A trip to the local store

Katherine is 320km away, as the crow flies, our nearest major town. This can have its challenges for keeping up the food supply at home. With the use of cool-rooms, freezers and our own 24 hour solar hybrid system, keeping of food is much better for us than it was for our predecessors.

I need to feed a family of  4 and the occasional worker and visitor, in case of wet weather I always try to have enough to last three months, it would be low by the end of three months but it could be done easily enough.  We kill our own beef and occasional goat, have chooks, grow some vegetables and fruits, and I milk goats.

The rest of our food requirements needs to be bought in and considering I sometimes haven’t  been  to town for over 2 months that’s one heck of a shop up for not only food but general household supplies. At the station I have what’s called a store, not your retail store but a storage of all our canned goods and non-perishables in a room attached to the house. It is about 10m X 6m, with a large number of heavy shelves. This room also has our coolroom and acts as the butcher shop when we get a ‘killer’, drop a beast for meat. The store is not unlike a super -sized pantry, I have 4 freezers.


This is just a small area of the store. The labels are for our daughter to practice maths for school

Planning for town begins at-least a week ahead, this trip was predominately to stock up on food and a few other station items. I knew I was taking my station wagon and trailer this trip, other times  we have a small 16 tonne body truck for heavier station items if needed.

I  pre-order some goods so it will be in town on the day I specify to pick up, frozen, chilled and non- perishables from a wholesale group who despatch from Darwin. These are things that I will buy in bulk, such as a boxes of tins of fruit, vegetables, beans, beetroot,  10kg drums of flour, rice, pasta, boxes of bread, whole outers of  toilet paper, cordial, butter by the carton. I can pretty much buy anything from this group as you would buy at your local supermarket, except I buy in boxes like sauces in 4 litre bottles and cereal in 6kg boxes laundry powder in 20kg tubs.  It’s not unusual for this order alone to cost several thousand dollars.

Fruit and Vegetables  I can pre order from a local  store,  20kg bags of potatoes, onions, carrots and the like. Depending on the time of year I’m able to grow a large volume of tomatoes, pumpkins, some salad varieties like Rocket, capsicums, and eggplants. I also grow bananas and fruiting plants like paw-paw, I have planted over 40 fruit trees the last 4 years, mainly mango’s with the odd citrus. The problem with the vegie garden is I have a constant battle with animals that like it too, bugs, fruit fly, bats, Bower birds would you believe constantly stealing my small water sprays, particularly if a bright colour, even pigs are coming in recently, not the vegies as it is very well fenced but the pigs love the mulch around my fruit trees.


This is the recently renovated vegie garden in January 2013. Getting ready to plant about February /March. A small banana section is outside the vegie garden and fruit trees further to the far left in the background. Behind the camera is an area for sprawling plants like pumpkins.

For several days before town it is planning, write everything down, to the smallest thing, nothing worse than getting home and realise you’ve forgotten deodorant, dish cloths, face cream, toothbrushes or other basics that will simply drive you nuts to be without for the next few months.

We have two ways to go to town, shorter of the two is 3 and half hours drive, the rough, is 90km of very corrugated dirt, many creek crossings and some fairly ordinary black soil flats that are treacherous if wet, 100km of a narrow bitumen road, single lane you share with road trains. I should explain here, you don’t really share, when you see them coming you clear off, they can weigh up to 120 tonne. My cars no match and doesn’t play well with trucks, this same road is heavily used by several large aboriginal communities, of which there is no police so all manners of unregistered broken down vehicles often litter sections, abandoned, sometimes on the road, many trades people and tourists, usually towing caravans and boats, these you can share the road with if they don’t decide to play chicken at 100km/hr head on. Not forgetting this road is often frequented by suicidal kangaroos, cattle, horses, donkey’s, pigs, buffalo and carpet snakes and then there’s the birds. This single lane bitumen with blind corners, single lane bridges and a number of water ways which after a wet often have whole sections washed out,  joins the Stuart Highway at Mataranka and then I’m on a two lane road to Katherine. I hate that road with a vengeance so I actually prefer to go the longer way which is much safer.

The long way, 450km, 100km of good dirt, much better maintained dirt, 9 gates and then onto the Stuart Highway just north of Daly Waters, I takes longer but does less damage to your car and gear and simply doesn’t have the volume of on coming traffic, though still with the manic depressed suicidal kangaroos and  other animals like cattle.

Due to the weather and not wishing to overnight in Katherine we try to do town trips in one day. This starts by leaving home at 4.30am, we’ll be in town by usually 10am, hopefully not much wet weather around and the creeks are crossable with no flat tyres or problems on the way, Thank goodness NT has decent speed limits as once I hit that highway that right peddle go’s down, hard.

So four and a half hours of solid driving, after the obligatory chiller ice coffee at Maccas, and a strategic a plan of attack, we go store to store picking up goods and doing the town jobs we need to do.

This is from picking up feed for animals, chemicals for weed control, the stores that we ordered from, hardware stores for small maintenance and repair items, chemists, newsagency, office shop and  irrigation shop for plumbing, car parts, bike parts, tyres, oils. A super quick run through Country Target for essentials like knickers and new bras, just hope there’s a discount sale on. Forget browsing, you still got a list as long as your arm to check off.

Last job is always Woolies, the only major supermarket in Katherine, the largest turnover of all Woolworths shops in Australia is Katherine. This is where I buy the items I really don’t want to have packs of 24 of, like various varieties of ‘tasties’ ,deodorants, various dry foods, noodles and such. If birthday is coming up, like 2-3 months away I need to buy for that too. Have resorted to matches on birthday cakes because I forgot candles. Rarely do I leave this shop without filling at-least 2 trollies and often it’s three.

Out on the car trailer I have 4 large eskies, I put  cold and frozen goods in these, pack with ice and then proceed to find any vacant spot on board, in the car, the roof rack, on the trailer, on seats, under seats, just  keep loading and strapping everything down. If we think wet weather is a chance, we’ll place a tarp over the trailer. Usually the trailer is so loaded now its starting to groan, the tyres look decidedly flatterl The only room left inside is now for hubbie and me to actually sit.

Heading home, always stop at the servo on the way out, fuel up and buy a multitude of life sustaining energy drinks, munchies and chocolate. Going home is usually a slower affair than getting to town, due to the weight. Often taking turns to drive as usually the fast trips hubbie and I tag team the driving, If all going well getting home about 10-11pm that night.

So having used 150 litres of fuel to drive in and out, it normally is a 20 hour day, having spent probably close to $4000 just on food and grocery items, hopefully without hitting any kangaroos, there’s normally several victims, windows haven’t smashed from rocks and trailer bearings have hung together, tyres have stayed up. If all goes to plan it’s a good day, if a long one.

So next time your wandering through an outback town and and leisurely strolling around a supermarket, if you should see a woman struggling with several  trollies, that are ridiculously full, its not that she may have a footy team of strapping hungry teenage sons shes just trying to fit 3 months shopping into 1 hours speed shop. You’ll look at her with sympathy but she’ll only need to say two words “station shopping”  Just give her a smile and plenty of space,  because she’s on a mission and no time for delays.

Oh, but what ever you do, beat her to the checkout because you know those 10 counters they built, there will only have 2 or 3 working at anytime.

Categories: Property operations, Shopping | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “A trip to the local store

  1. Love it Jo!! A truly unique experience is ‘station shopping’!!

  2. Glenda Gray

    Wow Jo, what a refreshing read. I enjoyed every word, and it is wonderful to be able to share this with others so that they too can have a little insight into the everyday challenges and issues of distance that people living in at least 25% of this vast land endure. Well done!

  3. Blaise

    Definately an experience! I just shake my head when
    townies complain about the weekly shop….

  4. fran whitehead

    Hi just read your account of station shopping and I am stunned at what you have to do,here in the uk our supermarket is only 5 minutes away but to hear my husband moan you wld think was at least 300 miles,it was such interesting read ,and I’ll never complain about doing the shopping again,!

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