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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  1. I loved reading your pointers and tips! We love to visit the Mennonite store. I love their slower pace of life, and it is always interesting to see what new things they have. It is a joy to shop with them. God bless you, sweet friend. Praying for you. :)

    1. So good to hear from you... I really enjoy going to the Amish and Mennonite stores and I sure would like to have some closer to us. I have to buy more at a time to hold me over until a future visit. I really think we have lost something by our hurried lives and shallow friendships... in our "up to date" world. Thank you for visiting. I am praying for you. :)

  2. Hi Gentle Joy! This is a great post! We have a local Mennonite store, and a Brethren store in our area, one about 10 miles away, and the other about 30 miles, so we are blessed to have them so conveniently located to us. I think they must all order from a local entity, as I spied many similar products on the shelves of your store, as the ones we visit here. I especially like their lunch meats, because they are cured without any chemicals. I too stock up on the flours, oatmeal and spices there, because they are so amazingly reasonable. But yes, the storage becomes an issue. I, like you, am still working on perfecting a system. I try to save old spice bottles in which to put the spices in, and that seems to work pretty well. Your are right that a list is necessary, because it is so easy to get distracted with so many wonderful things to choose from! An excellent post :)

    1. Good to hear from you and so glad to have your comment... it must be nice to have such stores so close to you! What a blessing!........... I didn't realize that about their lunch meats being cured without chemicals and I am so glad to hear that... thank you for sharing it. On the organizing... I find I am always perfecting my systems (sigh).... always changing things... or needing to. Someday, I may have it just right, but until then, I will keep working on it. Thank you for stopping by... it was a pleasure. :)

  3. Wandered in from Pinterest. Great article. I'm lucky, living just outside of Lancaster and Lebanon counties in Pennsylvania, so have many Amish and Mennonite stores nearby.

    1. So glad you stopped by from Pinterest.... thank you for the comment... What a joy that must be to have lots of Amish and Mennonite stores and to have them close by. :)

  4. This is a great tip list. We have a Amish store right in our county and I have shopped there. Your list is spot on. Is that Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar in a gallon jug? LOL A very useful product indeed!

    1. Thank you... I was hoping what I have learned could be beneficial to others. Yes, it is Braggs Apple Cider vinegar... good stuff.... I buy it by the gallon when I can find it. :) Thank you for visiting.

  5. I had no idea these stores existed. If I'm ever near one, I'd love to pop in and explore. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. They are wonderful... especially if you are a "cook from scratch" type of person. I hope you get the chance to check them out. :) Thank you for visiting.

  6. We found a Amish store not to long ago but it's really too far away to go to. You have some great pointers!

    1. They are a treasure when you find them... I do lament the distance for us also. Thank you for the kind comment... Good to hear from you. :)

  7. Thank you for your great tips and sharing at the Friday at the Fire Station Link-Up! Have a great week!

    1. Thank you for the new linky party... I enjoyed sharing what I have learned. :)

  8. When I was going to school in Pennsylvania I was fortunate to be able to buy Amish items at the farmers market on Friday. The items they produce always have the best quality. I really miss some of the breads and flowers I got to buy from them. You are fortunate to have a store in your state.

    1. I agree... we are blessed to be able to go there even though it is not often... such a wonderful store. How nice you were able to benefit from what they sold.. I haven't seen them near us at the Farmer's Market, but I will probably check when I get to one again. Thank you. :)

  9. That's really interesting...good tip on the brooms ;)

    1. Thank you... it seems that the more I look around in that place, the more I find that is a good price, or something I can use. I do like the brooms-it's been a while since I was at the one, so I hope they still have them.. I am getting close to needing a new one. :)

  10. great post, I enjoyed reading it. If I ever get a chance I would love to visite Amish/Mennonite places including stores. I guess all the products are organic which makes it even more worth visiting and buying.

    1. Thank you... so glad you enjoyed it. I hope you get the chance to visit... so many good reasons to shop at such a store. :) Thank you for visiting.

  11. It has been a couple years since I shopped at an Amish or Mennonite store. I wish they weren't so far away.
    I liked all of your pointers. You sound like you have a lot experience. :)

    1. Thank you... I agree, it would be nice if they were closer..... but I guess that makes it even more special for when we can get there. :) Thank you for visiting.

  12. I live in one of the most Mennonite dense areas of Canada, & I'm married into a Mennonite family, but I've never once heard of a store. I know we can go to various colonies & buy a lot of things direct from them, & they set up their own farm stores in their communities as well as being fixtures at Farmer's Markets all over the area & into the city too, but I would love to shop a store like the ones you describe - I wonder what state you are in?
    The stores in the southern part of this province have numerous Menno employees & consiquently stock many Menno essentials (such as whole star anise, which I couldn't make Gramma's chicken soup without!)
    I came to visit by way of the AIM link party - Please feel welcome to visit the 4Shoes anytime!

    1. Wow- that is surprising and very interesting... We go to the stores in Missouri-2-3 Amish and 1 Mennonite. There are a few others in Missouri that I know of, but haven't visited. I have been to Amish stores in Michigan and Indiana when I lived up that way. The store closest to us is still about 1 1/2 hours away, so we don't get there often. Thank you so much for your wonderfully informative comment... it was nice to hear from you... :)

  13. Thanks from Grammy Dee, #WednesdayAIMLinkParty, social media shared.

  14. Very good tips! I wish we had some Amish and Mennonite stores closer to where I live in Minnesota. The only ones I've been to have been to places I've visited on vacation. In southeastern Minnesota, many of the Amish families have businesses that you can visit and purchase directly from them. The prices are very reasonable - especially for baked goods and fresh produce.

    1. It does seem like you need to travel to such places... that's why I tend to stock up when I get to one of the stores. :) I do appreciate the prices and selections. Thank you for visiting. :)

  15. I have only been to a few Amish stores so I stock up when I can. I can't imagine one not having lights! The one I went to in Michigan had a generator going. That helped. Great tips!

    1. I have heard a generator going at ours.... for the refrigeration section, but the lights I saw looked to be oil lamps. Maybe they have more, but nothing was used except for daylight when we have been there... even when it was really cloudy and not very light. I guess I am too used to turning on our electric lights at such a time! I sure enjoy those stores, but it has been quite a long time since we have gone... and not sure when we will be able to go again. I do miss them. :)