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Where to Stock Up on Pantry Staples Even During a Pandemic

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I will admit that when the Coronavirus first started to peak in the US, I did a little panic shopping for pantry staples. We live in Washington state and as the first known case went public in March, I immediately felt like I needed more groceries!

Normally, I keep a pretty fully stocked pantry but since we just bought our house in January, there were lots of little basics we did not have.

Beginning of the Pandemic Crisis

Back when it still seemed a little silly to stock up, we made a late-night run to Walmart of all places for canned vegetables and ramen noodles! My husband thought I was being ridiculous until schools started to close around us and we went to a Shelter in Place.

I was really afraid the food supply would collapse and we would be stuck without any dry goods for months. Fortunately, that did not happen at all! In fact, from my understanding, all of us panic buyers led to demand increasing so much that what should last 6 months lasted a few weeks! I feel some shame at this, I will admit…But things seemed to have normalized a bit more at least for now.

During this time, I scoured the internet high and low. We checked Costco, Amazon, and every little website in-between.

I really wanted to start baking sourdough bread again, and the desire for flour propelled me to find SOMEWHERE, ANYWHERE that might have some!

That’s when I remembered that my farmer friends buy in bulk through Azure Standard, a company out of Oregon that delivers large truck orders of goods to drop-off spots in the Northwest. 

I checked to see what they had, and somehow, when everyone else was out, they had flour! 

Our first purchase was March 25th, when I snagged organic whole wheat pastry flour and organic whole wheat bread flour. Since I wanted flour for baking bread or pastries, this was perfect!

Since then, we’ve placed 5 or 6 more orders and I’m really liking this company.

Why I recommend Azure Standard for healthy pantry staples:

They sell the BIG bags of products we love.

Yes, I KNOW that it’s just me and my husband in our house, but we do so much cooking from scratch, we go through large bags of dry goods quickly sometimes.

Screenshot of part of our April order, including 25 lbs of flour!

After this first order, I was able to get 25 lb of white bread flour, which was wonderful! However, you can see that they went out of stock in all-purpose flour before my shipment.

They also sell 50 lb bags of Central Milling bread flour, which I tried to order, but it went out of stock. Back in May, they would have 1 bag in stock and then sell out. Now, they have 222 on hand with 350 more coming. Don’t worry, America; we have plenty of flour again!

homemade organic sourdough bread
This bread was made entirely with Azure Standard flours: whole wheat AND white bread flours!

They sell hard-to-find foods.

They also had foods we love but can never find, even on Amazon, like powdered whole milk, powdered organic buttermilk, dried tomato powder, and couscous. I had a really hard time finding these products even before the closure, so I was thrilled to see I could get a 5 lb bag of couscous!

Why do I need powdered buttermilk? I use it in this best-ever overnight sourdough pancake recipe from King Arthur!

They sell conventional and organic products.

I appreciate that I can get a small package of something or a huge packet or something and that I can choose if that product is organic or not. For example, they sell organic and conventional dried beans. The 5 lb of non-GMO light red kidney beans currently costs $6.72 for $1.34 per pound. For 5 lbs of organic red kidney beans, you’ll be spending $11.79 or $2.36 per pound. That’s a big price jump, but I appreciate having a choice to decide what is right for me and my family.

Get a FREE Healthy Pantry Staples List

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Delivery makes social distancing easy.

In a regular world, the Azure Standard truck stops at the dropoff site at a regular time (with some variation for things that come up or traffic). The truck is unloaded by the drop coordinator and helpers who organize the pre-labeled boxes and bags.

Customers arrive, walk through the piles of organized boxes and bags, find their items, and take them home.

I appreciated how quick the pickup was. I did not expect it to be so fast or efficient!

Plus, our coordinator would send a text or email when the truck driver confirmed the drop time and always tells us to be there at a specific time to get our items. It’s really fast and well-organized. We only had one strange night where the truck came as night was falling and we actually saw the unloading process occur. That was an anomaly as every other pickup has been really quick. We don’t even have to talk to anyone!

They sell refrigerated and frozen foods, including produce.

It’s not just time to stock up on pantry staples! Azure Standard also sells refrigerated foods, including dairy and non-dairy, and they sell frozen produce. They also sell fresh produce, although I often find those prices a little higher than Costco and more comparable to farmers market prices around here. I did order a bulk bag of carrots once and felt the price was reasonable for organic carrots.

They offer at least 2x Azure Cash rebates on EVERY item you order.

It’s not a ton of money, but I like getting a couple dollars extra as cash back on my purchases! You will earn 2% cash back in rewards for any purchase with many items offering bonus cash back.

Azure Cash is extremely easy to apply. They show you how much Azure Cash you have and you type in what you want to use. No special codes or redemption process: just type in how much you want to use!

They often use paper or glass for their own packaging.

Pretty much everything I bought that’s packaged by Azure Standard was packed in either paper or glass. I had some things, like dried tomato powder and red pepper flakes, that were packed in plastic. Those items require packaging that can resist water or air, so I understand that! I love knowing the paper products will break down naturally and that I can recycle the glass jars.

They also recycle the boxes they receive for products they sell when they prepackage your items. My plant starts were delivered in cardboard beer boxes and my grains and spices came in a frozen blueberry box. I love that there isn’t secondary waste from the packaging process! I think they even folded the flaps of the box to close them instead of taping. It’s the little things, right?

And finally…probably my favorite thing they sell: PLANT STARTS AND SEEDS!

pantry staples list
Dahlias cut from Azure Standard plant starts

I desperately needed to find some Yellow Brandywine plant starts this year, but none of my local farmers raised those plants or they sold out by the time I asked. I purchased some seeds that died during transplant (I’m telling you, some parts of gardening are really hard!). As a rule of thumb, I never even try growing tomatoes from seed unless I can plant them directly in the ground because they ALWAYS die or get leggy.

stock up on healthy pantry staples
The winter squash plant starts at the front are from Azure Standard. They have currently taken over the entire corner of the yard and are the happiest, healthiest plants in the whole garden!

Anyway, this is my favorite type of tomato and I couldn’t imagine surviving an awful year like this without them. Lo and behold, Azure had them! I also purchased starts of cucumber, summer squash, winter squash, dahlias, lemon balm, and basil. Granted, their basil was just as small as what I planted, but everything else was in excellent health. Azure has their own farm, from my understanding, so they raise the plant starts themselves!

I also got some seed packets for more kohlrabi and kale, and I felt the prices were great for the quality. Plus, these seeds were in stock even as other places were running out of popular seeds, like kale seeds.

In conclusion…

Over the past few months, we’ve been weighing out the pros and cons of stocking up on pantry staples at Azure Standard.

PROS:

  • They had hard-to-find food, like flour, in large and small sizes.
  • Delivery is outdoors with pre-labeled boxes for easy social distancing and quick pickup.
  • The food we ordered was all organic and well-priced.
  • The company is local to our region with regular dropoffs.
  • We have an organized and patient drop-off coordinator.
  • Dropoff sites can be free or paid, but we found several free ones in our area.
  • Once you lock in your order, you have a few days to make changes.
  • They often use reusable or recyclable packaging.
  • Prices are often comparable to Costco or higher quality than Costco.
  • There are no delivery fees if you spend over $50 per order. Otherwise, it’s $5 per order. This means no membership costs, unlike Costco or Thrive Market! (There is an 8.5% surcharge for deliveries far away from Oregon.)
  • They offer 2% cash back on every purchase as Azure Cash.

CONS: (All related to COVID)

  • The deliveries were inconsistent with the massive influx of new customers, sometimes off by a couple of days. This would not have worked if I was still teaching in person and not able to take a quick trip to the dropoff site.
  • At least 1 product I ordered went out of stock before my delivery date for most orders.
  • They were out of some staples I wanted for a while, so I went back to Costco for things like organic sugar for water kefir.

Although there were challenges with delivery timing, that seemed very clearly connected to the influx of customers and how quickly they were selling out of stock. Both Azure and the dropoff coordinator communicated well about changes in delivery timings. I’m just nervous about whether or not those issues might continue because it may be hard to use them in the future when schools resume in person.

Shopping at Azure Standard is like shopping at a huge, extremely well-organized digital farmers market/food co-op that can get you everything from local grains to plant starts.

Try Azure Standard for healthy pantry staples!

I really enjoyed my experience with Azure and will most likely continue using them for specific products. We are trying to eat less bread because I was baking way too much for a while, which means we haven’t placed an order lately. I also noticed that Costco started having the Central Milling All-Purpose Flour in stock again, which I now use for my bread in addition to some local flours I got at my co-op. I also have a ton of grains and beans, so I don’t need anything else right now! However, I will totally use Azure Standard again and plan to replenish my stock before the Fall in case things go haywire again.

If you have some shopping to do, visit Azure Standard at this link and I’ll get a discount on my next order, too!

Have you ever ordered from Azure? What do you like or dislike about them? Tell me below!

We love to share with other bloggers! This post was shared at one of these great linky parties!

Rachael

Rachael is a schoolteacher who loves to grow her own produce in her backyard garden, cook from scratch, and update vintage furniture for her farmhouse look. She lives in Western Washington with her husband and her cat.

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