Kalona Life: Stringtown Grocery | Fit and Free with Emily
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If you’ve been around FF/E for a while, you may know this past summer my little family moved 15 miles south of Iowa City to the Kalona area. Even though it’s a short drive, sometimes it feels like an entirely different world.

I grew up in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa: where seeing a deer was a big event for me. Now my neighbors are cows, horses, and sheep. My normal drive “into town” takes twice as long because of all the horse and buggies (I LOVE THIS), and I look out my widows at fields and woods, not housing developments. I’m kind of in love. :)

Living in a predominantly Amish/Mennonite community has its benefits. There is no shortage of fresh food or handmade goods, that’s for sure!

Last weekend, I hinted over on Instagram/Twitter that we finally took advantage of Stringtown Grocery, an Amish run bulk and produce store. Hold on to your hats, folks. We scored a major haul.

Stringtown Grocery, Kalona IA


(photo source)


(photo source)

Location: 2266 540th Street, Kalona, Iowa (just East of the Kalona Cheese Factory, off Highway 1)
Hours of Operation: MWRF: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, SAT: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Parking: Directly in front of the store, and across the road. Plenty of horse-hitches too, if that’s your thing. ;)
Atmosphere: clean, organized, and friendly. Carts are available. Isles are very small and usually crowded, so best not to bring a caravan of kids with you. Cash only.


Stringtown Grocery is nothing short of amazing. I wish I had taken pictures of the inside, but typically the Amish community has rules on what they will allow to be photographed, so I didn’t want to be a bother.

The small four-isle store has just about every dry good you can think of. Flours (some I didn’t even know existed!), candies, oatmeal, nuts, granola, pastas, hand-made noodles, pie-fillings, grains, teas, SPICES (ohhhh the spices!) and even baked goods. I could have spent hours marveling over each beautiful wrapped package, which is saying a lot for a store that can’t be more than the size of a typical living room!

In addition to dry/handmade products, they have a few “farm-life” accessories (like mason jars, borax, lye, vinegar, lamp oil, etc) and an extensive cooler section full of cheese and frozen produce.

Are you getting the picture yet? Pretty much heaven on earth.

Here’s the best part: Adam and I walked out with over 50 pounds of food for our Fit and Free Family. Guess how much we spent?

Kalona Stringtown Grocery Bulk Haul


(Here’s what we bought: Oats, granola, Apple Cider Vinegar, brown rice, chocolate chips, 13-variety beans, gummy sharks [Harper’s treat], organic quinoa, lentils, pasta, organic teas, peas, black beans, bread flour, and a 12 pack of mason jars which I didn’t add to the price/weight total for the graphic.)

We were fortunate enough to receive some housewarming money in the mail this week, with strict instructions to “buy something we needed.” I was beyond excited to use the money for something so useful. This will last us probably … oh I don’t know … FOREVER?!

The biggest shocker to me was the oatmeal. We paid $4 for and 8-pound bag. FOUR DOLLARS. That’s what a puny container from the regular grocery store costs! Also, the bread flour was about 30% of what it would have typically cost us. We found that overall, we decreased our spending around a %50-%70 average.

Next, I had big (pretty) plans for my haul.

Mason jar time!


Harper wanted to say hello ;)

I cannot get over how beautiful they look each time I walk into my kitchen and see this:





Eating healthy and supporting local business makes my heart happy. I will be back to Stringtown Grocery, you can bet on that! This year is all about finding ways to stretch our dollar, and obviously Stringtown Grocery gets the job done!

Now …. what to cook with all the goodness? ;)

Do you have a local bulk store? What’s your favorite place to shop for you and your family?


Be strong. Be Fearless. Be you.


PS – If you’re a local reader and want to see me check out a particular place/event, let me know! :D I’m always looking to support our community.

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  • http://twitter.com/Brownie8727 Samantha

    Ahhh this is glorious!! I wish we would have known about this when I came to visit. We could have spent an entire afternoon in that place!! I am super excited to see all the awesome dished you make with this fabulous haul!!

    Savory oats anyone??

  • Erin

    Umm…I wish there was a place like this near me. Next time I’m through your area, this place is on my list!

  • http://twitter.com/mezzsays_ *trix

    LOVE the pictures! The mason jars look so awesome! (Harper’s cute too)

  • http://www.facebook.com/mollie.l.9 Mollie Lyon

    I was so hoping you would do a post about your visit to the store! I love bulk bins!! What a great haul! And I love your display, too! I did something similar. I just love the look of grains, beans, etc. displayed in glass!

  • thechimes

    seriously. i want your kitchen with the canisters and shelves. my mom LOVES stringtown. Also, I need to head your way at some point. The original destination for last weekend was Amana colonies, but we switched it, and I didn’t think you wanted to drive all the way to Ames for one day.

  • http://twitter.com/MommaHunt16 Erica Zamsky Hunt

    Ummm….the jealousy I am experiencing right now is huge. We have nothing like that here in CT. Well we do its called Whole paycheck (I mean Whole Foods). This looks amazing and i love the Mason jar idea, I so need to use this idea!

  • http://profiles.google.com/limar082002 Lisa Stalsworth

    I am so very, very jealous! My sister lived very close to a Mennonite community and we would go every visit to purchase items from the Mennonite grocery store. She moved away and I miss being able to go.

  • http://www.stellarpath.net/ Jeremy Logsdon

    We have an Amish Salvage and Bulk store near my parents’ house. Every time we go visit, we stock up. It’s amazing how much we save!

  • Biting Life

    Ooh that’s so cool! I wish I had something like that near me. Although I do love taking advantage of the Whole Foods bulk bins. So many people don’t realize how much cheaper it is to shop that way.

  • Mary S.

    Does this store help support their church?

    • http://www.FitandFreeEmily.com Emily

      I’m not 100% knowledgeable on the Amish community but I know that a large percentage of any profits they make are to be directly contributed to their church. There are several Amish and Mennonite churches in this area, so which one exactly they align themselves with, I’m not sure! :)

  • Pingback: Stringtown Grocery | American Oikos

  • Beth

    I love this place! I have always wanted to know who their supplier is. Do you happen to know? I am sure that some of it is locally grown/made but i cannot imagine that everything is.

    • http://www.FitandFreeEmily.com Emily

      I’m not sure who their supplier is, sorry! They’ve also expanded to a larger location (right next door) since I did this post, so they may have even changed suppliers to meet demand. I’m sure they’d be happy to give you the information if you ask them, the next time you stop by! :)

      • Beth

        Thanks! I was actually at Stringtown yesterday and i asked… it is shipped in from Pennsylvania which makes total sense since Pennsylvania has the oldest and largest Amish community in America. That was good news for me :)

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