Thursday, July 27, 2017

I Went Out and Bought Some

I joined a Facebook group for people who are trying to cut their personal consumption.  There are some great comments and discussions. 

One of my favorite questions so far has been a stay-at-home Mom who was asking about work from home jobs - not MLMs.  As I was answering it, I realized that I have worn many hats over the past two decades spent as a work-from-home mom.  I've done a lot of different jobs - some that paid cash, some that paid in freebies - all interesting to some degree.  I'm thinking my resume must look pretty awesome for someone who hasn't had a full-time job for the past twenty years. 

Most of the comments are really testimonials from other frugalistas who are sharing their non-consumer wins.  My favorite one of those had to do with toilet paper.  As many of my long-term readers may know, I was strongly advocating for dispensing with TP here at Chez Brown and replacing it with family cloth and a bidet. 

The thing is I've used a bidet, of sorts, and I know how much better it is and feels.  Many years ago while I was delivering my oldest daughter, it was common practice for doctors to perform an episiotomy.  For the uninitiated, an episiotomy is a cut - with scissors - of the skin between the vaginal opening and the anus.  The logic behind cutting that skin is to prevent it from tearing.  A straight cut is easier to stitch up than a jagged rip.

So, without asking my preference, the doctor called for Novacaine, gave me a shot, and then proceeded to snip.  I was - mostly - lucid.  When the nurse asked him if he wanted to put those scissors in the box to be sharpened, I had a moment of panic.  Thankfully, I was a little too preoccupied with trying to deliver my baby to comment to them that while I was focused, I wasn't deaf.

Anyway, the point of all of that is that when I went home a few days later, I had stitches to care for, and using toilet paper was not an option.  I used a spray bottle filled with a solution of warm water and soap, washed the area after eliminating, and patted myself dry with toilet paper. 

It was a manual bidet, and it felt amazing on those stitches.  It was also a much cleaner, albeit more time-consuming (because I had to fill it with water and soap each time) option.

I would be thrilled to have a bidet in place of toilet paper.   As none of my family members have ever experienced an episiotomy, the response from them to my suggestion to invest in a bidet has not been met with the same enthusiasm that I have for the appliance.

On the FB Group page, there's a great deal of advice regarding what to buy and where.  Many of the folks on the list don't purchase new things - ever.  Mostly I agree with them, but I do make an exception for certain things.  One of them being canning jars.

We use canning jars for a lot of things.  I can in them - of course.  We use them for drinking glasses.  I use them for storing dry goods - like sugar and flour.  I use them for packing our lunch food when we're going to be eating out. 

I have just about every sized jar that's made from the tiny jelly jars (perfect for repacking a single serving of yogurt from those big, bulk containers) to half-gallon sized jars (great for storing smaller portions of flour or making sun tea).  I also have a lot of gallon sized jars, but they don't use the same lids as other canning jars.  

I have a lot of canning jars, but it's something we use, and something we use a lot.  So, canning jars really have become one of those things that I can't have too many of.  When we shop for store-bought "canned" foods, I always look for those items jar, and I will purchase the brand that is in a jar that can be reused as a canning jar.  That is, the jar lid needs to be a regular-mouth canning jar size.  I've gotten really good at identifying which products come in those jars.

My favorite is a refrigerated salad dressing.  The jar it comes in can be reused as a canning jar, and it's cute and a little fancier than a regular canning jar, which means I can give them as gifts.  The lids are plastic, but they're reusable for putting on jars in which some things will be stored.  I have also drilled straw holes in the plastic lids so that they can be used on canning jars as to-go cups.  We have reusable straws.

But here's the thing.  I don't buy *used* jars at the thrift store. 

Sounds crazy, right?

The problem is that canning jars have become this uber chic home décor item.  Pinterest (which I haven't, yet, joined) is full of cute crafts featuring canning jars, and every time I see one of them I think, "but, then, how would I use the jar for canning?"  It's personal issue, for sure.  One time, we bought some gel candles for a fundraiser.  The gel candles were in a pesto-sized canning jar.  When we had completely used the candle, I seriously considered trying to clean out the jar so that I could reuse it.  I didn't.  But I thought about it. 

Thrift stores are on to us, for those who haven't noticed.  Especially the national chains, like Goodwill.  In fact, Goodwill's mission is NOT to bring low-cost goods to the public.  Rather, their mission is one of creating jobs and community enrichment programs.  They fund their programs by reselling donated clothes, shoes, books, and household goods.

There was a time when going to Goodwill was, literally, a treasure hunt.  First editions of books for pennies, cast iron pots and pans for a fraction of the cost of new, designer label clothing at $2 each, quality furniture, bargain electronics, collector's items, and so much more.  There was a time when one could walk into a Goodwill store and walk out with a painting worth thousands of dollars, if one knew what to look for.

That sort of thing doesn't happen anymore.  These days, Goodwill has a presence on the Internet on resale sites, like Amazon Marketplace.  It is someone's job to sort through the donated goods and list the items that can be sold online in those Marketplaces.  Their asking prices are competitive (more than they would get in the store), but because everything is donated to them, they can undercut everyone else.  As soon as I saw that Goodwill was selling books on Amazon as a used bookseller, I got out the used book game.  I can't possible compete, since I don't have a source for free books.

Not only has Goodwill decided that they should be the beneficiary of any mega-cash items, but they've started really hiking up their prices on the every day kinds of things, too.  Like canning jars, which they sell by the piece for $1 or more.

I agree with the whole non-consumer philosophy.  Buying used is usually the more conscience choice.  There are so many things to consider when purchasing a new item, including the environmental impact of making something new (natural resource depletion), but also the human cost of cheap stuff. 

But there is also a need to balance my personal economics with my consumerist habits.  The best idea is to not purchase anything and just try to make it myself or do without. 

That said, we have to eat. 

Here at Chez Brown much of what we eat is what we grow or what is grown during the summer, which means we have to preserve it.

The best way, for me, to preserve food is by canning it.  It's the most easily accessible way to use the food and the most simple way to keep it for use later.   At one point, I estimated that I needed, at least, 200 cans of food to last until the next growing season.  That's a lot of jars.   

This time of year, canning jars are on sale, and yes, I buy them new, when I find them on sale.  Today, I purchased twelve pint-sized jars for around 80 cents each - less than the cost of a single jar at Goodwill, and since my home-canned food is cheaper, even counting the cost of the jar, it's a better deal than purchasing salad dressing and spaghetti sauce and reusing the jar. 

I also bought more lids - both reusable plastic ones and BPA-free metal canning lids to be used with the rings, of which I have plenty. 

Canning jars is one of those items that I don't hesitate to purchase new if I can find a good deal.

What items will you purchase new?


  1. Yes we buy canning jars new as well since we have a lot of fruit trees. I have found a lot of great quality clothing at Goodwill and some accessories for the house as well as a baby backpack for a grandson.

    1. I still, occasionally, find good stuff at Goodwill, but when a used t-shirt is $4.99, and I can get the same one at Old Navy for the same price, I have to balance my conscience with my wallet - especially given that the one from Old Navy will last a little longer than the used one from Goodwill.

    2. Yes, that makes sense. I bought several new tee shirts recently for $7.00, heavier and lots of choices. Couldn't find decent ones used.

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  3. What's the name of the Facebook group for people who are trying to cut their personal consumption? I've tried some simplicity groups in the past but not may... thanks, Nancy

    1. The page is called the "Non-consumer Advocate". There's also a blog (