Market Costs

Denise Irvine counts the benefits of farmers market shopping.

I bought orange roughy from the Raglan Fish Truck at Hamilton Farmers Market a few Sundays back. And along with the fresh fillet – a species rarely in the regular line-up – I got a good tip on cooking it.

Fish truck staffer Guy Noda-Bailey says he typically roasts orange roughy with a few capers on top and makes a mustard sauce to go on the side. I took his advice, tucking the fish (and capers) into a pan with roasted market agria potatoes and carrots about 10 minutes before the vegetables were finished. The fillet held together well, it was moist and delicate, with extra zip from the capers and mustard sauce. Just like Guy said.

Waikato Farmers Markets, held on Saturdays at Victoria Square in Cambridge and Sundays at Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton, have many bonuses, and along with the fresh local meats, fish, vegetables, fruit, eggs, cheese, preserves and the like, there is the added value of culinary advice and food storage tips from the people who grow, catch and make the market bounty.

Stallholders say their produce is value for money as well, and on a mid-July Sunday morning we put this to the test with a cost comparison between a bunch of market goodies and a similar trolley load from my local Hamilton supermarket. Market manager Jen Wilkinson had assembled and priced produce from various stalls for the survey, and a little later in the day I checked them against supermarket prices.

Jen says there is sometimes a perception that farmers markets will be more expensive because produce is mostly spray free and organic, therefore prices must be through the roof. She says this is largely the view of people who don’t shop at the market. “Because if you do, you realise that our prices are competitive.”

The competitive pricing was borne out in the survey (see table below), intended as an (unscientific) indication of costs and potential savings for market shoppers. Market vegetables scored well on the table, as did the pork belly, and certainly there was nothing “through the roof” compared with supermarket prices.

Then there are the intangibles that you can’t put a price on, the culinary tips and product information available from stallholders in the best tradition of paddock-to-plate shopping. With a few gems shared here:

Teresa Linehan, Tender Fresh Produce: If your broccoli goes a bit limp it will be because it is dehydrated. Trim the stalks and sit it in water and it will come back to life. Spinach can also become dehydrated. Dunk it in water and it will quickly refresh.

Jono Walker, Soggy Bottom Holdings,
on a couple of no-fail methods of cooking pork belly: Rub the skin with salt and roast slowly, uncovered, for four to five hours, at 80°C. Then blast it at 250°C for the final few minutes, watching it until the skin blisters and the crackling is perfect. Or wrap pork belly in greaseproof paper, place in a slow-cooker with a little water, cook it all day, then salt the skin and blast it in a very hot oven or under the grill to finish.

Richard Cato, Pirongia Mountain Vegetables, on getting the best out of your veggies: 1. To eliminate the sometimes strong smell of fresh cabbage, cut the heavy ribs out, slice the leaves, lay out on a chopping board for 10 minutes and the cabbage will mellow. Next, bring a pot of salted water to the boil, put the sliced leaves in, bring back to the boil (uncovered), drain and eat. For coleslaw, drizzle sliced cabbage with lemon juice and leave to mellow before making the slaw. 2. Don’t throw away the thick white stalks of silverbeet; chop into small bits, simmer until just tender, drain and mix into a good old-fashioned cheese sauce or turmeric sauce. 3. A tip Richard gleaned from chef Jamie Oliver in a lockdown video that adds value to cauliflower by using the outer leaves: chop up nice bits of cauliflower leaves and stalks, sweat them in oil with chopped celery, leek and garlic till soft, incorporate veggies into a cheese sauce, with everything blitzed with a stick-blender at the end and mixed into a tasty mac ‘n’ cheese made with cauliflower florets and pasta. (Full recipe at

Last word on market value is from regular shopper Jan, always with a bag full of produce on a Sunday morning, who says the shelf-life of market vegetables outstrips anything she might buy from other sources. “These () last way longer than some others that dissolve in your fridge before you know it.”


Waikato Farmers Market prices, supermarket in brackets 

Sourdough loaf: $7 ($5)

1kg bag agria potatoes: $4 ($3.49)

Lettuce: $3 (butter lettuce $4.50; iceberg $7)

Quarter pumpkin: $3 ($2.50)

Broccoli head: $3 ($2.80)

Cauliflower: $3 ($5.50)

Bunch silverbeet: $3 ($5.79)

1 x leek: $2 ($3)

Bunch baby carrots, 220g: $2 ($3.99/ 250g)

1 dozen free-range eggs: $8.50 ($8.50)

Triple brie cheese 215g: $14 ($11.60/ 220g)

Halloumi (174g): $10 ($8.50/ 200g)

1kg mandarins: $5 ($6.50)

Beef mince 1kg $19 (premium grade beef mince $13/500g)

Pork belly 1kg: $20 ($26.50 on special)

Yoghurt (400g): $5 ($4.50)

Milk, 1.5l, plastic container: $6; glass refill: 1 litre, $3.50 (organic brand $4.80/1 litre; $3.80/750ml

Bunch lilies: $10 ($14.99)

  • Notes: prices vary a little between market stallholders; this was a selection from a number of different producers. Supermarket prices vary, too.
  • Comparing like-with-like was a bit tricky in some instances because market produce is often priced in bundles or bags rather than by the kilogram.
  • I priced the market produce against New Zealand-grown supermarket produce rather than imported veggies, and with milk and yoghurt I went for organic brands that were more in line with the market. Meat was also compared with the supermarket’s premium cuts, and eggs with free-range.




Share This Post