Monday, August 1, 2011

Mad for Markets!

Once upon a time, before the big supermarket chains landed in town with their wobbly trolleys and cramped car parks, grocery shopping was a much different experience.  If you wanted bread, you went to the bakers.  If you wanted meat, you went to the butchers.  If you wanted fruit or vegetables (the ones you hadn't grown yourself) you went to the green grocers.
But then the big supermarkets arrived and offered all of that in one convenient place.  Convenient AND expensive.  Ridiculously expensive, really.

I suppose the 'lefty' side of me resents these big supermarket conglomerates buying up everything in sight - Woolworths (Australia's largest supermarket chain) has gone into the fuel business with Caltex, they also own Big W, Dick Smith, Tandy, BWS Liquor, Safeway/Woolworths Liquor, Dan Murphy's and Cellarmasters - and that's just the ones I know about.

On top of that Woolworths also own 75% of the ALH group who run 286 pubs and clubs across the country which effectively means that Woolworths own one third of all pokie machines in Victoria.  For some reason every time I hear the jingle "we are the fresh food people" all I can hear in the background is the incessant beeping and button pushing of pokie machines.  Or maybe it's just me.

The $20 Sphagetti Bolognese!

However, this is not really the reason for my rant.  What it boils down to really is that I resent the prices I pay when I do my grocery shopping in the supermarkets, particularly for meat and fresh produce.

The final straw came when I went to make spaghetti bolognese for dinner one night and it cost me $20 to make.  Since when does it cost $20 to make spaghetti bolognese!!!!  But at $2.00 for a capsicum and 80 cents for one red onion, it soon starts adding up.  Woolworths made $2 billion profit from pokie machines alone between 2005 and 2009 and at those prices I can only imagine the profit they are making from spaghetti bolognese ingredients!

After recovering from the shock of my $20 bolognese, hubby and I had a brainstorming session on how we could shop better and decided that we would visit Preston Market on the following weekend as it  has a large meat and fresh produce section.

Visiting Preston Market

The following weekend we drove to Preston Market which is about 35 minutes from where we live.  We ended up spending around $120 on meat which made three weeks worth of meals for a family of six.  Normally I spend around $80 to $90 a week on meat alone so this is a huge saving for us.  And not only that, the meat was much better quality - much more tender than the chewy stir fry beef I was getting from the supermarkets.  I also got a whole bag of red onions (around 2 kilo) for $2.00!
This weekend we spent around $120 on meat (including $10 on crabs to make traditional Seychellois Curry Crab - sooooo delicious!!!) and we got the following -

  • 20 rissoles 
  • 20 sausages
  • A whole pile of lamb chops (enough to do 2 full meals plus a bbq pack)
  • 6 chicken breasts
  • Rib eye steak on the bone (which I cut to make 6 thick restaurant quality steaks)
  • 6 big pieces of rump steak for casseroles, stir frys
  • 2 kilos of mince
  • 2 pork roasts
  • Chicken mince
  • 4 fresh crabs

So every 3 to 4 weeks we schedule a market visit on a Saturday.  We make it a fun day with the kids and get a family size pizza for lunch from Vinnies Half Price Pizza (reputedly the best pizza in Melbourne!) for only $10.

The kids love the market too - there are all kinds of stalls and the atmosphere is absolutely engaging with stallholders shouting their prices over each other, pigs heads hanging up on display (the boys are fascinated by them) and people from every culture (African, Asian, European and Australian) all jostling, chatting and shopping together.

Market Tips

Get there early!  Before 12 if possible as parking is at a premium and on the one occasion we got there around 1pm we spent 25 minutes trying to get a car park.

Don't buy your meat until after 1pm.  Around this time the butchers start "auctioning" off their produce just to get rid of it.  You can pick up trays of rump steak with 6 large steaks for only $15.  Half an hour before they would have been $20.

Get yourself a trolley on wheels.  You can buy those "grandma" trolleys at the market for about $15.  They are well worth the money and will hold all your goodies.

Try Vinnies Pizza!  Seriously, its really good pizza and great value.

I have definitely been converted to the benefits of market shopping.  Sure, I still visit Woolworths from time to time if I run out of bread or toilet paper but I won't be giving them the majority of my hard earned grocery shopping money any more.

Preston Market is located at 2/30 The Centreway in Preston, right next to the railway station.  There is also an Aldi Supermarket next door which is great for cheap groceries.  The market is open on Saturdays from 8am to 3pm.  You can visit the Preston Market website here.  All the photos in this post were taken at Preston Market or at my home.

Have you visited any other markets?  How do you save money on your grocery bill?  Drop me a comment and let me know, I'd love to hear from you.

Im linking up with Multiple Mum from And Then There Were Four for our "Frugal Living" Weekend Rewind!


  1. Very true, my husband is always nagging me to do markets and all that, drive to aldi, to the cheap meats etc. It's hard with three children under 6.
    Maybe in the coming years this will pose a bit easier.
    visiting from the rewind.

  2. I love the idea of market shopping (and did a lot before kids) but can't get my head around taking four little kids with me! I will give myself the challenge of going at least once in the next four weeks. Great deal with the meat! Thanks for Rewinding.

  3. I don't know if I could do it on my own with the boys but we make it a family event so Dad comes too. And because we only go once a month its not like I have to drag them around there every weekend. Plus they really like looking at the pigs heads in the meat section hahaha typical boys!

  4. Market shopping is great, I also just like strip shopping, but we have moved to a new area and are totally lacking in a fruit and veg shop.

    Butcher and four bakeries though.

  5. LOVED this post! You're making me hungry. We live on the Peninsula, so our closest big market is Dandenong. We try to go once a fortnight for our fruit and veg, but you make me want to buy our meat there too. So cheap, so healthy, and our boys love the atmosphere too.


Thanks for commenting, I appreciate you taking the time xxx

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