Thursday, July 17, 2014

To market to market....

I had always hated farmers markets, the hipster havens where you can boast you've paid a ridiculous amount of money for 100g of someone else's hobby.

Traipsing through a muddy school playground to score some old weeds foraged from someone's front lawn, that is if you are lucky enough to get one of the three available car spaces and not walk three kilometres.

Well that was before I educated myself and "got" farmers markets.

Over the past 5 weeks I have been doing 90% of my shopping at farmers markets and thought I'd share how my hatred become love.

I don't want to sound too POOH (Preachy Obnoxious Organic Hipster), this is just my experience and is written with the Don't Boil The Sauce philosophy of as long as it's legal go with what's right for you.

I had always wanted to use farmers markets as an alternative to the supermarkets as I'm not a fan of the producers not getting a fair deal and wanted to shop more locally. I know I had bought gallons of $1 milk to make cheese till I understood its impact and now if poor AB picks up a cheap milk by mistake he hears about how he is personally killing I being over dramatic?

So while I wanted them to be my farmers "supermarket" of choice it took me a long time to realise they are an alternative to a supermarket but they aren't a supermarket.  It's BYO trolley for a start.

One of the major side effects of changing the way I shopped has been a reduction in food waste.
I'm sure it wasn't just my fridge that would have the relics of a vegetable bargain from days gone by.  The bargain element though does lose its shine when you throw it away, unused and really should have just thrown the money in the bin.

So with this in mind, I don't believe farmers markets are more expensive over all. Surely it is better to spend $5 on a bunch of carrots and use every one of them, than throw out $1 bags?

My theory (and there is no data or science here just my own opinion)  is really around quality vs. quantity when it comes to cost.

Is it not better to have a smaller amount of the best quality?

When food can be sold ridiculously cheap what impact does that have on the taste, the life of the animal, and the amount we over consume?

I remember my grandparents talking about how it was a really special occasion if you had a roast chicken for dinner. Now we can get a chicken* for the cost of 2 cups of coffee? *$5.99 1.6kg Woolworths online 17/7/14
(I'm not sure why everything is measured against the price of a cup of coffee but just work with me...)

The meat I have been eating since starting my farmers market "journey" has been some on the best meat I've ever had. This may be due to the way the animals are raised, happy animals make a happy dinner, well possibly more happy for me than them.

So while it might seem $25 is a tad pricy for a chicken let me tell you, the quality of this chicken had 2 grown men totally absorbed in conversation about the virtues of a chook?!?!Plump, juicy, and so enormous that I broke it down and it feed AB and I for almost 8 meals.

I am loving the range of vegetables available at the markets because they are in season, taste like veggies once did and aren't imported. I flat out refuse to buy imported fruit and vegetables, and have learnt the hard way with frozen berries, always read the fine print, packets lie!

There are also much more interesting vegetables available, so a salad of just dressed carrot is pretty darn exciting when those carrots come in multiple colours. You know purple will always win!

These are some of the things I've learnt about how to "get" and love farmers markets

  • Be early, you'll have an easier time parking and you'll get first dibs on the produce

  • Take your time, there is no checkout queue to beat so relax and see it all, you'll even be able to have breakfast there, I mentioned it's early right!

  • A trolley is a must, or a strong helper as it won't be much fun lugging your shopping around

  • Be virtually social as social media is a great way to see what specials the stall holders have and  can give a bit a planning time for what else you'll need for the weeks meals.

  • Be personally social, this is the one I struggled with the most in the past. I was always worried the stall holders would be offended if I didn't buy from them, I know I'm a complex over thinker. The reality has been a very welcoming experience, and the mornings have become quite a community event. By getting to know the stall holders they also get to know you and what type of products you'd like. You might even meet your neighbours.

  • Try new things, who doesn't love a free sample? This can extend to products you wouldn't normally buy, I'm wasn't really a mussel fan as I just remembered those cold, tough, flavourless morsels I've had from buffets. So when I saw mussels at the market for $6/kg I thought I'd give them another go and wow were they delicious in a chilli cream sauce. I will be making sure I get another kg next time I see them.

  • You also don't need to be the next Maggie Beer to benefit from the markets as not only is there fresh produce there are also stalls of ready to eat sweets, cakes, pastas and sauces if opening is more your style of cooking

  • Do your research, check out the websites to see which market has what you need. The stall holders do move between the markets so each week may be different. There are 5 different market locations that are close to me so I can see exactly what I need and can decide which one to go to or if it will be a 2 market day. That sounds like a lot of time but it was really only a couple of hours and a lot of that's just chatting!

  • The practical food safety nerd in me also takes an ice brick to keep everything cool, though possibly not necessary in winter...
Are you a regular market goer? What other tips do you have? 

Share your market experiences, I'd love to know the good, the bad or the ugly!

mmmmmm bacon.........

The milk  has cream under the cap, it's like a flash back to staying at Grandma when they had bottles with the little silver foils.
I'm really not that old I think she was the last one to not have a milk man, we had plastic bottles at our home.

The best part of market shopping is that sometimes you get a little extra bonus, which the chickens are very grateful for!


  1. I love our local farmers markets - especially as you have to be a local farmer, grower or producer to have a stall. We get a lot of our F&V there, but I haven't tried meat yet. But I will :)

  2. I've always loved farmers markets. But then, I grew up in Europe with the kind of farmers market where you went because it was a lot cheaper than in the shop, and where farmers came, stacked their wares and produce, and sold shouting out a good price. Even if I do feel prices at many a farmers market today invite those with a well-filled wallet only, they beat any brand supermarket for not only harvest-fresh produce but also for unique, local diversity produce. Funnily, my upcoming In My Kitchen is a meal cooked from a recent visit to our (Houston) farmers market. Well done on the published piece!

  3. Thanks for stopping by Francine, yes you can't beat the flavour of real food. Look forward to heading to your kitchen to see what you picked up at the market :)

  4. Stumbled across this post via twitter.. such a great post! I am on the same journey.. have shopped the farmers markets two weeks now, and it's hard to imagine spending money on poor quality produce at the supermarket now. I was a little bit uncertain about what to expect too (the POOH factor was a particular concern) but now am really looking forward to getting the trolley out tomorrow morning. I find its a really nice way to get into the weekend - early start, fresh air, bit of a walk, and of course the haul of amazing produce that lasts us through the week. Meat, milk and eggs in particular are things that are so much better (of course the veggies are too) and you are right when you say that it's really not that much more expensive particularly when you take into account reduced waste (we have only really thrown out green leafy herbs that I didn't have room to keep in the fridge). A lot of the meat products are in crovac packs, so a big advantage for me is not worrying about having to cook things by a certain day (and no preservatives, or whatever that stuff is that goes on supermarket meat to keep it fresh).

    1. HI Megan, thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. It's great to know I wasn't alone with my original expectation of a farmers market and you are so right about it being a perfect way to start a Saturday...unless its raining! I only have one really wet market but hey that adds to the adventure. I look forward to following your journey along and if you ever see me at the market be sure to say hi!

  5. Came across this via a trail of twitter and food blogging posts. As I don't drive, I have found great comfort in vegetable box schemes as they get delivered to a convenient place either near work/home or at the door. Supporting local farmers means a lot to me and knowing that any vegetables I forget to pick up one week are then donated to a food cycle scheme to combat food poverty in the community.

    1. Hi Elsa, thanks for stopping by. I agree vegetable boxes can be excellent, I also subscribed to one before I was market shopping. I really like that they are seasonal and you get to have fun coming up with meals from whatever is in the box.
      That's awesome the box is donated if you don't pick it up rather than wasted.