The Last Frontier

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shopping, Alaska Bush Style

Unloading the plane at the lake after a shopping trip.

The boys and I will head to town next week for a few days. A shopping trip isn't a big deal to most people, but I haven't been in town or driven a car in 5 months. It'll probably be at least another six months or so before I go again, so my few days in town are jammed. It always takes more time than I expect to get ready for the trip. That's why I have not posted much or visited other blogs lately.

I start making a shopping list as soon as I return from my previous trip. I always forget a few things, can't find a few "necessities", or run out of time (or steam) before I work through my list. I write my list in two parts. The first part is for things I absolutely MUST get or do while in town. The second half is what would be nice, but not major problem if I get home without it. Whatever I don't get we do without until the next trip.

I used to write a date on everything we opened (bags of oats, buckets of peanut butter, jars of spices, etc.). Then, when we ran out, I could calculate how long the item lasted, and how much we need for six months or a year. Now I pretty much know how much of everything we use each year, so I don't do that very often.

Before each trip, I inventory my kitchen shelves, and my husband goes to the cache to see what's there. In addition to the groceries, we try to think about equipment, such as chain saws, the 4 wheeler, snow machine and other things. Those are close to being necessities out here. (I expect the economy and political system to totally crash, and we'll find out soon enough that they aren't really necessities.) My husband uses the 4 wheeler during the summer to haul water, and the plane load of stuff to our cabin from the lake. He uses the snow machine throughout our long winters to haul water and logs for firewood. I don't like motors, so I stick with the dog, but that's beside the point. It's always a gamble trying to decide what is likely to break, and what will probably make it though without major replacement parts until the next trip. Several years ago the steering column on the snow machine broke at the beginning of the winter. I went into town a couple of months later, had it welded, and bought an extra to have on hand. That was five years ago, and it looks like the machine will die long before we need that extra steering column. So much for gambling (uh, I mean, planning).

My shopping lists are unbelievably long. Once, a few years back, I lost my list in the first store! What a disaster. I came home with a year's supply of some things we already had plenty of, and totally forgot things we'd been out of for months. At the time we didn't have internet, so I couldn't email my husband. We had a radio phone so I could have called him to make another list. But, the phone was on a huge party line, so all the other families and businesses scattered throughout the bush in this part of Alaska could hear our conversations, and our shopping list. So, now I make a few copies and keep them stashed in my suitcase.

I got sidetracked because I still have not organized and re-written my shopping list. My original has things from the hardware store mixed with groceries, as well as notes and errands to run, so I have to revamp it. Sunday I will bake some breads and cookies as gifts for the pilot, air taxi folks and the gracious friends who have offered to have us stay with them and let us borrow their car. I have finished all the birch bark baskets except one, have finished all the soap orders, and have even made a baby gift.

baby hat,baby bootiesHere's a picture of the baby gift. The air taxi owner's wife just had a little girl. I had so much fun knitting those pretty little girly things. I found the patterns on Ravelry. The hat is a pink Scalloped Lace Baby Cap by Carrie Griffin. I cannot find the pattern for the Mary Jane booties to give credit. I did not have a card or wrapping paper, so the boys made a little card. I wrapped the box in butcher paper, the boys drew colorful pictures, and then tied it with yellow yarn. So, now I'm almost caught up and ready to head to town. I'll try to get back to blogging (and recipes) when we return late next week.


  1. Are there items you just can't find in Alaska that you miss having?

    I'd like to see more pictures of you home-both inside and out.

    Your boys are lucky to be growing up with all the experiences they have that the rest of us only dream of!

  2. Thanks to internet, we're able to get just about everything we need or want. Actually, most things are available in Anchorage, but it's often much cheaper to buy online and pay the shipping. Anchorage real estate is outrageous, and prices are high.

  3. How often do you get a mail type drop then if you order something on the internet? Or do some things have to be held until you can get into town to get it on your trips every 5 - 6 months?
    I'm enjoying reading about your life!

  4. We don't actually get any mail drops. We could if we were willing and able to pay for it, but chartering a plane costs around $600. Sometimes we go 6 months or more without mail. If someone we know flies out this way, they sometimes pick up our mail at the air taxi and bring it to us. If we really need something, we can contact some folks who have a cabin out here and usually find someone to bring it to us on their next visit. I usually plan ahead well enough, though.

  5. I have another question then... what types of things do you do without because of the infrequency of shopping trips? I'd love to be able to only shop twice a year. I hate shopping. But...I can't wrap my brain around what it will take or look like. Could you share more specifics on your lists, what you do without, how you preserve what you do get...etc....


Thank you for visiting! I enjoy hearing from you! I will publish and reply to your comment as soon as possible.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...