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Monday, April 6, 2009

A Tasmanian shopping list.

Dear Sapuche,

This post is for you, in response to your comment on my last post. You've raised an interesting question. How much do groceries in Hobart really cost? Firstly, there are a few contributing factors to consider.

A lot of the things I buy are grown in Tasmania, or made in Tasmania. Somethings, like my favorite udon noodles, are from Japan, and will never be made in Tasmania, and if they were I wouldn't buy them anyway. So I understand there are some certain food shopping sacrifices to be made. What I hate, is when the supermarket is selling Californian lemons, when I know that there are an abundance of Tasmanian ones available. Actually, I don't really KNOW this, but I have my suspicions. It is always best to be suspicious of mega-market-multinational companies, while stopping short of biting the hand that feeds you.

Please keep in mind these are Australian dollars. I have no idea what the exchange rate is, I try not to look it makes me sad!

So, here is a brief run down of some of the things I bought in my shopping mission last weekend, and where applicable, an explanation of their purchase.

Fresh: I got lucky when I hit the Salamanca Market, my favorite veggie stall had just gone half price. There are risks in leaving it late, sometimes they've run out of what you are really after. I find an open mind is the way to go. These prices, they are so cheap even I can't believe it. Double or triple these prices for a major supermarket chain. Supermarket chains which don't stock everything anyway. Like okra. You can't buy that from the supermarket. And they never have any eggplants either. Darn it. I won't start on the kinds of food one simply cannot purchase on this island, it is depressing.

1 Avocado, $1.50. This is kind of expensive really, I found them at the supermarket for 99c later.
500g sweet potato $2
500g zucchini $1
500g Swiss brown mushrooms (the best kind ever) $2.50
450g bananas, $1
400g loose brown onions, $1
2 medium sized hot green chillies, 50c

Dairy: Mostly I buy dairy things from the supermarket, but I wish I didn't have to. On King Island (Google that one) they have a dairy, which not only makes world famous cheeses and yogurts, but produces it's own un-pasteurised, un-homogenised milk. This stuff never makes it off the island. And it is the best milk in the world. So if I had the choice...

2lt low fat milk (like it really makes any difference!) $2.77, which is pretty much average. Although I do buy the cheapest home brand, and I should probably at least buy Tasmanian milk.
500g natural yoghurt, $3.50
200g block of parmesan, decent brand, $5 approx. Cheese is not cheap. I eat lot of cheese, of course.

Meat: I really don't eat much meat, for health and financial reasons. There is a grocery store near me called Fresco, and while it doesn't have the cheapest everything, on Sunday and Monday it generally has really great meat specials. If I was buying steak, or sausages, I would spend a little more cash and get something decent, from a reputable butcher. Otherwise I tend to turn a blind eye, as I really don't have the extra money.

3 chemical and hormone free chicken breasts, $6.80, I don't need 3, but they came in a pack of 3. So into the freezer with one of them.

Once I bought an amazing lamb roast leg here for $11, but I have no idea where that lamb came from, or if it was even local. It tasted nice, probably shouldn't buy things like that though.

Later in the week, I might go to the fish shop on my way home. A 180g piece of fresh Tasmanian salmon is usually about $4-6. A half dozen Bruny Island Oysters are usually about $7 (although I can only ever dream about those). The fish shop usually has good specials too. A lot of Tasmania's seafood ends up overseas and on mainland Australia, but we still have our fair share here. This is one of the major benefits to living in a waterfront city. And to see supermarkets selling frozen seafood from Asia? Seems silly to me.

Dry goods: I love to shop for dry goods. I like things in cans and packets. I think it is the feeling that it will last, just in case I am hungry, and there is a massive storm, and I am housebound for weeks. That's okay, I have canned goods! I only buy certain things on certain visits. I have loads of polenta, because it was on special last week. This works out well if you can plan in advance, or eat a lot of polenta, like I do.

1kg home brand jasmine rice (on special), $2.39
Udon noodles (one serve per pack), $1.10
400g can tomatoes, 89c (I was naughty and bought a foreign brand because it was the cheapest)
400ml coconut milk, $ 1.31
16 Frozen dumplings (they were crappy, but the best of a bad lot), $3.29
Can of tuna 185g, $2.99 (for pasta emergencies)

Anyway, I think you have the picture. I hope this was interesting. I generally like to see what I can find, then adapt a recipe from inside my head, or from a book to suit my ingredients. Nice to meet someone who likes to forage for food like I do! Don't even get me started on specialty Asian food shops, there's hours of entertainment. We are lacking in ethnic restaurants and supplies here in Hobart, but considering our mostly white population, I think we do okay.

Oh and there is this amazing deli called Wursthaus, with these Italian white anchovies... Okay I'll stop now. But they do run cooking classes... And they are supposed to be excellent...


Desmone007 said...

I think it's really neat how you shop! And best of all it looks frugal.

Sapuche said...

Thanks for the thoughtful response to my question, Maggie! I have a little currency conversion widget on my computer, and I used it quite a bit to calculate the costs you shared. I think it’s great that you buy locally grown foods as much as possible, though living on an island makes that hard sometimes, I know! And sometimes, when the price differential is great, it really is hard not to choose something imported.

I don’t really know how these costs compare with the mainland U.S. (I haven’t really lived there in over five years), but they seem very reasonable for Hawaii. Echoing what you said, a lot of Hawaiian fruit sold in groceries are rejects that the exporters didn’t choose, and it’s expensive! That’s where farmer’s markets come in, thank god…or the roadside fruit stands, when I can’t drag myself out of bed early enough to make it to the FM. Salamanca Market sounds pretty great.

In the end, I’m not a very wise shopper because I pick a recipe and then look for the ingredients to make it. I should follow your habit of shopping for a good deal and then determining what to make based on what I have. Although I cook all the time, I’m still not sophisticated enough in the kitchen to improvise.

Thanks again for posting this. I definitely found it interesting! Oh, I almost forgot. When I lived in Vietnam and wanted to buy milk, I always chose Tasmanian brands – not for the price, either, but because it was the best!

Lucy said...

I love Italian canned tomatoes. There are certain things you just can't buy locally, and canned toms are one of them

(although I know, Maggie, that your flatmate grows fantastic, albeit deformed, tomatoes in your own backyard...)

Lisa said...

Woolworth's? Oh my god, we had those here for so many years; now all gone I believe. The photo is fantastic as I never knew they were outside the States--unless of course, they're a completely different entity, which would be even more fascinating! (I swear I read the rest of your post!)

I love canned tomatoes, but the Pomi brand from Italy, in the funky little carton, is so fresh it's almost scary. They are terribly spendy so I only buy them when I have extra money at the end of the month but they are so worth it.

I miss being a proper gatherer; with twins under four I shop when it's convenient these days but I figure I can live vicariously (as I usually do) through you. I have, however, started making time for better trips and I'm coming up trumps most days.

Great post!

Maggie said...

Thanks for your comment Lisa. I think if I was responsible for people other than myself I wouldn't be anywhere near as organised with my hunting and gathering.

Mary said...

Oooh - I'm intrigued as to the location of said market stall..... I THINK I may know the one that you're referring to....

Maggie said...

Hey Mary,

I hear the mega mountain walk was good fun. Sorry I couldn't make it, has to do homework, as always.

The market stall is the big long wooden table, and the mushrooms come in plastic bags. Up near the Summer Kitchen end, but not that far up. Opposite Cargo? About there.

Can never tell exactly where after battling through 30,000 people who WALK SO SLOW I CANT BELIEVE IT!