I’m a Tight-@ss Tim. But I’m also a snob when it comes to food. So shopping can be tricky. I go organic and local for the foods that need to be and I go cheap supermarket for the foods that don’t. Let me plot down where I shop. Most of these will be relevant to you and the ones that are Melbourne Australia specific should have a local equivalent.
Lastly, if I lived in the States, Trader Joe's or Wholefoods would feature prominently. I'm blown away by the Wholefoods that have hydroponic gardens on the roof. My only recommendation with these guys is to stick to the outer isles as there's a lot of sugar products packaged up as healthy in the middle. Read labels and ask questions.
Onto my spots.
Fruit & Veg
This is where I should pretend I'm 100% organic and local. But I'm not. I loosely follow the Clean 15, Dirty Dozen regime.
Some fruit and vegetables need to be organic, others don't. It can be summarised pretty easily. Do you eat the skin? If you don't then it doesn't need to be organic. Bananas, avocado, oranges, mangos etc. I just buy these from my supermarket.
On the other hand, I take my spinach, kale, broccoli, cucumbers, parsley and zucchinis more seriously. I get them directly from an organic farmer. I find him at a weekly or monthly market. It's him and his kids and he wears a hat that suggests he gets his hands dirty. If I couldn't tell from his attitude that he is serious about his crops, I could tell they're organic just by their shape and the dirt. They don't look like the photoshopped colours in supermarkets.
I try to get to a real farmers market once a week. You load up the fridge and you're encouraged to cook all week.
Meat, Fish, Eggs & Chicken
I'm now getting these guys from the same farmer's market. I don’t trust my supermarkets for animal protein. And I don’t even trust my local seafood market for fatty fish anymore since I discovered the salmon / tuna / ocean trout is either factory farmed or frozen.
Since discovering that, I try to go directly to the farmer or fisherman and get the full story. As brutal as it sounds, I want to know the bloke that kills the chicken I’m eating. I want to see the values up close, that way I know the grass fed / free range / organic label is sincere.
In Melbourne I can speak with my fish guy, my turkey guy (yep!), my chicken guy, my egg girl and my lamb girl. The fact that I can only be bothered driving there once every two weeks, and that the prices are premium, means I eat less meat. But when I eat it, it’s outright delicious and a privilege. Long gone are the days I go to a supermarket and turn factory farmed meat into spaghetti bolognese. Or caged chickens into stir fry's.
I live down the street from a monster Australian supermarket, so I find myself in here every few days.
Use your supermarket for:
- Clean 15 fruit and veg with inedible skin
- Nut milk - I buy rice and oat milk as they have the least ingredients
- Rolled oats
- Dog food - I buy human grade kangaroo mince, sardines and flaxseed meal
- Greek yoghurt
Supplements, Superfoods & Special Needs
I thought this resource was as common as Amazon but most people I mention iHerb to have never heard of it.
iHerb is the healthy superstore. The range of products is mind blowing but the best bit is the delivery. I get superfood powders sent to my door, all the way from the US, in about five days. Now that’s service! And the prices are as cheap as you’ll find.
Use them for:
- Unique superfoods
- Protein powders - not the best range, but there’s some
- Blue green algaes
- Organic cleaning supplies
Herb Nerd Continued
This one was recommended to me by our Naturopath, Reece Carter. It’s a gem. If they don’t deliver to you, hopefully you can find a similar online retailer nearby.
Austral Herbs is the site. They sell, you guessed it, herbs, at wholesale prices. This place is Chinese / natural medicine heaven.
Use them for:
- Natural medicines
- Tea ingredients
- Everyday spices - cinnamon, chilli powder, onion powder etc
- Reishi mushrooms
This one is cheeky and tricky, so I’ll go into some detail.
I love nuts, seeds and healthy grains. If you want protein, these plant based sources are incomparable in terms of nutrition. I add them to smoothies, turn them into nut butter, eat them by the handful and put them in raw chocolate.
But I don’t like paying retail prices. $30/kg makes your wallet say, “Why don’t we just eat more chicken, the plants aren’t even cheaper?”
If you can, try order off a nut wholesaler as you’ll get half the price. I can manage this easily as I have an Australian Business Number and I can say the nuts are for recipes, new products etc. But I would do the same thing if my ABN was completely unrelated. If you’re Aunty owns an accounting firm, reach out for an application form. Call your shop name “Aunty Kate’s Organics” and when you’re sent a really simple application process, that no one looks into ever, write down her ABN.
You can order every nut and seed imaginable off companies like these. I go to town. One of the surprising benefits is the quality of the products. The almonds I get off wholesalers look like they are activated, they’re so bright and plump. Completely different to stuff you’ll buy in a supermarket.
If there’s a product that you eat a lot of, try going directly to the producer. Contact them on Facebook messenger or through their website information. If they respond to you saying that the volume you’re after is too small then either up your order or get creative, suggesting that you only need a sample size for your new business / article your writing / research you’re conducting / party with social media influencers you’re hosting.
You should find yourself getting the best price possible for your favourite product.
Costco built a business on selling the cheapest products by the biggest volumes. So I am very picky when I’m in here. None of the meat is grass fed and none of the fruit and vegetables claim to be organic. Most of my trips to Costco are for essentials like paper towels, toilet paper and baby supplies.
However, there are some winners. They sell Inside Out, the creamiest almond milk in Australia, as well as quinoa, sea salt, pepper, avocado oil and maple syrup. The prices are the cheapest you’ll find.
Not everything has to be organic but a real farmer's market will be your best friend. Stock up and go hard on organic goodness so your cooking from home more often. Find a nut wholesaler if you can and get your superfoods, teas and natural medicines from or iHerb or Austral Herbs.