The next few days I will discuss shopping when you live in a rural area. I think it is the most difficult practical part of living here after living in a big city. (Notice I said practical part-I'm not talking about being far away from family and other more serious topics.) Today I am going to talk about shopping local.
Of course shopping local is kind of a funny statement since about the only things I could buy in the small town we actually live in are postage stamps, cards that the Ladies Aid sells at our church, and the local cafe tries to keep milk and eggs for sale (I don't think we've ever purchased that there though). It took me a while to get used to shopping local may mean a half hour or 45 minute drive. Then I thought that sometimes when I lived in Fort Wayne, I would spend that long driving across town to a specific store, especially if it was a busy time of day with lots of traffic. I can't imagine those of you that don't even live in a small town like I do and even have what I have though.
My first tip is that you need to get used to shopping at regular business hours. The gas station closes at 9 or 10pm (you can still pay at the pump, but when we moved here there were still some gas stations that you couldn't pay at the pump). The grocery store closes at 9pm most days and 5pm on Sunday. When we first moved here our church members told us a funny story about the previous pastor. His wife needed something from the grocery one night so he drove to the town 7 miles away and they were closed. He tried another store in a farther away town and they were also closed. He drove around and was gone for a couple of hours and when he got home he did not have the ingredient she asked for! He couldn't find any store open. Perhaps our church members embellished this story because they thought it was so funny, but I would believe this would happen, especially on Sunday night. The drug store closes at 6pm during the week /2pm on Saturdays/closed on Sundays. I remember reading a blog where the mom said it was not an option to go to the drugstore to get a pacifier in the middle of the night when they couldn't find the baby's. I understood when she said that.
Along with that, make friends with your "neighbors" and come to an agreement that if you need an ingredient for a recipe sometime they will share and you will pay them back and they will do the same. Once someone came and borrowed some eggs from us. I borrowed some salt for canning once because the local store was completely out. I know if you are more rural and not in a small town like I am this not an option.
Second, look around your local area and see what you can take advantage of and be thankful for that. We may not have CVS or Starbucks, but we have a lot to be thankful for here. The town 7 miles away only has a few stores, but they have our "necessities". The local bank has a nice program for the Lambs to get prizes for making deposits in their savings accounts. While I wouldn't choose to shop at the hardware store in a big city, the local hardware store has a little bit of everything. We are blessed by a nice small health food store in this town too. I did not shop there at all the first several years we lived here. I was afraid the food would not be fresh there. I finally got brave enough to try it and was surprised that it had small amounts of most of the items a big city health food store would have. They have a wonderful bulk section. We've started spending a lot more of our grocery budget here. The drug store has a small Christian book store section inside it with many items from CPH and a nice gift section. The grocery store is small, but they have a little bit of everything. One of the times that Ram's parents visited, they wanted to go grocery shopping for some items for breakfast for themselves. They started out driving to the town 20 miles away and they were not able to find what they needed. Then they drove back to the town 7 miles away and it had what they needed. Sometimes his mom wanted very specific items for a recipe she was making while she visited and they had it. A lot of times I will look for an item at SuperWalmart and they won't have it but our small town grocery store does. You can also request items at the small town grocery store and because they are a small town store they will try to get it for you.
The town 20 miles away has a few more stores that we shop at. Hallmark, a bigger drug store with a nice toy section, farm supply store (with the best toys for boys that I have ever seen, only on sale around Christmas time, better than Toys R Us), Alco (small town Walmart type of store) etc.
So check out what IS available to you and even if it is not a store you would shop at regularly in a city, at least go inside and see what they do have for sale because you may be surprised.
Third, check out when the sales are. We shop almost every week at our small grocery store and get what is on sale. We usually spend less than $25 on these weekly trips, but we stock up on ingredients we use often that are on sale. I often send Ram with this weekly list when he goes to town to visit people.
Each local community also has special events and sales several times a year. In the summer there are "Crazy Days" where the local stores have sales and try to get rid of overstocked inventory. I have found items at these sales really cheap that were nice gifts for our family. At other times of the year there are other sale days too.
Fourth, if you are rural, you may be able to get food easier that the people in cities would love to get. I'm thinking of farm eggs, raw milk, honey, fresh from the farm fruit and veggies in the summer, apples and pumpkins in the fall, local meat. I know that you will not be able to get ALL these (I can't), but be thankful for what you can get. We were recently at Trader Joe's in a big city (I had never shopped there before) and I was surprised that I wasn't that impressed. Between what we can get at the local health food store and the grocery store 1 1/2 hours away, there wasn't much at Trader Joe's that I needed or was cheaper than the stores we regularly shop at. I know that people in the big city would love to be this close to produce in the summer instead of shopping at Farmer's Markets.
I also want to add that I have talked with the locals here and I know several rarely go out of the local area here to shop. It can be done. I know one mom that said by the time she paid gas to get to the town with Walmart, bought lunch for herself and her kids, and ended up spending more there getting treats for her kids because she felt guilty they were wasting the day away from home she would spend a lot more money than if she just paid a little more at the local stores. I realize that I am blessed that we travel about once a month for Ram to visit someone in the hospital or go to a meeting or for us to go to some of our doctors. I would probably be like that mom that rarely shops out of the local area if we weren't already going out of town and then stopping to shop afterwards. There are months when Ram doesn't have to travel out of the local area and we don't have any appointments (especially in the winter when the roads might be bad) that we do all our shopping local or online.
I hope this encourages you to check out what you do have available to you locally and be thankful for that.
Do you have anything else to add about shopping locally?
Check back tomorrow for more about shopping when you live in a rural community.