Where should I shop?
There are so many options these days. From online, to farmer’s markets, to the local supermarket we are spoilt for choice when deciding where to shop.
This week Jess our Nutrition Assistant has analysed the pro’s and con’s of each.
Produce from the Farmer’s Market is usually fresher as it is locally grown rather than being imported. This is also better for the environment, as less transport time means less fuel and fewer greenhouse emissions. By shopping at the Farmer’s Market you are supporting local farmers and aiding the local economy. There is less waste as there is less time for food to be spoiled during transportation, distribution and warehousing processes. Often you find that the produce is organic, meaning the farmers don’t use pesticides or other chemicals. Fruits and vegetables sold at the Farmer’s Market are sold at their ripest, when they are of best nutritional value to you. Meat and poultry products are also often ethically and sustainably farmed, including free range and grass fed beef, lamb, chicken and pork products, as well as eggs. The aim of ethical farming is to reduce animal cruelty. But the best thing about Farmer’s Markets is that they create a fantastic sense of community, and provide an environment to meet and socialise with others.
As the produce is often organic and/or free range, it may be more expensive than shopping at a supermarket. If you specifically want organic produce, be sure to check that the produce is in fact organic, as there are some farmers who do not have an organic certification. Produce at the Farmer’s Markets are seasonal, as local farmers can only grow crops that suit the current climate and soil conditions. This means you may not have as large a variety of produce as from the supermarket, which imports out-of-season fruit and vegetables. There are also fewer Farmer’s Markets than supermarkets or shops, so convenience may be a factor to consider.
Convenience – supermarkets are in abundance, with one usually in walking distance. Supermarkets have longer opening hours, open most days of the week, and more hours of the day. This may be more convenient for those with long working hours. They are also usually cheaper, as they buy in bulk from suppliers at cheaper wholesale prices. Many products from the supermarket have longer shelf lives, due to preservatives, so can keep in its recommended storage conditions for longer. Supermarkets have a large variety of produce, and is time saving if you can buy your entire shopping list from the one place. As supermarkets import from interstate/overseas, you are able to buy seasonal produce all-year-round. Supermarkets also have standardised products and sizes, so you always know what you will be getting for the price you pay. Supermarkets use loyalty cards to track consumer purchases – and use this data to ensure they supply more of what you are buying and shopping for. Many supermarkets are now also stocking organic and ‘health’ products, as well as catering for allergies and food intolerances.
While supermarkets have a larger variety of produce, this does not necessarily mean it is all healthy, so shop wisely! Supermarkets contain many processed foods with additives and preservatives as these have long shelf lives. Big companies can afford to invest a lot of money into advertising their products in supermarkets. Phrases such as ‘low fat’ can be misleading to the consumer who may believe they are making a healthy choice. Many of these ‘low fat’ products may simultaneously be high in sugar, sodium and other additives to improve the taste and texture.
Some products are imported, rather than supporting local farmers and small scale suppliers. These imported products have long transit times, which increase carbon emissions and also the need for preservatives and other chemicals. Foods at the supermarket are also highly packaged, increasing wastage and chemical residue.
Online Grocery Shopping
Shopping online is the most convenient shopping option, being accessible any time of day, any day of the week and from the comfort of your living room. It is also very easy to find products, with search engines and categorised listings meaning it only takes a few clicks to select what you are looking for. When shopping online you may have the choice of store pickup or home delivery, which is highly convenient for anyone with little time to spend at the supermarket, or those who don’t have the means or mobility to do so. Online shopping also means you can avoid crowds and queues.
Online shopping can be tricky if you are not tech savvy. Some online shops can be hard to navigate, and online payments can be time consuming and confusing. As you cannot physically choose the product you buy, you cannot guarantee you will be receiving the ripest or freshest produce. It is also harder to compare the nutritional value of products online, as well as their origin and other labelling information. When you purchase products online the delivery is not instantaneous, so not as convenient if you need something right away. Online shoppers will generally buy in bulk, meaning there may be greater household wastage if not all consumed.
Health food stores
Health food stores have a very specialised selection of product. The staff employed at these stores are generally knowledgeable on the products. Food from health stores are often free from chemicals and additives, and are minimally processed. Health stores also have a large range of produce for those with food allergies, stocking many lactose free, gluten free and fructose free products. They stock the latest in food and health trends, such as kombucha, activated nuts and probiotic foods and drinks. Health food stores also provide information and sell DIY enabler products such as yoghurt starter kits. Health food stores put a strong emphasis on ethical farming. They usually cater for vegetarians and vegans, with many dairy and meat alternatives, such as cashew cheese and soy meats.
Due to the specialised nature of health food stores, they are generally more expensive. Ethically farmed foods are more expensive to produce, and also to store so this means you pay larger amounts than what you would at the supermarket – and perhaps even the farmers market. Many health food stores also sell supplements and protein powders. These are necessary for some, but not always essential to a healthy lifestyle. Just because a food is purchased from a health food store does not mean it is necessarily healthy. Some foods such as protein bars and energy balls may be high in fat and sugar. The specialised nature of health foods stores may mean that there is less variety to choose from.