Fresh produce that smells ripe and ready, well-stocked shelves and smiling, helpful staff; it's no wonder there is a loyal band of shoppers choosing to frequent the new breed of local grocers.
In Sydney, stores like Taste Organic (Crows Nest and Turramurra), About Life (Bondi Junction, Rozelle, Lane Cove, Cammeray, Double Bay and Surry Hills) and Wholefoods House (Waterloo), and in Melbourne stores like Leaf (Elwood), Apples and Sage Organic Wholefoods (Balwyn) and Terra Madre (Northcote) are giving people a viable alternative to supermarkets.
Their main point of difference being that they've taken the old hippy health food store's ethical approach to sourcing produce and married it with modern business acumen and excellent customer service. As people are becoming more concerned about where their food comes from and the quality of what they eat, these stores are changing the way people shop.
Leo Watling of Apples and Sage Organic Wholefoods says people are also gravitating towards these stores as they start to question the power and influence of the big corporates. 'People want to regain a community, they want to support local business owners who in turn support local suppliers, farmers and producers. In organics particularly, people are really questioning where food comes from and its impact on the environment.
While it's true that local grocers don't have the economies of scale of the supermarkets and they don't save money by making you do the scanning and packing of your own groceries there are some simple rules to follow which will help you keep to your budget.
- Buy fresh food. Make sure you only buy what you need for the next couple of days. It may seem to be at odds with prevailing wisdom, but often a big shop can end up going to waste more than small frequent shops where you use everything you buy. However, when shopping frequently, with a budget, it becomes even more important that you follow rule number two.
- Write a list. This is probably the most important rule if you like shiny new things or go shopping hungry. 'Prepare a list so you don't end up with things you don't want or need that don't get used and you've wasted your money, the environment and the earth', says Watling. 'Prepare a list and plan what to eat today and tomorrow.'
- Eat in season. This is easier if you're shopping locally and organically as they're unlikely to stock asparagus from Peru. Learn your seasons or otherwise get familiar with prices, if the price goes up it's probably on its way in or out of season. Wait a couple of weeks when things come into season and the price will usually drop considerably.
- Self-serve bins. Many stores will have a serve-yourself section where you can fill a paper bag with bulk flours, grains, nuts and other scoopable products. There are two reasons why buying from the unpackaged section is ace, three if you bring reusable containers. The first is that buying from the self-serve is always cheaper, sometimes significantly more cost effective. Secondly, you can try something out without paying for a whole packet. 'Want to see which oats are your favourite? Take home a serve rather than a whole box,' says Watling. This is also nifty when you only need a tablespoon of an exotic ingredient or don't want the guilt of half a packet of almond meal going rancid in your pantry.
- Join the membership programs. Wholefoods House in Waterloo has a simple program where you get a discount based on the money you spend. Taste organic has a program where you get a five dollar voucher for naturopathic and personal care products for every $50 you spend.
- Swap meats. If you're keen to eat ethical meat but your budget is tight then eat a smaller amount and learn how to best cook the cheaper cuts. Chicken drumsticks instead of chicken breasts, well-trimmed and slow-cooked lamb ribs instead of cutlets and oyster blade instead of eye fillet.
- Select and store. Choose your produce carefully and make sure you store it properly. It's annoying throwing four dollars in the bin because you didn't keep an eye on an avo, not to mention the accompanying 'waste guilt'.
- Buy juicing carrots and smoothie bananas. Often these carrots only look imperfect. Maybe they've split or perhaps they have two roots, they're still tasty. It's also worth checking out smoothie bananas if you like ripe bananas (or indeed, if you're making smoothies). Weirdly, organic bananas go quite black before the flesh inside starts to bruise or soften, so organic smoothie bananas are often a good buy.
- Ask for a box. If you've accidentally forgotten your bags ask if there are any boxes in which they can pack your groceries. Some stores will charge for plastic bags but will happily give you their empty boxes. Small change but it all adds up.
This article was originally published by goodfood on 19 August 2016. It represents the views of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the views of AMP.
Remember, no matter how you pay for purchases, at some point the money comes out of your hip pocket.