It’s reasonable to think that the geographical proximity to the places you work or live is going to play the greatest hand in deciding where you’ll do your grocery shopping. But if you’ve ever been embarrassingly excited upon discovering a particular ham, chocolate or strange root vegetable in the aisle of some less-frequented grocer, it does prove rewarding to make an effort to visit new places.

These foodie hubs are expanding their repertoire to help feed us, providing much in the way of organic produce and encouraging us to not buy in bulk so much but to buy our food thoughtfully. And in a world where anonymous supermarkets can try to control so much of what we eat, we like these alternatives. Here are a few of our favourites.

Alfalfa House
This corner terrace on Enmore Road looks rather shambolic and bohemian, or at least, it doesn’t look like a grocer. But inside, it’s brimming with flours, pulses, grains and locally-sourced produce, all unpackaged and able to be bought in whatever quantity you need. Their BYO containers and bags policy is difficult not to admire (unless you forget, of course). With true dedication to all things seasonal, minimally packaged and wholesome, the profits are re-distributed back into running this independent, non-profit co-operative (members get a further discount). A great go-to place for those obscure, hard-to-find ingredients.

113 Enmore Road, Newtown
(02) 9519 3374

Norton Street Grocer
The masses of glossy fruit tell you it’s a little different to your corner store grocer, and that’s confirmed by the plethora of pastes, honeys, snacks, foreign sweets and the fact that they opened a second store in Bondi Junction. With a formidable range of produce and products, it might be more apt to think of this as a supermarket for food-centric souls. The size precludes it from ever being your humble grocery store, but in providing a halfway house between that and a mega-market, you do manage to get a lot of variety and boutique offerings. The truly time-poor can order online, but you might miss the fun of unearthing a new jam or sauce.

Norton Plaza, Norton Street, Leichhardt
(02) 9572 7511

Shop 1027, Westfield Shopping Centre, Bondi Junction
(02) 9386 5800

Fratelli Fresh – Waterloo, Potts Point, Walsh Bay, CBD
Born in an era in which the word ‘rustic' became endemic to culinary description, this small chain of providores echoes that idea to a small degree, importing provincial elements to modern settings. The effect seems to be that of smartening up the average grocery shopping experience, without forgetting its origins. The addition of the various Cafe Sopras doesn’t hurt of course. After all, there’s always that wise piece of advice to never shop for groceries on an empty stomach.

(Cafe Sopra and Fratelli Fresh keep different hours, check the website)

Dr Earth Health Foods – Newtown
More of a haphazard organic bazaar rather than a dedicated grocer, a visit to Dr Earth Health Foods just means that you pick up some unexpected items while grabbing your fruit and vegetables for the week. With bento boxes, water bottles with in-built filters, essential oils and elixirs from the beauty aisle, this place might prove rather distracting, even if you’ve accounted for things like broccoli and beetroot chips. There’s an extensive range of vegan products and foods for specific intolerances and while the produce section is relatively abbreviated, it’s entirely organic and fresh.

287–289 King Street, Newtown
(02) 9550 2554

Crown Street Grocer – Surry Hills
A family-run store stuffed with delectable bits and pieces. From a rainbow of Lindt chocolate, to variants of capers that you’ve never even considered, there’s a surprising amount of variety here, considering the size of the space. The selection of produce is moderate, but it’s exactly enough for you to grab your essential fruit and vegetables while occasionally find pondering something new to inspire a novel dish in the kitchen. For those who prefer to do their grocery shopping in the most leisurely manner possible, there’s always the option of grabbing a simple lunch and coffee from the deli counter and doing a spot of people watching before you dive in.

1/365–373 Crown Street, Surry Hills
(02) 8668 5326

Earth Food Store
With 20 years of organic trade under its belt, you’d expect Earth Food Store to be nothing short of marvellous. It’s no mistake. Produce is presented in beautiful baskets stacked upon stained wooden shelves; the displays alone invite you to dream up new dishes. To help you along, the cafe deals in tarts, salads, muffins and coffee among other things – all dictated by the seasons. There are great options for vegans and gluten intolerants, cutting down on finicky requests for your casual lunch.

81a Gould Street, Bondi Beach
(02) 9365 5098