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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