The povo student's guide to shopping at local markets

June 16, 2016
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Groceries can be stressful, especially when you fork out every week and half of it ends up going off. A trip to the market is not only a relaxing way to spend your Sunday morning, it’s also a haven for saving cash on your grocery bill, if you know what you’re doing. Here are some handy hints for making the switch to local markets.

Buy a nanna trolley

Your closest fresh food market might be a bit further away than the nearest supermarket. While it may sound a bit dorky, bringing a nanna trolley means you’re not lugging around heavy green bags and taking up seats on the bus.

If you don’t know what nanna trolleys are, they are those wheelie bags used by the more distinguished residents of the suburbs. It’s bound to be the next best hipster thing. They’re easy and why not buy one with a fun floral pattern? You’ll be aching to make that trip to the market to show off your cool new accessory.

Shop seasonally

Despite what the supermarkets say, vegetables aren’t fresh all year round. Asparagus only grows in Australia from September to March and who knows how far it has travelled in the other months? If you buy veggies from a market when they’re in season, it has spent less time from the ground to your fridge, so they store for longer (and will taste far better).

There’s a great guide to shopping seasonally that you should live by if you want fresher food. Less waste means less money spent.

Stock up on staples

Most of you will be familiar with MasterChef and their staples under their bench. The chefs create a weird and wonderful array of meals with a hero ingredient plus the standard cooking items.

You can do a lot with oil, butter, stock, vinegar, salt and pepper, a few herbs, some tinned tomatoes, rice and pasta. Add the meat, fish or veggie of your choice and the possibilities are endless. Keep these staples well stocked and you’ll never go hungry. Masterchef have an even more detailed list that can help you at your next shop.

Portioning & freezing

Get more meat than you need at your next market visit and when you get back, divide it up into meal sizes. If you like, grab some scales and weigh up around 200 grams, plonk the meat in a freezer bag and save it for a rainy day. You can do this with leftovers too. Portion up your spag bol (or bog depending on where you’re from), then next you don't feel like cooking, you've got a meal ready to go.

Never store anything too long though, particularly poultry. Try and eat stuff within the month.

Cook with flatmates

It’s fun, social and if you can take it in turns, it will reduce costs and stave off some arguments. If there’s something communal that you all use, make sure you replace it when it’s getting low. If you find your roommates aren’t cooperating, start a communal shopping list.

Learn to make bread

Basic bread is just plain flour, yeast, salt and water. It takes ten minutes to mix and knead it and it’s very little effort to stick in in the oven. It may take a little practice to know when it has finished rising, but two or three failed attempts will get you baking in no time. People have been doing it for centuries, it’s not that hard. You can make two loaves for about $2. Bargain.

Alex Dick

Alex studies media at RMIT, is a freelance writer and photographer, and comedy fanatic. He’s a perfectionist, but is also lazy, so he lives in constant frustration of the imperfect world around him.