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 farmers....am 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!
- 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! http://www.vicfarmersmarkets.org.au/ http://farmersmarkets.org.au/markets
- The practical food safety nerd in me also takes an ice brick to keep everything cool, though possibly not necessary in winter...
Share your market experiences, I'd love to know the good, the bad or the ugly!
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!