Alaska Teacher Placement
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Shopping & Shipping Tips for Rural Alaska - 2022

Bush Shopping Information

This is the place to find favorite shopping tips, and strategies. Most of these have come from discussions and experiences reported in the ATP Forum over the years. Each of us have our favorite little things we have discovered over the years, and new options are popping up all the time. None of the links here are "endorsed".

Some of these are common knowledge in rural teaching circles. All are proven time and money savers, and should help make your adjustment to rural Alaska a great deal easier.

This is simply a starter list of tips and tricks for shopping in rural Alaska.

Important Basics

  1. Use the ATP Forum and the ATP Facebook page to search for the latest tips and to ask questions!
  2. Research your community and shipping alternatives before you make major purchases. There will be many options, but in general US Mail is the least expensive, and very reliable.
  3. You need to think of your baggage as "shipping" when you fly in and out of the village. Many use their carry on or other bags as a way to bring in fresh meat and / or produce. No matter your preferred airline, you must know your airline luggage limits, as excess baggage fees can really add up!
  4. Alaska Airlines has among the most reasonable baggage rates, including 3 free bags on their flights within Alaska to regional hubs.
  5. If flying Alaska Airlines, join "Club 49" using your new village address for two free bags into and out of Alaska, and check their special rates for sporting equipment and firearms. In addition, they have a program for reduced freight shipping for Club 49 residents in the Bush.

Alaska Airlines Baggage Policy, & Fees:
http://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/baggage/baggage-overview.aspx

You REALLY want your free Club 49 card, and use it to fly Alaska Airlines on the way up to Alaska!  Why? The baggage rules and rates are far better on Alaska Air for in-state residents to and from Alaska.  So, you can ask your district for an address to mail your things after you sign your contract, and use that school or district office address to create a Club 49 account prior to your move. Then, simply update your address when you get your own PO box or physical mailing address.  This will save you quite a bit of money, and especially so if you have a family in tow. 

But, even if you don't join Club 49 right away, the rules and rates are better on Alaska Air for in-state travel to the regional hubs (verified as still current as of October 12, 2022), which are the endpoints of Alaska Air ticketing. Smaller villages will involve a flight from that "hub" to a local airstrip in your new community.

In addition, Club 49 members get "Freight for Less" shipping, which is a fixed rate of $49 for up to 100 pounds in two 35-gallon totes (or shipping containers).

Club 49 Splash Page
Club 49 Benefits

To compare, Alaska Airlines charges non-Club 49 members per bag into and out of Alaska (to or from the Lower 48) the following bag fees:

Non-Club 49 Baggage Rates

If the bag is overweight (51-100lbs), it's $100. If you bag is over 115" linear inches, it's $100.  Of course, this doesn't apply beyond your Alaska Airlines "hub" city (Bethel, Nome, Barrow, etc.). If you change to a smaller "bush" airline, they treat the "excess" bag(s) differently.

Alaska Overweight Fees

For flights within Alaska itself, the limit is three bags for free.  This would mean for flights from Anchorage to Nome, or for example, or Anchorage to Kotzebue and Barrow. There may be seasonal restrictions at peak travel times, such as Christmas or commercial fishing seasons.

Flights within Alaska - Baggage Exemptions

This leads us to another important topic if you are moving to a village for the school year. Shipping things from the Lower 48 for your first year should be avoided. The short version is that most experienced teachers know what they need to mail or ship from Anchorage, what to order online instead, and what to carry with you as "baggage" (this can have a variety of definitions) to the village.  You often will have a day or more in Anchorage on your way up to the village, so that is when many new teachers do their shopping and shipping.

  1. You may want to mail your suitcases from Anchorage, and travel with boxes or coolers of meat and/or other perishables, as you never know how long the mailed boxes will be sitting in frigid airline cargo spaces or overheated storage units.
  2. Know how to calculate your packages to meet the current U.S. Postal shipping requirements. Be aware that shipping regulations change, and sometimes increase for seasonal peak periods. Some recent changes are being discussed in this thread on the ATP Forum.
  3. The Airport Post Office in Anchorage is no longer open 24 hours – Now closed from midnight – 6:00 a.m. and holidays!
  4. Once in your community, you can often learn which online services (Amazon Prime, Walmart, Fred Meyer, Costco, etc.) are best for basic necessity orders. You can also research this on the ATP Forum, and by watching ATP's archived (or live) Virtual Job Fairs where district staff answer questions about these topics.
  5. Also, once in your village, you can sometimes combine your orders with other teachers. Before ordering large quantities food and other merchandise from outside the village check around and find others that need some like items. Today there is lot of merchandise that you can purchase from the warehouse stores that comes in packages (example canned fruit and vegetables in 12 packs) that can be shared among several people saving all of you some hard earned money.
Bypass Shipping: Speaking of going together on large orders, did you know that a large majority of the rural schools and grocery stores ship using the USPS "Bypass Mail Service" to send their frozen meat and vegetables, chilled and dry groceries? It's cheaper then air freight, usually faster and all the merchandise gets delivered to your home or school. Bypass mail saves you money. It is a Federally subsidized mail program that exists SPECIFCIALLY to help reduce costs for rural Alaska residents. All you need to do is have a mininum amount of 1100 lbs, (the average families order from Costco is usually around 325 lbs) use a approved bypass mail contractor. This service is availble to almost every village in Alaska. Go to USPS Bypass Mail for further information or contact your local post office.

Bush Shopping Strategies

Although things have improved dramatically in terms of rural Alaska shopping options since the 1980's and early 1990's, your first year or two in the Bush is still going to go more smoothly if you plan ahead!

There are several basic approaches you can follow to prepare for you first year. Which one is right for you depends partially on what village you are headed to, the size and composition of your family, and your consumption habits and patterns.

You have three basic choices for how you order your basic items: traditional grocery shippers; on-line retailers, or do-it-yourself shopping trips to Anchorage or Fairbanks.

As you decide which of these methods to choose, remember that Anchorage and Fairbanks are both very expensive places to stay during the summer tourist season. During June through August, make sure you calculate a value into your cost equation that includes at least $175 per night for a hotel, the cost of a car or van rental at about $75 or more per day, postage, tape and mailing boxes or tubs.

No matter what option you use, check what your vendor charges to ship your purchases to your village. Shipping can range from the actual cost by mail with no handling fee to handling and air freight charges that total several times the actual purchase cost of what you are buying! Always compare costs on shipping carefully between stores or websites.

Option 1: Order Your Staples & Supplement!

Pros:

  • Relatively easy
  • Reliable
  • No shortage of choices
  • Cheapest overall option
  • Safest if you don't know area

Cons:

  • Significant initial purchase cost
  • Trial & error until you learn
  • Planning efficiently takes practice
  • Shipping options confusing
 
Span-
Elite / Span Alaska Sales

Fred Meyer Alaska Bush Orders

Some teachers place a large order of basics before coming to Alaska, usually through one of the major bulk Bush grocery shippers like Span-Elite Alaska, which has been serving village residents since 1972. Mail order prices are high, but barge orders are reasonable but only sail in the summer, and then buy things to supplement as needed. This can be used in combination with the Guerilla Shopping Experience below.

Smart teachers want to shop at the Anchorage Costco, Walmart, Carr's / Safeway so they can see what selection and brands they carry. By shopping their own orders they save money and get more of what they want. They then leave the purchased merchandise at the warehouse store and leave instructions to have one of the local expeditors package and send their merchandise out to them. Always ask the store supervisors which expeditor they would suggest to use.

Prices are generally not bad if you order in bulk. If you order from a catalog or one of the on-line services, you might be able to save more money than those who buy only from the local store or a regional hub.

Helpful Videos About Shopping in Anchorage:

Here are some videos that might give you an idea of what to expect in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Some have example prices for comparison and reality check. Remember that these prices are not representative of what you would see in a regional hub store.  If you check some of these Vloggers, such as the SomersinAlaska folks, have rural shopping trips they have recorded too.  It's apparently a popular topic for YouTube videos, so do some searches. ;-)

The trade off for new teachers on their way to the Bush is you need to spend some time figuring what you really use and need that will not spoil in transit. (Check on bypass mail rates for 1000 lbs or more) You can only carry frozen meat or other perishables a few times a year, but you can order the non-perishable staples (rice, pasta, canned goods, boxed prepared foods, Halloween candy, etc.) ahead of time at great savings.

Option 2: The Guerilla Shopping Experience

Pros:

  • Personal selection of items and brands
  • Save shipping expenses (see caveat below)
  • Bush shopping options abound in Anchorage!
  • Quick delivery if you take to P.O. or carrier
  • Can carry fresh produce & meat

Cons:

  • Physically & emotionally draining on newbies!
  • Still a significant initial purchase cost
  • Summer hotels prices in Anchorage
  • Need to rent a car or van, get boxes, tape, etc.
 
Walmart Dimond Center - Bush Order

Randy & Lynne's Cooler -- Well Used!

Some long time teachers in the Bush swear by Guerilla Shopping, and I have personally spent many an hour engaged in this rather unique activity. Even if you do order the basics ahead of time, you'll want to know the rough Guerilla Shopping techniques, as you will find yourself in Anchorage or Fairbanks or another regional hub at one time or another.

Seasoned Bush residents always travel with tape, markers and perhaps even labels to make sure that no opportunity to fill a box or cooler goes wasted!

The Usual Scenario

You are either on an overnight layover in Anchorage or Fairbanks, and have only a few hours to buy as much as possible. You know you will return to the village for a couple months, maybe longer, without another chance to get fresh stuff or necessities at prices like this. What's a guy or gal to do?

Well, here is a very quick list of tips that nearly all ATP Forum threads on the subject share:

  • Shop with a plan or a list, or you'll be ineffective!
  • Rubbermaid tubs, zip ties for lids, packing tape and Sharpie markers – have them with you.
  • Keep packing and/or shipping limits in mind at all times. Pack as you shop if possible.
  • Mail suitcases – you need fresh produce and fresh meat more! Make your mailing labels before you leave home, have tape!
  • Coolers are useful as luggage both in the summer to chill, and in the winter to protect produce from cold. No ice allowed, but frozen veggies work.


John's Shopping Tips

These are our family's tips for shopping while in Anchorage or a hub city for an hour, a day or a week. We always travelled prepared to shop, and preferred to guerilla shop, pack and ship things ourselves most of the time as compared to have a vendor do it for us. I can only think of perhaps a handful of times we used the third party shippers at Costco, Fred Meyer's or had Walmart ship our things. Those were cases where slogging it out packing in the parking garage, or out at the airport was simply not possible due to a close connection or something. Not everybody wants to do this, and our tips may not work for you. But, it's a process and a toolkit that most rural Alaskans we knew either did parts of, or had their own strategy to accomplish. You will see people doing this all over Anchorage or Fairbanks - outside stores, in the parking lots, at the post office. Here is a short overview of what we recommend to newbies who ask.

  • Have one or two sharpie permanent markers in your carry on bag
  • A few sheets of blank paper or pre-printed labels with your address are a godsend when in a hurry.
  • Always over label bags with contact info & warnings. If fresh produce, mark "Chill", or if meat / fish, mark "Freeze". This is in case one of your bags doesn't make flight.
  • Travel with a portable luggage scale. Over limit fees are horrible!
  • A rolling cooler is always one of our pieces of luggage. We prefer the Igloo Cube.
  • Always have a roll of good clear tape, and a roll of duct tape. Do not leave tape in the car when it's cold.
  • Have some kind of tote. The Rubbermaid Roughnecks & Home Depot Tough Box (27 gallon size) are our favorites, but we still often just ask for free apple boxes from Carr's each trip.
  • Apple boxes are best for soda, as they are sturdy, wax impregnated against moisture, and just the right weight with 4 12-packs of soda & four 2-liter bottles.
  • Pack as you go, but stick with your list!
  • If using totes, have the holes pre-drilled before you go. Carry good zip ties to close them.
  • Non-perishables are cheapest to mail. We used the Airport Post Office. Never used air freight for dry goods.
  • Nearly always mailed our luggage and/or clothes back from "Town", and used our baggage allowance for fresh stuff & things we needed.
  • Always bring a treat for whoever you left behind. I always, always, always brought a dozen roses, and a takeout dinner every time I returned.

John's Guerilla
Shopping / Travel Tips
Apple Boxes
for Soda
Home Depot Tough Box - The
stack AND zip tie
Packing for
the post office and airport run. Detergent with tape
and a label!
Two cubes
stacked & ready to roll

Shopping On-line

On-line shopping is probably the method most Bush teachers use to buy things. Don't buy stuff guerilla shopping that you are better off getting from Amazon or Walmart.

Amazon Prime is your best friend, but as it is so commonly used in 2022, we won't list it here except to update to their latest speed estimate chart.  For a while they didn't offer free shipping to rural Alaska, but they do now. Remember that Prime means free 2-day shipping in the Lower 48. Up here, it means "fast as humanly possible", so don't expect it after two solar cycles. Let's just say that 3-7 business days may be a hope, not a promise. Free is good, though!  Some things may be free from one Amazon vendor, but not others, so always be careful.

Amazon Prime to Alaska


Walmart online ships most things free if it's over $49. There are also Bush shipping departments for the all major grocery and dry goods chains in Alaska (Fred Meyers / Walmart, etc.), as as some specialty grocers that serve the Bush. And there are shopping services in Anchorage which will walk the isles for you, or pick up your orders at Costco or Fred Meyer's and ship them out.

Walmart Bush Orders

The following Walmart stores have Bush Shipping departments:

It's important to shop carefully to make sure you don't end up paying hidden shipping fees when shopping with on-line vendors. Sometimes you will find a great special on-line, only to be told upon checkout that shipping "outside the United States", or "outside the Continental United States" is not possible.

Although everyone has their favorites, some of the best on-line sources for rural Alaskan are those that periodically offer free or reduced shipping.

The list of recommended sources at the bottom of the page will have many more shopping resources that Bush residents use.

Please try to make in state purchases when ever possible. It's good for the state economy and it shows the community that you as a teacher care for Alaska and support the people that live here.

Other Bush Grocery Shippers

We don't have first hand experience with all of these options, but have seen them recommended by others. Bush grocery services out of Anchorage, Fairganks and other regional hubs do change periodically, so your mileage may vary!

Already linked above are two long-time Bush shopping services with online interfaces:

  • Span-Elite (Formerly Span Alaska Sales) - Based out Seattle and Anchorage. Been in Bush shopping business since 1972 with catalog, and later online sales interfaces.
  • Fred Meyer Bush Order - Another long-time favorite of rural residents

Greatland Grocery & Supply

This Anchorage-based option started 2018 as an online shopping portal for rural village residents. Their grocery interface seems well-designed, and can be filtered by organic, or other options. They offer free USPS shipping on all items, as well as discounted bypass / bulk shipping to villages.   

Greatland Grocery & Supply


Other Alaska-based shopping services with online ordering:

Buying Bulk Groceries

Many people buy their bulk groceries just a few times a year. A common approach in coastal villages, or along major rivers is to order a few large shipments by barge from Seattle or Anchorage.

There are some communities, however, where placing a major order for the year results in significant savings, so check with your district before you go.

On Atka Island in the Aleutians, for instance, there used to be just one or two barges a year. There was no dock (there is a dock now), and if you missed that arrangement, you were limited in what you could have sent on the one mail flight a week.

It was essential for teachers on Atka to coordinate grocery shipments well in advance. There are fewer communities with these limits than there used to be, but make sure you ask your district before you make assumptions. Some other communities in the Aleutians get weekly barges all winter, and you can even order fresh produce all winter. So, it really is essential to ask questions before you shop.

Shopping for a big order once, twice or three times a year is a bit of an art. Maybe someone will post tips to this page on the best way to estimate quantities. You will make mistakes. Count on it, and just assume there will be a margin of error to your calculations the first year.

There are several alternatives for bulk items that depend on what strategy you are using – the three basic approaches are traditional grocery shippers, on-line retailers, or spending the time and money to shop for a few days in Anchorage or Fairbanks. Some teachers pool their orders and use US Mail's Bypass Mail program.  Some of the Alaska-based shippers, and Span-Elite also leverage Bypass Mail savings for shipping to the Bush.

For buying your staples, or the things you know you are going to need over the year, it is wise to think big. The bigger the quantity you order, the lower you cost.

One of the most common misconceptions about the cost of living in Alaska is based on the idea that the local store price of core grocery items are what teachers actually pay. They usually don't pay those prices, except when they run out of something, or want to splurge.

Most teachers don't buy a jar of Ragu at the local Alaska Commercial store, but order a couple of cases of Ragu from a catalog, on-line, or when they are in "town" and can pack and ship themselves.

Getting Fresh Produce - Specialists

You can use the fresh produce "specialty" shippers. Some are subscription services where you sign up for weekly or bimonthly boxes of whatever is available fresh. Some are more of a locally fresh experience. Some organic. Some sort of organic. Or, you can use any of the major shopping sites in Alaska listed below (Fred Meyers, etc.) to shop for groceries and fresh veggies. Or, you can use the expeditor / shopping services listed on this page. Whatever you think, though, it is no longer necessary for you and your family to do without. Get your fresh produce. It's worth every penny, and is getting fresher and less expensive to obtain.

Surprisingly, many Alaskans use coolers to travel with fresh produce, but not to keep them cold. Quite the opposite! The coolers protect lettuce and other fragile produce items for a short while from the extreme cold in the plane's hold, belly pod or wing locker and when the winter temperatures arrive.

Check with people at your site if they have Full Circle Farms, Meyers Farms, or other produce "box service" subscription deliveries, and how they like them. Full Circle and their compeitors ship in produce weekly on different schedules depending on what you ask for.


Fresh Produce Specialist Examples

Full Circle Farms


Full Circle Farms, based out of the Seattle area since 2006, has a well established monthly organic grocery subscription service where boxes of items - some selected seasonally by them, others selected by you - are shipped on a schedule to villages in Alaska.  The list seems to change quite a bit,and some areas also offer "home delivery". It's best to check with their site directly to see if you can receive their service, and in what format. Each village has to have volunteers to meet and coordinate deliveries, check your new or potential zip code directly with their location page to see about availability and pricing.

Full Circle Farms - Subscription Produce Service


The monthly subscription example below is using a sample zip code. The prices are the actual "landed" or delivered price in the village. Each location has a few folks who track shipments, meet the plane and take the boxes to a central distribution point - often the school.

Full Circle Example -
Unalakleet

The way it works is that you sign up online for a box size level from trendy sounding names (Seed, Sprout, Garden or Harvest) and their staff determine what is freshest and makes a nice selection for you each week they ship. You do get an email telling you what is going to be coming up, and you can use your online account to make adjustments. You also have some options that you can set as "never send me". If you want additional items, they have an online store, and you add a fee per pound shipping for those you combine with your regular order.

Some teachers swear by Full Circle, and the weekly shipments are the buzz in the teacher lounge at the school. Others I know have found them a bit expensive, and instead use Fred Meyers for organic shipments within Alaska, or other grocery services, such as Greatland where you can filter for organic produces. Each to their own. Regardless, Full Circle seemed to me like a good company to deal with, and they had pretty decent customer service. Worth noting is that signing up for their Facebook page sometimes will result in discount coupons for your first order. Other discounts for new customers are frequently found online with a quick search.

Meyers Farm

There is another "subscription box" service for fresh and organic produce for Alaska Bush residents. Although they don't serve the entire state, Meyers Farm has a fascinating back story, a growing number of press articles, an excellent reputation for reasonable pricing, good service, and a focus on using Alaska-grown products. Myers has many teacher customers in villages throughout the Y-K Delta area.  The owners use advanced cold frame and other technologies to raise veggies all year in Bethel.  They also now (October, 2022) offer bulk shipping to the Nome and Kotzebue areas.

Meyers Farm
Produce Shipping


Here is a quick list of villages that likely fall into the Meyers Farm delivery area:

Akiachak
Hooper Bay
Nunam Iqua
Akiak
Kalskag
Nunapitchuk
Alakanuk
Kipnuk
Pilot Station
Aniak
Kongiganak
Quinhagak
Anvik
Kotlik
Red Devil
Atmauthluak
Kwethluk
Russian Mission
Bethel (Meyers Farm)
Kwigillingok
St. Mary's
Chefornak
Lower Kalskag
Scammon Bay
Chevak
Marshall
Shageluk
Chuathbaluk
Mekoryuk
Sleetmute
Crooked Creek
Mt. Village
Toksook Bay
Eek
Napakiak
Tuluksak
Emmonak
Napaskiak
Tuntutuliak
Grayling
Newtok
Tununak
Holy Cross
Nightmute


They ship to villages on the Yukon River,  those on the Kuskokwim River, and those coastal villages that are part of the Y-K Delta area.   I generated the list above because that means Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD), Yupiit School District, Kuspuk School District, and Lower Yukon School District (LYSD) villages.  If in doubt, you can reach Tim and Lisa Meyers by email and find out for sure (meyersfarm@gmail.com).

Dairy Products

Back in the old days, we had to use powdered milk most of the time. The most common brand, still commonly used in the Bush, was called "Milkman". Things changed with the introduction of sterilized, shelf safe milk in the early 90's.

Real Milk

If you order several cases of sterilized, shelf safe "Real Milk" in pint containers, the cost is not all that outrageous. It will be more expensive than a grocery store in Pittsburgh or Minneapolis, but the net cost is not all that much higher than in Anchorage or Fairbanks.

Whole Milk

Whole milk is far easier to get than it once was, but is still quite expensive by Lower 48 standards. A gallon of milk in some village stores can be over $12, and you need to watch those expiration dates.

Gallons of milk are treated like perishable produce for shipping purposes.

And, contrary to what my mother told me, yes, you can freeze milk!  However, milk should be put into an air-tight, freezer-safe container prior to freezing. Many types of milk will also separate and become grainy after being frozen, but that can be fixed with a blender

Powdered Milk

When I first moved up to Alaska, my family could only get "Milkman", a powdered milk substitute that you mix with water. There really is no need to do this to yourself any longer, and I don't recommend it. Some friends of mine STILL order it. Go figure.

Wine, Beer, Liquor & Marijuana

Alcohol shipping can very tricky, this is one item that is important to get right, as making a mistake can land you in serious legal trouble!

Under the "Local Option" rules of the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office (ABC), many Alaskan communities are "dry" or "damp". They also vary in rules for marijuana posession and use.

In "dry" villages alcohol sale or posession is illegal. In "damp" villages the sale alcohol is illegal, but residents can possess it. Anchorage and Fairbanks liquor stores have to follow the AMCO rules for creating an account , and track shipments to local residents. You usually have to set up an account in person with an Alaska state driver's license showing address, or they will not ship any to you. In addition, some villages that do allow alchol possession have very specific limits on how much you can bring in each month, or other controls on possession and consumption. A "wet" village has no legislated restrictions on alcohol sale or consumption.

* Alaska Alcohol Local Option List - Download the 2/25/22 list here

Cannabis became legal for recreational use in spring of 2016, but in general marijuana is legal statewide in Alaska. Except where it isn't. ;-) Much like alcohol, some local communities have added restrictions for local options regarding use and posession. However, teachers work for school districts that in some cases have drug testing rules in their negotiated agreement, and do not allow teachers to use marijuana due to federal regulations. I would tread very carefully, and seek clarification from district staff prior to use, no matter whether your new community is on the Local Option list below or not.

* Alaska Marijuana Local Option List - Download the latest here.

Do villages take these rules seriously? Very much so. Some search all visitors on arrival at the air strip. Others do not search arrivals. But, even if others in a "dry" village drink, as a school employee your behavior is scrutinized very carefully in the community.

Alcohol Control Enforcement

Fair Warning!

Alcohol abuse in rural Alaska is a significant problem, and you need to be sensitive to this when considering a move. Drinking alcohol where it's illegal, or smuggling alcohol into a village will at a minimum reduce your effectiveness in that community, and could create re-certification problems. It will probably cost you your job. Oh, and you could also be arrested and fined. Don't even think about it. If alcohol or nightlife are really important to you, please think about going somewhere else.

Don't buy from bootleggers, or make "homebrew" from yeast in a dry village. And, never, ever, ever send alcohol through the mail to a village! This will get you arrested. Make sure that your friends and relatives back home don't decide to send you any wine or spirits as a gift!

Are There Options in Damp Communities?

Yes! If it's legal to drink alcohol in the community you move to, you do indeed have some options. Shipping glass is expensive by air freight, so some prefer to buy cans of beer rather than bottles, or boxed wine instead of bottled.

It's easiest to order while you are in town, but if you have an account set up in advance - and in person - liquor stores can ship to you by air freight. It must be marked as alcohol, and the stores are very careful, and require an account on file, photo identification, and original signatures on all orders that must match the ID for you they have on file. Faxed orders are not possible.

Once you have an account established with a liquor store (see link above), there is still a monthly maximum on the amount they will send to you that depends on which community you live in.

Why is it so difficult? The potential for abuse is high. A single illegal bottle of cheap vodka, for example can sell for $100 or more profit in some villages.

Hazardous Materials Shipping

Many people don't realize how some common household chemicals and products can be considered hazardous, but they are by air carriers. These items can almost only be obtained locally in the village store, or have to arrive by barge.

Some villages, of course, don't have barge service, and most do not have this option in the winter months.

Examples of difficult things to ship out to the Bush:

  • Household bleach
  • Household cleansers (some kinds)
  • Paint
  • Propane
  • PAM cooking spray
  • Alcohol (see section above)



Shopping & Shipping Services

There are several small companies in Anchorage that serve Bush residents by offering shopping and shipping services. A couple of the ones we used to list have closed or changed hands. This one is still in operation, but you may need to Google for other current listings.

Express Yourself Expeditors (www.expressyourselfexpeditors.com) – Having served both organizations and individuals in rural for over 25 years, Express Yourself provides shopping, packaging and shipping services. Specializing in Costco Wholesale merchandise, they offer three different service levels: Self-shops (you shop yourself), Express Yourself Shops for you or you have Costco do the shopping for you. They offer shipping by parcel post (cheapest method for non-perishables), air freight (for perishables and oversize items) and Bypass Mail for larger or group orders. If you will be shopping at Costco Wholesale and would like them to ship your merchandise then when you go to pay for your merchandise, just ask the cashier for an Express Yourself order form. You will need to fill it out and leave it with your merchandise. Express Yourself will then pick it up, inventory the order, package and then deliver to the carrier of your choice. Fees vary depending on service requested. Questions, call 1-800-248-4419, Mon-Fri (9am-5pm). Pay by major credit/debt card or bank transfer. They are a USPS-approved Bypass Mail Contractor.

Anchorage: Shopping In Person & Shipping Stuff Out

Carr's, of course, the Safeway of Alaska. All over Anchorage.

Carr's - There are Carr's supermarkets all around Anchorage, and they are part of the Safeway chain. Your Safeway discount card from the Pacific Northwest or California will work fine at Carr's. Because our topic is intendded for teachers either flying out, or shipping groceries, I'll only list the Aurora Village location here. This is the cloest to the airport, a clean, well stocked store, and has a back route out Northern Lights to the air cargo places, and the Airport Post Office.

Carr's Aurora Village
1650 W Northern Lights Blvd
Anchorage, AK 99517
Hours: 24 hours

New Sagaya Markets

New Sagaya is home to a fantastic selection of Asian grocery needs. Also perhaps the best store in the state for buying really good, fresh seafood. Located just south of Old Seward and 36th and also on the corner of Minnesota and 13th, I think. Not a store you'd expect to find in Alaska. More of a Seattle or Bay Area feel.

New Sagaya Website: https://www.newsagaya.com/

New Sagaya Midtown Market
3700 Old Seward Highway
Anchorage, AK 99503

New Sagaya City Market Downtown
900 West 13th Avenue
Anchorage, AK 99501

Anchorage: Meats & Seafood

Mr. Prime Beef
7521 Old Seward Highway
Anchorage, Alaska 99518
907-344-4066

Simply the best butcher shop in Anchorage. Many Bush teachers will order from nowhere else, inlcuding the webmaster at ATP. These guys will pack your order (with a day or two notice) to travel as baggage, or ship out to the Bush. Great weekly specials you can swing by and grab for pickup on your way to the airport. They also have preset selections or "packs" of meats for shipping out.  Excellent quality meats, poultry and seafood. Recommended.

Mr. Prime Beef - Anchorage


Anchorage: General Merchandise

Costco Membership Warehouse

Although there are multiple locations for both these chains in Anchorage, I am only listing the ones closest to Midtown and airport.

Walmart Stores

In addition to Walmart's excellent online ordering and shipping options (orders over $50 ship free?), one of the two in Anchorage also does Bush orders. There are two Walmart stores in Anchorage, but the one near Dimond Center Mall also has a Bush Order department. They indeed also have a Bush Order Pharmacy at this location.

Prices and selection at Alaska's Walmart stores are mostly the same as other Pacific Northwest Walmart stores. There may be minor price difference, but for the most part, you can shop at the Walmart back home to get product part numbers and prices, and then submit your order to the Anchorage store on your way through town to have things shipped via their Bush Order department. This is very useful if you are only going to be in Anchorage overnight, or for a short time.

Wal-Mart South charges you a set percentage fee (plus shipping) if you have them pack and ship your order. Don't forget that Walmart online has free shipping on most orders of $49.

Wal-Mart South Anchorage (Near Dimond Center Mall)
8900 Old Seward Hwy
Anchorage AK 99515
(907) 344-5300
(800) 833-2874
Email: wmtbush@wal-mart.com

Wal-Mart Mid Town (Near Sears Mall) – Does not do bush orders.
3101 A Street
Anchorage AK 99503
(907) 563-5900

Anchorage: Fast Food Fixes

Some takeout pizza, Chinese food, or Subway sandwiches are a real treat thing to hand carry back on the plane, or have delivered for a mid-winter pick-me-up. Here are some of our favorites:

Moose's Tooth Pizza
3300 Old Seward Highway
Anchorage, Alaska
907-258-2537 – Allow an hour for orders!

Very, very popular California style pizza & brew pub with a much better new website. They have great pizza, and a funky atmosphere. Recommended. Huge lines, but worth the wait!

Pizza Olympia
2809 Spenard Rd.
Anchorage, AK 99503
(907) 561-5264

Run by the Maroudas family since 1984. Great pizzas & Greek food! Located right across from REI, and not far from the airport. Their complete menu is online. This was the go-to pizza your webmaster would regularly carry onto the airplane to feed the family when I arrived back in the village.

Bush Tip:  You can duct tape two large pizzas together, and make a handle out of tape. This, or almost any fast food fix, can be a "carry on" for your flight to the village.

Anchorage: Liquor Stores

Brown Jug Warehouse
4140 Old Seward Highway
Anchorage, Alaska
907-563-3008
800-478-2413

Fairbanks: General Merchandise

Walmart Stores

Prices and selection at Alaska's Walmart stores are mostly the same as other Pacific Northwest Walmart stores. There may be minor price difference, but for the most part, you can shop at the Walmart back home to get product part numbers and prices, and then submit your order to the Anchorage store on your way through town to have things shipped via their Bush Order department. This is very useful if you are only going to be in Anchorage overnight, or for a short time.

Wal-Mart Fairbanks – Bush Order
537 Johansen Expressway
Toll Free: 877-451-9921
Fairbanks, AK 99701
Fax: 907-451-9930

On-line: Pet Supplies

There are a couple of PETCO stores in Anchorage, but their website does also ship to Alaska. I personally didn't use them, though, as I typically shipped dog food out using these guys:

Alaska Mill and Feed – This pet supply store has a good variety of dog and pet food, and low shipping costs.

On-line: Winter Clothing

We get many questions about outdoor and winter clothing. This is natural, as many mentally picture Alaska as a winter wonderland, and teachers moving up are frequently from all parts of the United States. You will need something to first arrive in, and then choose winter clothing. It seems that consensus of educators already here is mostly to wait until you arrive to get the "real" winter clothing you will need.

Here some general moving and shopping information from Yupiit School District  that talks a little about clothing:

As someone who bought a bunch of gear that I could not afford before I came up, and then saw that cold weather gear rot in storage for years, I'd agree. Alaska has several very distinct climate zones, and you will need local knowledge to buy appropriately.

I'd recommend the following Alaska Starter Kit for arrival, and get what else you need when you are here. No matter where you go, this will get you there and probably through the first two months of school easy:

  • Parka shell – Uninsulated, waterproof ($150 - $300)
  • Polarplus or wool sweater – Soft, polypro material ($35 - $150)
  • Lightweight glove liners – Polypro, or "Mechanix" gloves ($10 - $30)
  • Light polypro stocking cap or waterproof hat ($10 - $30)
Xtra Tuf Boots

Tip: It's wet most places in July & August. Cheap rain boots are easy to find in Anchorage. Many prefer Xtratuf Neoprene boots. Lightweight polypro underwear is another good thing to consider for the first couple of months.

In fact, I wore a similar setup most of the year up here in the Bering Strait region for day-to-day moving around the village, with the addition of Patagonia midweight polypro underwear in winter. I only worethe real winter gear, and pac boots from late November until about end of February or early March, or when travelling by small plane.

If you are doing outdoor activities during the main thrust of winter, such as snowmobiling, skiing, ice fishing or snowshoing, all of these activities usually have fairly specialized clothing. Your fellow teachers will fill you in.

If you are determined to buy before you come up, here are several online companies that I see lots of boxes from at the post office...and that I've dealt with:

  • Cabela's Outfitters – Good selection, good shipping. Regular clothes, too.
  • REI – Another favorite up here. Lots of choices, good shipping. Store in Anchorage if you want to touch before you buy. Regular clothes, too.

Here are some personal recommendations of vendors I've used over the years for winter clothing:

Snow Mantra
  • Sierra Trading Post – Great prices, closeouts and bargains. Can't recommend these guys enough.
  • L.L.Bean – Good winter gear, but especially so on sale. I got a down parka here for under $100, and it kept me warm all winter. If you get their credit card, shipping is always free.
  • Campmor – Oodles of quality gear, good prices, ships US Mail(!) and has great phone support.
  • Weaver & Devore – Excellent "Canada Goose" connection for serious winter! Prices are in Canadian dollars. Cheaper than Anchorage when shipped by Canadian Postal Service. I bought the "Snow Mantra" from them, and put a thick wolf ruff on it, as is common here. I will never need another winter coat.

Alaska stores that ship outdoor gear to the Bush, and that I've used successfully many times:

  • Big Ray's – Fairbanks store with good gear, ships US Mail. Their lines included Alaska favorites like Carhardt insulated coveralls, bunny boots, and a "made for Alaska" value line for kids called "Activ 8".
  • 6th Avenue Outfitters – Anchorage outfitter with great gear. Got my Carhardt Extreme overalls embroidered for $10 extra. Ships US Mail. This store also carries the Alaska Activ 8 line my own kids grew up in.

Hope this helps! If you find suggestions or corrections, please let us know with a quick note.