Letter Re: Getting The Most Out of Ethnic Markets

I just thought I’d pass the word on some shopping options people might not think about too often. My wife is originally from Vietnam and we often go to an asian market for food supplies. I assume the following is true for other non-western stores, but you might want to check out what is within driving distance. These places are a preppers oasis.

There are a few major advantages to shop at these stores. Please note I am talking about small stores, not a place like the asian mega-marts in California.

First is money. Not just that they are usually less expensive, but more important they are less dependent on a cash register working. I’d expect if there are issues, wally-mart wouldn’t be able to sell anything without a cash register working. In these places, that would not be much of an issue.

In addition, cash is king here. Bring cash, buy in bulk, and talk to the owner. You might be surprised to find that you can get 10-20% discount just by asking, or by getting 10 instead of the 2 you planned for. Try haggling over a price at the local supermarket and see what success you have. But in these small, mom and pop stores, it is not only allowed, it’s almost expected.

Second, foods tend to focus on non-refrigeration items. (Asian market focus)

25-50 lbs sacks of rice – it’s common to see from 50 to 80 sacks of rice at the front of the store. Note that brown rice is usually in smaller sizes due to a cultural tendency to serve that to the elderly, and not for general consumption.

Store bought vacuum packed brown, white rice – long/short/medium grain.

Dried everything. Squid, beef, fish, mushrooms.. everything. Not sure what it is? ask.

Pickled everything. Vegetables , fruits, meat.

More dried noodle options than I ever knew existed.

Candy and treats designed for long term storage – i.e. hard candies, hard cookies, etc.

Spices for everything and in large quantities. In countries where meat might not be of the best quality, there tends to be a focus on cooking with enough spices to cover the flavor of the meet. In TEOTWAWKI, you might just need to make that days hunt taste a little better.

Third, electricity independent food preparation tools.

Remember, many of these countries do not have a stable electric grid, so non-electric cooking tools are very common in these stores. Butane cooking stoves are very common, and you won’t have the price markups that you will see in a camping store.

Fourth, experience

Remember, many of these stores are owned by first generation Americans. They know what keeps best when there is no power, or unstable power. What rice keeps longer, what tool works better. They know it first hand. Don’t be shy to ask.

Yes, sometimes you might have to put up with a different cultures approach to standing in a line (or lack there of), and you might have to have a little patience with a language barrier, but for me it’s well worth it.

Remember, these stores stay alive by having personable relationships with their customers. If you go out of your way to be friendly, you just might find that if Stuff hits the Fan, they will sell items to you (store open or not), where other places will be boarded up.

As always, thanks for your blog. For me, its one of the most valuable web sites on the Internet. – Robert B. in North Carolina