Thursday, January 28, 2016

we have a what?!

Main Market Co-op in Downtown Spokane, WA
Okay, laugh at me if you must, but I had no idea Spokane had a co-op until recently! Silly me. Sure, I knew we had a downtown farmer's market in the summer and of course just up the road from Spokane is Green Bluff where I love to pick fresh, locally-grown produce all Summer and Fall. But a co-op in downtown Spokane? That I've driven past a ridiculous number of times without realizing it was even there? Even though it has this bright yellow mural painted on the side of the building?? Apparently I have tunnel vision. Sheesh!

Just a portion of the dry bulk goods available!
In my quest for  decreasing my food-related waste, I did a quick search online hoping to discover we had a local co-op where I might find more bulk options than are available in the big chain stores. Yep! Right there! lol After browsing their website, I got pretty excited over the variety of bulk items they stock and stopped in while out running errands to check them out in person. I was happily surprised at the variety of dry bulk goods, but especially excited about the wet items available in bulk. There's even tofu! The produce looked good too. =)

Bulk cleaners, oils and vinegars!
Last summer, I started buying local raw honey for my morning oatmeal and baking needs to avoid using cane sugar and now I can refill my own jars. =) I was buying organic peanut butter (with nothing added) from Trader Joe's but it comes packaged in plastic jars so that was out. Now I can buy not only organic peanut butter, but it's even from Washington grown peanuts (and freshly ground too)!

Freshly ground peanut butter, agave and local raw honey!
My last happy surprise? Bulk, locally brewed Kombucha! I'll be sure to bring a bottle or two to fill next time. That passion/orange/guava sounds yummy! =)

3 flavors of Kombucha!
Do you shop at a co-op? Have you ever? If not, have you checked to see if your town has one? The prices on some items are definitely a bit higher than the chain stores, but my co-op offers a discount on one shopping trip a month and with the discount, the cost is pretty close and in some cases, lower. =) Added bonus that my money is going to support local businesses. I could of course shop in the co-op without being a member, but between the monthly discount and the fact that my membership will also give me a discount at the local feed store where I buy my pet food more than makes up for the $10 yearly cost. They do stock plenty of pre-packaged items as well, but I'll be going for the bulk. I think it's safe to say, Joe has been replaced. ;-)

Monday, January 25, 2016

finding contentment

Ads attempt to sell us not only more stuff, but discontentment. They tell us what we need to be happy, what we're missing out on. Oh, no! Our lives would be so much better, so much easier... if only we had this new thing. It's a load of crap. Yes, companies need to get the word out to stay in business and I certainly don't begrudge anyone making a living but I don't need to sit idly by and fill my head with advertising so I'm cutting out as much as possible.

I don't own a television. I watch anything I really want to see online. Depending on the site used, I often get to watch completely commercial free which makes me very happy. :-) The fewer tv commercials I see, the more annoying the ones are that sneak through. Earlier this month, I was hanging out in the waiting area at my mechanic's and they had a tv on. I had my nose in a book, but couldn't help the tv content seeping in. I kept wishing for an empty waiting area so I could turn it off or at least change the channel. Also? The Price is Right? Super annoying. I really wanted that guy's car to get finished so I could turn it off! lol

It's not just video ads I'm avoiding though. I used to get quite a few emails from companies I've purchased from in the past. Now? Not so much. As they come in, I unsubscribe from the mailing list. If I'm not shopping new, no need to know when the sales are! ;-) Added bonus is having an uncluttered inbox!

My goal is not just having less or knowing that I need less, but truly wanting less. I think I'm getting there. My whole house has lost a lot of weight as unnecessary items have made their way out the door and even though I've picked up a few items from the thrift store this month, I've also donated at least as much. I love being able to open a cabinet or drawer and quickly grab what I'm looking for without digging through gadgets I never use or clothes I never wear.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

intentional thrifting

Something became pretty obvious early on this year. Even though I'm not shopping for anything new, my thrifting needs to be very intentional. I don't want to end up buying anything (no matter how good the deal is) if it's something I don't really need or won't significantly improve my life in some way. My solution? Go in with a solid plan!

I downloaded a grocery shopping app on my phone awhile back and added a new list just for the thrift stores so I can refer to that before I even start to browse. It's great as a reminder of exactly what I'm hunting for so I can really look more closely at those areas of the stores and just quickly browse the other areas since things do get misplaced fairly often. If I find a great deal on something not on my list, I really question myself if it's something I need before I dole out the cash to bring it home, no matter how great that deal is. I'm not saying I never buy off-list, but I keep it to a minimum. The funny thing is, once I made a list, I started quickly finding exactly what I needed. It's almost like I'm shopping in a regular store!

I decided I wanted a stovetop popcorn maker. I don't do microwave popcorn because for one, I don't have a microwave, but also because I wouldn't want the extra packaging. It was only on my list a couple weeks before I found this:
Whirley-Pop! And just in time for National Popcorn Day!

Excellent! New, these run $25-35 depending if you catch a sale. I snapped this one up in new condition for $4.79. I stopped in the grocery on my way home and picked up some bulk popcorn using one of my fabric bags.

I've seen a lot of crafty folk using salad spinners to aid in drying newly washed knitwear and handspun and since I didn't want to use the spinner I use for food, I decided to look for one secondhand and found this nice, larger one:

I checked and it sells for just over $37 new. My price? $3.99. Sold! If I don't love it, I'll happily redonate it but I have a feeling it'll be pretty handy. Who knew these things were so expensive new?! The smaller one I use for greens was a gift.

I often use my cell phone while shopping for secondhand items. Since Amazon has such a wide variety of items and usually pretty decent prices, I use their app to check new prices to see if the used price is reasonable or not before I decide to buy. I love buying secondhand because it saves resources, but I love saving money too! :-)

Do you shop thrift stores with a list? Or just stay open to what you might find?

Monday, January 18, 2016

the big tiny

We all have moments in our lives that make us rethink our future and what we want that life to look like. For Dee Williams, this trigger was a diagnosis of congestive heart failure in her early 40s. Pondering her mortality lead her to examine what was truly important in life and how she wanted to spend her time. The result? She built an 84 square foot home (yes, 84) on a trailer where a decade later, she still happily lives full time. Her journey to a tiny life started when she came across a magazine article about Jay Shafer, a major player in the tiny house movement, while waiting for medical tests to be done. So not only did her health condition give her the trigger for changing her life, but also the answer to how to achieve the simpler life she wanted. (Watch Dee's TEDx talk here.)

I've been interested in mobile tiny houses ever since I saw an article about Jay myself at least a decade ago, but I'd already lived in a few interesting places myself. During my years in Alaska, I spent time living in a couple of cabins without plumbing. One of those was barely bigger than Dee's home with the addition of an arctic entry which doubled as closet and storage. I loved that little log cabin with its loft barely tall enough to allow me to crawl across my mattress to sleep. I can vouch for the vaulted ceiling making a small space feel more open. :-) I spent a few years working a travel job that left me living in hotels around the country about 90% of the time. While I still had a home base, that experience taught me just how little I actually needed to live with on a daily basis since everything had to fit into what I could take with me on a plane while leaving room for my work supplies as well. I had a "capsule wardrobe" long before Project 333 existed. Before buying my current home almost 2 1/2 yrs ago, I spent over a year living in a 28' class C rv. Having minimal possessions wasn't a problem  - I had what I needed - and I loved feeling more connected to the outside world. The real downside to that was sharing the space with cats. My little dog did great and we both got plenty of exercise with a few walks a day, but the kitties really needed more space. I know a lot of tiny housers share space with a cat or two, but I'd never do it again. My two cats are both around 13 now so as much as downsizing and living tiny is still intriguing to me, the possibility is years away yet.

While Dee is happy installing her tiny home in a friend's backyard and staying put for years, what draws me to these tiny houses is the mobility. This is what drives me crazy about owning a standard home. I like my house, but I feel stuck. It's not that I think I would travel constantly, but the ability to move to a new location and bring my home with me is enticing. The added bonus of building a tiny house versus an rv is that it's completely customizable (and could be built without all the toxic materials). I know I could live tiny again. Will I go so small again? Time will tell. But for now, I just aim to live simply and lighten my impact as much as I can while living on a larger scale.

Overall, this was a really interesting book to read. There was a time in the middle when Dee was telling the story of building her tiny home and the mishaps of building alone that I wanted to scream, ask for help! But we all have our issues. If you're interested in tiny houses or just learning about how someone else is simplifying their life, check it out. My local library once again has a copy available. :-)

Have you ever considered going tiny? Or could you never imagine living in such a tiny space?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

thrifty gifting

I'm curious. What are your thoughts on secondhand gifts?

I've seen a few people making a pledge to not buy new, but giving themselves a pass on buying gifts for others new. I'm guessing this is much more about the giftee than the gifter since the gifter is making this pledge to not buy new for themselves. I'm not judging, we all need to decide what's right for us ourselves, it just got me thinking.

Personally, I'd love it if those who felt compelled to give me a physical gift did so by either finding the item secondhand or making it themselves - bonus points if they make something with materials they found secondhand! :-)

In my recent thrifty adventures, I've picked up a few items I feel will make great gifts for people in my life with birthdays in the near future. I sort of feel like the fates are with me on this. I'm browsing for something from my shopping list and see something perfect for so-and-so. It just so happens I'm in a thrift store and the price has fewer digits. Sure, the item may have passed through someone else's hands first, but does that give it less meaning?

I try to mostly give consumable gifts so I'm not adding to anyone's clutter. When I do give a non-consumable gift, they're often handmade, but I'm not averse to giving things found in a thrift store regardless if I think the recipient shots secondhand or not. To me, a gift shouldn't be about the price that was paid. Nor if someone else happened to have paid for it first. Added bonus? Shopping secondhand means way better gifts without breaking the budget. And really? Who would know anyway unless you tell them? ;-)

How about you? Do you give gifts procured secondhand? Would you be at all offended if you found out you weren't the first owner of a gift you received?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Joe, we need to talk...

I mentioned a couple posts ago how I'm trying to greatly decrease the waste associated with my food purchases. As much as I love Trader Joe's, I think we have to break up. :-/ Nearly everything in the store is packed in plastic. Most of the produce even is in plastic bags, those plastic clamshell boxes or plopped onto a styrofoam tray and shrink wrapped. So sad. Even the foods in boxes are in plastic bags inside those boxes. I left Trader Joe's with a few produce items and headed to another grocery where I knew more bulk foods would be available and brought along the fabric bags I whipped up this weekend:

They did well on their maiden voyage:

No more plastic bags! The new bags are cotton and I sewed in a tie made from an old t-shirt so I didn't even have to use the twist ties to close the bags. Of course that meant no tag to write the code on. So instead:

I took a quick pic of each bag with the PLU and just gave the codes to the cashier. Easy peasy since I used fabrics with different designs. I saw some people online putting the codes on the bags permanently, but I don't plan to only buy the same items over and over so this was an easy fix. I kept the bags in the same order in my cart to make finding the code quick and easy at checkout. This worked well, but I may simply number the bags so I can make a list on my phone instead. I do have at least two bags from each fabric so that way I could use them all and not worry about how they land in the cart. Easy adjustment. :-)

Concerned that the fabric is heavier than those thin plastic bags? I'm sure they are, but the weight is minimal. I made 13 bags in total and most weigh in at a whopping 1/2 oz, the same as the net produce bags I've been using for years. So they may add a smidge to the overall cost, but no plastic! The one larger bag is great for keeping all the empty bags organized too.

I'm very happy with these and got to play with my serger too. :-) All the supplies came from stash of course. Here's the sum total of my trash from this week's grocery trip:

Much better than having plastic bags and boxes from pre-packaged foods! I tried to find produce the sticker machine missed, but I still ended up with a few. I can't wait for summer so I can hit the local farms again!

I swung by Goodwill too and found just what I needed to wrangle my loose potatoes now that I don't buy bagged anymore:

Love it! And only $2.99. :-)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

in defense of food

Looking for something good to watch? Personally, I love a good documentary! This week while browsing the PBS app (free!, but you can also watch online at, I discovered In Defense of Food that is based on the Michael Pollan book of the same title. 

I'm currently reading another Pollan book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, in which Pollan traces back the ingredients of four meals with often rather disturbing results. More on that once I finish reading. :-) I plan to read In Defense of Food soon too.

As for the documentary, I highly recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about a healthier diet. Our focus should be on mostly whole foods with minimal processing. So much science has invaded the food industry that many of the packaged "convenience" foods have labels that more closely resemble science experiments than something we should be consuming.

In America, where bigger is often mistaken as better, we have a lot to relearn about how to eat. I chose to follow a vegetarian diet early on (around 11-12) and in recent years have eliminated most animal products entirely, but that doesn't mean I always make the healthiest choices (I'm talking about you, candy cane Joe-Joe's!) and I've been trying to clean up my diet more. No, I'm not aiming for gluten-free, sugar-free or fat-free, but I am working on kicking the science experiments out of my cupboards. :-)

This documentary is a whole lot of common sense... something often lacking in our society these days. Simple is good! It also touches a bit on how psychology plays into our food choices. Very interesting!

Seen any good documentaries lately?

Monday, January 4, 2016

nothing new here

I hope the first week of 2016 is going well for you! Did you make resolutions? Are you sticking to them? Odds are good if you did, you still are at this point. ;-) I've been thinking a lot about what I want 2016 (and forward) to look like. There are some definite changes, but a lot more of what I've already been doing too... just stepped up a bit.

I love challenging myself. Last year, I swore off buying yarn again in favor of using my stash. I love knitting and weaving, but I have a yarn stash and I certainly don't need more coming in. Even after a couple years of intentionally not buying (and selling and donating too), I have plenty to choose from when the creative bug bites. The only new skeins that entered my stash last year were either ones I handspun myself (4 1/4 pounds worth) or bought secondhand (only 2!). This is my eventual goal for my stash. With the new (to me) loom (see my last post), I plan to make a large dent in my commercial yarn stash this year and be well on my way to an only handmade/secondhand craft stash!

I also spent time last year sorting through everything I own and keeping only what I love and truly use. I think the guys at the Goodwill drop off started to recognize me. I've found the less I own, the less I need and definitely, the less I want. The house lost a lot of clutter last year and I don't miss a thing.

So what's in store for 2016? Nothing new. Literally. These days, it's hard not to be aware of the impact our shopping habits have on the world, both environmentally and socially. I've been making more effort to lighten my own impact, but I know I can do more. So my new challenge for myself? Not buying new. Manufacturing new products uses resources that are quickly running out while many pre-owned items that still have a lot of life in them make their way into our landfills. Buying secondhand, I'll also be avoiding all the packaging and yes, saving some cash along the way as well. :-) This still leaves me plenty of options for finding the things I need - Freecycle, Craigslist, bartering, borrowing or at times, realizing I just don't need that thing after all. I discovered there's a whole group of people making this same choice for various reasons and lengths of time. Check out The Compact article on TreeHugger. There's also The Compact Yahoo! group. I do have a couple of caveats: home/car repairs (pretty sure I need a new car battery this week), sewing needles/thread (can't buy used) and a new pair of walking shoes before it warms up enough to resume our daily doggie walks. I'm also working to reduce my waste connected to food, but more about that later. I made my final new item purchase on December 31st. It'll be interesting to see just how long I can make it before buying new!