While we are a long ways from being self-sufficient, one of our main goals is to cut back on our outgoings as much as possible, as that means there are fewer things to purchase with money in our life (which will ultimately make self-sufficiency easier), as well as helping us to save money to buy a smallholding site. In order to help us do this, I've made a detailed spreadsheet into which all our expenses are entered and then analyzed with a series of graphs breaking down our purchases by store, function, level of necessity, time of purchase, account and payment type (card, cash, wire transfer, etc). We can't do anything about rent and bills for the moment, but this scrutiny of our other outgoings has been extremely informative and helped us see our spending patterns and where we can improve.
One of our weaknesses is when we do go to the super/hypermarket. We try to get our fresh stuff from the local market and a local box scheme (a 10 euro bag of vegetables from a local farmer bought at the train station) and more and more our own garden, but we still find ourselves going to the big hypermarket a couple of times of month for things like toothpaste, canned food, rice, milk, etc, and then going to the nearer supermarket to pick up fresh things like cheese in the gap. However, we have noticed that we can't seem to spend under 100 euros in the hypermarket (although we leave with a good haul of mostly sensible items) and even more distressingly, every trip to the supermarket to just pick up a few things seems to cost us 30-50 euros. It is amazing how many things end up in our basket or cart that we didn't come for, and to be honest don't really need, and the worst is when we shop hungry (which we have now officially banned ourselves from doing).
So to try to cut down our grocery spending, we have decided to try out online/delivered to your door shopping. This way we know we stick to our list, and you don't have the browsing through the aisles effect to tempt us into needless purchases. There are also several other benefits to it, mainly in using less resources and having less environmental impact. It is actually much better for the environment to have one delivery truck taking everyone's groceries to them than for each of those people to do a roundtrip in their own cars. Hypermarkets are among the biggest users (wasters) of energy as well, with such large surfaces to cool/heat and especially light: they use extremely high wattage lights and a lot of them in order to make all the food look bright and attractive so people buy more (there have actually been studies done on this). So shopping online cuts out all the need to waste resources on the presentation of the store, and it is more economic to have three warehouses kept at room temp, cool or frozen, than to have all the food displayed in those refrigerated shelves.
Other advantages include not having to spend our valuable time on the weekend going to the hypermarket (which is always crowded and extremely unpleasant), which we have to do since I don't have a French driver's license to be able to go in the week (but that's a story for another time). You can save various shopping lists on the site and literally order your usual shop in seconds. We tried houra.fr, and they also happen to have an extremely good selection of organic and fairtrade products, not just food but also the natural shampoo and things we use (which means we can avoid going to Botanic or the other health food store, more places we can't seem to leave with bank balance intact or merely sustaining minor damage).
But mainly, it saves money. Even beyond the cutting out of unnecessary purchases, there is the savings in fuel costs from driving to the big hypermarket 20 kilometers away, and then due to all the reasons cited 2 paragraphs above, the products are actually cheaper since the company doesn't have to spend all the money on the store's aesthetics. We just made an order of 120 euros that should have us stocked up on all our dry items as well as household stuff for a good month, saving an estimated 94 euros, all things taken into consideration.
This may not do anything to make us more self-sufficient for now, but it is helping us to save money and break the cycle of consumerism by buying only what we need, and not what marketing and advertising seduces us into purchasing.