fact, that he told his workers to deliberately leave some extra bits of barley out for her to pick up (2:15-16).
I've known that story since childhood, but it was only when I noticed my greed in grabbing a reduced price treat that I could easily have paid full price for that God began to show me that here was an application that applies to my very non-rural, non-agricultural life. Here is a simple way that I can leave the 'gleanings' - the leftovers, the extras, the overstocked items - for those who need them more than me.
Supermarket prices have been steadily rising in recent years. The poverty campaigner Jack Monroe rose to fame when, left with only £10 per week for food for herself and her young son, she began to blog about how to make genuinely delicious food on such a meagre budget. She has been keeping tabs on the prices of basic foods, particularly of the 'value' range items, ever since. and notes that, "Fresh food prices are creeping up slowly and 'ambient foods' – the stuff we put in our cupboards, shelf-stable and able to be kept without the need for a fridge or freezer – are going up in price at between two and three times the rate of inflation, jumping 2.8% in August ."
She is concerned about these rising prices, however I am quite sure that she would be strongly in favour of paying a living wage to all the people involved in putting those foods on the shelf - the growers of tomatoes, potatoes and beans, the factory-workers preparing and canning them, and everyone involved in the production, distribution and sale of the tins and their labels.
We at Jubilee+ are working in partnership with others at many levels to try to ensure that everyone in the UK can afford to feed themselves and their families. It is a long job and will mean deep change in many areas. But like the Israelites, we as individuals each have a part to play in the spheres we have control over, including our shopping habits. For me, one place to start is in paying full price in the supermarket while I can.
It was a challenge yesterday, the first day of my new resolution; the reduced area was pretty full, and I was very tempted to go and rootle round in it, to see what bargains I could find. But I forced myself to think of others, to remember those in genuine need, and to step away from the yellow labels.