MILK SHAME: Andrew Gale says shoppers should take stock before judging the choices others make.
MILK SHAME: Andrew Gale says shoppers should take stock before judging the choices others make. Bev Lacey

MILK SHAMED: 'The choice to pay more is one we can't afford'

I WAS in the supermarket the other day. It's a place we go a lot. We have a lot of kids. We eat a lot of food.

If you look in our kitchen, you'd see pots and pans that suit a restaurant more than a house.

Big frying pans and boilers, a giant oven and an even bigger fridge.

With seven around the table most nights and 12 plus blow-ins when everyone is home, double and triple sized recipes are a regular thing.

I got to the milk fridge in the supermarket and grabbed four litres of "full strength" milk, two litres of lite and a litre of lactose free. The lactose free lasts a little longer.

But with four growing boys at home we go through a lot of milk. Ditto that for bread and eggs. Ditto that for everything.

As I placed the milk into the, "rather full for just a mid-week top-up shop" trolley, another customer tutt-tutted me. "Don't you support the dairy farmers" they said, as they looked down their nose at my $1 a litre milk I had just purchased.

Wow! I thought as I wheeled my trolley away. I've just been milk shamed.

It's not that we don't appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that go into food production and the often raw deals producers get. My wife and I come from families involved in all sorts of primary production.

I spent plenty of time on my Uncle Bill and Auntie Wendy's dairy farm in the lush Kangaroo Valley as a kid. Another uncle was a professional fisherman.

My wife spent much of her younger life living on chicken and egg farms. I've helped others muster, draft, mark, plant, harvest and chip. We also have many friends involved in farming.

It's just that we need a lot of food, and we must stick to a budget. Making a choice to pay more is one we just can't afford.

If that person who chastised me had cared to look at my trolley, or the other couple of trolleys my long-suffering wife fills every week in her never-ending quest to make ends meet, they would see very few, if any "luxury" items in there.

It's mostly "own" brands and if it's anything else, I'd almost guarantee it's marked down or on special.

The $11 a dozen "pasture raised organic eggs" are never going to be in our fridge either unless they are marked down because they are two weeks over the expiry date.

I'm not looking for sympathy - we chose to have a big family - we knew what we were doing.

Neither am I crying poor - we mostly manage to pay our way and in fact we realise that there are lots and lots of people, particularly those on fixed incomes, that are far, far worse off than we are.

I'm just asking that people think before they pass judgment. Walk a mile in that person's shoes.

Our reality is, if we didn't buy the cheaper milk, we wouldn't buy as much milk as we need. The kids would be having water on the no-name wheat biscuits and I'd be drinking my coffee black.

If the cheaper milk was on the shelves the other option would be that something else would just get chopped off the other end of the list.

Or maybe we'd just have to get a house cow, milk her every morning and tail her out on the nature strip between Pratten and Locke Sts. Maybe the kids could even ride her to school.

Now that reminds me of a story my dad used to tell...