Mar 26 2011

grocery shopping update [day 304]

I’ve gotten a few questions on my new grocery shopping plan.  I shop more frequently, but buying less, limiting myself to 25 items or less.  You can read the story about the downsizing and new shopping plan that was published in early February 2011.  Take a look.

Here’s the before and after photos of my pantry.  The after was taken a couple of weeks ago and even has less in there today.  I don’t have photos of the refrigerator or freezer, but they are sparse as well.  Here’s some of the results or the new way of shopping.

Money savings.

I started shopping at Aldi versus Kroger, Tom Thumb, WalMart or Target.  That, coupled with the 25 items or less, has produced the following monetary results.  These amount reflect groceries, the occasional toiletry items and some wine.

February 2011: $268.95

March 2011 (so far, 1 week left): $149.89

I started this in mid January, so I didn’t look at that month.  Here’s what I spent the 2 months prior.  Continue reading


Mar 17 2011

the one for one model [day 295]

Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, was a keynote speaker this year at SXSW.  Not only was it incredible to hear his story, but just to hear the magnitude of positive change his company has created in the world.  Here’s the best part.  Blake made this statement at the end of his talk.

“From this day forward, TOMS is no longer a shoe company. It’s a one-for-one company.  Our next step is meeting those needs around the world.”

Yes, TOMS is now a one-for-one company.  In June, they’re launching their next product.  You buy one, somebody in need gets one.  It’s a for profit model, and an extremely successful one.  I have to say here that I would love to go out and buy a pair of TOMS shoes.  With my one year of no retail shopping, unfortunately that’s not an option.  If I buy them used, a person in need will not get a new pair of shoes, however, even in the secondary market, good can still be done.

  • If I get them at a thrift store, that money goes to charity.
  • If I wear them, I’m marketing TOMS and this one-for-one model.
  • If I buy them used, paying less than retail, I’ve saved money that I can donate to one of my favorite charities.

How else can we apply the 1-for-1 model?

I’ve been pondering this question for a few days now.  I don’t know how anyone can hear the TOMS story and not wonder how we can all be a part of it.  TOMS is obviously onto something here.  I have a few ideas of how this could be applied in other ways to benefit TOMorrow.   Continue reading


Feb 26 2011

wine or 70’s bubble bath? pick one already! [day 276]

I know my friend would never lie to me, but I really had to question that when she said she was standing in the wine aisle at Walmart, looking at pink cat-shaped bottles of wine.  I said, “no way!  Send me a photo.”  She did.

So, is it me, or does anyone else find this a bit disturbing?  I like cats.  I like wine.  I just don’t think bright pink cat wine would be anything good.  It looks like retro bubble bath from the 70’s, and would probably go nice with the bubble bath tea I had a couple of weeks ago.  There’s just some things that shouldn’t be combined.

I guess these are pretty popular in the cat-wine world, as I found a few photos where people are collecting them.  Yes, they come in more than just pink.  The pink one has the pink breast cancer awareness ribbon on it, although I don’t know anything about what they support.  If these were in my house, they would be supporting a lot of dust.

If you happen to be shopping, and you’re an entrepreneur, you might want to buy all of these little guys off the shelf.  According to the people selling them on eBay, they’re rare.  For approximately $40, with shipping, you too can have one of these to sit on your shelf.

Why do we collect things that collect dust?  I do it, maybe not cat-wine, but I have decorative things around my house.  The stuff is nice, but it’s always needing cleaning.  I guess we all like to surround ourselves with things we like, I’m just hoping to surround myself with a little less.  And I also don’t want to be so attached to those things.


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.  😉


Jan 31 2011

stripping the super bowl [day 250]

The Super Bowl XLV in 2011 will be held in Arlington, Texas.  You can tell it’s coming when you drive through the area, as it’s completely pristine, even a smart phone snapshot looks like a postcard.  I suppose there’s many benefits to hosting the Super Bowl, like maybe being able to pay for the new stadium they built on land where homes used to be or local employment opportunities, as the area will need 10,000 more strippers immediately.  The merchandise sales from the licensed Super Bowl t-shirts, hats, foam fingers, cups and other stuff to clutter our houses, and eventually our thrift stores, will be selling for top dollar, although the news stations are warning people about the counterfeit items.  A caller on a radio show asked where to buy legitimate NFL items and was told to look for the tag with the hologram saying it’s legit, but to be careful because there are major retailers that carry knock-offs.

Now I find this a bit ironic that some dude on the street getting caught with fake merchandise if going to jail, but it’s legal for the major retailers to carry the fakes.  Yeah, I feel good about this, the retailers are making more profits, illegally.  I’m not a fan of counterfeit entrepreneurs, as I’m sure there are many other things that these people will spend money on and they could be providing legitimate stuff.  It’s sad that the big retailers can do it, and that’s not a problem.

So if I buy the fake stuff at a retailer, keep my receipt and go sell that on a street corner, will that get me arrested?  Hmmm, that might be a fun experiment.  Better yet, if I get caught selling t-shirts and they try to arrest me, I’ll just take off my t-shirt, then I would be a stripper and that’s okay.  Does anyone reading this want to be my one phone call?  Ooooo, I just created fake digital merchandise!  Wait, I’ll make my own Super Bowl logo.

Surely this logo would be no problem, right?  Here’s my line of t-shirts.

Okay, so these really don’t exist, but maybe they should.  If you’re going to buy some Super Bowl merchandise, just shop wise.  Don’t spend a lot of money, buy only things you know you will wear for a long time and only support retailers that are selling licensed merchandise.  Go Packers!!!  I’m not a football fan, I’m just from Wisconsin.  :)  If you would like to use these logo logos I made, feel free to copy them and use them anywhere you like.


Jan 29 2011

aldi vs. walmart: a shopping comparison [day 248]

You asked for it.  Here it is.  The price shopping comparison between Aldi and Walmart.  After my post on day 241, many people asked for a price comparison with Walmart, some because they love shopping there, others because they believe Walmart to have the lowest prices.  So what’s your guess on the savings?

Aldi is still a lot cheaper in comparison t0 both of the other stores.  On similar size off brand and generic items, Kroger was 52% more and Walmart was 47% more.  The savings at Walmart for these brands is not much less than a regular grocery store, neither coming close to the savings at Aldi.  On the name brands, Kroger was 113% more and Walmart was 67% more.  Here’s where the Walmart savings come in.  Name brands you’re familiar with, for much less than other places.  This whole process has made me think about my previous grocery shopping habits and has encouraged me to make some changes.  I’m going to label these a little differently.  Let’s call these stores by type.

conventional grocery storediscount grocery storesuperstore – convenience store

All of the store types have pros and cons, however making educated shopping choices for your money and well being isn’t the easiest thing to do sometimes.  Here are a few of my observations and answers to questions I had before doing this comparison: Continue reading


Jan 15 2011

build it and they will come… [day 232]

Yesterday I had to shop for work again.  I’m designing an interactive wall that unfortunately need some new supplies.  I was mentioning the fact that I had to go to the store in front of someone that just heard about my no retail challenge.  He asked, “So, if you shop for work, isn’t that against your challenge?  Doesn’t that give you the getting-new-stuff satisfaction?”  Okay, so I’m not sure if those were his exact words, but you get the point.  Here’s the answer to that question.

Let me start by saying that shopping is extremely frustrating and a root canal might have been a better way to spend my time.  Here’s why.

Ikea. This store is a giant maze.  I only needed one thing from there, a couple sets of Dioder multi colored lights.  I go in the exit there because I can look in the “as is” section first, and it’s the quickest way to the spot where the lights should be.  After making my way through the cold warehouse part into the marketplace, I find the display.  Sold out.  After asking about the next shipment, I find out these lights are discontinued and they’ll be replaced with a new design.  The problem?  The new sets are not available yet.  I start looking for my bread crumbs and make my way back to civilization.

Walmart. Not much to report here, just another giant superstore that takes forever to get into.  They didn’t have what I needed, which was inexpensive, decent quality, modern digital photo frames.  I needed 5 that look exactly alike.  They had some cheap, low quality ones, so on to the next store.

Lowe’s. Now, I’m all about a hardware store, if I have to shop.  I decided to take a look for LED lights, similar to Ikea’s.  Low and behold, they had them, and for the same price.  These are actually a little better, as one controller will hold more daisy chained lights.  They had just gotten these in a week prior.  Continue reading


Aug 14 2010

superstores… superhoards [day 79]

It pained me greatly, but I had to go to WalMart today.  Not for me, but for work.  There was no part of my being that wanted to go in there, but I had to get bringer cards printed, and they’re the cheapest.  Instead of waiting, I decided to drop them off and go back later to pick them up.

I went back two hours later, only to find they had printed 1 of the 150 I needed, so I ended up having to wait inside the store anyway.  I walked around a bit, but I had no desire to shop, much less to be in a superstore of any type.

I boycotted WalMart for a long time, but eventually started shopping there again when I started on the single-mom budget.  WalMart bullies their suppliers to keep their prices low and will support sweatshops if necessary to stock their shelves with an overabundance of low priced stuff.  As the big superstores get bigger, the small businesses go out of business.  Is bigger really better?  I think the mentality of going into a superstore is one that encourages impulse spending and purchasing large quantities of unnecessary things.  He who dies with the most wins?  Hmmm, I’ll call this super hoarding.  Just look in my garage… I’m clearly a victim of this.

I’m not here to pick on WalMart, but it does pose some interesting questions.

  • Who are the small businesses in your town and do you support them?
  • Are you willing to buy less of things you don’t need?
  • Would you be willing to pay a little more to support the smaller businesses?

I answered these, but it wasn’t easy.  Living in Cookiecuttersville, where everything is owned and operated by a chain, finding small businesses is no easy task.  The small businesses I support are my local thrift stores, the donut place by my house and Andrea’s pizza.  I am willing to buy less, and I’m also willing to pay a little more to keep the small places around.

With all that being said, I want to be more intentional about finding and supporting local small businesses in my area.  :)


Aug 6 2010

off to mexico [day 70 & 71]

I’m so looking forward to my mission trip to Mexico in a few days.  I’m going to Casa Hoagr Elim again, and it’s always an amazing experience.  It got me thinking about my no shopping challenge.

When I go shopping in Nuevo Laredo, it’s always for groceries and supplies for CHE.  Although they do have a lot of the major retailers there, we shop at the Soriana.  It’s similar to a Kmart I guess, but the bakery is awesome!  I’ve been to the WalMart and Home Depot down there too, but they’re quite a drive and stuff costs a lot.  The Home Depot does give out free paint brushes when you buy paint and you gotta love that!  All we get here are some free stir sticks.

Retail is very different in Mexico, yet has many similarities.  I thought you might enjoy a photo tour of commerce in Nuevo Laredo.

I didn’t see Mary Kay, but this Avon ad was on the electric meter outside a house.

There’s some interesting products down there that I haven’t seen here.  This is Gorilla Snot hair gel.  Yes, I bought some last year and my kids love it because they can tell other kids they have gorilla snot in their hair.  Holds really well too.  Maybe I’ll use this on my dreads next time.

This is like our 7-11, although my ‘friends’ told me this was the porn place.  Yes, I fell for it momentarily.

This is the side of a store front in the colinas, and area where there’s no electricity or running water.

I haven’t ever stopped here, but I love the roofing material.  Old printed tarps from billboards.  How cool is that?

I love going down to Mexico.  More on this after my trip.  :)


Aug 4 2010

what do the initials E. H. stand for? [day 68]

I had to design some t-shirts for work with a comic book / superhero look for our volunteers.  The associated website is everydayheroes.me.  The volunteers are our everyday heroes and the assignment was to use the EH, making into something similar to the S for Superman.  The turnaround time was quick on these, so not much design time.

Here’s what I came up with:

After getting teased about the design using the EH with everyone walking around with their hand cupped over their ear saying “ehh?”, someone said the ultimate, horrific words… Ed Hardy.  I’m pretty sure I threw up in my mouth a little bit.

So why does this bother me?  You should read my blog post on iembracechaos.com to fully understand, but here’s an excerpt:

…what statement are we making by wearing it?

  • I support financial insanity
  • Food… $12, gas… $40, mortgage payment with late fees… $2367, Ed Hardy t-shirt… priceless
  • My shirt cost more than yours! 😛
  • The tattoo would have been cheaper
  • So what, my parents paid for it

I could add to this list.  I guess when they saw the shirt, maybe they saw something like this:

Yes, that’s a menorah.  I’m pretty sure Ed has his name on just about everything.  What is so desirable about a shirt (or other Ed stuff) that costs a ridiculous amount of money and everyone is already wearing?  Don’t get me wrong, I like the artwork, and the quality of the stuff is good, but why does our society idolize it?  As far as I know, Ed is not supporting anything good with his money… the probably 90% profit he’s making.

So who owns E.H.?  Who knows, he could have copyrighted the initials, but E.H. has now become an icon.  Just like the smiley face and Walmart.  (yes, that’s a blog post too on iembracechaos.com)  Whether or not Ed technically owns EH, make no mistake, he owns EH.  We all get sucked into the marketing world, a culture where everything is well advertised and heavily sponsored.  Stadiums are named after soft drink companies, generic brands have large chain store names branding them and let’s not forget that WalMart in Frisco is on WalMart street and Ikea is on Ikea drive.  Even the paid camps for kids are sponsored by many businesses, all competing for space on the back of the camp t-shirts.  What happened to the good old days of propaganda?  Today, that would be something like this:

Okay, so today I’m belly-aching.  I’ll stop, but I do need to say that this saddens me.  I want to be stylish and wear fun clothing, but I want to make the statement that I shop smart, I support good causes and I sport some creativity in my choices.  People don’t know, when they see my Ed shoes, that I got them for free.  Yes, I’m against Ed here, and have used him as my ‘bad example’, but what I’m trying to say here is that we should all support retailers and brands that are supporting good causes and not ripping off shoppers to make large profits.

Here’s a photo I had in a gallery showing a few years ago I thought you might enjoy.

Blog post sponsored by trashsociety.com, a division of iembracechaos.com, and a subsidiary of the guy that designed and owns the original smiley face. ©®™♥