Hello everybody! Welcome to my blog. Last week, I promised a post about Flemington Markets in Sydney, with some tips learnt from my personal experience. This post applies for other growers markets as well.
Paddy’s Fresh Food Flemington is open on Saturday mornings. It is a very popular market and you’ll notice that as soon as you approach the warehouse, traffic begins to get heavier. Apparently you’re not the only one who knows about the fantastic produce that is always great value for money. When you finally get in, you’ll first need to find a park. After doing the universal gesture of “are you leaving?” to every person you’ve driven past, finally a spot will open up. When you step out of your car, you’ll be hit by that strong smell. It smells like fresh produce.
The place is crowded, there are people everywhere, there is no pattern of movement, and very narrow aisles formed by many different booths. You will find people going in both directions, all of them carrying a trolley. You don’t even know where to start. The place is full of people from all over the world, predominantly from Asian and Middle Eastern and Southern European backgrounds, not just selling the amazing fruit and vegetables but getting their supply for their restaurants or big families. You can feel right away the energy of these communities, the different accents very characteristic of this place yelling: $10 box!
When you go through the aisles and you see everything they have, you just get spellbound by the colours, the good-looking products, the smells, the prices!
As you head to the back of the markets, you’ll start smelling something else (a very pungent fish smell). You’ve reached the Seafood section.
Welcome to Flemington Markets.
Where to start
The first thing I recommend you to do is to make a list of the things that you need. The first time Harry and I went, we spent almost $200 worth of fruit and vegetables, thinking that it should be enough for a couple of weeks. We were lucky we got a parking spot right in front of one of the exits, so we just got boxes and boxes of our favourite fruit and vegetables. However, we didn’t think about how much space it would take up. When we were back home, it took us both 5 trips to take everything upstairs. Our fruit bowls were overflowing, our fridge could not fit anything else, our benches were covered with bowls full of fruit, we even gave some food away. It was too much. Unfortunately, fruit and vegetables doesn’t last forever, so in the end we had to fill up our compost bin.
For this reason, the next time we went, we prepared a list with all the things that we needed. Even doing this, it took us another couple of trips to the markets to get the right amount of food.
In the markets
When you are lucky enough to find a park, head to the West end of the building and get a trolley. You will need to pay $10 and when you give it back, they give you back around $7. It will depend on how late you go. It sounds like you are paying for a trolley, but you are paying to not have to carry everything for maybe 45 minutes to 1 hour, or multiple trips to the car. Besides, it will give you an idea of how much you are buying. When we see a full trolley, we are less likely to keep filling it up.
Where to buy?
This is quite personal. Some people prefer to spend time going to every single booth looking at the prices and comparing the quality of the food. Personally, I prefer to get this done quicker and get on with my life. I know the prices are going to be more or less the same everywhere, and I know everything is going to be cheap, so I prefer to aim for better quality. After a couple of trips, we know which aisles are our favourite and we get pretty much everything from there. If you want to take your time going through the entire market, go for it, but that place is huge, se be aware!
Bring your own bags
If you’re like me, then you want to do your bit for the environment. At Flemington, every stand owner will give you a disposable plastic bag and you will end up with a lot of rubbish at the end of your shop. I prefer to bring my reusable woolies bags, it takes a little big more organisation, but every bit counts.
How can I pay?
Like in the olden days, there is no EFTPOS in the markets. You will need cash. For two fruit lovers, to get enough fruit and vegetables for two weeks, $150 is more than enough. We always end up with a bit of extra coins. If you forgot your cash, there are ATMs outside the markets, but you will need to wait in line.
The prices are pretty fair and the same for everyone, and I haven’t seen anyone trying to cheat, so you don’t need to worry about bargaining. Some people try, but the traders get pissed.
The later in the day you go, the cheaper the prices get, however, you won’t have as many places to choose from.
Try to be relaxed but stay alert, don’t bother getting angry at people but don’t stay in a corner until it gets less busy because it never gets less busy. Immerse yourself into the market’s environment, enjoy the adventure and learn your own lessons.
Keep in mind that the place is PACKED, so if you don’t want to receive jostles, if you don’t want to give way to trolleys or die, or you are not up to hearing all the yelling, it may not be for you. It is definitely an experience and at least for me it is worth the hassle.