Friday, February 17, 2017

10 Tips For Shopping at Amish or Mennonite Stores

I love shopping at Amish or Mennonite stores. What a blessing such stores are to my big family. As I have shopped in these for a few years, I have learned a few things that I'd like to share with you....

1. Take a list

    I have gone shopping and been sure I would remember what I needed. That doesn't always work well in a regular grocery store and it REALLY doesn't work well in an Amish or Mennonite store, unless you are only seeking a very few items. These stores are marvelous... and can also be overwhelming in all of the choices offered. A list helps to remember the needed items without stressing, which allows you to enjoy looking at some new items also.

2. Be prepared to store large quantities

    One wonderful thing is buying in bulk, but that also means you will need to deal with large bags. I buy 50 pounds of flour or oatmeal, which is great, but I do not put a 50 pound bag on the shelf in my pantry as that would not be convenient, nor do I have the room for it. You will need to develop a system of storing the larger bag safely and protect it from  moisture, bugs or damage while you also use it to fill a smaller container for the cupboard. For the oats, I fill buckets, with tight lids, and label them... for oatmeal, flour, sugar or whatever. The buckets can be stacked in the basement, garage or other places. You can find them free or for a low price from bakeries and the food is protected. Smaller more convenient containers will work well in the cupboard or pantry and can be refilled as needed.

    Other foods.... herbs, salt, baking powder and more come in plastic containers or bags. If you have the room, some of the containers are a great size to use in the cupboard, but sometimes they can also be cumbersome.... especially if you have a large variety, like I do. I have a system, that I am currently trying to revise to be even more workable.

3. Take cash

     Take cash unless you know for sure that they accept credit, debit cards or checks. Some stores have updated to these and others have not. Having cash will ensure you can actually buy things when you are in that wonderful store... While there you can see what their policies are for future reference.

4.  Be flexible

     Many of the same products will be in stock every time you go, but some are seasonal... like fresh produce, garden seeds, certain herbs and more. It is nice to see items that I didn't realize I would even find there and I have found many treasures that we use often.

5.  Be prepared to guess

      Realize that the bulk items will not have much information on the labels. There are not usually directions on how to use the item. Sometimes you can ask at the store... or experiment. I have found some great items, but didn't know the "right" way to use them, so had to figure it out. Sometimes that was good... sometimes not. Don't be afraid to learn... but also don't get too many new things at once so that it becomes overwhelming.

6.  Think about trying a new item

      I have enlarged my supply to include so many great items... many times because of the excitement of the great variety I have found in the Amish/Mennonite store. Some things have become permanent fixtures in my panty, others are occasional, while others are not replaced after I use them up the first time.

       I have been able to find many new herbs at the Amish store and have loved learning to use them and I maintain a large supply of herbs for various uses. It is nice to replenish some of my herb stock from the Amish store. There are also various sizes of salt or sugar crystals that are nice to use in baking rather than the one size I have used for years. There are all kinds of great things, but they won't be great for you and your family if you don't use them.

     By the way, I have bought some things in my zeal and used the reasoning that it must be healthy and a good thing if the Amish or Mennonites use it. That isn't always true and it isn't the best reasoning either. Trial and error can be a good teacher.

7.   Plan to do research on some things

     If you buy an herb in a container with only the name on it and aren't sure what it is used for, you must not assume it would make a great tea to drink... some will and some are only meant for external use. There are many great herbs at a good price and I have expanded my knowledge by buying a new herb or two at a time and researching to figure out how to use it. The lack of information is quite foreign to those of us "Englishers" who typically shop in regular stores. This can be quite daunting at first, but just plan to do your own research and it will work great.

8.  Buy a bit extra

     Most Amish/Mennonite stores are in out-of-the-way places or deep in the country. They are not stores that tend to be easy to run to pick up one or two items, so usually we don't go to these stores as often. It is hard to have a staple that we only get at the Amish store and to have to be without it for months after we run out. Our Amish store is 100 miles away and our Mennnonite store is over 150 miles away, so we don't go often at all. We usually go when traveling to see family as we are closer to the stores then. Sometimes I have made a special trip to the Amish store to resupply when we needed a lot, but that is rare and it is combined with a home school field trip.

9.  Not all Amish/Mennonite stores are the same

     Prices and supplies vary from store to store. I find that our Amish store has a much better supply of herbs than the Mennonite store. They also have better prices on the bulk herbs, spices and 50 pound sacks of flour and oatmeal. They also carry a no-msg chicken soup stock powder and the Mennonite store does not.  However, the Mennonite store has markdown items-damaged freight type stuff.... and I get wonderful prices on vitamins, canned goods, jams and jellies, granola bars, yogurt, regular spices and much more. Each store has a special place in my heart for different reasons. Sometimes, I will buy the more expensive bulk items at the Mennonite store because I tend to get to it more often and the prices are not terribly high and it is worth it to me if I can't get to the Amish store.

10.  Some items will be cheaper in a "regular" grocery store

     I was surprised to see some "Aldi" groceries at these stores. Since I shop at Aldi, I know many of their prices and saw that they are marked up higher in the Amish/Mennonite stores. I think the reason is that the Amish and Mennonite stores sell to us (Englishers), but mostly to Amish and Mennonite who are helped in having the convenience of these foods for just a bit of mark up. For us, it is cheaper to just buy them on the next trip to the regular grocery store.... The items I have seen like this include: saltines, chocolate chips, salad dressing and more.  The price is not a huge difference, but enough for me to avoid buying what I can buy cheaper elsewhere.

11.  Extra Tips

     These stores may not have electricity so on cloudy days it can be hard to see... especially to see the prices of items on the bottom shelves. I asked a proprietor at a sweet little Amish store if he would be offended if I brought a flashlight and he laughed and said he wouldn't.  :)

        ~Take snacks or lunch/don't plan on fast food nearby...
        ~Plan to dress modestly to show respect. Jeans or capris are fine, but it is best not to wear revealing clothes.
       ~Also restrict photographs and don't take pictures of the people.
       ~Take note of the days and hours of operation for future reference, since some stores do not have phones or websites.
      ~Take a cooler w/ ice for transporting cold things back to your house.
      ~There may not be any cell phone reception
      ~ I like the brooms at our Amish store and have paid about $5 each....
      ~There may be other non-food supplies that could be helpful
      ~Sometimes the first container of herbs will be washed out and drained of color because of too much exposure to the light. If it is extreme, I choose one from further back which has more color and nutrition.

   If you have the chance to visit an Amish or Mennonite store, I hope you will take the opportunity to enjoy shopping.  If you have other tips on shopping at an Amish or Mennonite store, I would love to see them and so would other readers... just share them in the comments.

Thank you for visiting my blog and please return soon. I hope you have a wonderful day.  :)

"The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad."  Psalm 126:3

Another post about Amish Store shopping you may enjoy:
    Trip To The Amish Store

     #Amish #Mennonite #shopbulk #shopping #tips

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Friday, January 27, 2017

Crispy Drumstick Fun (Recipe included)

These are Drumstick treats....  with instructions on how to make them.

We like to take a fun food for the church dinner at least one time a year and we try to do something different each year. We have done some cute ones, like olive penguins, cauliflower sheep, melted snowman cookies,  ladybugs on crackers.. and more.

You can check those other fun foods out here....   
Fun Foods We Have Made

After I saw these on Pinterest(at least they were similar to these! :), I knew these were the treats for this year's Thanksgiving Feast dinner. They were a huge hit with the kids and adults alike.

We didn't have any directions on this, just a picture... so this is what we figured out to do:

Have long pretzel rods and mini marshmallows ready. Also have melted white chocolate ready, as well as a sheet of waxed paper on a cookie sheet.

 Directions: See picture above for illustration of each step

1. Break each pretzel rod in half ( or as many as you need. That big container of pretzel rods will be a lot more than needed!)

2. Dip one end of the pretzel rod (one-half of one) into the melted white chocolate.

3. Immediately attach 2 mini marshmallows to the melted chocolate and lay it on the waxed paper to set. When the cookie sheet is full, set it in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes.

4. Remove the cookie sheet from fridge. Dip each pretzel rod half with the marshmallows on it, into the melted white chocolate to cover about half or a little more of the rod. Return the cookie sheet to the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes.
                                          Rice Krispy Treats

1/4 c. butter
1 package regular marshmallows                    Melt  on low heat, stirring until melted.
6 cups crispy rice                                             Stir in until well coated.

5. After making a batch of Rice Krispy Treats, pull the cookie sheet out of the refrigerator and using a spoon, scoop some of the warm Rice Krispy treat from the pan onto your buttered hand and form it around the pretzel stick and put it back on the waxed paper. You need to work quickly to do this and you can go back to do a bit more shaping of each drumstick, as needed.

 These can look like fried chicken and they are so fun.  We served some on a gingham covered tray, as shown.  We also wrapped some individually with plastic wrap and put them in a bowl with the "bone" side up and that was really cute also, but no picture of that, sorry.

We did better as we went along on these and you will too.  You can make them bigger than we did or smaller. The amount shown here on the gingham, took about a whole batch of the Rice Krispy Treats.

These were fun and enjoyed. One lady did say that they almost looked too real!  :)   My daughter and I made these and it was fun to work together with her... some special time together for just the two of us.

These were great for our church fellowship dinner. They would also be fun for a picnic, Super Bowl party, tailgate party, school treats, or other places. 

If you have made these, or intend to, I would love to hear about it in the comments. I would also love to hear any of your comments about these.  Thank you for visiting my blog today. I hope you are having a wonderful week.

#SuperBowl #SuperBowlSnacks #SuperBowlFoods #RiceKrispyTreats #Drumsticks #Funfoods

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Friday, April 8, 2016

Adding Built-In Bookshelves

The space between the stairs and a bathroom in the family room seemed to be a great spot for more shelves.

I have found built-ins to be sometimes  too limiting for me, but this seemed to be a perfect place for floor to ceiling and wall to wall bookshelves.

  Our family room is used as our library and we have had many bookshelves that hold thousands of books.

 The family room is long and rather narrow and the extra bookshelves made the room look smaller, so this seemed a good way to add more storage space and then free up floor space at the same time.

This wall has been rather useless to us even though it looked nice... it had 2 wall lights (the places where the cut-outs are) that were in an awkward spot. We have had a large mirror on this wall or a picture, even a small desk.. and we also tried having bookshelves here, but the lights tended to glare in our eyes, making it hard to see the books. This spot just always ended up being not too useful to us.

Our oldest son agreed to build the shelves for us. What a blessing!

Here he was removing the paneling to access the wiring to change the lighting... I hadn't taken a before picture, so he's holding it for the picture. :) 

The wall is open... he had closed off the wiring from the other light fixtures and will put 2 recessed lights in the ceiling above and in front of the area the bookcase will go. 

 There wasn't any secret treasure inside the wall.... we looked.  :)

The wire hanging down had to be taken down to remove the wall... it is wiring for cameras that another son installed outside.

After this picture, they just hooked it up a bit to get it to stay out of the way until the family room project is done.

Son #1 put the new lights in... you can see one of them in this picture. It sure added a LOT more light to the area.

He started the bookshelf with putting the frame up.

He added shelving and we talked of how to make sure it would be sturdy. He is very good at working with wood and it was a delight to see the work he did. We rarely get to see the work he does since he does it on his job.

 It was  treat to have him here at our house more often and to see the wonderful work. 

He put supports in the middle of each shelf and then added a slim board along the front of each shelf as a finishing touch. He also arched the top of each side so that it would match the built in shelves that are beside the fireplace in the same room.

The bookshelves are 6 feet wide x 8 feet tall and are wall to wall and floor to ceiling. This picture shows them before they are totally finished... there will be more to come.

This will be my resource library... for books on health and nutrition, herbs, cookbooks, and much more.

These shelves allowed me to get rid of several freestanding bookcases in the room and should help to give the room more space. What a blessing.

The family room project will continue in future posts as we make more changes in paint, ceiling and fireplace. I hope you will return to see what these shelves look like all painted with the new paint colors.

Thank you for visiting.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Old Fashioned Toys-Pattern Blocks

If you haven't heard of, or used, pattern blocks, I want to show you what they are and how they are used.

Pattern blocks come in a set with 6 shapes and each shape is a different color. Some sets have variations in the color which is what we have since we have many sets now, and they are all used together.

The shapes can be fitted together to form patterns. These patterns can be simple as little ones make trucks, people or other things with them, using lots of imagination, of course.

More complex designs can also be made... many times just by accident as a child (or adult!) just starts moving the pieces and experimenting. 

There are hundreds of possibilities... probably even more.

It is also possible to buy cards that have colored patterns on the cards and then the child can put the pattern blocks on the cards to reproduce the pattern.

You can also buy books with patterns that are only black and white and then child puts the correct pattern block on the page(without having the color to help them) and reproduces the pattern.

These can be done at a slower pace or as they get faster, they can be timed, to make it more fun.

In these patterns, you can see the optical illusions that are possible... the cubes that seem to stand out.

My kids enjoyed the structured play with these blocks... using the patterns on paper, but they REALLY enjoyed the free creativity with them while they made their own patterns. 

This pattern is a continuation of the pattern above-not the one right above, but the one before... she added to the existing design above and created one that looked even different.

We have taken these pattern blocks outside for playing with the neighbor kids. The neighbor kids go to public school and always seem to wonder about our homeschool. The funny thing is that they love the simple toys like this even though they have many electronic and modern toys to use. 

We have also brought these out when we have had company and it is surprising how many people have never seen these, but enjoy using them.

Sometimes, my kids like to try some building designs.   :)

This looks like a mosaic. There are many ways to use these blocks for learning. Kids can learn about symmetry in design. They can learn to appreciate the art of their siblings. 

I have used these pattern blocks years ago, to design a simple quilt pattern. It was nice to see and play with the possibilities before I started cutting out fabric and sewing it together. No, this isn't the design I used. :)

We bought our first set of pattern blocks about 20 years ago for about $20.00. At the time, we chose to buy the foam blocks because they were quieter and we had a child with special medical issues and needed the quiet. Those were nice (although some of them ended up with teething marks from the toddlers! :)  

 We have also had plastic blocks and wooden ones. The wood ones are, by far, our favorites, so we sold the others and have added to our original set of 100 blocks or so. I have found them at garage sales and I buy them when I can. We now have a large set and can make lots of designs, even when we have several people using them at the same time.   :) 

We first bought these as they were required for our math curriculum manipulatives... the set offered for the curriculum only had a small amount of these blocks, so we decided to buy a larger set. It was hard to pay that much as money was very tight, but we have not been sorry. It was one of those great purchases. Some of you have parents and grandparents who want ideas of what to buy for your children... this is a great one... especially as a family "toy". Smaller sets would be fun, but a larger set that you can add to is even better.

 These red "arms" almost look braided. There are so many possibilities for using these blocks. I hope I have shown you enough to spark your interest in them.

By the way, I am a mom who doesn't really like battery operated toys or electronic toys much at all. I love the kinds of toys that stimulate my children to think, to experiment, to learn... as they play and have fun. That is why I am so in favor of these blocks.

Yes, as my kids get older, they do use computers and cell phones and other electronics, but I am glad we focused on the simple old fashioned toys the most.

We made all of these designs in the last few weeks as we listened to some Science lectures. What a blessing to have our hands busy and to also learn about Creation and the flood and more. It had been quite a long time since we had these out and we all enjoyed our time.

 Thank you for visiting. If you have used pattern blocks, I would love to hear about it. If you haven't, I would love to hear from you also. I hope you have a great week.  :)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Top 10 Gentle Joy Homemaker 2015

The top 10 posts published in 2015 on the Gentle Joy Homemaker blog are listed here.

Feel free to click on the title of each (it is actually a link) and the post will come up for you.

           Number 10

 Garage Sale Series-Hints and Tips


                Number 9

   Small Garden-Part 3-More Beds

                Number 8

   Pulled Chicken on Homemade Buns

        Number 7 

Small Garden-Part 4-Companion Planting 

      Number 6

Small Garden-Part 2-Growing UP 


                  Number 5 

 Small Garden-Part 1-Crop Rotation 

         Number 4

 Yes, I'm Sleep Deprived, So What??? Part 2 

                 Number 3

                Dress Up A Plain Cabinet 

          Number 2

8 Things To Do When Sickness Strikes 

Number 1 for 2015

Trip To The Amish Store 

It's been a challenging year, but it has also been a good year. Thank you for joining me in it. I hope you have a wonderful 2016.  

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