Christmas shopping

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda or M&S? Which one gets your vote at Christmas?

The fridge is full for Christmas - at last

Today we did a mega-shopping day visiting four supermarkets in a single day to get all the things on my ridiculous Christmas shopping list.

I think that puts me in a good position to assess the supermarkets’ readiness for December 23 – probably the busiest shopping day of the year – in Swindon at least.

First stop, by 9.30am was a town centre Marks & Spencer. Already very, very busy and (is it me?) full of people who think it’s okay to push you out of the way, tut in your ear and be generally grumpy. Nevertheless, the choice was reasonable, there was plenty of stock and we were able to buy the basketful of items we like the M&S way (pudding type things mainly, plus their version of Walnut Whips!).

Then on to Tesco – probably  my most hated supermarket in Swindon – as it seems to attract the most aggressive, anti-social shopper on earth. We just wanted a single item here – a prawn cocktail pot with a chilli flavour that they did about three years ago and which we have searched for ever since with no luck. Still, they did have a toilet so that made up for a lot! But no prawn cocktail, so a quick exit was in order.

Third Sainsbury’s – the venue for the main shop as we’d saved more than £100 in vouchers for the Christmas shop. However, I’ll think twice next year. We arrived here at about 11am, maybe a bit earlier, and the shelves were so empty it was almost unbelievable. I had the last few loose parsnips and carrots. We had to divide our efforts in the fruit & veg sections or we wouldn’t have been able to purchase anything. There were no sprouts (apart from those on a big stalk), no loose red onions, no Maris Pipers (my favourite for roasters). It was staggeringly busy with people in trolley jams all around but I couldn’t work out if it was phenomenal sales or really, really poor planning on the shop’s part. Around every corner as well as a zillion trolley-pushers, there were at least two large carts with frantic staff trying to fill up shelves.  I couldn’t get any dips like potato salad, humus or Waldorf salad – the kind of stuff I love on Boxing Day. And the only fresh herbs available were parsley, probably the only one I didn’t want!

Hence a quick trip to Asda – where there was so much food it was spilling out of the front door. No worries about sprouts here. In fact, I’d be worried about what’s going to be left as it was 5.30pm when we got there and there was stacks and stacks of food. I also picked up my herbs and nutmeg and was able to tick off the final things on my daft list.

I do now feel like I can relax – the food is in, the turkey is fresh and free range (ought to be gold-plated for what it cost) and the gammon looks like it could feed an army – but four kids should make light work of it!

Tomorrow it’s a pantomime of another kind – shorter, more entertaining and a lot cheaper – bring it on Keith Chegwin!


Are we less festive this Christmas? What do you think?

This week, I’ve really cracked on with the Christmas shopping – but I have noticed a real difference with the atmosphere around shopping this year. Or is it my imagination?

As usual I’ve bought loads online – but have also had my credit card fleeced of £1,000 over the weekend which shows me that thieves are about. It’s the second time this year I’ve been caught out as it appears some Christmas presents have been stolen from us too. A gang has been operating outside a large toy store in the town and grabbing bags the moment your back is turned. I think we’ve become victims this year, though we still have to visit the toy store to ensure that we weren’t stupid enough to leave items there.

So for me, this already feels like a Christmas where there is a greater possibility of petty crime. I suppose it’s inevitable with the economy under such pressure, people losing their jobs and everyone feeling the pinch.

Out shopping today, there’s a quietness around, less hustle and bustle, less excitement even where there are many, many bargains to be had. There’s a quietness about Swindon that surprises me and I’ve lived and worked in the town for 20 years.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that there seems to be far fewer Christmas lights up on people’s homes this time around. From my own street to across the whole town. Is it because of high energy prices I wonder? People feel less ready to spend the money. Or has it been a slow build-up over the last couple of years that I’m just beginning to notice?

Lights indoors but what's happened to the outdoor decorations?

Inside our home we’ve got the lights and the tree and it’s all very pretty but outside it’s not as festive. I thought it was just me until a friend said the same on Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas and throw myself into it regardless of how much money I have or have not got as it’s about family, meeting up and having fun together. But I’d be really interested to see if you agree – is there less shopping, and less lighting where you live?

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