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Market Shopping – Tips & Pointers

The local food markets are a great place to do your weekly grocery shop. By dealing directly with the producer/ manufacturer, you’re avoiding a bunch of packaging and marketing costs and purchasing everything fresher than fresh.

To make the most of your market experience, here are a few things to be aware of before embarking on your quest for local goodness…

    •  Have cash – traders don’t have access to card machines. Some markets have ATM’s on the premises but not all. Try to bring small denominations where possible, traders appreciate change. (There’s nothing worse for a trader than having to find change for a dozen eggs paid for with a R200 note!)
    •  Bring a shopping bag – most traders keep a stock of small bags for their customers but even these accumulate in your arms. When walking through a food market, you want at least one hand free to try out all the gorgeous samples on offer and to dig around for money.
    •  Go early – if you’re serious about grocery shopping. Markets are trendy places to see and be seen, get there before the masses. This way you’re guaranteed the pick of the crop and the traders will have time for a chat (Don’t expect service before the official opening time though – traders need the time to set up properly).
    •  Talk to the traders – they’re a knowledgeable bunch. Learn more about their products, it’s interesting and they’re eager to share.
    •  Remember names – building a relationship with your food supplier is always a good idea. Once the traders get to know you they can offer a more personalised service.
    •  Try the samples – you’re under no obligation to buy. Traders are proud of their goods and they offer samples as a means of getting their product noticed. (Don’t treat samples as a free meal though!)
    •  Don’t feel obliged – don’t make excuses to the trader for not buying their product. They’ve heard it all before and your guilt rubs off on them. Thank them for the sample and move on if you’re not interested.
    •  Eat before you shop – preferably from a stand at the market. Food shopping on an empty stomach results in a ton of impulse buys. Grab a bite from one of the market traders and only then start your food shopping. It’ll save you a fortune.
    •  Make a list – it’s easy to be sidetracked by all the glorious goods on offer. You don’t want to spend 2 hours at a market and still have to finish your shopping at your local supermarket.
    •  Speak up – markets are noisy and traders are busy, make yourself heard. (Don’t speak over other customers though, wait your turn. It may sound obvious but traders do experience this problem all too frequently.)
    •  Speak up again – get to know the market organisers. Their goal is for you to enjoy your shopping experience and to be able to cater to your needs. They appreciate your feedback.
    •  Buy ready-made – home made cakes, preserves, meals won’t contain the preservatives that mass produced foods are packed with. All traders’ kitchens are inspected by the department of health, so no worries there.
    •  Buy fresh produce too – meat, eggs, dairy, fruit and veg are invariably a lot fresher when bought direct from the farmer. These small traders are pretty eco conscious so chances are their produce is free range or organic. Ask if you’re not sure, never just assume.
    •  Spread the love – Share your favourite market experiences with friends. The more people there are doing their weekly grocery shop at the markets, the more we’re guaranteed fresh food with a healthy footprint. It’s a win-win situation: we keep artisanal food alive and well… and it does the same for us!

 Bonus tip:

Buy yourself a treat for later – you’ll get home with a horde of beautifully fresh ingredients and all you’ll feel like is that lemon meringue pie you willed yourself not to buy!


  1. Deirdre Finlay Elliott

    Love your new blog, we were wondering who the Local bag was? Well done to you, great tips. Thanks for re tweeting our tweets. Hope to see you soon.

  2. Clare- Classic Marmalade

    Your tips are great – I can see you’re a seasoned market customer – we love to see the same faces back week after week – it means we are doing something good!

  3. Don Yeowell

    I have on many an occasion mentioned to shoppers – there are two things you need to bring when you come shopping in a market; a large shopping bag and a full wallet. Gillian, you superstar, you hit those two first!

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