Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

This is the new version of the Alaska Teacher Placement (ATP) forum for teachers, education majors, and school administrators to discuss working and living in the state of Alaska. Those considering an Alaskan job, or considering a new Alaskan education job ask questions, and those with information and/or opinions provide answers. Although many users are teacher or principal candidates from the Lower 48, a large number of current and former school district HR and school administrators subscribe.

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Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby jamieburgess » Sun May 10, 2015 3:13 pm

Hi All -

I really appreciate those of you who are bush veterans sharing information with us newbies!

I have a couple of quick "new to the bush" questions.

1) I only basically have a day and a half to get everything ready in Anchorage due to the time crunch between leaving my old position (I oversee the summer school program) and starting in my new position (I am an administrator, so I have to be up there several weeks before the teachers). Is the bush shipping "depot" open inside Sam's Club on a Sunday? Will they allow you to bring in items from another store (such as Wal-Mart) to place in totes along with items purchased from Sam's Club to ship? Is there a post office open on Saturday afternoon in Anchorage? I fly in on Saturday afternoon and have to catch a plane to Bethel Monday morning to make sure I make my bush flight and have time to unpack a little and find the immediate necessities so I'm ready for work the next day. I have to activate my cell phone and get my satellite TV and internet set up as well - hoping I can do some of that over the phone since I assume most of these places will be closed on Sunday. The timing isn't great, but I'm stuck with it. Any suggestions?

2) Where do you buy a rolling cooler to take your frozen/cold items with you on the plane? What size of cooler? I've seen quite a few suggestions - big one, stacking smaller ones, etc. I have to take a small suitcase with me with a change of clothes and personal items on the plane, so that has to be part of my 100 pound allotment.

3) How do you get your totes back down to Anchorage for a shopping trip when flying back to the lower 48 for visits? Where do you store them until you're on your trip back to the interior? I don't want to buy a fresh set every time!!
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby Bushteachers » Sun May 10, 2015 4:10 pm

1.5 days is enough time but you will be exhausted. Our first trip was 1.5 days but we had a coworkers husband help us.
Costco won't let you bring the other stuff out. Walmart has it's own bush orders, but I've never used them. Only Fred Meyers.
We also do al the packaging ourselves. If you use the store services they provide all the packaging for you. Don't use your totes.
As far as coolers, I've only used a cooler once. To heavy. Your flight from anchorage to the village should be short enough that a tote works fine for cold stuff. Ravn even freezes or chills depending on your request.
If you stay in a hotel find one that has a freezer. Buy your meat first thing so you can freeze it...or ask the meat manager if they can freeze meat for you. Fred's has done that for me once before.

As far as post office, it's open 7 days a week and until late at night by airport.
I'd recommend only carrying a carryon with a change of clothes and mail the rest. Use your 100 lb allotment for food. And don't be afraid of paying for an extra bag. We do that occasionally but only if it's a full 50 lbs.

You will need to get a phone (gci) in town or just wait until you arrive and you can do it all over the phone/internet. Wait on home internet. Seriously. Use the schools until you get settled.

Every trip we take totes with us to town. 5-7 duck taped together. Summer time you will find someone that will let you keep them in their garage. Or just buy new. Get a cheap cordless drill to carry as well. Life saver.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby Bushteachers » Sun May 10, 2015 4:16 pm

jamieburgess wrote:Hi All -

I really appreciate those of you who are bush veterans sharing information with us newbies!

I have a couple of quick "new to the bush" questions.

1) I only basically have a day and a half to get everything ready in Anchorage due to the time crunch between leaving my old position (I oversee the summer school program) and starting in my new position (I am an administrator, so I have to be up there several weeks before the teachers). Is the bush shipping "depot" open inside Sam's Club on a Sunday? Will they allow you to bring in items from another store (such as Wal-Mart) to place in totes along with items purchased from Sam's Club to ship? Is there a post office open on Saturday afternoon in Anchorage? I fly in on Saturday afternoon and have to catch a plane to Bethel Monday morning to make sure I make my bush flight and have time to unpack a little and find the immediate necessities so I'm ready for work the next day. I have to activate my cell phone and get my satellite TV and internet set up as well - hoping I can do some of that over the phone since I assume most of these places will be closed on Sunday. The timing isn't great, but I'm stuck with it. Any suggestions?

2) Where do you buy a rolling cooler to take your frozen/cold items with you on the plane? What size of cooler? I've seen quite a few suggestions - big one, stacking smaller ones, etc. I have to take a small suitcase with me with a change of clothes and personal items on the plane, so that has to be part of my 100 pound allotment.

3) How do you get your totes back down to Anchorage for a shopping trip when flying back to the lower 48 for visits? Where do you store them until you're on your trip back to the interior? I don't want to buy a fresh set every time!!


I travel with a regular size rei back pack. I get two changes of undergarments, two shirts, toiletries, electronic device, snacks, rain jacket and medical device. Sometimes I even carry food items. Everything else is mailed. Find a hotel that has a scale and do not secure your totes until you check in.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby Bushteachers » Sun May 10, 2015 4:18 pm

Forgot to mention, don't wear heels to travel. I can't tell you how many new teachers I've seen traveling with heels.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby Johncn » Sun May 10, 2015 4:49 pm

1) I only basically have a day and a half to get everything ready in Anchorage due to the time crunch between leaving my old position and starting in my new position....


It can be done. Get your sleep ahead of time, and eat your Wheaties. ;-)

Is the bush shipping "depot" open inside Sam's Club on a Sunday? Will they allow you to bring in items from another store (such as Wal-Mart) to place in totes along with items purchased from Sam's Club to ship?


We never used that, and they would not allow you to bring other items in from another store. Their fee structure is a percentage of what you bought at Sam's, I think. I recommend packing your own boxes and totes out in the parking lot (stays light very late and gets light very early) and just mailing them.

Is there a post office open on Saturday afternoon in Anchorage?


The one at Anchorage International Airport is open every day of the year from 6:00am-11:58pm (according to their website). They have a self-serve kiosk thing if you want to use their boxes, but I find it cumbersome and more expensive. Because this facility seems to get lots of folks doing passports, in recent years I've found the the one across from Carr's on Northern Lights to be better for me if it's during business hours. It probably adds a day to your shipping, though, as they transfer that to the airport location for sorting.

I have to activate my cell phone and get my satellite TV and internet set up as well - hoping I can do some of that over the phone since I assume most of these places will be closed on Sunday. The timing isn't great, but I'm stuck with it. Any suggestions?


For phone, GCI is your provider. They also offer Internet, but I'd wait to see what is in place in your housing first.

You can look at phones and plans for your village here:

http://www.gci.com/wireless/phones-devices

I'd just call GCI (800-800-4800), tell them you are moving to that village, use your district mailing address as your "address" and ask to pick up your phone and activate it on your way through. They'll do all the paperwork, I think, and have you pick it up at one of the Anchorage locations. There are a few open in the evening and on Sundays. One is on C Street:

GCI Store
2800 C St
Anchorage, AK 99503
(907) 265-5400

Another is at Dimond Center Mall (which is near Walmart, Sam's Club and Costco):

GCI Store
800 E Dimond Blvd
Anchorage, AK 99515
(907) 265-5400

As far as coolers go, I think coming from Arizona in July or August, I'd do my shopping there for meat and frozen in one bag, and use an Igloo Cube. I'd freeze everything well a few days ahead of your trip. You can't take ice, but frozen veggies will do the same thing, and frozen meat really needs no ice in one of those coolers anyay. Mine weighs 11 pounds empty (just checked it), and I got for $28 at Walmart. Most rolling suitcases weigh about 7-12 pounds, so it's not too bad in comparison. They are much more to buy up here. Here is a post I did last year with general shopping and packing tips that you may find useful.

http://alaskateacher.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1006#p1083

Some folks prefer not to use coolers, but most people I know do. Your call. If you are flying up, and staying at hotel for two days, check to make sure the one you stay at has a freezer. I'd open the lid and inch or so to let cold air circulate, but it's not entirely necessary. The Millennium Hotel on Spenard by the airport is one we have used that has a big walk in freezer the bell cap will let you use. It's expensive, but ask for the state rate and tell them you work for a rural school district...it will give you a lower rate.

http://origin-global.millenniumhotels.c ... anchorage/

I would mail your clothes and only take essentials on the airplane (medications and change of clothes or two), and then add another box or cooler packed with fresh food from Anchorage.

Also, I would only do your shopping for about a couple months at the stores and mail it out, not a huge amount. You'll get there and have a better idea of what you need and can order online to supplement. It's easy to go overboard.

Hope this helps. Everybody has their own tips and tricks. These are just mine. That's the great thing about a forum...everybody can share their favorites.

John
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby jamieburgess » Sun May 10, 2015 5:18 pm

Wow - great info! It's a relief to hear the post office is open on Sunday - that was my biggest worry.

I get a district phone - just have to stop and get it activated, so I think I'll be okay there. I am staying with someone through AirBnb who will also be my driver around, and I am hoping he'll be willing to help me pack stuff as well.

I do plan to mail my bigger suitcases and just take the small carry-on with me from Anchorage along with some food. I am flying from Anchorage to Bethel via Alaska Airlines, then on to my village via Ravn. Johncn suggested I buy a cooler and fill it with frozen/cold food here in Phoenix - is that doable? It is possible my host would be open to allowing me to stash my items in his freezer, but I don't know. How do you prepare a cooler for checked baggage? A lot of duct tape? I would have to pay $75 for it (an extra bag), so is that worth the lower cost of hamburger and chicken? How much more expensive are food items in Anchorage? I would expect to pay more in Bethel (already checked out one grocery store's online flyer there) and of course food in the village is horribly expensive, but is it worth paying the $75?

So it seems like I should just plan on buying totes in Anchorage (I already have a "shipping kit" with portable luggage scale, small hand drill, duct tape, sharpie, mailing labels and packing kit), buying my non-perishable and non-fresh items, packing everything up in the parking lot and hauling it all to the post office - is this the best option? I guess I'm lucky I'm going out before the big teacher rush!!

You guys are awesome.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby Bushteachers » Sun May 10, 2015 5:37 pm

jamieburgess wrote:Wow - great info! It's a relief to hear the post office is open on Sunday - that was my biggest worry.

I get a district phone - just have to stop and get it activated, so I think I'll be okay there. I am staying with someone through AirBnb who will also be my driver around, and I am hoping he'll be willing to help me pack stuff as well.

I do plan to mail my bigger suitcases and just take the small carry-on with me from Anchorage along with some food. I am flying from Anchorage to Bethel via Alaska Airlines, then on to my village via Ravn. Johncn suggested I buy a cooler and fill it with frozen/cold food here in Phoenix - is that doable? It is possible my host would be open to allowing me to stash my items in his freezer, but I don't know. How do you prepare a cooler for checked baggage? A lot of duct tape? I would have to pay $75 for it (an extra bag), so is that worth the lower cost of hamburger and chicken? How much more expensive are food items in Anchorage? I would expect to pay more in Bethel (already checked out one grocery store's online flyer there) and of course food in the village is horribly expensive, but is it worth paying the $75?

So it seems like I should just plan on buying totes in Anchorage (I already have a "shipping kit" with portable luggage scale, small hand drill, duct tape, sharpie, mailing labels and packing kit), buying my non-perishable and non-fresh items, packing everything up in the parking lot and hauling it all to the post office - is this the best option? I guess I'm lucky I'm going out before the big teacher rush!!

You guys are awesome.

I wouldn't personally bring food from lower 48. Delays add time. I carried 30lbs of moose meat to GA last year in a cooler. By the time we arrived in GA it was already thawed out. With the $75 extra charge for let's say 30 lbs of meat you would come out better buying in anchorage.

It's funny that John mentions the PO by Carr's on northern lights. I spent an hour in line there once. I'll never go back. Lol
We do use the airport PO all the time and go later. I use their scale to weigh before I mail. And I've also used their scale to weigh my meat and veggie totes.

Talk to your driver. Most people in ak are very helpful.

Try use that scale with totes. Sometimes they are hard to read. We use the ravn check in scales to. Get to the airport early and find a line not being used. I recommend using zip ties on your totes. Don't cut them though.

When are you coming through anchorage?
I also recommend packing up in your room, no bugs. Lol.
You can also use your totes as your bags. We do that often times. Two buggies. Scan and place in totes.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby jamieburgess » Sun May 10, 2015 6:16 pm

Bushteacher - thanks for the clarification. I was a bit worried about that idea. What types of bugs can I expect to encounter in mid-July besides mosquitoes? I always find it funny how each state comes with its own set of insect pests. We had crickets, spiders and silverfish in Colorado, brown crickets, Oriental roaches and scorpions here in Arizona. I was going to bring some Deep Woods Off in my checked luggage!

I am not sure if I'll have time to go back to my lodgings for packing then going back to the post office, but it's a good suggestion so I'll see if it might work out. I hope the portable scale will at least get me very close to the 50 lb. limit until my skill in estimating weight increases!
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby Bushteachers » Sun May 10, 2015 8:30 pm

jamieburgess wrote:Bushteacher - thanks for the clarification. I was a bit worried about that idea. What types of bugs can I expect to encounter in mid-July besides mosquitoes? I always find it funny how each state comes with its own set of insect pests. We had crickets, spiders and silverfish in Colorado, brown crickets, Oriental roaches and scorpions here in Arizona. I was going to bring some Deep Woods Off in my checked luggage!

I am not sure if I'll have time to go back to my lodgings for packing then going back to the post office, but it's a good suggestion so I'll see if it might work out. I hope the portable scale will at least get me very close to the 50 lb. limit until my skill in estimating weight increases!


Maybe no see ums. Anchorage isn't nearly as bad as where you are going. Make sure your bug dope has deet.
Don't forget you can pack up to 70 lbs in the totes. Make sure you get the rubbermaid 18 gallon ones.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby Bushteachers » Mon May 11, 2015 10:21 am

Not sure if it has been mentioned or not, but I recommend trying to shop at one location. If you have your address to the school, start shopping on Amazon. Paper towels and toilet paper are great on there.

You could also contact the Debarr Rd Fred's for bush orders. 907-269-1700 (press 2, 0, 1) and speak with Anna. She is great. Anyways, you can save your time and pay 10% plus shipping...totally worth it, and they pack the stuff great.

You can have stuff waiting for you. Which makes life less stressful.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby tnuts20 » Mon May 11, 2015 3:41 pm

When would be a good time to start shipping items ? I plan on flying out on July 21st, getting my shopping done, and then heading to Atqasuk. I will go to the village before the new teacher training.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby Bushteachers » Mon May 11, 2015 4:00 pm

tnuts20 wrote:When would be a good time to start shipping items ? I plan on flying out on July 21st, getting my shopping done, and then heading to Atqasuk. I will go to the village before the new teacher training.

We are relocating this school year(darn budget cuts, though we are extremely excited about the new location), and we've already started shipping stuff and plan to be in new village around July 8th.

If you are mailing from lower 48 it'll take 2-6 weeks for parcel post packages to arrive. But it'll be expensive. If it'll fit in flat rate boxes, that's the way to go...I shipped 60lb adjustable dumbbells in a large flat rate with bags of rice to pad. 68 lbs. from GA to AK. $17 lol.

Talk with your site principal. Someone from the school should be able to pick it up and store in the gym or classroom.

Here's another idea. Buy a dehydrator and start buying cheap produce and dehydrating it. Mail the veggies up. Over a year shelf life and much lighter. Great for soups or casseroles.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby schneidler » Mon May 18, 2015 4:37 pm

I'm late to this thread, but wanted to speak to the concern that the original poster had about the $75 baggage fee for the cooler full of frozen food. You don't have to pay that if you are a "club 49" Alaska Airlines member, which gives you 2 free bags as long as your ticket starts or ends in an Alaska city, and THREE free bags on flights within Alaska. Membership is free. Also Delta is in cutthroat competition with Alaska Air right now and they have started their own free baggage policy just for alaskans.

As for the coolers vs totes vs boxes, I like the cooler because (a) it ROLLS and (b) I live in a village that requires 2 flights from Anchorage, with sometimes a few hours in the town in between (Bethel). A box is ok for frozen food in the winter time, but not for "chill" food, and not so good for anything in the summer. Also John's advice about using frozen veggies instead of ice is spot on. I'm an ice cream fan and usually ship 1 cooler with nothing but ice cream surrounded by cheap frozen peas and corn. I wouldn't trust it to make it ok in a box due to the long travel time.

Also good advice from bushteachers to buy as much as you can online beforehand. I would add that if you belong to samsclub you can buy it online and they have it ready for you the next day. You just walk in and pay and walk out, they have it all pulled and ready to pick up. HUGE time saver. Costco will do this too, but only if it totals $1,000 minimum, I believe and you kind of have to find the right person by phone beforehand. And if you didn't get everything you wanted don't panic, you can always order from a service like this one: https://www.facebook.com/AlaskaBushShoppers1, express yourself expeditors, span alaska, etc.

The line at the airport post office seems highly unpredictable. I've seen it with lines out the door late at night, and the next night at the same time with no line at all.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby schneidler » Mon May 18, 2015 4:40 pm

Also I want to add that you should always try amazon. I still get surprised at what is available there, from king sized mattresses (really!) to car batteries, especially if you are a "prime" member you might be surprised at what you can get.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby Bushteachers » Mon May 18, 2015 9:24 pm

schneidler wrote:Also I want to add that you should always try amazon. I still get surprised at what is available there, from king sized mattresses (really!) to car batteries, especially if you are a "prime" member you might be surprised at what you can get.

Do you know of anyone that has scored on the king mattress yet? Lol. We have tried four vendors with free shipping until I put the address in. Still searching and I know oil eventually find it.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby schneidler » Mon May 18, 2015 10:04 pm

ha ha, yes a couple of people. aprn actually had a radio spot on amazon shopping from the bush (pause for google search), and it can be found here: http://www.alaskapublic.org/2014/11/28/ ... he-arctic/
I found one, but wasn't able to sell my wife on memory foam, she wants a spring mattress. The way to find which will ACTUALLY ship here is to just put them ALL in your cart, willy-nilly, then go like you are going to check out with your 30 mattresses or whatever, and it will say "these 28 can't ship there" and the other 2 are actually, really and truly, free shipping.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby Bushteachers » Mon May 18, 2015 10:46 pm

schneidler wrote:ha ha, yes a couple of people. aprn actually had a radio spot on amazon shopping from the bush (pause for google search), and it can be found here: http://www.alaskapublic.org/2014/11/28/ ... he-arctic/
I found one, but wasn't able to sell my wife on memory foam, she wants a spring mattress. The way to find which will ACTUALLY ship here is to just put them ALL in your cart, willy-nilly, then go like you are going to check out with your 30 mattresses or whatever, and it will say "these 28 can't ship there" and the other 2 are actually, really and truly, free shipping.

Brilliant. I never thought of that. No idea why, but I didn't. I seriously do a few a day, trying to find it. Thank you.
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby jamieburgess » Fri May 22, 2015 12:05 pm

Ok - another question. What is the best way to get frozen/chilled food once you're settled into your remote village?

It seems like getting non-perishables and produce is not a huge deal, but what about stuff with a short shelf life like milk and cheese? Since I'm only about 18 miles from Bethel, would the grocer in Bethel get these items to me in a timely fashion so that they stay cold?
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby Bushteachers » Fri May 22, 2015 2:32 pm

jamieburgess wrote:Ok - another question. What is the best way to get frozen/chilled food once you're settled into your remote village?

It seems like getting non-perishables and produce is not a huge deal, but what about stuff with a short shelf life like milk and cheese? Since I'm only about 18 miles from Bethel, would the grocer in Bethel get these items to me in a timely fashion so that they stay cold?

powdered milk...or boxed coconut milk. I can't justify the $15 gallon price tag for milk.
Of course we aren't milk drinkers, but I do cook with it. So what we do is buy a jug of powdered milk and then we order 12 boxes of coconut milk (QT size) for cooking and drinking. The vanilla flavored one is good to drink, and the unsweetend one is great for cooking. Cheese, we order from Fred Meyers and when we are in town we buy quite a few blocks and mail them out (butter as well).

The last two years most of our allowed luggage has contained frozen veggies since we've had moose meat. Find PD chances to go into Anchorage to do your shopping trips. Medical trips, etc...

THis is where the paying for the extra bag helps. Yes it costs $75, but it's cheaper than buying in the village or the AC.
However, don't neglect to shop occasionally at the village store. Many teachers don't and the community notices. We shop for convenience items and the occasional fresh produce.

Image
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Re: Getting Everything to Start in One Day in Anchorage!

Postby schneidler » Sat May 23, 2015 11:52 pm

Ok - another question. What is the best way to get frozen/chilled food once you're settled into your remote village?

It seems like getting non-perishables and produce is not a huge deal, but what about stuff with a short shelf life like milk and cheese? Since I'm only about 18 miles from Bethel, would the grocer in Bethel get these items to me in a timely fashion so that they stay cold?


We usually can get by with only buying most of our freeze and chill twice a year. You get 3 free bags each from anc to your hub (in your case BET), and my family of 4 will usually use them all. Something like 6 coolers, a couple boxes of chill, and a few more boxes of stuff that we didn't want to wait for in the mail. Obviously that doesn't work for milk. Everyone has a different opinion on milk. I know a lot of people who actually hold out for real, regular milk. Even though in our village probably more than half the time it isn't available other than the little quart box kind at like $4 per box.

Here is our milk recipe. I take a gallon pitcher and put in 2 quarts of powdered milk, then add a 1-quart shelf-stable box of whole milk, then refill that box again with water and add it to the pitcher. The whole milk with water idea I got from some friends in Unalakleet who insist on "real" milk but I was surprised when they asked me to bring whole milk when I went out there to visit. Later I learned they mix it 50/50 with water to make it last long, and the biggest surprise of all was it really did taste like 1% milk on my cereal in the morning. The whole-milk shelf stable stuff is at sam's and costco, around $20 for 12 quarts of it. I mail them usually and haven't had any problem.

As for the grocer in Bethel getting you milk/cheese/yogurt or whatever in a timely fashion so that they stay cold, I wouldn't bet on it. It has to be at ravn well before the flight. In August it will get warm and in the winter it may well freeze especially if your village airline agent isn't super diligent about getting boxes dropped off at the airport where they belong, quickly. I'm not saying it isn't possible - it definitely is. But it would be pricey and unreliable in terms of whether it showed up cold. I would buy all the cheese you need for the year up front, for us two five-pound blocks of cheddar and 1 sack each of shredded mozzarella and Parmesan gets the four of us through a semester. But your mileage may vary as they say on this site - I just wanted to toss my $.02 in for whatever it's worth. How's that for a fistful of cliches?!
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