Keeping a Low Grocery Budget by Shopping from Amish

I’m convinced grocery prices are going up and the good deals are getting fewer and are harder to find. When I first started blogging a year and a half ago, I had a pretty easy time holding my grocery budget steady at around $250 a month – for my family of 6. But that’s not the case anymore. A number of factors contribute:

  • My kids are getting bigger and eating more.
  • I’m finding fewer coupons for products I’ll buy. Last year for instance, I stocked up on pasta for almost FREE. I’ve been waiting and waiting to pair coupons with a sale to get free pasta this year, but it hasn’t happened. I haven’t gone completely coupon free, though. I still use them for organic produce and yogurt as well as toiletries.
  • Prices are increasing. Everyone says this and I think it’s true.
  • I’m getting pickier about organic produce and quality meat.

One way I have still been keeping my grocery budget low, though, is to buy in bulk at Amish stores.

On Monday, my kids and I loaded up in the van and headed out to Amishland aka Kalona, Iowa – it’s about a 40 minute drive for us. Since we live in the middle of no where, I have to drive SOMEWHERE to get most of my groceries (anywhere from 15-35 minutes away). So going to Kalona really isn’t that big of a deal.

We stopped at two stores in Kalona: Stringtown Grocery and (Ye Olde) Community Country Store.

I buy bulk wheat at Stringtown, peanut butter, and honey and other things. A 50lb bag of wheat berries costs $24 – a fabulous price! And 12 lbs of raw honey costs $35.75 or just under $3 a pound.

At (Ye Olde) Community Country Store, I buy eggs – beautiful farm fresh brown eggs for $1.55 a dozen!

Don’t those look like happy chickens?

One chicken flew the coop and was hiding under the shed!

I also ordered a 1/2 a pig! One of my Healthy New Years Resolutions was to find a healthy source for pork and chicken. I already have a great source of local beef, but I want to stop buying all grocery store meat. It might be cheap – but I’m not convinced it’s cheaper – and I’m tired of feeling rotten for eating CAFO meat, for a number of reasons.

So on Monday I stopped at a random Amish house and ordered me a 1/2 a pig! I’ve noticed the sign on the highway before – offering Grass-Fed Beef and Chemical Free Pork. Monday we drove down the lane and stopped at the house. I felt a little awkward driving up to a stranger’s house. The Amish women were doing laundry in the shed. One of them greeted me (sort of) and headed to the house to find the man. He came out and ushered me into his house! I was secretly thrilled. I have a real curiosity about the Amish way of life – it’s a linguistic curiosity since they speak a variation of German which I can {sort of} understand if I listen really carefully. But I’m also so curious about their life choices. I would not want to give up my modern conveniences but I love watching them!

But back to the pork. Paul, the Amishman, explained the way it works. I gave him a $100 deposit and he gave me a receipt. ;-) The pork will be  ready sometime in June/July and will be processed at Bud’s Locker. I’ve driven by Bud’s before so I know it’s a real place. A half a pork costs $1.50 per pound (on the rail – which means pre-processing weight) and yields somewhere around 110 pounds – also on the rail. So I won’t get 110 pounds of pork, because some of that weight includes bones and stuff. Paul also explained that bacon will not be what I’m used to as it likely won’t be seasoned. I’m curious about the bacon!

I’ll also have to pay locker fees. I’m not sure how much they will be, but processing for my 1/4 cow runs right around $100. I’m purely hypothesizing here, but let’s say I end up with 80 lbs of pork in June/July. I’ll owe Paul $165 if the on-the-rail weight comes in at 110 lbs. If the locker fees are around $75, my total will come to $240. If it yields 80 lbs of pork, that’s $3 per pound – for pork chops, ham, bacon, ribs, and whatever else I end up with. That’s not bad! But like I said, I have no idea how much it will yield, or what the locker fees are. I’ll let you know if June/July! $3 per pound is a little more than my grocery price-point list, but we have decided to increase our spending to get better products.

If you’d like more information on shopping from Amish, read these posts I wrote last year about shopping at Amish Produce Auctions!

Do you shop at Amish stores? I’d love to hear your experiences.

This post is linked at: Frugal Friday; Monday Barn Hop; Morris Tribe; Fat Tuesday; Frugal Tuesday; Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways; Wednesday Homestead Hop; Healthy2day Wednesday; Simple Lives Thursday; Freaky Friday;

 

Comments

  1. liz says

    I live rather close to amish,5 to up to 15 miles away. I love to buy staight from there houses. Every tuesday in the fall we get very fresh cider,same day squeeze:) also love the corn and other veggies,usually very affordable because they have sooo much of it. haven’t seen too much yet this year so far,other than eggs and maple. But i know soon enough i can start canning all the wonderful things they offer. I buy from them very often but have never been invited into a home:)

    • says

      Well…I was on his enclosed porch. And I felt strange! I said I didn’t want to impose and his response was he runs a home-based business “Come on in.” :-) I tried not to stare too much…

  2. says

    That sounds fabulous. My hubs and I were talking about buying meat from a (non-amish in these parts) farmer once we move into a house and get a large freezer. I can’t wait! I wish we had similar sources out here for other pantry products or produce, but living in Las Vegas is like living on an island. There really aren’t towns nearby and everything is imported. Hopefully we can get started on a good garden with said house and take care of half the problem. As for pantry items, I guess we’ll still be ordering flour online. All that to say, I’m so jealous! :)

  3. Becky Honey says

    we shop at a Minnonite store it’s like an old general store. I buy in bulk there. I buy my flour and sugar in 50 lb bag my yeast in 3 lb pks all kinds of goodies in bulk. It’s fresher better for us no extra stuff added plus I like helping the small businesses. We have all our meat processed at a meat locker own by the Minnonites it is the cleanest locker I have ever been too or used out of at least 5. We picked up a beef we had raised to butcher this week it was 42 cents a lb to process it.

  4. says

    Years ago I decided to never buy pork from the store. There is a reason why it is a felony to carry concealed cameras into those factory farms: the Big Ag lobbies do not want consumers to see what is going on because they might, like us, stop buying the product.

    We bought a hog this year from an Amish farmer near Maryville, MO. He seriously undercharged me, and so did the processor: $150 for the hog and $100 for great quality processing. That’s 141 pounds of chops, roasts, bacon, ribs, ground… Half of our freezer, and it will take us until next year to eat it.

    Our nearest Amish store must buy expiring dry goods at auction. There is cheap, cheap stuff but the packages are dinged up. I scored three pounds of dry garbanzo beans for $1.20! The bags were dusty, but so what? They do sell bulk spices and other baking needs and are the only place around to get carob chips.

  5. says

    We love shopping at Amish stores and roadside stands. Whatever we can’t grow ourselves we support them and it’s a beautiful ride along the way. :-)

    blessings,
    Jill

  6. says

    I dont’ shop at Amish stores because we don’t have any in my area of California. However, I’ve just started participating in a local CSA that has fre membership and wonderful, organic produce…and I”m looking into buying more stuff locally straight from the farmer ;) :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :) :) :)

    p.s. I found your blog post via the Homestead Barn Hop today :)

  7. says

    Yes, I love shopping at Amish grocery stores! I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about our latest trip. I got bulk sucanat for $2 a lb (half the amazon price, 1/3 the local price), and many more great deals. I love it!

    Oh and we bought a 1/2 pig one time and it was about 80 pounds of meat when all was said and done.

  8. jim says

    I don’t eat meat, but Stringtown is one of my favorite places to buy food in the area. The homemade butter they make is reasonably priced and tastes so much better than what you get almost anyplace else. The bulk baking supplies are amazing also.

  9. Cheri A says

    I know there are Amish communities to the south of me, but I don’t know how far they are. After reading this post, I’m going to do some research. We have also increased our food budget to buy more quality food in our continuing food journey. We have always had a small garden in the summer, but the last two years have been very disappointing for us with the results. This year we have decided to join a local CSA and visit the farm instead.

    • says

      It might be worth a drive through Amishland for you! While they don’t advertise a lot and they don’t have phones, they do places signs on the highways and once you find one, you can ask them about more options! Good luck!

  10. Lee R says

    We don’t have Amish stores within a reasonable drive time.We however have a local meat processor.You can call and place an order for either beef or pork,and he buys it from a local farm and then processes it to your order….

    My goal is also to stop buying grocery store meats…actually to stop shopping at grocery stores as much as possible….

    Our garden will provide the majority of our produce,but we also volunteer with a local gleaning program for the food bank,and they “pay” you for your work with a small portion of the harvest….so we’ll be getting some fruit and produce from there as well.

    We are raising rabbits,that will replace chicken on the menu,but have also found a local source for pastured/free range all natural chicken that will be available this fall.

    I’m working on emptying my freezers(we have two) so that I can place a large meat order and fill my freezers for at least a year.

    • says

      Way to go! I have never tasted rabbit meat. And I need to get to work sourcing local chickens – my one missing puzzle piece. But – I have a lead!! :-) Good luck to you. It’s a journey, isn’t it?

  11. says

    We ordered a pig last year. They say for every 100 lbs of pig its about 82 lbs of meat, so your calculations were right on. I also was curious about the bacon. It ended up being cut into bacon, but not seasoned or smoked at all. So we ended up using that as good motivation to build a smoker out of an old fridge and smoked some of the pork chops, a ham and the bacon. It was nitrate free and delicious!
    This year we are growing our own pigs. We have 4 baby piglets right now, and I am so excited about this next adventure!

  12. says

    I live in Arizona and don’t have the ability to shop at an Amish store, but that sounds really neat. But, I have been able to find great local farms and ranches for eggs, produce, beef, and pork.

    Oh, and I love the picture of the kiddos looking for the chicken, ADORABLE!

  13. says

    I live in the southern part of Lancaster Co, PA, so I count myself very fortunate to be able to shop at many Amish stores. I get great deals on bulk food items and other various things. You can’t beat their prices for some things!

  14. Ruby says

    in the Spring, Summer and Fall, we shop mostly at the farmer’s markets in the areas surrounding Des Moines. We stock up on every thing and can or dehydrate it. We have a small over the fridge freezer and need to make room for a freezer in the garage this year so I can freeze meat and not have to travel for it in the winter. in the winter we have 2 farms that we travel to to get meat and dairy.

    • Ava says

      Ruby–how do you get dairy from a farm in Iowa? I have looked for a dairy farmer willing to sell directly to the consumer and have not been able to find any. Would love to know if there are any near central part of state as that is where we are. Thanks!

  15. Jude says

    I live on the edge of Ohio Amish country. I shop monthly at bulk stores for baking and grains. In the summer I go to the auctions where produce is brought in from down south. Melons citrus etc at great prices. I buy cheese from “cheese haus’s”. Ends are extremely reasonable and it stores well. There is also a chicken producer where .99

  16. says

    How I wish we had an Amish store that close! We live in MS, but have driven past Kalona on our way to a conference in Des Moines. One of my daughter’s spent some time there with a violin performance group and she shopped a little bit at those stores.

    We do have an Amish community close by, though. Last year I was getting several gallons of raw milk for 2 dollars a gallon. We bought a whole pig from an Amish man for 200 dollars. After processing, etc, we counted the cost to be 1.50 per pound which included the first 200! My husband just checked with him the other day to see if he had another one for sale, but no. We can order coconut oil and other things through some of the Amish. Dh bought lumber to make new raised beds for very little money and got a truck load of wood chips for free. They are now in the compost pile. We can really learn a lot from the Amish!

  17. says

    How cool you live that close & can purchase from the Amish. I’ve also been fascinated with their lifestyle. Those egg and wheat prices are amazing as well! Stopping in from Simple Lives Thursday. Have a great weekend! ;)

  18. says

    How cool you live that close & can purchase from the Amish. I’ve also been fascinated with their lifestyle. Those egg and wheat prices are amazing as well! Stopping in from Simple Lives Thursday. Have a great weekend! ;)

  19. says

    I have amish that live around me. Sometimes I purchase from their produce stands. They come to us sometimes too to buy are pears and apples. And one of them trims my horses hooves for us. I have never been inside their house, but I have caught a glimpse one time when I stopped by for strawberries and had to knock on their front door!!

  20. says

    I too have Amish neighbors and friends. I buy as much as I can from them – I do it for lots of reasons from better quality to supporting my local economy (I hate Wallyworld and places like it). I get my milk from a “Charity” woman (like the Amish but their clothes are made out of fancier material and they drive) and it is wonderful. I have been in several Amish homes – it is fun to see – my uncle actually bought an Amish home and what surprised me the most was there is not kitchen sink. I knew about the outhouses but I hadn’t thought about not having a regular sink.

  21. organic-carrots says

    Hello, I came here through http://homesteadrevival.blogspot.com/
    It left me great impression when you said: “I would not want to give up my modern conveniences but I love watching them!” . I once heard that the biggest thing americans (I am not one) are afraid of is inconvenience. I am finding this is true. When I read that I was reminded of one of the greatest books I have ever read, http://www.off-grid.net/off-off-grid-by-michael-bunker/ I highly recommend it, especially after reading such statements as yours. Believe me you will be challenged and eventually changed. Greetings from overseas.

  22. Julie Hamilton says

    We live in Lancaster County, PA, and shop at Amish and Mennonite stores regularly. We also shop at a produce auction and get great deals on food to can and store over the winter. We are able to buy wonderful raw, unfiltered honey –$30 for 12 pounds! — from a family who keeps bees. My son works at a discount grocery owned by a Mennonite family and WOW do we save money there. I think it is hilarious that on top of the ridiculously low prices I also get a 10% employee discount. AND they give an additional 1% if you buy a case of whatever you’re interested in. We are definitely blessed to live in this area.

  23. Julie Hamilton says

    Oops! I meant to say they give us an additional 10% off for case lots. I can’t type to save my life.

  24. Heidi W. says

    You might want to ask the butcher (or Paul the Amishguy) for the bones and fat from your pig. Render the fat to make your cooking lard (honest, it’s amazing!) and cut the bones up (the butcher can do this) to make stock and flavor other dishes.

    Don’t miss out on your bones and lard!

  25. Terri Seibech says

    We used to go to Amana colonies quite often for the get away, but mostly for the peacefulness. We always loved to go out of our way a bit to shop on the Kalona Amish farms for all kinds of things. Even Red Wing work boots are like half the price. But the farm fresh eggs, bakery, bulk spices, great price on potatoes, onions, cheeses, etc., made the trip exciting. I couldn’t wait to see what we could buy from them. Although the ladies never talk much, they are always eager to wait on anyone.
    As for fresh no chemical pork…..you can’t beat it. Unflavored bacon at that processor may mean “not smoked” but you may be able to get it smoked, if desired. Their kind of bacon is good on a hot baking powder biscuit for Sunday supper.
    I am new to your page, but I can already tell that this is the kind I like!! Thanks!

  26. Allison K says

    Just found your blog and love it! I live in Iowa City and go to Stringtown often. It is one of my favorite things about this area! So fun to hear someone else write about it!

  27. Clayton Y says

    Hello :)

    Like a previous commenter, I live in southern Lancaster County and there’s a “chain” of four stores called BB’s spread throughout three counties that I will patronize for almost everything except for milk and cream. I was so glad to read about your experiences in Iowa!

    I tell my friends that you never know what you’re going to find, whether it be Twining Loose tea for 75 cents as opposed to $8 in the other grocery stores, Australian cheese twists, tallow soap Irish catsup, or local apples. Oh, and you can’t be beat bananas for 19 cents/pound can you? That must be what they cost in 1979. ;)

    The local store also has a walk-in freezer that is the BEST place to be (for a few minutes) to escape the humidity.

    Cheers!

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