Challenging economic times inspire people universally to make wise financial decisions while still enjoying life. One culture that has always lived an austere, yet meaningful existence is the Amish. Increasingly, people are inspired by their lifestyle; and seek ways to simplify their own lives.
Lorilee Craker is the author of the new book, “Money Secrets of the Amish-Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing and Saving.” She examines their practices, extravagant in peace, family and community closeness. For them, thrift is a muscle that is exercised regularly.
Craker interviewed Amish folk in Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, including an Amish banker whose clientele is 95 percent Amish. During the Great Recession in 2008, his bank had its best year ever. Amish experts and Englishers’ (Amish reference to anyone non-Amish), financial perspectives accentuate the book too. Here, two money-saving habits of the Amish are highlighted: buying in bulk and being authentic foodies.
Amish Foodies (aka Feinschmeckers). Feinschmeckers are Amish foodies-people who eat well and plenty. The Amish love to stick to cheap ingredients, easily accessible in their gardens, root cellars or barns.
Gardening. Gardening is frugal and the epitome of wholesomeness. It’s cheaper to buy seeds than it is to purchase vegetables. Gardening can be fun, allowing for time in the sunshine. Its biggest challenge is its time-consuming nature.
Canning. Canning is once again hip in these tough economic times (The inaugural National Can-It-Forward Day was celebrated Saturday, August 13, 2011).
Farm To Table. Buy directly from the farmer and you’ll save considerably. Beef and milk from grass-fed livestock, and eggs from land-grazing chickens taste better than their mass-produced counterparts. They’re also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A and E. Meat is less fatty than confined cows that eat soybean and corn instead of grass. Farm-to-table businesses promote a slower, kinder, gentler type of food consumption with a shortened food chain.
Community Supported Agriculture. A farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. The shares typically consist of a box (or basket) of vegetables, but may include other farm products too. As a consumer, you purchase a share (aka a “membership” or “subscription”). Each week in return, you receive a box of seasonal produce.
Farmers Markets. Farmers markets are commonplace today. They unite country folk who produce healthy foods in an earth-friendly way and townspeople who pay a little more. When patronizing your local farmers market, keep these tips in mind:
- Learn what’s produced regionally and ask growers about future market offerings. Buy in season.
- Arrive early and reap the market’s best selections.
- Arrive later in the day and benefit from lowered prices, in exchange for farmers not lugging their wares back home.
- Be adventurous-buy ethnic, heirloom or rare vegetables. Google recipes.
- Pre-plan meals and purchase accordingly at the market.
- Bring durable canvas bags or backpacks for transport and small change to expedite transactions.
Buying In Bulk. The Amish buy in bulk monthly at dry good stores or damaged goods outlets (damaged or expired dated products are still perfectly good). They also frequent wholesale clubs, as not having a car demands planning ahead.
A big incentive for the Amish to purchase in quantity is their bulk-sized families. You may have a small brood to buy for. If so, decide whether the $40 or $50 annual wholesale club membership fee is worth paying. You might find it’s cheaper to continue shopping at your neighborhood grocer instead.
Craker notes your bulk savings will depend on the item, as some are better buys than others. Bad bulk purchases can include:
- Brown rice. Its short shelf life affects its oil content.
- Liquid soap. Left unused, it can turn into clotted jelly.
- Paper towels and toilet paper. What’s cost cheap can weigh you down in other ways like storage, if it’s an issue.
- Good bulk purchases can include:
- Canned soup
- Dog/Cat food
Unit Price. Base your purchase on the unit price-the small number listed on the shelf sticker right below the item, which is more indicative of its value. This applies at wholesale clubs and grocery stores.
Breaking bread with family and friends transcends culture and cuisine. To authenticate, economize and enhance your mealtimes, consider adopting some practices of the Amish. This includes buying in bulk when it’s economically feasible, and eliminating the middleman and purchasing directly from the farmer.