The 80 Item Basket Limit

I was in bed last night when my sister sent me a text. A rather exciting one. The basket limit for Tesco home deliveries, the maximum number of items purchasable per trip… had been increased to 95! Wahoo! With a delivery due on Wednesday, I went to bed dreaming about the extra tins I could now buy! 😉

In our life before the coronavirus, we shopped for food every few days. With an Aldi store just a short stroll from Phil’s office; he’d regularly nip in during lunch breaks to buy what we needed… and often what we didn’t need! 😉 (Dogs beds, jumpers, bike pumps… Ohh that dangerously tempting middle aisle! 😛 ). Tesco would also deliver a big shop every month or so. A chance for me to pick the dinner and stock up on what I’d been craving!

But all that changed at the start of March when Phil and I began shielding early. Unable to buy in-store anymore, we turned to Mr Tesco to bring all the food to us. At that point, as the rest of the country were carrying on as normal, it worked great. We booked multiple delivery slots only days in advance, could buy as much as we wanted, and everything was in stock! But then when the Prime Minister suddenly declared that everyone should avoid supermarkets and instead buy online… overnight, shopping became difficult.

Suddenly we couldn’t book a delivery slot. With only a few hundred thousand available each week, and 66 million shoppers competing for them, they became gold dust. As Tesco released their delivery slots at midnight, to reserve one, I’d have to nap in the day so I could stay awake to join their long online queue. Trying to book an Asda slot for my Dad was worse- the website continually paused and faulted and crashed. As delivery slots were so over-subscribed, we initially limited ourselves to one every three weeks. To share them out. But as vegetables wouldn’t stay fresh that long, the week before our next delivery, our diet would be limited to butternut squash soup (squash lasts for ages!), dried lentils, or the forgotten packets at the back of the pantry! By delivery day, our fridges would be bare! After a couple of months, we gave in and started booking fortnightly slots. By then the supermarkets had more drivers and more vans; so we felt less guilty. No more dried lentil soup! 🙂

Suddenly Tesco started imposing a basket limit. They restricted how much we could buy to just 80 items! Now we had to think strategically about what we were purchasing. Money and budget went out of the window, and instead the priority when selecting food… was quantity. We stopped buying tins unless they came in four-packs, or loose vegetables as each individual courgette went towards the limit. We’d buy ‘organic’ lemons as you’d get more, Birds-Eye fishfingers -instead of Tesco- as they did a bulk box. And we divided our shopping list into ‘need’ and ‘like’, so we could prioritize. I’ve never before thought so much about what I was buying. Worried about it. Dreamed about it. It was the only thing Phil and I argued over during lockdown. 🙂

Suddenly there were shortages and empty shelves in the shops. My family would share photos of their shopping (delivery day was the highlight of the calender during lockdown! 🙂 ) and reagle with horror, what the stores had ran out of now! No loo roll or pasta or flour. No yeast or Marmite or sugar. No brocolli or chickpeas or soy sauce. Unable to shop in person, we couldn’t just nip into a local Coop to buy what had been missed. It meant two or three weeks without that item- cleverly substituting it in recipes or changing our normal diet. I cried the day they had no eggs- for seven years I’ve eaten boiled eggs every. single. morning! 😛

So we had to start thinking outside of the box. Find new suppliers, new shops, new ways to make favourite foods. With no yeast anywhere, we joined the masses and swapped the bread machine for sourdough loaves. Dried chickpeas replaced tinned ones, and coconut milk powder became the discovery of lockdown! We bought flour from local millers (checking their online shop daily until they had stock!). We bought spices and dried beans and lentils from online specialist shops. Our local brewery brought us beer, our local butcher delivered us amazing meat, and the milkman dropped off a fruit box each fortnight. Amazon became our alcohol and teabag supplier, and we’re currently trialing Hello Fresh to have the ingredients for set meals delivered weekly. And to increase our self-reliance, we even dug up more lawn to create extra vegetable beds so we can grow even more produce this year! The first two months of lockdown were stressful. I spent a lot of time researching where to buy food. A lot of time. 😛

But now, 127 days after we started shielding, food shopping is a lot easier. It took a while, but Tesco now gives me -and all Shielders- priority delivery slots. I can get a home shop whenever I need one. No more frantic midnight queues! Such. A. Relief. We’re still sticking to fortnightly slots though. 🙂 And Tesco also recently increased their basket limit from 80 to 85- and last night, again to 95. No more panicked prioritizing and no more expensive lemons! And the shortages are getting fewer… we even have yeast again! Shopping is definitely a lot easier. Especially as we have now discovered lovely online shops, and wonderful local suppliers. Lockdown taught me to not put all of my eggs in one basket. So we will continue to support the ones who delivered to our home during the pandemic. The butcher and the milkman and the miller and the brewer. The little and the local. We will repay them with loyalty. Discovering them was a real silver lining of lockdown. And their food is so much tastier! 🙂

I’ve just added individual tins of baked beans to my Tesco delivery… first time I’ve been allowed them in months! 😛

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