Buying Groceries in a Village with no Grocery Store

Getting your hands on your favorite groceries shouldn’t be so difficult, but then again there are lots of people that live out of town or don’t have access to all of their favorite products.

That is not my problem.

My new challenge is living on an island miles and miles from other villages with only a plane to get me to the next place and not having access to a grocery store.

When I made the decision to look at Alaska as a possible new home, I imagined that I wouldn’t have the same fresh fruit and vegetables that seemed to grace my plate in Brazil. Heck, even in my home state of Minnesota the winter produce section is expensive and poor quality. I’m used to that. I am not used to the lack of access to a grocery store at all, however.

While we do have a convenience store that sells soda, junk food, and occasionally has fruit or frozen pizzas; to get groceries, I will have to use a couple of mail order services or call in an order to a larger village’s grocery store. All of my goods will then take a plane ride to get to me.

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For produce, I have chosen a company that delivers a box of fresh fruits and vegetables once a week to the village. I am only ordering a box every other week, but nevertheless the packages from these farms are only delivered on Thursdays. The smallest and cheapest box is about $50.00 a delivery, which is one of the cheapest options that I have been able to find.

For fresh meat, dairy, and bread…I will start by picking some things up at a local grocery store in Kotzebue and carrying it with me on the short bush plane ride to my village. After having talked to some teachers at my school, a weekly grocery order from the Kotzebue grocery may be in order.

For canned/dry/baking goods, I will start with the flat rate boxes full of items that my mom and I picked up at our local Minnesota grocer (and from her pantry). When those items are gone, I will have the option to have her ship me more or to add it on to the ever expensive plane delivery grocery order I will make.

Fortunately Amazon Prime ships to Alaska for free (without the promise of two-day delivery), unfortunately they don’t ship pantry items or perishables. Sam’s Club ships around Alaska for a shipping fee, but many of their stores are among those listed to close. Costco is helpful if you can go there in person and pick up your years-supply of items, but also does not ship perishables. Walmart ships to my village, but the shipping and handling fee is about 25% that of the order (or so I was led to believe).

I’m hoping to get my hands on some local meat and fish! I’m eager to try the wild game of the Arctic region!

My biggest challenge will be fighting cravings when I don’t have access to items and making due with what I have until the next shipment arrives. The reality of the situation is that when I’m out of something, I’m out for the indefinite future. Shipments can often be delayed due to weather conditions or other factors, making quick delivery slightly unreliable. All in all, I’ll have to get creative…and learn how to do without.

Stay tuned for grocery prices as I start refreshing my initial stock.

Coming soon:

Packing and shipping stuff so that I can be an adult when I arrive.

The actual journey.

Disclaimer: I may have misspoke on a lot of things because I have not yet been to Alaska or Kivalina. This was all information that received through conversations with educators in the area. I’ll be able to validate these claims soon, hopefully!