As a child, the author had the opportunity to meet a great many people from all over the world. Fascinated with the stories, it was perhaps only natural that global travels would occur as the opportunities were made available.
What was not really expected however, was the realization of just how much benefit this could be in living off the grid. Oddly enough, despite all of the travels, this “revelation” as it were, was actually pointed out by a friend of the author, during a routine, quite innocuous shopping trip to prepare a meal for a guest.
At the time, the author was working as a consultant, assisting people in establishing homesteads in isolated areas where modern conveniences were not always as readily accessible as they are within the inner cities and larger, urban population centers.
As such, it is common for people who do live well outside of “civilized society” to purchase goods in large quantities. These goods can then be stored on the homestead and used as needed, without risking running out of goods even during a harsh winter when travel may not always be possible.
While there are stores that specialize in bulk purchases, despite all of the rhetoric, a careful examination and analysis of the cost per the serving is generally about the same as it is in other stores, with no real discount in place.
There will of course be the standard “window-fare” and other occasional sales that heavily discount certain items, but overall, the prices are largely the same as they are in just about any grocery store.
On this particular occasion, the author was with a client, but had a guest from the Philippines who was traveling and would be staying for a short while. Seeking only to make them feel at home, the author, with the approval of the client, stopped by an Asian Market to pick up some things that would help the traveler to feel more at home.
The homesteader however, had a different view of things … and was initially perturbed that I had not taken them to this store even earlier. Perhaps travel, like so many other things, tends to make one “immune” in a manner of speaking, to the cultural differences, even to the point of dismissing them without consideration despite their obvious benefit … most notably for homesteaders and other people who live in similarly isolated locations.
Upon entering the store, the Homesteader stopped at the counter with the author so that inquiries could be made … though they were forced to wait as a person checked out with their purchases. Among the purchases were large (standard by Filipino measures) bottles of vinegar and soy sauce … and a fifty kilo (one hundred and ten pound) bag of rice … that was sold for substantially less than it was available in the standard American supermarkets.
The one liter bottles of vinegar and soy sauce were under one dollar each. The fifty kilogram bag of rice was selling at the time for right around ten US dollars. Upon seeing that, the homesteader requested that they take a tour of the store and see what other bargains could be found … the end result of that trip was mostly rice, soy sauce and kitchenware of all things.
The Philippine cookware is much cheaper than Cast Iron and much easier to maintain, generally being made out of spun and pressed aluminum. The most common forms are the “Kawali” which is very similar to a wok, though it has a handle, and the “kaldero” or sauce pan, generally used as a rice cooker.
These are generally more than one-eighth inch thick, do not require seasoning and can be scrubbed or even ground with steel wool without any concerns about spoiling the seasoning or wearing off the finish.
The cookware works just as well over an open flame as it does on a modern stove and anything in between, including on virtually any Coleman single burner or double burner. It is easy to clean as well, especially with the foreign dish washing “paste” or “wax”.
If there is any “drawback” or limitation for this cookware, it is not nearly as good for stove top baking and would probably not make a great dutch oven as the aluminum, lacking any real finish or curing, will not provide a non-stick baking surface in the same way cast iron does, though neither will it require the same level of curing and care.
Fish was yet another item that caught the attention of the homesteader, as living in Northern Nevada, fish tended to be rather expensive in the regular supermarkets. In both the Mexican and the Asian markets however, fish tend to be available, just as fresh as they are in the supermarkets, though at greatly reduced rates.
While mud eels and other local “delicacies” may not be high on the list for fresh seafood dinners, there was still an excellent selection of local and more exotic species to be selected, again, at rates much lower than they would be in the standard grocery stores.
Perhaps the two biggest surprises were the greatly reduced costs of brown sugar and sea salt. Overseas, where these markets are not driven by taxpayer funded subsidies, their costs are greatly reduced. These savings are often reflected even when they are exported to overseas markets (located in the United States) and the savings passed on to their customers there.
At the time of this writing, the author currently pays around twenty cents (US currency) for one kilogram or two point two pounds of fresh sea salt in the Philippines. While it may not be available for that price in the Asian Markets, it is certainly going to be much cheaper than the local brand name markets.
There are going to be different savings and different product selections in the different foreign markets. The primary experience of the author is with the Hispanic and Asian markets, though depending on where one may live, there may be a wider selection of foreign markets to shop around.
While it may quite literally be something of a foreign concept for the average homesteader, the people working in these markets tend to be very friendly and the deals can be very hard to beat.
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