Sunday, 24 July 2011

The joy of markets

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a market nearby. When The Family Jay lived in South London, I wouldn't have had any idea where to find a market, but given that there was a Sainsburys 2 minutes walk from the house (there is always at least one supermarket less than 10 minutes from the house in London) we probably wouldn't have gone there anyway. What markets there were, were all "farmers markets" which seem to be marketing ploys to allow people to pay over the odds for admittedly good produce, and always put us off with their inflated prices.

However, in our new home town there is a market in the town square for 3 days a week. Despite having lived here for a year, I've never really used it for a weekly shop as it doesn't meet the "time" criteria of RFFTF. Anything we have bought there has been of very high quality and lasts longer than anything we buy from our supermarket, so we thought we'd give it a go this week. It's a big week as The In-Laws are visiting, so we knew it would be an expensive shop. Having planned our menus for the week I headed off in to town with a shopping list clutched in my paw.

Something they just didn't have - aubergines are in season but may be a bit cosmopolitan for Suffolk (the supermarket has courgettes and corn-on-the-cob in the "exotic" section) and the kind of pre-packaged stir-fry mixes which make life so much easier are not the stuff of street markets - but in the main we did very well and I did a comparison online between what we bought for £12.50, and what that would have cost us at the supermarket.

This is what we had on the list:
  • onions (0.5 kilos)
  • tomatoes (1kg)
  • lettuce (1 iceberg, 1 red)
  • spring onions
  • mixed peppers
  • 1 red onion
  • garlic
  • mushrooms (0.5kg)
  • 5 braeburn apples
  • bananas (1kg)
  • 1 courgette
Sainsburys online bought this lot in at a whole £15.71 - or 25% more than the market. Extrapolated over a year that's a saving of £166.92, which seems like a decent amount to me. (And makes me think - what would you spend that amount of money on? That's a festival ticket, or 8 trips to the cinema for myself and Mrs Jay. That's a whole Christmas dinner for 12 people, based on last year's effort, or 0.001% of John Terry's weekly wage.)

Granted, it took us a lot longer to do the shop, but it got us out of the house and we had a good walk together. It meant a little bit more money that will stay (in the main) in the local economy. But the main thing is - it tasted better. I don't mean that I had a warm glow and some sense of moral empowerment, but that the food had more flavour, and surely that's the point?

Anyway, during the week we had a RFFTF special meal. It met all the criteria - quick, easy, cheap and I reckon that kids would love it, so it ticks all of the boxes really. Fish and chips is much maligned, but can be done reasonably healthily, as demonstrated here.

The total cost per head of this meal is about 60p, using value-range white fish fillets (pollock, as it happens - more information about choosing fish is available here), a couple of potatoes and some frozen peas. I had some leftovers in the fridge such as parsley, mint and a lime but you could do without those.
  • cut the potatoes in to wedges, and dry off with kitchen towel to get rid of some of the starch. Put in bowl with a lid and add a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Give the whole thing a good shake so that the chips are covered in the oil and bake in the oven at 200 degrees for about 40 minutes.
  • In the meantime, season some flour on a plate with salt, pepper and finely chopped parsley.
  • Drop the fish in to the flour to coat it (just use a dinner plate, it's the easiest thing) and fry in a little bit of butter and vegetable oil for about 5 minutes on each side, until it's gone golden brown and crispy.
  • Boil the peas with a tablespoon of finely chopped (or dried) mint.
  • Serve with lime wedges, tartare sauce, and a schoolboy grin.


  1. No markets in London? Walthamstow is the bomb, biggest street market in Europe! However my local veg shop is amazing, reminiscent of la boqueria in Barcelona, so I hardly go.

  2. Suzie, I'm sure Walthamstow market is great, but from my old house that's an hour away. The nearest decent veg shops to me were in Brixton, which although only 15 minutes by bus still meant carrying all your veg home by bus!

  3. carrying shopping on the bus? why do you need to take the bus? that's what cycle panniers are for!

  4. Anyone who has ever cycled to my former house will know the pain caused by the mere suggestion of riding up that hill, laden with vegetables!