As part of my recent epiphany about saving money on our food shop, I decided that I should try to buy fruit and vegetables at our local market. Everything I have read about economising mentions how useful these markets are, how you can save lots of money, buy seasonal and local produce thus not only helping you to save cash and be healthier by increasing your fresh food intake, but reducing your carbon footprint too. Having shopped at our local market previously I’m not so sure about these claims, but am willing to give it another go.
Being organised, I have already planned out our next week’s meals, I visit the Sainsbury’s website to check their prices on fruit and veg that we need. I want to make sure that I don’t buy anything more expensive that Sainsbury’s (where we buy our weekly groceries) otherwise it negates the whole point.
Armed with my list of groceries and prices, I head to the market with Toddler. Our local market (Coventry, seeing as you asked) won an award for ‘Market of the Year’ in the mid-2000’s. Not sure what the criteria was but if it included smelling of fish and having an oddball selection of goods on sale (mini-table top pool table anyone?), then it was certainly up there with the best of them. The rickety old merry-go-round that I recall from my childhood is still in the centre, looking forlorn with its peeling paint and no children riding on it.
There are a lot of fruit and veg stalls, and I have a quick trawl to check prices and see what’s on offer. Disappointingly, a lot of produce is the same or more per kilo than Sainsbury’s, and there aren’t one or two stalls offering all I needed, I would have to queue at several to buy a couple of things from each. This is pretty stressful; I’m used to throwing stuff into a trolley and queuing once at the supermarket, plus Toddler is usually in the trolley seat and not able to grab random vegetables prompting me to say ‘no, don’t touch’ every 3 seconds.
At one stall, I enquire about the price of sweet potatoes as there is no sign. I’m told its £2.28 per kilo. This is a whole pound more than at the supermarket so, seeing that there is nothing else on the stall to tempt me, I try to beat a hasty (yet polite) retreat. Toddler however, has other ideas and wants to play statues and refuses to move. The stall-holder, with no other customers within a 10-metre radius seizes his chance and starts giving me prices for other produce, to which I politely decline ‘erm, no thanks, it’s not on my list today’ whilst pulling Toddler on his reigns to try and escape. As I shuffle on, Toddler moving at the speed of a slow snail, the stall-holder, clearly desperate for a sale, begins waving random vegetables at me – cucumbers, peppers, lettuces. I try to avoid making eye-contact and urge Toddler through gritted teeth to get a move on. Being on a tight-time frame and having not yet bought anything, my stress levels are beginning to rocket. We move onto the next stall. In my anxiety to actually buy something, I purchase a kilo of sweet potatoes for £1.74 – a whole 46p more than at Sainsbury’s. And they’re from China!! So much for saving money and buying local produce. To be honest, I’m really not sure if we grow sweet potatoes in the UK or when they are in season but I already feel like I’ve failed in my task to save us cash, and God-knows how many air miles our potatoes have accumulated.
Over the next 20-minutes however, I am able to find 3 punnets of Strawberries for £1 (I ignore the fact they are from Spain), a green pepper for 55p and cherry tomatoes for 50p. I also buy celery and broccoli. Later on, I work out that even with paying for parking, I have saved £2.42, and have three quarters of the items on my list, so it’s not a total failure. I guess we’ll have to come back next week and see if we can find any other bargains. Maybe I’ll put Toddler in a pushchair too and speed up the whole process! In the meantime, it’s off to Sainsbury’s to stock up on everything else we need.
- Fresh produce still cheaper at local markets (thoughtforfood1.wordpress.com)
- How to get enough fruit & veg when you’re on a budget (chillisageandlemon.wordpress.com)