What does an arctic pantry look like?
I get asked this question every once in a while, especially by teachers moving to a small village or other professionals. So I thought I would show what I like to stock up on and my general way of stocking up on things. But first you must keep a few things in mind: 1. I like to cook - Not at like chef level mind you, but I like to try new recipes and explore. Normally for meals I like to include a protein, a starch and a veggie. My mother made me OCD like that. It's WAY cheaper to cook your own meals rather than relying on microwavable food or canned food. TONS cheaper and tastier. 2. We use hundreds of pounds of subsistence meats every year, mainly caribou (we also ground our own), ptarmigan, geese, and various fish. It's much more healthy and lean. So we buy very little meat and it's mainly pork and chicken. We also trade with other people on the coast for muktuk, seal meat and oil, and fish that are not available here. 3. We also supplement our diet seasonally with fruits, leaves, and roots. Like Masu (eskimo potato), tons of berries, bistort leaves and such. Most of which get frozen and stored. We have a normal freezer/fridge, and two chest freezers which we try to keep full at all times, both for us, our trading partners, and family that might need it. In the winter we use a wooden outside box to keep meat frozen and protected from predators, dogs and our sneaky resident weasels. 4. We eat alot, especially my husband. In the arctic you will burn more calories per day than expected. You will burn about 4500 a day if you spend any of it out of doors. I swear my husband has an empty leg. We also usually have a visitor or two for our meals, or we bring some to relatives, so we love bulk foods.
DRY PANTRY. Ours is just a series of deep shelves in the back, away from windows and such. The things that go here are:
Toilet paper in bulk, paper towel in bulk, dish soap, clorox wipes in bulk, shampoo and conditioner, body wash, lotion, q-tips, laundry detergent, canned tomatoes, bulk rice, bulk pasta (spaghetti and penne are my favs), bulk flour and sugar and brown sugar, salt, plastic trash bags and ziplocs, Various snack foods in bulk (we grab a handful for trips and camping and it includes some 'sweet' like mini chocolate bars, fruit leather, granola bars and hard candy etc). Some cold meds and various meds (in the Vill the store regulary runs out of OTC meds), a small amount of canned soups, dry soups, and canned veggies. A couple of boxed brownie mixes and cake mixes and frosting (only if I found them on sale for really cheap). If I can find them I get dried egg powder for camping and just in case the store can't get eggs. Batteries (we use rechargeable when possible since there is no recycle centers in the Vill), hand soap, coffee, tea, boxed 2% milk and boxed soymilk.
FREEZERS. Meats, frozen veggies (broccoli, corn, peas, etc these taste a gazilloin times better than canned ones), berries, frozen fruits, seal oil, store bought meats (I usually get pork chops, chicken thighs, alaskan sausages).
FRIDGE. a billion different sauces in bottles, including mexican and asian varieties. The stores never stock a huge variety. I also get tons of fresh garlic, tortillas (can be frozen), and butter (can be frozen). Some random things I like to keep in there that will last are lemon juice, parmesan and feta cheese, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, pickled things etc.
Where I get my stuff. I know it probably differs depending on what village you are at, but I can share where I have found the best prices (including shipping) for here. I do try and make one or two trips a year to Fairbanks to pick up things that they will NOT ship, which includes random things like fresh veggies (beyond the stuff at the store, like asparagus, cabbage, and such), kimchi, vanilla extract, pepperoni, etc. Living in the Village you will become VERY intimate with the list of things that cannot be mailed!
Sams Club - They sell in bulk for cheap and do the shipping for you. They charge about 45% of cost to ship, which sounds like a ton till you try and do the shipping yourself. I found in the end that it will cost you the same and it will take the better part of a day to do if you ship yourself. They charge a yearly membership fee which is not too bad at something like $40.00, I share mine with my brother who is at college in the same city so he can buy bulk or just stop by for a cheap slice of pizza. If you are ordering online from a village you must choose 'pick up' and write your phone number and that it is a Bush order in the message or they will not ship. They will contact you with any questions. It is a little bit of a headache to order online which is why I hit them up whenever I'm in town.
Fred Meyers - they used to have a website up but it is now being re-done, they don't sell in bulk but they do provide variety and convenience. They charge exact cost of shipping which is nice, and you have a choice between Parcel Post or Priority mail. I love using them because I can do it all over email. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO
Safeway - I have heard they now have a service for shipping to rural areas. I haven't tried them out yet but would love to hear some feedback and instructions. They do send out a weekly sale pamphlet/deal thing to order from.
Span Alaska - My fathers favorite place to shop. Also sells cheap and in bulk but only high volume so your bill will be huge. CLICK HERE to visit them.
Alaska Feed Company in Fairbanks - I buy our dog bedding straw from these guys and I am planning to try and order bulk whole wheat flour. They offer bulk items that are not offered at Sams club, like regular rice, whole wheat flour, and dried beans.
A few online stores that ship to Alaska. Believe it or not 80% of stores will not ship to Alaska or if they do they will charge ridiculous amounts of money. I once tried to order $10.00 worth of shipping boxes and was told that the shipping would be $75.00. Some places I know will ship to rural Alaska and that I regularly use are:
Amazon.com (can be expensive to ship, can have some items that will not ship. I found that if I clicked on the thingy on the left after a search and chose just items from Amazon.com themselves they are more likely to ship.)
Cabelas (dependable where other outfitters sometimes aren't)
Drugstore.com (I have noticed a couple of times some items took WAY too long to get here. I have no idea why some get here quick and some don't)
Herbco (if you like cooking this is where to buy bulk seasonings and teas, always good quality)
Etsy (for awesome homemade goodness!)
Sears (for random house stuff. I also buy large house appliances from here because they will deliver to your preferred shipping provider - but contact the store itself for more info)
Denali Seed Company (For Alaskan seeds to grow your own veggies!)
I don't keep all of this stuff stocked up at all times, but I do try and save up money to make orders. In the long run it really does make a huge difference. Since me and my husbands work is heavily seasonal and can be sporadic we found that stocking up when we can really helps in the lean times.
I also tell people to invest in a few things: Thermal light blocking curtains - in the winter your windows will be blocks of ice, in the summer the sun never sets. Get quality curtains, I think I bought mine at Sears. Internet - you will go crazy without it, unless you are one of those people that can live completely on books and reruns. Some options are ASTAC dial up, Star band, Hughs net and GCI. They vary in speed and cost. A hobby - to fight the winter time blues. Your favorite OTC meds and products. A vacuum sealer to store meat and goods. Multivitamins. Nutella. Seriously. Nutella.
And now some spring time photos to make sure this post is not nothing but words. I realized after uploading this set that it totally looks as if I am just rolling around on the ground taking pictures...which is almost true.