We had a bunch of things on our to-do list for our three day stay in the city and shopping for groceries was a big item to check off our list.
We decided to stop for a couple of days in Anchorage before we flew all the way out to Bethel and then subsequently our village. We were fortunate enough to have friends in the city that we could stay with for the weekend, because hotel prices are really high, or shady hostel-like conditions. Arriving at 1:30am we took a cab to our friend’s house and then back to the airport to pick up our rental car in the morning when Avis opened. Anchorage isn’t really a town you can get around on with public transit, we planned on getting a lot of groceries, and had about 80lbs of luggage to hang onto until we could check it on our next flight.
Shopping was more stressful than I had anticipated. I planned on doing a bush order from Walmart- I had heard that you just took your shopping cart to the bush order desk and they added a flat fee of 10% onto the bill plus postage. When we got to the Walmart I headed over to customer service, and found that the guy there didn’t know anything about bush orders and said he didn’t do them. There was a sign with a phone number so I called them and got connected with the bush order department all the way down in Ketchikan (in the south east down past Juneau). After talking with the guy on the phone he told me it was just him in the bush department and I could just tell him what I wanted over the phone and it could be processed. The idea of buying all of our start up groceries without seeing them myself stressed me out even more, so we decided to go to plan B and head to Sam’s Club, buy things in bulk and ship them out ourselves.
It turns out that there are multiple Walmarts in Anchorage and we just were at the wrong one for bush orders. The one in the Diamond Plaza does let you shop the way I had heard. In the end it worked out okay though because by shopping at Sam’s Club I could buy in bulk and that saved me money. It also forced me to get a membership. Now I should be able to do bulk bush orders with them over the phone.
Overall we spent about $700 in bulk groceries and personal care toiletries, etc. The hope is that these will last us until Christmas. It isn’t an exact science, and I tried to plan the best I could but it is hard to judge exactly what we will need because I haven’t ever had to cook every meal at home before. Nathan and I fell into bad habits of just going out to eat when I didn’t feel like cooking, or when traveling between jobs. That time is definitely in the past now; I don’t have the excuse of working multiple jobs that’s for sure!
Just to be safe because we are getting close to the limits on the credit cards, we bought some gift cards at Sam’s Club. I could use my store credit card to buy these, so essentially just borrowing cash against a card that I wouldn’t have been able to use anywhere else. This experience has been so much more expensive than I originally thought, and we haven’t had a full paycheck in about three weeks. Nathan gets his signing bonus when we arrive, but it has essentially already been spent. I can budget and make it work, but things are tight.
It was then time to pack all of our purchases into totes again and take them to the post office.
The best thing I found out was that there is a post office by the airport (on Postmark Drive) in Anchorage that is open Every. Single. Day. Until like 11pm. That is amazing. We had finally hit on some luck, in the fact that we didn’t have to scramble on Friday night to get packed and arrive during limited Saturday morning hours.
This ended up serving us very well. A word to anyone attempting this move- liquids weigh so much more than you would think. A large bottle of shampoo is about 4.5lbs, and takes up very little space. So you end up packing a lot of weight into a much smaller space then when shipping things like clothing or small kitchen stuff. Of all of the totes we had shipped previously we hadn’t really come too close to the weight limit of 70lbs the USPS set. Even with 27 gallon totes we were underweight, so I thought it was almost impossible to hit the weight limit in the 18 gallon ones. How wrong I was. We had four totes total that we brought to the post office on our first trip, and only one of them was under 70lbs. Our heaviest was 96lbs! The other two were only 1.5lbs overweight, so we left to re-pack and figure it out.
Buying another tote and dividing up the purchases solved our problem. We were also able to send out our winter boots this way. The post office guys laughed at me as I cheered when each tote came in under the 70lb limit on our second attempt. They were really good humored, and asked us all about where we were going and guessed correctly that Nathan was a teacher. All in all we paid about $100 to ship all 5 totes that were around 60-66lbs a piece. So if you have been reading from the beginning you can see how much cheaper it was to ship from Anchorage- this was a big relief this far in the game. The estimated arrival day for our boxes is Wednesday which is great news because that is the day we will arrive in the village after orientation. Of course everything is weather permitting out here, but we will keep our fingers crossed.
Now the only groceries left to buy will be some fresh vegetables/fruits and frozen meat to get us started in Bethel.