During a recent trip to our home state of Michigan, we made a point of stocking up on all our favorite Amish goodies. Since relocating to Western North Carolina a few months back we have been unable to find the same prices on some of the quality items we used to purchase in bulk from our favorite Amish farmers.
This has led us to ration our soap, cheese, maple syrup, and raw honey like a depression-era family.
Finally with our pantry re-stocked, along with a few new items we’ve been searching for, we should be able to survive the next few months.
Check out some of our favorite Amish-made goods and some unexpected new finds that made us smile.
Our hats are off to all the soap makers out there. Handmade soaps are a DIY endeavor we have yet to try. We had friends in Michigan who made phenomenal natural soaps, priced so reasonably that we never had to learn the craft. (UPDATE: Since the original publication of this article we have learned how to make a great bar soap and can’t believe we put it off for so long!)
The quality of our soap is important to us. It’s lathered all over our skin – our largest organ. We are dedicated to using products on our skin that don’t contain harsh ingredients, so we’re willing to spend a little extra to avoid commercial brands that might be damaging to our bodies. You may be interested in reading this article to learn more about ingredients we avoid.
During our Michigan trip, we visited an indoor Farmer’s Market to see our Amish farmer and friend Wilbur, who also sells fabulous handmade soaps. We bought nine bars of natural goat’s milk soap in scents like vanilla, citronella, rosemary, oatmeal lavender, and cinnamon. These should last us months (and will buy us some more time to find reasonably priced natural soaps in our neck of the woods or begin making our own).
Matt finally admitted that he has a cheese addiction (from grass-fed animals only). Not a cheese-eating addiction, but a cheese-purchasing addiction. We have stacks of cheese in our freezer, a full drawer of cheese in the refrigerator, and a bag of cheese currently waiting to be dealt with on the kitchen counter. (I’m not sure what the obsession is all about.)
On day 4 of our trip Matt returned from a bulk Amish store in Mio, Michigan with the ungodly pile of cheese you see above. (Let me remind you there are only two people in our house.) Parmesan cheese for grating over pastas, soups, salads, steamed veggies and popcorn, and sharp white cheddar for his crackers, sandwiches, and burgers. I was excited to see the awesome price on the fresh parm. We have been buying it at a local health food store for a steep price and it was beginning to break the bank!
Raw Honey and Maple Syrup
We are always looking for healthier alternatives to sugar. We frequently sweeten our baked goods, smoothies, tea, and other items with raw honey or maple syrup.
Matt found a 6 lb. bucket of raw honey at the bulk Amish store for only $17. If you have ever priced out raw honey this is an extremely good deal. We purchase raw honey because it is less processed, allowing it to retain all of its health benefits. Did you know it is the only food that never spoils?
We also purchase crazy amounts of pure maple syrup from our Amish farmer. It tastes a million times better than Mrs. Butterworth’s, and does not contain high fructose corn syrup like most commercially prepared maple syrups. We purchase it by the gallon, which sets us back $47… again, a very good deal if you’re talking about pure maple syrup. We mostly use it to sweeten homemade granola, and of course it makes the occasional stack of pancakes or french toast taste delectable.
Spices and Seeds
Cooking from scratch requires a fully stocked spice cupboard. We are frequently running out of spices, so we like to have extras on hand. Let’s dispel a nasty rumor about spices right now–spices do not spoil, but they do lose strength over time. Whole spices will retain potency for about 4 years, 2 to 3 years for ground spices, and about 1 to 3 years for leafy herbs. So don’t throw out all your spices every 6 months! You can continue using them as long as they still have flavor.
Matt found great prices on some of the spices we use regularly, including whole black peppercorns, ground cinnamon, chili powder, and Hungarian paprika. He also picked up a bag of flax seeds at a great price. These little power-packed seeds make a regular appearance in our homemade granola, smoothies, and cookies.
For a few years now, we have been on a mission to replace plastics in our kitchen. Even though many plastic products are now made BPA free, we believe plastics are not the safest choice for food storage and preparation. We have slowly been replacing plastic utensils and containers with glass, cast iron, stainless steel, bamboo, and other more natural materials.
Matt was ecstatic that he finally found a stainless steel canning funnel and a set of metal funnels for our kitchen after looking for more than a year. Now when we are canning, we won’t have to worry about the plastic funnels adding anything unnatural to the food we are taking great care to preserve. These aren’t made by the Amish, but we found them at an Amish supply store.
We had a wonderful trip to Michigan, meeting the newest member of our extended family and catching up with the rest of our family.
All our cheap, healthy, Amish goodies were an added bonus to an already fabulous visit!
What about you? Do you have thriving Amish communities near you that are producing awesome goods to sell? What are some of your favorite things?
Resources & Recommended Reading
Here are several good links to help you find Amish stores and wares, or simply to gather more info. Check for some close to your area or order online:
- Amish Grocery Store Locations
- Amish Country Store Online
- Raw Honey – Benefits of Raw Honey are Beyond Measure on LocalHarvest.org
- Soap Making Methods on TeachSoap.com
- The Dangers of Teflon and Some Nonstick Pan Alternatives, from ChasingGreen.org
- Adverse Health Effects of Plastics, from EcologyCenter.org