Good old fashioned green grocery shopping

It would appear I am not the only one to be re-appreciating the benefits of the having my milk delivered to my door each morning. Fellow blogger and food lover, Neil Goddard, is appreciating the easy green benefits of having his milk and groceries delivered daily by his local milkman. Here’s what he’s found out:

Not so long ago your average milkman was an old fashioned way of shopping, the preserve of the greying members of our communities. What could be greener than your average milkman? Electric vehicles, re-cycled bottles and locally sourced produce. Out of interest I checked where the milk I sometimes guiltily buy from the local supermarket actually comes from. A dairy in Glasgow apparently, which is only 200 miles away! There’s a cow in the field next to my house.

The evils of supermarkets!
In our search for greener living one thing we are all aware of is the need to start sourcing more produce locally. Certainly when it comes to most of my shopping I prefer the traditional butchers and bakers. The local butchers is very proud of their green credentials and always displays the (former) names and addresses of the bits of cow and pig that I buy – so if the cow in the field next door goes missing, I’ve a good idea where to find it. Too much information, for some people maybe, but I find it reassuring to know that locally sourced is really locally sourced. Yet I have to admit that when it comes to some of the daily essentials I’ll nip to the nearest supermarket, and for a long time one of those has been milk. Enter the trusty milkman.

Recycling the past
Milkmen have for years been seen as the original recycler. Glass bottles are used something like 20 times before being sent off to be recycled – a process which uses far less energy than recycling plastic. In addition when it comes to transport – well the trundling electric milk float has not yet trundled off the mortal coil – or the mortal milk round. Electric vehicles were far more common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries than many people realise. They were re-placed as improvements in the internal combustion engine were made – but they remained the vehicle of choice for those operating smaller delivery rounds. The dairies customers just love the ‘green’ aspect of the business. A quick trawl of green forums will show that people are beginning to re-discover the pleasure – and you can tell it is a pleasure from the posts – of having dairy products delivered by this most traditional and personal of methods.

What’s on your milk float?
Seeing the trend amongst many of us to have our shopping and groceries delivered – a trend that has really taken off with the rise of the internet – the dairies decided to muscle back in on their traditional way of doing business. By diversifying their product range from the straightforward dairy option they have been able, in some areas at least, to establish a whole new range of services. One dairy offers product lines of up to 250 items. The range covers many things you would expect – milk, eggs, cheese, yogurts – but also a massive new set of items that you might not. Vegetable delivery, pet food, cereal and bread are just some of the additional products you can have delivered to your door any morning of the week you choose.

The early bird catches all kinds of things
Next day delivery comes as standard with your milkman. While the supermarkets offer some excellent delivery slots I’m fairly certain they don’t offer ‘five o’clock tomorrow morning’. As I write this (just after four in the afternoon) I’m vaguely aware of a distinct lack of cereal and dog food in the cupboards downstairs. I could order online from the supermarket – and I may well still get it tomorrow evening but the cost of delivery would be too great to even consider this. Alternatively I can ‘nip’ to the shops this evening – but why bother when I can order as late as nine tonight and have the goodies before I’m awake tomorrow. Without a delivery charge! That’s where those established rounds come in to their own. Delivery is free and it’s always next day. The milkman is a bit of a mythological creature. If you sleep badly you may hear the whine of an electric float sometime around dawn, but you rarely see them in person. However, unlike other delivery services you always get the same guy (or gal). The service is personal, friendly and unbelievably reliable.

Museum pieces?
Faced with all that competition the Milkman could have succumbed and become just a quaint story from the ‘old days’. As it is, they have proved that evolution is the key to survival and they are now giving the supermarkets and other grocery delivery services something of a run for their money – albeit a slightly slow electrically powered run. I’m glad that these guys have fought back and are providing a seriously green alternative to other forms of online food shopping. With the focus that many of us have on green ways of living today I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually it is the supermarkets that will eventually be found in museums – and not these chirpy chaps and chapesses.

Neil Goddard is a blogger and social media enthusiast who writes for the milk & grocery delivery website milk&more.  With a healthy focus on being frugal and a not so healthy focus on great food, Neil is a strong supporter of his local suppliers and milkmen.

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Gosh I have not seen a milk float for ages. I used to love looking out for the milk man and having the cream off the top of the milk every day.


…and in winter, if you didn’t have a milk bottle ‘box’ the blue tits got to it first. Do you think you’ll go back to a milkman – we’ve not looked back – no more ‘no morning tea because the milk’s run out’ situations in our house any more?


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