I get really excited when I discover new stores that carry organic products. It is even more exciting when these stores are local to me. Recently I had been checking online to see if there are any organic stores I didn’t know about in my area and surprisingly there was! Thank goodness for Google, because I certainly wouldn’t have come across Autumn Harvest Natural Market on my own since it was tucked back off of Route 22 East in Scotch Plains.
I took a quick trip to check out what organic goodies they might have. As well as hoped they had an amazing bulk foods and bulk spice section as Basil Bandwagon does, since Basil is quite the drive for me. Unfortunately, Autumn Harvest was not as impressive as I had been expecting. Find out below exactly why I wasn’t impressed.
Everyone Loves Sugar
Autumn Harvest is located on the first floor of a stand-alone building. That means they have a very generous store size, which was very promising when I first arrived. As I entered the store a wall of bottled beverages greeted me. The shelves created a maze that funneled me into the main area of the store, which opened up wide to even more shelving displays.
As I made my way through the beverage section I stopped to browse any new products to discover. There were lots of organic juices in glass bottles (hooray for plastic-free!) as well as some 6-pack cans of organic soda. Unfortunately while I checked out this new to me soda brand, I discovered several black ants crawling around between the cans. As off-putting as that may have been I thought logically and figured there was a can that was leaking causing the ants to be attracted. I kept that in mind but hoped that the rest of the store was insect-free. Thankfully the remainder of the store was free and clear!
As I continued through the store there was so many types of vitamins and natural supplements, nearly half the store. If I needed a specialized natural supplement I certainly believe Autumn Harvest would carry it, since their inventory was so vast.
They did stock a variety of herbs that were in bulk jars, so that you could purchase only as much as you need. They offered more common items like cinnamon sticks and garlic bulbs as well as less common (to me) herbs like horehound and myrrh gum powder.
Support The Locals
The honey/sweeteners department was small however I was so glad to see that they stocked a local New Jersey variety of honey from Hunterdon County. I always respect stores that are willing to support local farmers and beekeepers, by stocking their products.
Pre-Packaged Food Paradise
As I browsed the shelves of pre-packaged foods I was very excited to find many varieties of Bob’s Red Mill hot cereal, which I hadn’t been able to find in either of my local Whole Foods. Yes, there are two Whole Foods locations within 10-15 minutes of my home. Once I began looking over the packages of hot cereal to make my choice, I sadly found that all of the organic varieties were all beyond their “Best By” date from 2015 & 2016.
Though our country has a problem with food waste, I’m not one to purchase already expired food. At least not without getting a huge discount on food that doesn’t need refrigeration, like this hot cereal. Sadly it wasn’t just the hot cereal that seemed to have a beyond expired date.
Several of the bulk items had already been packaged up into small plastic resalable bags by Autumn Harvest employees. This was likely done to keep the stock fresher and pre-packaged for convenience. Pre-packaged bulk items tend to defeat the purpose of coming to a health food store to find bulk food. But perhaps this store is just not busy enough to accommodate that style of shopping. I wondered if perhaps some of the dried fruit was store-made, so it would actually need to be pre-packaged.
In the refrigerated section it seems there was some dried fruit beyond its “Best By” date. The dried fruit wasn’t as concerning, since it would have been preserved by the drying process. I worried more that the bulk grains that could have been stale. The freezer section was chock full of goodies that were well recognized like Amy’s and Udi’s. I even saw a whole turkey or chicken in the freezer.
Bulk Foods Bummer
The bulk foods were a bit limited, as many of the foods were not of use to me or too expensive. I purchased about 2 cups of green lentils from the bulk bin in my own reusable bag. The owner was happy to allow me to use my own bag (I also had mason jars with me too) so I truly appreciate that and his understanding that I did not want to create any further trash by buying in bulk. That’s a zero waste win!
I made some lentil soup about a week after I purchased the lentils. I hoped the lentils would not explode entirely as did some old split peas I had did. Since I began to debate the freshness of some of their dry foods it was a concern of mine. Well, I had nothing to worry about. They worked out really well and were very tasty!
There was a small produce section that contained the usual items, all of which looked very fresh. Nearly all of the fresh produce was organic too, even organic garlic bulbs. As sometimes unpackaged organic garlic bulbs are challenging to find.
I was really glad to see such a large beauty section. This section offers natural hair dye by Naturtint and lots of great quality beauty brands such as Honest Co., EO Products, Jason, Dr. Bronner’s, Kiss My Face and Tom’s of Maine. I would definitely recommend Autumn Harvest for their huge variety of beauty products. They even had a coconut oil soap that caught my attention, which I had never seen before.
It was really great to see some beeswax pellets and candles stocked at Autumn Harvest. I had been looking for quality beeswax to make homemade lip gloss a few Christmas’ ago as gifts. Although I found it as a solid block at Whole Foods, it was a tough search for it. Pure beeswax supplies are always a great find and I’m glad Autumn Harvest can offer that.
Autumn Harvest Social Club
On a late Thursday morning I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised to find myself to be one of two customers in the store. Even Whole Foods has quiet times during weekdays. Perhaps this shop is also a social club for friends of the owner. Since when I was checking out he had been chatting with a gentleman who came in the store and plopped down in the only chair across from the register. I did not inquire but do get the feeling that this store is the type place you could special order an item if they didn’t already carry it. I believe this to be true mainly because the owner was so welcoming and friendly when I mentioned I had never visited their store before. He seems like he would go above and beyond for any customer that came in.
As I made my way to the cash register my eyes locked onto a new gum brand I just came across on Instagram. Organic Glee Gum is described as delicious and zero waste because of its cardboard only paper packaging. I snagged the mint flavor and headed to check out. To my surprise the gum was likely around $4 and the lentils were only $1.50. The gum didn’t have a price sticker, but I had figured it couldn’t be too expensive – well I was wrong. I probably wouldn’t have snatched it up if I knew it was that costly. Though this organic gum still has some ingredients that seemed unnatural to me – like carnauba wax. I’ll stick with Simply Gum instead.
Essential Oil Inventory
When I departed the store I noticed that there was a large inventory of essential oils. I only own three oils but that is enough for me. Since I can easily see myself getting carried away with having all the scents. I recommend that you check out Autumn Harvest’s stock if you are beginning to get into essential oils. For now, I have enough scents to continue making my 2-ingredient room spray. When I need new scents I will check the inventory at Autumn Harvest first!
It is really good to know that there is another alternative food store close to my home. It’s important to support small Mom & Pop stores as they were the first types of homegrown stores that were available. Big box stores have a way of over powering the little guys and not offering specialized service the smaller stores do. We need to make sure to keep a good balance of both types of stores by supporting both.
To visit Autumn Harvest Natural Market you can find them at 1625 East 2nd Street, Scotch Plains, New Jersey. You can also visit them on Facebook where they often share articles relating to our health. Be sure to pick the brain of the owner, he looks like a wise old hippie – he’ll be the friendly one with the long grey beard.