Monday, January 17, 2011

Shopping in the Bush

I'm hoping to get a video up soon, documenting the basic shopping experience in an Alaskan Bush Village, but for right now I'll be giving a brief description of how it all works. Because the price of food at the local store in the village is so high (because of the cost to ship it up here) and because there's not a big supply of it anyways, most shopping in the Bush is done either online or on the phone through a catalog. There are two big companies that ship food up to the villages to consumers: Span Alaska and Fred Meyer. Since I've had so many problems with getting my food on a timely manner, and getting the actual food that I ordered, I only use Span Alaska...because I can't wait weeks up here to get the wrong order from Fred Meyer anymore....I've had a lot of problems with them, so I've lost all trust...

For example, once I ordered a bunch of bread and canned food. When the Fred Meyer package arrived (2 weeks late) I opened it to find 24 boxes of Dinosaur Egg oatmeal. Who in the right mind living up here would order 24 boxes of Dinosaur Egg oatmeal??? So after calling them and arguing with them for a while, they let me keep the Dino Eggs for free, and said they'd ship up my original order. Absolutely crazy, can you imagine living thousands of miles away from anyone, and the only thing you have to survive on is Dinosaur Egg Oatmeal?

So after that whole ordeal, I decided not to go with Fred Meyer anymore (and I've had only one actual bowl of Dino Eggs since the incident last fall). But anyways, when you order your food online you order a big bulk of items so you don't have to post an order every couple weeks and pay for all the shipping. I just put in an order for what I think will be my last Bush Food Order of the Winter: 40 lbs. of Ground Beef, 8 24 oz packages of Chicken Strips, and 12 Red Baron Pepperoni Pizzas. I already have a small stock of other things, so this should get me through the rest of the Winter.

Due to the fact that I travel quite a bit with my job, whenever I go to Anchorage or down to the lower 48, I'll get a few flat rate boxes and just fill them full of things like: Hamburger Helper, Raviolis, Fruit cups, all kinds of canned goods...basically just things that you can fit into a box that cost 1/3 the price you'll pay for it at the local grocery store. This saves a lot of money, plus friends and family members send me food from time to time in the mail (non-frozen obviously), and it all just helps me to avoid the local store as much as possible.

The one thing I do like to get at the store that isn't too overpriced is the casual energy drink. These days an energy drink goes for about 2-3 bucks in the lower 48. At the local store they go for around 3-4 bucks, so the mark-up isn't bad when compared to other items. For example, you can typically get a 12-pack of pop for around 5-6 dollars, up here it costs 13-14 bucks for your cherished Dr. Pepper or Mt. Dew or whatever. So basically what you would pay for a 12-pack of Corona bottles is the same price as a 12-pack of Pepsi.

I'll be elaborating more in my Bush videos of the two grocery stores here, but for right that gives you an idea of how things are up here. I also have some beautiful pictures of some sunrises and sunsets right outside my house that I hope to have up when I get some time in the next couple days. Be sure also to checkout: "Flying Wild Alaska" on the Discovery channel (comes on Fridays), the first episode was last Friday, but this series is based entirely in my village of Unalakleet, Alaska. My house was actually on one of the opening shots in the Pilot episode.


  1. This was very helpful! I'm about to take a job in Akutan!

  2. Hi Patrick! I'll take all those dinosaur eggs off your! I needed a good laugh tonight, thanks!

    I don't know how I happened upon your witty blog but here I am. I wanted to let you know about a business that I operate called Northern Shoppers. We do the shopping, charge a nominal fee, and ship it to you. I encourage you to check out our website or Facebook. Or, heck, just give us a call. I'd love to chat.