Fight the good fight: Why you need to stop shopping at supermarkets

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  Sundays are definitely my favourite day of the week. Saturdays are for running errands and getting sweaty. Sundays are for slowing down and tasty food (for me anyway!). If I’m on call on the weekend I would usually start my ward rounds at the crack of dawn on Saturdays (hello, 6-6:30am starts!), but Sundays were always for a slightly slower morning (to the relief of my residents)- a 7:30am ward round start-time is a luxury- and we’d always make time for a coffee and a sanity-saving chat. But I digress.

  My favourite Sunday routine is to have nothing exciting planned. I still wake up early (6-7am), and always try to hit up the farmer’s market at a reasonable time. Friday/ Saturday is when we plan our meals for the week, so I try to get the majority of our fresh produce at the market (it’s cheaper and lasts ages), with a top-up shop as needed later in the week. I’m usually at a barre class before the market, but now that it’s getting hotter Down Under I’m trying to get to the market at opening time while it’s cooler, and off to barre class straight after.

  I usually bring my straw basket and a large square tote if I’m on my own. I’ll drag along my partner if we have a bigger shop and need the “granny trolley” as well :). I also always have a selection of cloth bags to put more fragile produce in, and usually bring rubber bands and egg carton trays back to the stall holder to re-use. We used to also bring a couple of glass Pyrex containers for tasty fried Indian snacks for our market breakfast but have stopped doing that now in our efforts to consistently eat better.

  The farmers market I go to almost every week is by far my favourite: Farm Direct Markets S.A (Lightsview). I love the ethos behind it (created to help smaller farmers/ producers stay on the land, who otherwise would not have much of an income as the bigger chain supermarkets will usually pass them over), the people who run it and the sense of community it has created. I love that it’s smaller and less “pushy” and pretentious compared with the other markets in Adelaide, and I actually feel relaxed while shopping there. The stall holders know me now and always ask where “hubby” is if he’s not there. I especially love that the chain of markets have opened up in the more socially disadvantaged areas of Adelaide- to be able to provide all people an opportunity to eat fresh, cheap local produce can only be a good thing, not just for now but for the generations to come. For too long the big supermarkets have dictated that it is only the “rich” who can afford to eat fresh healthy produce, and many people ask me, “isn’t eating healthy just for wealthy people?” I dare say it’s not, but when the big supermarkets jack up the prices on cold-stored produce that lasts 2 days in the fridge, and continually slash prices on Coke and chips, and you only have a limited food budget for the week- it comes as no surprise that being reliant on nutritionally- poor food is a reality for most people.

  Our average weekly fresh produce shop at the market usually costs us about $25- give or take a few dollars. $10 on top of that every fortnight for a tray of free-range eggs. This is for 2 adults and 1 hungry rabbit. This makes up the bulk of 3 main meals a day and snacks in the fridge, as well as fresh fruit. This leaves us plenty of money for top up things like bulk grains and nuts, meat and fish for the week (and any top up fresh produce) and stay within budget. The healthier we have chosen to eat, the less we are actually spending on food during the week- we’re eating more seasonally, eating less grains, we’re not spending money on junk food.

  It’s also fun to eat seasonally- as opposed to expecting that all fruits and veggies are available all year round, you get used to looking forward to and celebrating produce as it comes in season. I have sadly said goodbye to oranges and mandarins now, but today welcomed my first bite of a yellow nectarine, and could not stop sniffing new season garlic fresh from the Riverland- still encrusted with dirt 🙂 I’m a firm believer in finding joy in the simple things, and re-discovering Farmers Markets have reinforced that.

Why you need to break up with supermarkets (i.e. the DUOPOLY/ “Colworths”)

  1. Produce is fresher at the markets, you can often buy direct from the producer, and it’s in season. Yes, sometimes the food looks imperfect and not as shiny- but that’s what food looks like out of the ground. At supermarkets they continually reject perfectly good produce based on looks alone- which means a lot of food goes to waste, or that smaller farms aren’t able to meet the “attractive quota” of vegetables- there are stories of small farmers running their produce into the ground because they are not good enough. This needs to end. Also sometimes the “fresh” fruit and veg sit around in cold storage for months on end- so you are paying for the storage of your produce- Why not buy direct from the farmer and store it in your own fridge for cheaper?
  2. Shopping at farmer’s markets puts the money in the right pockets- the farmers. The supermarkets are renowned for starting pricing wars with each other, and in the end it is the farmers who are bearing the brunt of the advertised low prices. When you look at some cases- the farmers are almost being blackmailed into giving their produce away for free to the supermarkets, under the fear that if they say no to unreasonable demands- their contracts will be dropped. For example- Woolworths have a campaign with Jamie Oliver. Where did the “extra” money come from to fly the big guy over for some token media appearances and print his face on sauce bottles? The already struggling Aussie farmers- They were “told” to make a “voluntary contribution” for each pallet of produce (under threat of being dropped)- what choice did they have? They paid for it. Jamie Oliver turned up and waved asparagus in our faces. Woolworths became richer.
  3. It makes environmental sense. Eating local produce that hasn’t been cold stored means that you don’t have the issue of food being shipped halfway around the world just so you can eat grapes in the dead of winter. The majority of produce at farmers markets are unpackaged, and if you bring your own produce bags- it’s a win- win.
  4. It connects you with the food that you put in your body. Buying at the market means you can see, touch, smell your food. You can talk to the person who grew your food. You start to celebrate fresh fruit and veg for what they are, you start getting inspired to try things you’ve never had before- because it just looks so good. I don’t think you can develop that relationship with food by buying packaged produce at the supermarket- when it’s wrapped in layers of plastic and styrofoam and curiously doesn’t *smell* like anything- alarm bells go off. Sure it’s clean and sterile, but you know- you could always just *wash* your veggies!
  5. Teach your children about fresh fruit and vegetables. It is a disturbing trend nowadays that a lot of children don’t know where food comes from, that someone has grown it so they could eat it and grow up healthy and strong. Taking them to the markets will hopefully lead to them begging you for a peach or watermelon, as opposed to nagging you at the check out for a chocolate bar filled with sugar and chemicals. Exposing them to the purchase and preparation of fresh produce will hold them in good stead for life. And with the alarming statistics on childhood and adult obesity nowadays- I challenge you to pick a hole in this argument.
  6. You will be healthier. Eating seasonally means you get the maximal nutrients and minerals that your body thrives on. As above, being exposed to fresh food all the time will inspire you to eat better. I never leave the farmers market wanting to go out and eat hot chips, mainly because my mind is obsessed with the idea of how best to prepare the two eggplants I just bought.
  7. Vote with your dollars– every time you spend money you are voting for the kind of world you and your children want to live in. Giving the big corporation supermarkets all of your money every week is saying: “I want fresh produce to be more expensive, less fresh and seasonal, less variety, less accessible for everyone”; “I want the Australian fresh food industry to collapse as farming becomes less financially sustainable, thus converting a previously self-sustaining country into one that is reliant on imported produce to feed itself, thus opening itself to severe food shortages in international trading were to cease”. If you want your children to grow up in a country with decreasing food security then by all means- keep buying the majority of your food from the supermarket. My number one choice is farmers markets, and if I’m unable to get there for whatever reason I choose to shop at my local greengrocers- who will run round the back to grab some carrot tops for the rabbit, or ply me with tasty snacks and free coffee. Really- I have no reason to shop elsewhere.
  8. Bring back the sense of community. As time goes on, we are all becoming more detached from each other, from our food, and from our environment. Waking up early on a Sunday morning, and braving the elements touching food with dirt still on it- It grounds and connects you. Seeing the same familiar friendly faces each week and having nice chats with strangers- bliss. Having that sense that you are a part of something bigger than just yourself- that you are supporting the Australian farming industry, that all the people here are working together on the same cause- keeping fresh local produce in our lives- it’s a feeling that can’t be beat. If you can find that feeling vacuum sealed in styrofoam at your supermarket then hats off to you 😉

There are probably a hundred more reasons to ditch the supermarkets but this is all I can come up with at the moment with my tired brain 🙂 As a side note, when I *do* shop at a supermarket I shop at IGA/ Foodland- there is more of an emphasis on local produce and they are geared towards competing with “The Big 2”- Can’t say fairer than that.

p.s. When I refer to a duopoly or “The Big 2” I refer to the fact that the Australian fresh food industry is dominated by 2 major chain supermarkets- Coles and Woolworths. They probably have at least 80% of the market, and it is amazing how this has been allowed to happen. The effect of this is they can dictate prices, they have price wars with each other, and are renowned for shortchanging fruit and veg growers and dairy farmers. Just. Say. No.

p.p.s. If you live in Adelaide- please check out Farm Direct Markets S.A. and support them. Little markets with a lot of heart and soul and the best of intentions. They run from 8am- 1pm on Wednesdays (Old Spot Hotel 1955 Main North Road, Salisbury), Saturdays (Old Spot Hotel), Sundays (Lightsview (Corner Folland Ave and Cityview Boulevard, Northgate); and Gawler (485 Main North Road Evanston)), with plans to expand to new sites as council approvals progress. If you don’t live in Adelaide and don’t currently shop at a farmers market- look one up, show up, and support!

Keep fighting the good fight,

Lisa xx

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Zero Waste Etiquette

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There are a few unwritten etiquette rules that I feel *should* be written down- In the hopes that it would make this lifestyle a bit easier to navigate.

  1. Be respectful of bulk bins

Every time I found a new bulk place I danced with joy- spying a couple of open sacks of grain or a couple of big tubs at the back of a random store really made my day. What doesn’t make my day is seeing the way some people behave around bulk bins. I’ve seen bin lids left open/ left off and scoops not replaced properly or wiped as per the store’s policy. My pet peeve- watching people use the bulk bins as their free-for-all snack trough. I’m sure you’ve seen this- Adults reaching in to bulk bins to pull out handfuls of lollies and nuts without even using the provided scoops. Adults encouraging their young children to reach in and grope around the mixed lolly bulk bin with their hands and put them directly into their mouths. One woman putting her handbag on an open sack of mung beans so she could tie her shoelaces- really?! The main gripe that non-zero waste people have with bulk bins are that they are dirty- and I totally understand. After seeing this behaviour in action myself I do sometimes get squeamish with bulk bins- thank goodness I have an iron stomach and have no dietary intolerances. I’m the one you see wandering around Goodies and Grains tut-tutting and closing all the bulk bins that have been left open.

I am however rather non-confrontational in public spaces, so as yet have not worked up the courage to call someone out  on their bad behaviour around my beloved bulk bins. I get upset because this is where my food comes from- it’s not a store prop or novelty for me. Bulk places are scarce enough, to have people dirty your restricted food sources does hurt my feelings. It’s like as if I wandered into someone’s bomb shelter, opened their cans of baked beans and stuck my hands inside all the cans and swirled them around. And tasted some. Ok, not as dramatic, but similar nonetheless.

The other reason to be respectful and tidy is that it means you respect the businesses that support bulk bins- It is extra work for them, and they have to do more cleaning to ensure they maintain hygiene standards. If people are sloppy, make messes, contaminate entire bins, they may be less inclined to maintain their bulk shopping system. And it doesn’t just affect zero-wasters, it affects everyone as whole. We want to be creating more and more opportunities for bulk shopping for “newbies”, not make it less accessible/ off-putting due to contamination concerns

2. Keep your containers clean

A local business once told me that the reason they stopped accepting people’s own containers were because people were handing over *dirty* containers- think containers with no lids for wet goods, unclean containers with all manner of stuff stuck on them. Due to health and safety concerns (risk of contamination of their food prep sites) they were forced to implement a rule that they could not accept containers anymore, which is really disappointing. Again- bringing clean containers to a business is a mark of respect for them. I make sure my containers are clean with secure lids, and I carry my KeepCup in a home made bento bag to keep dust and fluff out of it. It’s about supporting the businesses who support us 🙂

3. Wear lipstick

You can take this one with a grain of salt. If I know that I’m going to approach a cheese or deli counter, or a new butcher/ fishmonger peddling my containers, I do make sure that I look a bit put together- I leave my glasses off, I leave the RBF (Resting Bitch Face) at home, and I put some lippy on and smile- I’ve realised that the times when I showed up sweaty with messy hair and smelling like Hulk Hogan’s gym sock- 9 times out of 10 I was knocked back. Is it sexist? Maybe- not to me. It’s like turning up to an important job interview- you wouldn’t turn up looking unkempt and scattered, would you? Exude success! It’s like how Bea Johnson would have her way of acting super casual at cheese counters, waving at items, like she’s done this forever and it’s the norm- it does work! Once you start mumbling and fumbling it’s pretty much game over. If you say loud and clear: “Can you put this container on the scale and either tare or zero it, and weigh me out 500g of mince with no plastic bag please”, you’ll have more success I’ve found. But it does take practice.

4. Accept gracious defeat

Sometimes, despite your best winning smile and interpretative “how to zero containers” dance, they will say no. Be polite and thank them for their trouble. If it’s too late and they’ve already gotten confused and put my items in a plastic bag I’ll take it rather than risk it being thrown out (and wash and recycle the plastic bag at home). Your options are to slink home and never ever try again, or work up the courage to sidle in again on a different day (I’m looking at you, Frewville Foodland!

5. Praise, support, promote

I feel strongly about this. When I shop at businesses that support and share my values, I make it known to them. I always thank them for letting me use my containers, because I know it is more effort for them to tare and subtract weights. I support them by holding out or going without an item until I can get back in to shop with them, rather than go 5 minutes down the road to pick something up at the supermarket. I tell anyone who will listen about them, I blog and Instagram about them.

Now get out there and zero-waste like the gracious Southern Belle you are 😉

Lisa xx

Let’s Go Shopping! Part 2

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Still staying in the vicinity of the Adelaide Central Market (a treasure trove, albeit sometimes stressful during the market’s busy hours), there are a few other places to peruse.

THE HONEY SHOPPE AND SOAPBOX

Shop 20, Central Market Arcade, Adelaide 5000

A hidden gem: a natural and unpackaged beauty and personal care mecca

What you can find: Row upon row of beautiful unpackaged vegetable and olive oil based soaps in all their glory- bring a reuseable bag/ container for your goodies, bring your best sniffing nose to smell all the luscious smells 😉 . An amazing array of bulk soaps, conditioners, hand wash, body wash, dishwashing and laundry detergents- you name it, they’ve got it- I’m pretty sure I spied borax and washing soda in bulk the last time I was there (an upcoming project is home made dishwashing tablets- stay tuned!) Interesting things that I thought would be difficult to find in bulk: beeswax, clays, shea and cocoa butter. Honey (of course), bulk teas and herbs, and the piece de resistance: every essential oil known to man (both pre packed and in bulk). They’re happy to refill essential oils if you bring your own bottle and know the volume (they also sell a great array of amber glass bottles in lots of different sizes behind the counter). This place isn’t self-serve though, so flag down one of the guys to give you a hand before you get too bulk- happy.

Pros: 

  • Central location
  • A gob smacking array of goodies to tempt you into embarking into your next d.i.y project: moisturiser, hand sanitiser, washing powder, face masks…
  • So much fun to just browse- Every time I’ve been I’ve found something new and exciting in bulk

Cons:

  • Can get very squishy, especially during lunch hours. Be prepared to be elbowed out of the soap section by a couple of angry businessmen who are intent on buying some castille soap so that their “skin can be silky smooth and soft” (true story)
  • A lot of the tubs are ground level, so some crouching and balancing may be required to get at the good stuff
  • The staff are usually run off their feet so service can be quite slow, but I just amuse myself by smelling/ groping some pretty soap whilst waiting :). Because they’re under the pump they *will* wrap up your purchases very quickly in paper/ plastic bags unless you gesticulate wildly with both hands (and one leg) that you have your own container/ bag.

GO VITA

Shop 21 Central Market Arcade, Adelaide SA 5000

When you’re done with ogling and getting in everyone’s way at the Honey and Soapbox Shoppe, wander next door for a stress free bulk shopping experience.

What you can find:

Go Vita is an Australian-wide franchise of health food stores. To date this is the only one I’ve found in Adelaide that does bulk foods (I haven’t visited the Glenelg branch yet so happy to be proven wrong). You can sign up for their Good Health Club Card which entitles you to discounts (up to 21% off on the first Tuesday of the month). They do a great range of bulk foods (although small) with lots of tempting snacks (like chick pea chips- my favourite!) and dried fruit. Healthy add-ons like psyllium husk buckwheat groats can be found here. My favourite part is the back of the store, where you can buy protein powders in bulk. This place is definitely under-represented in the bulk shopping world with not as much “social media noise” as they should deserve!

Pros:

  • Truth: I find most bulk shopping stressful. This is the least stressful bulk shopping experience I’ve had to date- The bulk bins are at elbow level with clean scoops, everything is well maintained and set out, no bending over/ crouching is required, no strangers will brush past your bottom here. You also don’t feel rushed so you can take your time serenely filling your glass jars. Bliss.
  • The ladies who run it are absolutely lovely and they obviously attract regular customers. Stop by the counter on your way in and they’ll weigh up your jars for you, and they totally understand the concept of wanting to bulk shop.
  • Health-focussed, so a great place to go to to buy small quantities of weird things to try before shelling out your hard earned clams- e.g. maca powder

Cons:

  • I honestly can’t think of any, other than that I wish they were bigger and had a larger range, because I would definitely try and do most of my shopping here. They do welcome any stock recommendations though, so if there is something that you would use a lot of and would like to see it there- by all means have a chat to one of the lovely staff. I would also love to see more Go Vita stores take up the bulk shopping mantle 🙂

HOUSE OF HEALTH

Stall S73, Adelaide Central Market

If I could live in a cardboard box in the corner of this place I would- I love it so. It would get a bit squishy after a while though.

What you can find: I am surprised that I had only managed to shop here recently, owing to my own ditziness about opening times. They stock a great basic range of healthy grains, nuts, spices, muesli and flours, but where they really shine is in the stuff that can be hard to find: Here you can bring your own container and fill it up with tamari, apple cider vinegar, raw honey, hulled and unhulled tahini, molasses, maple syrup, agave nectar, and rice malt syrup- heaven for any health food zero waste nutcase (Hello!). You can buy health supplements in bulk, like beetroot powder and spirulina. They also do a lot of things in little glass jars, like bee pollen and organic Australian miso paste. Olive oil is sold for a great price too, so come fill up! The liquid bulk is not self serve though, so grab one of the staff to give you a hand (some of those bulk liquid containers need some coaxing!)

Pros:

  • Ridiculously friendly and helpful staff, know exactly what to do with your jars when you hand them over.
  • As mentioned above- amazing range
  • They have a big glass counter filled with all the tasty raw desserts you could want- raw Snickers cheesecake slice- get in my belly
  • This was the first time that I’ve bumped into someone else at a bulk store who had brought their own jar (to fill up with honey)- this shop must be doing something right! 😀

Cons:

  • Not all the bulk is self serve, so you may need to wait a bit to get someone to fill up your container for you
  • Can get a bit squishy here. (It is an unfortunate trend in Adelaide that we’re developing a “big city” mentality where people now rush around and start getting pushy in small cramped spaces)
  • I can’t think of another con. I truly do love this little place and the people who run it!
  • Actually- Their opening days are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. My gripe is that I wish they were open every day… Forever  😉  *fangirl*

My hope is that my guides will break down any barriers to people who want to bulk shop but feel too unprepared to start. My guides have arisen out of many failed excursions and awkward jar-fumbling moments. I have suffered the humiliation so you don’t have to. The next part in this series will cover some smaller “gems” in the Adelaide Central Market area, and hopefully after that I’ll start delving into the suburbs for more “specialty” treats.

Happy jar-fumbling,

Lisa xx

Let’s go shopping! Part 1

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So this is going to be my “definitive” guide and review series to waste-free shopping options in Adelaide, and I will try and update it as time goes on to account for any changes. This list mainly includes my favourite places to shop currently, as well as a couple of recommendations from others that I have yet to try out myself (marked with *).

GOODIES AND GRAINS

Central Market Plaza, Shop 21/22 Gouger St. Adelaide, SA, 5000

This can be considered as the mothership of bulk shopping in Adelaide (That is, until The Source finally opens up in Adelaide!). They’ve been in the business for a while, and are really down with bulk shopping.

What you can find: All the usual suspects, like beans, rice, nuts, dried fruit, spices and snacks. They have a HUGE range of gluten free flour options, as well as normal flours. Hard to find items such as agar agar, skim milk powder, almond butter, epsom salts, dried yeast, wakamme, cacao nibs. They also have a liquid bulk section in the back corner, where you can fill up your own bottle (it’s sold by volume so check how big your bottle is before filling up!)- options include: olive oil, sunflower oil, local honeys, tamari, white and apple cider vinegar, rice bran oil. Reasonable range of gluten free unpackaged pasta. There are some tubs of dishwasher powder etc but these seem to be empty most times. No PLU’s here so make note/ write on your jar what you’ve bought to save time at check out. AMAZING selection of cereals and ingredients to make your own muesli/ granola. They even sell Carmen’s brand muesli in bulk!

Pros

  • Central location
  • Staff (most) will tare your containers without any trouble, they’ll write on the bottom of your jar with a marker. Just make sure that you get them to weigh your jars *before* you fill them up 🙂
  • Great selection, health focussed. Lots of other packaged items. The only place I’ve seen selling Kleen Kanteens in Adelaide
  • Tasty gluten free/ refined sugar free treats at the counter- beware the temptation 😉
  • Great smoothies, and they also have an amazing takeaway salad shop. I’ve bought a green smoothie in a mason jar with no hassle, haven’t tried bringing my own container for some salad but I’m sure it shouldn’t be a big deal
  • They label country of origin on the goods, so you can “next level” your zero waste shop by shopping for local grains and nuts
  • They’re super nice!
  • They sell jars and bottles in different sizes if you’ve forgotten your own (or underestimated how many tasty things you wanted to bring home with you)
  • They won’t print you a receipt unless you ask for it
  • If you bring your own container you get 5 cents off for each

Cons

  • It can get really busy on market days, especially around lunch time and all day Saturday. Bring guts of steel and be super organised- this is not the place to get overwhelmed or flustered with your jars
  • There is not a lot of space to manoeuvre around bulk bins. There are also no gravity feeding systems here, so they’re either in tubs or scoop bins. I have a couple of funnels that I bring with me (when I remember!) to make scooping flours/ salt/ spices easier and less messy. A lot of the bins are on ground level so some squatting may be required. Not the place to wear tight low rise jeans.
  • You *will* see people brushing up against you with fistfuls of plastic bags filled with a cup of ingredients in each. Calm the inner rage and chant “serenity now”
  • I’ve never bumped into anyone else at the same time there with their own jars. Nor has anyone ever enquired about why I use jars instead of plastic bags. Join the revolution!

Happy shopping!

Lisa x