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While you’re reading this, I’ll be taking my semi-annual “Grocery Tour of Amish Country.”  What exactly is that?

I am lucky enough to live near Amish country.  If you do too, or think you might, you should check it out.  They have a wealth of excellent food options there for a fairly low amount of money!  

Caveat: there is also a lot of junk.  You have to skip over that part.  There is wall-to-wall candy, cookies, sprinkles, fake cheese, and all kinds of other not-really-food items.  Just because it’s Amish doesn’t make it healthy.  You have to read labels and be smart, just like anywhere else, and this is especially true in the touristy shops, but also true in the “real” Amish shops.

Why Shop in Amish Country?

The truth is, I can get a lot of great food items there that I can’t get elsewhere, or for crazy low prices.  Here’s just a brief sampling:

  • Wheat berries ($0.50/lb. vs. over $1/lb. locally)
  • Sucanat ($1.85/lb. vs. $3.50 – $5/lb. locally)
  • Real Salt (hard to find locally)
  • Spices (big containers might be $2 – $5)
  • Maple syrup ($36/gal vs. $50/gal locally)
  • Discount groceries
  • Seasonal produce

I might find more than that, depending on the day.  I also sometimes look for cane sugar, coconut oil, gluten-free pasta, nitrate-free deli meat, cheese, and more.

Discount Groceries

Amish country has quite a few “scratch’n’dent” type grocery stores.  These often contain a surprising number of natural and organic options.  I can find good brands of crackers, snack bars, applesauce pouches, and other “fun snacks” for a tiny fraction of what it would cost locally.  I don’t love to have a ton of these around instead of truly nourishing foods, but they are nice to have when we are on the go, which is often in the summer.  I still read labels and choose cautiously, but if I can get a ” baby food” pouch for $0.25 (instead of the $1.50 I’d pay locally) I will buy a bunch for the kids to have as healthy snacks.

Seasonal Produce

At this time of year, I’ll be seeking out strawberries, which I will be freezing for later (mostly).  I also like to go in late August to grab tomatoes, potatoes, onions, green peppers, elderberries, and lots more.  It feels like almost everything is in season then!  The true Amish stands, run by individual families, are often the best deal, and I have some I like to frequent.  Last year I found tomatoes for only $12/bushel!  (For those not familiar, that’s barely $0.30/lb.)

I Don’t Have Amish Country!

I know.  Most of you don’t live near Amish country.  For you guys, the take away is this: look for unconventional sources for your food.  It just might be awesome and save you money.

Drive around in the summer and look for little family-run produce stands.  Look for scratch’n’dent grocery places (they often do not have websites and do not advertise, and seem to be more common outside of cities).  Ask friends where they shop.  Don’t ignore discount grocery stores (like Aldi).  All of these places have some good options for real foodies!

In the next week or so, I’ll be sharing what I actually end up buying and what I do with it all.  My goal is constantly to stretch food further, to increase the quality of my family’s food while decreasing the price.  As they are growing in physical size and number (we have four kids and our oldest is 5, and they can eat a lot), that’s becoming increasingly difficult.  Most of the time I appreciate the challenge. 🙂

What are your best “unconventional” grocery sources?

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1 Comment

  1. I shop at this Amish store which is about an hour away so only go quarterly,but the prices are so much better on some things like yeast,unsweetened coconut flakes,cornstarch,spices,baking powder,etc. The owner says nothing is GMO. I also like getting their eggs,but need another source since can’t go there all the time. However flour,chocolate chips,etc. aren’t a deal so yes have to compare prices like everywhere. Amish area is a little further yet,but will have to go on an exploring trip soon. I plan on doing some canning this year and can’t afford much so if I can get cheap tomatoes and other stuff it would be worth it.

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