Apr 10 2011

trash or treasure? [day 319]

There’s a lot of stuff that might be considered trash, but before you throw something away, think about the possible uses for it.  These are partially full cleaning supplies and pesticides, well, there’s also a random bottle of unopened champagne too.  Just because it’s half empty (or half full, depending on your perspective) and you don’t want it, dosen’t mean someone else can’t use it.  I list this on freecycle and it was gone in a matter of hours.  Yes, it’s my waste, but it doesn’t need to end up in a landfill or disposal center.

Before you throw things away, here’s some things to think about.

  • Repurpose. Could I repurpose this for something else?
  • Sell. Is this something that I could sell?
  • Give. Is this something I could give away?  Do I know anyone who might use this or need this?  Will a thrift store take it?  Remember, your trash might be some else’s treasure.  Put it on freecycle.  If it doesn’t go on freecycle, it might just be trash.
  • Green. What is the best environmental way to get rid of this item?  Can it be recycled?
  • Good. Is there a way to use this to bless someone else?  Can you give it to a fundraiser or charity?
  • Plan. Why did you buy this in the first place?  Have you made a plan not to buy it, or anything similar again?
  • Repurchase. If you need this item or something similar in the future, is there a smaller size or is it something you can borrow?

Yes, this is a lot to think about each time you plan to get rid of something, but if you start doing this, it will change your habits.  It will be easier to get rid of things because you will have a process and your shopping habits will change, as you will think long-term about something before you buy it.  It’s a win-win.  :)


Mar 28 2011

mental gymnastics [day 305]

Buy one, purge one.

I’ve been practicing my “buy one, purge one” philosophy and it’s going well.  I was hoping to photograph all of the items, however that would take a lot of time.  I am doing it though.  I don’t shop near as much as I used to.  Even though I purchased things from a thrift store, it was still buying a lot of junk I didn’t need.  Now I’m much more selective and I buy much less, especially knowing I will have to get rid of something every time I buy something.  It’s a good plan and it’s not been a struggle at all.

I bought 2 pairs of shoes, a pair of jeans and a pair of swim trunks at the thrift store a few weeks ago.  I needed a pair of dress shoes that were comfortable.  I found just the right pair and I bought another pair that were on sale for $2.00.  I came home and got rid of 2 pairs of shoes.  The jeans, girl’s size 16, fit me, but a little snug.  I bought them with the intention of wearing them if I could, but if not, using them to repair some of my other jeans.  The boys needed a pair of swim trunks, as they’ve been fighting over the one pair they have.  I actually got rid of a lot of clothing, not just 2 pieces.  I’ll be blogging that soon.

Just a few days ago, I bought some throw pillows for my patio swing.  I’ve been wanting some because I love the swing this time of year and I like to lay on it and read.  Considering I got the swing for free from a friend and the cushions free from a dumpster, spending a few bucks at a thrift store on pillows seemed okay.  They’re the same fabric as my patio chairs and are from Pottery Barn, so they cost someone a lot of money.  I plan to dye or paint the unbleached cotton cushions.  So what am I getting rid of?  My colorful tile pot (that’s broken), some of my solar lights (a few that don’t work) and the shiny rocks (that are serving no purpose whatsoever).

Buy one, purge one is not difficult.  It’s a good feeling to know I’m not going to be accumulating more stuff when I do shop and it makes me walk away from many things I would have purchased with my old shopping habits.

Snap one, show one.

I started a quirky little habit.  I take photos of the things I considered buying, but chose not to.  I snap a photo and I show it here on my blog.  Here’s a couple of pics.  To the left are 4 square glass tables.  I thought these would be nice for my patio.  Mental gymnastics:

  • What would I get rid of?
  • Do I want to clean these?
  • Will I maintain the plants I want to put on them?
  • Where will I get the plants?  The pots?
  • Are these made for outdoor use?
  • Do I really want to spend $70?

I thought about all of that in less than a minute and easily decided against them.  Next was 2 latte mugs, the polka dot one and the orange rimmed one.  It’s rare to find oversized mugs.  Here we go again.  More mental gymnastics for he sake of consumerism.

  • Do I like these mugs?
  • Do I need these mugs?
  • What will I get rid of?
  • Do I need more dishes to wash?
  • How many cups can I use at one time?
  • How do these fit into my minimalist approach to downsizing?
  • Do they coordinate with my mismatched collection?
  • Do I really want to spend money on these?

Again, in less than a minute, I walked away from these.  I like the new habits.  They aren’t painful at all.  I haven’t quit shopping, but I’m spending my money less frequently and more wisely.  Time to kick it up another notch?  Probably so.


Mar 26 2011

it’s alien poo out of an alien dumpster! [day 303]

Maybe I’m a mean mom, but I make my kids try new foods.  I don’t make them eat it if they don’t like it and I don’t go out of my way to get things that will gross them out.  Both of them like pistachio nuts so I thought I would make some pistachio pudding for dessert.  Here’s what happened.

Let me just defend myself here.  I have never fed my kids anything out of a dumpster.  I get food from grocery stores and I don’t know any aliens.  I don’t like food waste, so I bought just one box of pudding, however my timing on it wasn’t great.  I was going out of town the next day and since nobody liked it, it sat in my fridge for 5 days.  I guess the aliens came in peace though, as this is the shape the pudding cracked into.

Okay, so I added the little piece at the bottom between the two small lines, but it looked like a peace sign when I pulled it out, as the other 3 lines were cracked in.  So what’s the best way to avoid food waste with kids?  Here’s a few tips.

  • Small portions. When eating out, I sometimes make them share or order small quantities because we can always order more.  At home, I let them fill their own plates with the understanding that they must eat what they put on it.
  • Plan leftovers. If you go out, don’t get food that will taste bad as leftovers.  French fries are just gross as leftovers.  Order something that you or your kids will eat the next day.  At home, make extras of the foods that will keep well as leftovers and cook only what will be eaten on the right-now foods.
  • Let your kids cook. I don’t do this often enough, but if they help in the meal planning and cooking, they’re more apt to eat it.

This won’t eliminate waste, but it sure will cut it down to an extreme minimum.  It also never hurts to communicate your grocery budget to the kids and let them shop.  Keep in mind this can backfire when your 10 and 11 year-olds go to the neighbors house and tell them they’re spending way too much money on groceries, telling them everything they know about saving money when buying food.  I’ve found that works better than the ‘starving-kids-in-other-countries’ talk.  If we’re less wasteful, we’ll have more resources to help others.


Mar 23 2011

around the corner [day 300]

Wow!  Day 300!  Actually, that was yesterday, as I’m a day behind on the blogging.  It’s just a number, but I feel like I just made that last turn into the final stretch.  The funny thing?  I plan to keep going once I hit the finish line.  I’m sure I’ll start something new, but I plan to keep shopping the way I’ve been shopping.  There are so many good things that the challenge has produced, results I never would have expected.

  • My shopping habits have changed drastically. I think a lot more about things, all things, before I buy them.  Even small things like a pack of gum.  I look at everything long term now and I shop for the future, not the here and now.
  • I’ve lost my desire to shop. I still like to treasure hunt on occasion, but there’s no part of my being that wants to go into a superstore or the mall.
  • The amount of good things that have come out of no shopping. Since I’ve been blogging this everyday, it’s easy to go back and see all of the amazing things that have come out of the challenge.  Money I’ve saved, people I’ve met, ideas for sustainable living, and the list goes on.

Nope, I don’t want to go back to the old way of doing things.  I’ll stick with the new plan.  It’s very freeing.


Mar 17 2011

transfer of time, from shopping to sharing [day 294]

We’re taught from little on that we should always share.  As we get a little older, we have our own stuff, but we’re still told to share on occasion.  Then we hit our teens.  I don’t think anyone told me I should share anymore at that age.  We start backing off the sharing.  Then as an adult, I guess we’re not really expected to share, although if an opportunity arises, most of the time, we will share.  If we need something, we usually just go out and buy it, resulting in ownership of a lot of stuff.  Stuff that costs money, stuff that uses resources and stuff we simply don’t need.  What if we transferred shopping time into sharing time?  What if we started to share again?

So what is sharing?

share [shair]

— n

1. a part or portion of something owned, allotted to, or contributed by a person or group

— vb  (often foll by out ) (when intr, often foll by  in )

1. to divide or apportion, esp equally

2. to join with another or others in the use of (something): can I share your umbrella?

We all have things sitting around our house that we don’t use regularly.  A few days ago, I used a drill as an example.  Could we lend our drill to a friend?  If you need a hole and you don’t have a drill, could you borrow one?  Let’s do a little exercise.

Think of 3 things you have sitting around your house, not being used or used rarely.

~

Would you be willing to lend these items to someone you know?

If you’re like me, you probably thought of more than 3 items.  What would it look like for you to lend these things out?  With current technology, this is not only possible, it’s easy.  You won’t have to wonder who you lent that book to anymore either.  You can sign up on actsofsharing.com to borrow and lend with only your friends.  Not only will it track your items, but it will also calculate how much you have saved by borrowing, how much you’ve saved your friends by lending them things and tells you how many items in total your friends have listed.  Continue reading


Feb 24 2011

3/4 year through the no retail shopping challenge [day 274]

This is an exciting point, reaching 3/4 of a year in my no retail shopping challenge.  It’s exciting because of the lifestyle change, not because I’m closer to being able to shop.  I’ve been asked many times if I will go shopping on the day the challenge ends.  Honestly, that would feel really weird.  I will still apply the shopping principles that I’ve been using and also, using much more of a minimalist approach.  If I do shop after this is over, it will be for necessities and things that have been well thought out.  As a matter of fact, as a follow up to the challenge, I’ll probably blog everything I buy after it’s over.  That way I can track the changes and we can all see the results.

Since I’m nearing the end of the challenge, I’m also thinking about what to do with my blog and all the information contained in it.  That’s the real excitement!  There’s some cool things coming out of all this.  Stay tuned…


Feb 22 2011

a smart shopper [day 272]

I was asked last night if I ever shopped like a real woman.  I’m not quite sure how I should take that…  Yes?  At least I think so, from what I’ve studied about them.  😉  Seriously, my shopping habits are more like a man.  I have an easier time buying a $500 TV than a $50 pair of jeans.  Big ticket items just seem like more value for the money, I suppose.

In the past, I would go to the superstore places and buy things I didn’t need, buying them only because I liked them.  I never thought long term about them, much of the stuff ending up on eBay or in a thrift store.  I also loved shopping in thrift stores, but I would buy things just because I liked it a little bit, but it was a great deal.  Again, much of this went back to the thrift store.  I would sometimes want to redo a room in the house, and I would go buy things for that room, usually making the Ross-Marshall’s-TJ Maxx-Tuesday Morning run.

This is the only explanation of how I accumulated so much stuff.  In the future, I hope my shopping habits aren’t defined as “shopping like a woman” or “spending like a guy”, but as being a smart shopper.  Maybe this will be the one time people can call me smart without following that word with a smaller 3 letter word.  😉


Feb 16 2011

I miss my lazy jelly [day 265]

We ran out of grape jelly a few days ago, and I quickly added that to our list to buy some more.  Now that I’ve changed my grocery shopping habits, I don’t have 23 jelly options, as it’s been narrowed down to about 3.  Missing from the new selection was my lazy jelly, the squeezable kind that is mostly no mess.

It completely crossed my mind to put the new high maintenance jelly into the squeeze bottle.  I was actually going to go through a lot of work and take the time to move the jelly into a new location.  Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?  I decided not to move it, and I made sandwiches for my kids lunch, and guess what?  It wasn’t horrible.  It makes me wonder how many times I’ve complicated something in efforts to make it easier.


Feb 7 2011

downsizing the kitchen & food supply [day 256]

I’ve been doing a lot of downsizing lately.  Right before snowmageddon, I decided to clean out the kitchen, not just utensils and cabinet crap, but food.  I don’t like being wasteful, and although we waste a lot less than the average American family, I felt that we needed to make some changes.  We made some radical changes and some subtle changes, and the results are proving to be really good.  I’ll share the overall goodness of this, the process of cleaning out the kitchen and a couple of mini-challenges.

The big picture.

We haven’t died of starvation. Again, we started this a couple of weeks before the ice storm.  We have much less food in the house, but we had plenty to eat during the 4-5 days at home.  I didn’t buy extra, in fear that we would starve and have nothing to eat for a week.  I bought a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread the day before the storm hit.  We had plenty, and I was even able to feed the two painters working in my house a couple of times.

Airstream… I mean streamline. Okay, I want an Airstream, but that has nothing to do with my kitchen.  The tasks of cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning the kitchen is much easier.  Cooking is easier, as there’s less stuff to shuffle around and I know what ingredients I have on hand.  Grocery shopping is easier, again, because I have less and I know the few things I need.  Cleaning is easier too, as I have a lot of extra pantry and cabinet space.  So much extra, that I was able to move all of my pantry items into empty cabinets while the oil paint takes 5 days to dry.

Here a snack, there a snack, everywhere a snack snack. My kids will open every bag of everything we buy at the store.  We could have, and have had, a pantry overflowing with food, and yet the kids can’t find a thing to snack on.  With much less in there, this is not a problem anymore.  It’s easy to see we have two open bags of crackers or pretzels.

Waste not, want not. We are wasting very little food these days.  Not that we wasted a lot before, but it was still more than I was comfortable with.  Waste is unnecessary, and by making some small changes to lessen it allows us to save a little money, be better to our environment and enables us to help others that don’t have enough to eat.

What did we do?

Downsized the pantry. If you have a smaller house like mine, the pantry is a small closet.  The picture is my “before” picture.  I don’t have an after right now, as the oil paint is still drying.  Whether your pantry is large or small, stuff always gets hidden in the back.  My pantry wasn’t horribly unorganized, it just had too much in it and could use a little more a system of “first in, first out”.  We took everything out and carefully selected what would go back.  I had cedar balls that didn’t smell like anything anymore.  Out.  Ridiculously expired stuff?  Out.  Open bags of stale crackers and chips?  Out.

We broke down the boxes and recycled them.  We couldn’t see all of the food behind the big boxes of crackers and cereal.  The boxes take up a lot of space.  I found it best to use see-through containers and baskets as much as possible.  Most of the stuff I didn’t know I has was in these black plastic crates and could not be seen. Continue reading


Jan 22 2011

a 25¢ lesson cost me hundreds [day 241]

Yes, I made a judgement call based on 25¢, a quarter I thought I would loose.  Listening to some bad advice, I decided not to try a new grocery store in my area, a store that opened over a year ago.  Some person (I don’t remember who) told me that the new Aldi grocery store charges 25¢ for the use of their carts.  What this yo-yo neglected to tell me is that you get your quarter back when you return the cart.  So instead of checking this out, like I normally would, I decided not to.  My 25¢ lesson?  Make my decisions based on my own research, not something someone says. Of course I will always take advice and opinions into consideration, but I should always see things for myself.  I do this with people, I should do it with everything.  Lesson learned, but not just one.  There were many great lessons from this experience that I would love to share.

What is Aldi? “ALDI is a discount grocery chain that operates over 1,000 stores in 31 states. Through a select assortment and convenient grocery shopping approach, we’re able to offer our customers the highest quality everyday items at the lowest possible prices—honest to goodness savings.” Read more about them and why they’re different at aldi.us.

So why the quarter for the cart? “At ALDI, we cut costs every way we can to keep prices low. Our shopping cart deposit system is a good example. You insert a quarter to release a cart. When you return the cart, you get your quarter back. This system cuts down on the labor of collecting carts left in the parking lot, damage to cars, and we pass the savings on to you.” I like this.  In addition, it keeps the carts from hitting the cars in the parking lot and the carts seem to be in better condition.

I decided to shop there a few days ago.  It was the closest store and I just needed 2 items.  After the great experience, I decided to go back.  This time was to shop in efforts to try some of the different brands, buying one or two of each thing we normally purchase.  After seeing first hand, the incredible savings, I decided to do a cost analysis.

Last night, my kids and I went to our local grocery store to compare prices.  It was nice to get out of the house and I forgot my phone, which was nice, as my kids and I had fun doing this.  Who would have thought?  Here’s the results.

Aldi price: $65.40

This is pre-tax.  There was only one thing that was a name brand I usually buy, Amy’s vegetarian meals.  All of the other things were Aldi or generic brands.

Name brand price: $139.51

I priced the name brand items that were comparable in size and type to get this number.  The name brands cost 113% more than the Aldi brands.  Whoa!  that got my attention!

Off brand price: $99.33

To get this number, I used the same criteria as above, but with generic  or off brand items.  There were a few things that didn’t have generic brands, so the brand name item price was inserted.  Shopping at the major grocery store for off brands cost 52% more than Aldi.  Again, wow!

I’m sure you have some of the same questions I did before going in here, so I will address them now.  I had some very unexpected shopping results, that were much more than just saving money.  I also got me thinking about my shopping habits and how I have some room for growth.  Continue reading