Nearly two years ago we made the decision to limit the groceries to $100 a week and stick to it. Even though our family-size has increased by one adult person, we managed to cut that budget again to $75. The outcome is we are eating more fruit and vegetables and way less processed food. Wastage (food scraps) in our household is minimalised and due to us choosing less pre-packaged consumables our rubbish pile has shrunk to next-to-nothing. My grocery list mainly consists of ingredients such as flour which we purchase from a bulk store (Bin Inn), where we can fill our own containers.
So not only are we healthier and richer, we have significantly reduced our impact on the environment from a rubbish point of view. These changes make life so much easier, grocery shopping is no longer a time consuming, money draining chore and the products we buy now do not create piles and piles of packaging to dispose of. There is no down side.
Making your own cleaning products and cosmetics has also proven to hold many favourable spin offs over time… my teeth, skin and hair have never looked better and they have not had a branded product near them in 2-years. Knowing what is in the products you use is very empowering especially when they out shine ‘the bought stuff’ in price and quality.
The strong perfumes in purchased cosmetics and cleaning products have started to repel us and we are overwhelmed by the chemical smells in the cleaning aisle in the supermarket. It took about 18-months of making our own before we started noticing this which just shows how desensitised to strong chemicals we become after exposing ourselves and our families to them for years. Women in particular have a big responsibility to make good choices for their families and mainstream chemical based cleaning and cosmetics to me seem an expensive and unhealthy choice.
Making your own stuff is NOT time consuming, in fact I’d say quicker than buying, which involves a trip to town. We are so addicted to the supermarket habit and constantly bombarded with advertising for ‘branded’ products that steal all out hard earned cash, changing your ways is not easy nor does it happen overnight BUT if you are committed to change and want to be better off financially, healthwise and to the betterment of the environment, then sussing out home made products and cutting back on your grocery spending is well worth the effort.
Check out my earlier blogs to see how we started off 2-years ago and how it got us to where we are now. The positive changes are phenomenal.
Developed countries waste from one third to half of all the food produced. That is not only unsustainable and an insult to the farmer who produced the food in the first place but ultimately will bring the world as we know it to its knees. The next war will be hungry people fighting over scarce resources in an over populated world.
What can I do about that you may ask? Your efforts might not seem to amount to much on a global level but you are in a position to cut back on wastage in your own home. We have found that slashing the grocery budget is a great way to cut back on household waste. When a great quantity of unlimited food is not taken for granted in your home, then the amount of food scraps chucked out rapidly diminishes. The other upside is all the money you can potentially save. Think about it…. if you spend $150 a week on groceries and half is wasted… surely then you could eat just as well on $75 a week if you were more careful with portion size, variety of food offered and reusing leftovers???
This is a very simple concept – just do it.
Making Non-Corporate Choices
America’s pre-eminent consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader frequently talks about the last two generations growing up “corporate” in their attitudes and lifestyle choices. An important aspect of growing up “corporate” is automatically giving into constant pressure from the corporate media to see ourselves as “consumers” rather than citizens – and to oblige by continually consuming. A strong proponent of the voluntary simplicity movement sparked by Vicki Robin’s 1992 Your Money or Your Life, I have always viewed myself as pretty non-corporate in my lifestyle choices. Like many of my friends who have also chosen to “downsize” their lifestyles, I have felt no sense of sacrifice or deprivation in choosing not to own a car, DVD player, cellphone, flat screen TV or digital camera – or in choosing not to subscribe to satellite TV or spend thousands of dollars on fashions, cosmetics and plastic surgery to make myself look younger. If anything, our lives have been happier and far less stressful without the financial pressure of paying for all this.
I am also scrupulously “non-corporate” in other ways. I hang my wash out, rather than using a clothes dryer, make do with a small refrigerator that fits under the counter and shop at second hand stores for most of my clothing, furniture and appliances.
Needlessly Wasting $1,000 a Year
Thus I was extremely surprised to discover – after attending a class by local Taranaki mother Lyn Webster – that I am needlessly wasting thousands of dollars on commercial cleaning products and toiletries. Webster (http://pigtitsandparsleysauce.co.nz/) offers classes all over New Zealand and on national TV demonstrating how ridiculously easy it is to make most kitchen and beauty products at home yourself.
As a single mother with two kids to support, Webster acknowledges her motivation for learning to make her own kitchen and beauty products was entirely financial.
Dangers of Endocrine Disrupters
My own reasons relate more to my concern about the environmental toxins in most commercial cleaners and toiletries. Women’s cosmetics especially contain a number of endocrine disrupters – chemicals that interfere with human hormonal functioning. Most pass though sewage processing unchanged, which means they wind up in our drinking water – and are found in measurable amounts in all our bodies. This is of major concern to epidemiologists, owing to increasing evidence linking these endocrine disruptors to epidemic levels of breast cancer, early puberty in girls and low sperm counts.
Why Kiwis Tend to be Less “Corporate” Than Americans
Most of Webster’s household cleaner recipes rely own baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), white vinegar and something most Kiwis know as “Sunlight” soap – even when referring to cheaper generic brands – a plain bar soap with no added perfumes, skin lotion, or chemicals. Both baking soda are highly reactive (but safe – both are used in cooking) compounds that readily dissolve oil and grease and kill most bacteria. Webster stores her products in a variety of recycled containers. This is where the savings comes in, as packaging is the second biggest factor (after profit) in the cost of commercial products.
What I find fascinating about living in New Zealand is that multinational corporations were late (thanks to a strong tariff system) in penetrating the New Zealand market. This means there are many women of my generation who can recall their own mothers washing dishes in Sunlight bar soap. They swear it got dishes much cleaner than any commercial dishwashing detergent. The only drawback was that it left an ugly scum in the dishwater owing to New Zealand’s hard water. Webster has solved this problem by adding a “water softener” – calcium carbonate (also known as washing soda) to her dishwashing liquid, as well as her powdered detergent for the dishwasher and laundry. This combines with the calcium and magnesium that make water “hard,” preventing them from combining with soap to make insoluble salts that float on the surface as “scum.”
To be continued with a list of recipes and discussion of how we became addicted to more expensive and toxic “corporate” products.
Webster on TV NZ:
Here’s a list of the presentations I can do for clubs, schools, community groups and individuals. Both Lower Hutt and Upper Hutt Councils have hosted me to Wellington for a Cleaning Products Demonstration which enabled over 1000 people in those communities to see and hear how they can save money while reducing their household waste and environmental footprint. These presentations can also be used as fundraisers.
MAKE Home Make Cleaning Products Demo
MAKE Home made Cosmetics Demo
How to Use Vinegar in your Home
How to Use Baking Soda in your Home
How We Live on just $75 A week Groceries.
Contact me via this website or by e-mail to find out more.
Most people will not make the transition to Making your own cleaning products and cosmetics overnight. We are really brainwashed/addicted/trained … to go to the supermarket and source all those products. Trouble is we’re spending way too much money, the ingredients are chemical laden cocktails and our shopping creates so much wastage and packaging rubbish that it is strangling the planet. Just think of all those plastic bottles.
So it is worth the effort to get some recipes (mine are tried and true – see buy books and recipes). The shampoo people have been conning our hard earned cash off us for years with false promises and alluring fragrances. You will feel weird washing your hair with baking soda and even weirder using white vinegar for conditioner but after you get used to it – it took me about a week – you will reap the benefits, financially, healthwise, looks- wise and environmentally. I wouldn’t be caught dead buying shampoo and conditioner now. Even making that change alone is a huge step forward.
The beauty industry is a huge con.
We went down the cleaning products aisle in the supermarket the other day, walking past all the worthless stuff we used to buy and both my daughter and I were struck by the overpowering chemical odour. Since using only homemade cleaners (mainly baking soda and white vinegar) in our home for the last 18-months we have become chemical free and can easily detect the poisonous fumes that we used to bring into our home. I’m so glad we have made the change.
Check out this 5 minute You Tube video. Gets you thinking.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJ-J91SwP8w or click the link below right (History of Fossil Fuel)
Check out www.storyofstuff.org (click the link at the bottom right of this home page). This American web site features some easy to watch cartoons about sustainability. Very relevant to improvements/changes you can make using the ideas on www.pigtitsandparsleysauce.co.nz
The Story of Stuff: where our stuff comes from and where it goes when we throw it away.
The Ugly Truth About Cosmetics: Makes me glad I make my own cosmetics and cleaning products (and you can too – see Buy Recipes and Books).
The cartoon on bottled water show how ‘manufactured demand’ pushes what we don’t need and destroys what we need the most… affirming the advantages of sticking to a strict grocery budget and buying only essentials. Have a look – the cartoons are short, thought provoking and really entertaining. Leave me a comment letting me know what you think about ‘The Story of Stuff’.
International Customers – buy Cleaning product and Cosmetic Recipe Sheets electronically via PayPal and receive the recipes via e-mail. Click on buy recipes electronically.
I am amazed at how my attitude towards mainstream products like toothpaste, shampoo and laundry powder has changed since I found out how easy it is to make your own. For thirty years I spent a fortune on consumable products to clean myself and my home… if only I had known what a big rip-off it all is.
A simple, affordable, edible product – white vinegar – has replaced, deodorant, conditioner, almost all cleaning products, fabric softener and air freshener in my home. At 15 cents for 100mls just think of the money it has saved me and all the packaging and chemicals it has saved from polluting our overloaded planet. The white vinegar does the same job or better at a fraction of the cost.
We are all slaves to advertising really. I have now gotten to the stage where branded products that I used to pay big dollars for without a care the world ie: Impulse, Rexona, Glade, Persil… are really annoying me and I would not touch them ever again with a bargepole. And to think I was training my children up to spend all their money on these expensive rip-offs.
I think by stumbling across the idea of making more things yourself, I have saved a lot more than mere money. Just the 18-recipes in my pamphlets and the knowledge learnt from the Baking Soda and White Vinegar books is all you need to get started – once your mindset changes you are away and supermarkets shopping will never be the same again, with you as the big winner.
We went shopping for groceries in a hurry the other night, hungry and pushed for time. I spent $250 which is the most I have spent in one go for 18-months. We got plenty though, enough to last for at least 3 or more weeks. Unfortunately when we went to pay my cheque was not accepted because I didn’t have acceptable ID for that supermarket. Bummer. So we went home empty handed and had baked potatoes with home-made sour cream and cheese for tea, as there wasn’t really much other food in the house.
We returned to the same supermarket today with cash and more time up our sleeves. I managed to get virtually identical groceries to the night before BUT at the checkout it only cost $130. How did we do this? Just by being a bit more careful and thinking about what we put in our trolley – Did we really need this item? Is there a cheaper version? Is it really a good price or a rip-off special?
An example that springs to mind is – Shop One: 2 fresh chickens for $14-00
Shop Two: 2 packets of chicken fillets $9-22.
Saved $5-00 and got more chicken meat, at least 3-4 meals worth and not paying for bones.
Saving money is as simple as that and we are not doing without.
The moral of this story: Don’t go shopping in a hurry or when you are hungry. Food for thought.
Night classes at Rangiora High School. COSMETICS Tues 19th Oct 7-9pm and CLEANING Tues 26th Oct 7-8.30pm. BOOKINGS- Sally, Rangiora High School, 03 311 888 ext 2130 or visit www.rangioracommunitygarden.org.nz (see link below right)
The true cost of things is not reflected in the price alone. Since cutting the groceries down to less than $75 a week I have become acutely aware of our dangerous consumer habits. It is just thoughtlessness in everyday spending and I have been guilty of it myself for the majority of my life. Have a think about how much packaging you are buying in your regular grocery shop. If you made a concerted effort to cut this down or even eliminate it you would be making a huge contribution to a sustainable future. Consciously buy things that have reusable or recyclable packaging. Refuse to buy things that don’t. Avoiding packaging has the added advantage of forcing you to buy healthier less processed food – like a banana wrapped in its own skin… but sometimes bananas are packed in plastic..what’s that all about????
I do heaps of presentations demonstrating how cheap and easy it is to make all your own cleaning and cosmetic products and often mention how great Bin Inn is for avoiding packaging… I use old bread bags and fill them up with everything – sugar, flour and even coffee. (One day we will get a bread maker and say good bye to bread bags.) There is often a doubting Thomas in the audience who takes great pleasure in announcing that it’s actually not always cheaper buying from Bin Inn and sometime the packaged stuff at the supermarket is cheaper. My answer to that is that cost is not reflected in price alone and if I fill up my own container again and again from Bin Inn I believe that I am not only buying cheaply, I am also avoiding that hidden incremental cost that the planet bears disposing of unnecessary packaging in a landfill somewhere. Plastic bags alone are dumped into NZ landfills at the astonishing rate of 40,000 an hour and take up to 1000 years to break down. Someone, someday is going to pay a high price for that.
Here’s what some happy customers have been telling me lately… I totally recommend people invest in the Baking Soda and Vinegar books as the money saving and environmentally friendly ideas are inspirational.
I just wanted to say that I took the plunge and tried washing my hair with baking soda last night. I must admit that I was rather sceptical at first (and I suspect my husband thought I had finally lost it) but the results speak for themselves – my hair is soft and silky, and it even seemed to dry quicker so less time under the hairdryer which has to be a good thing. I am so impressed!
Thank you for your tips – I am going to try baking soda for a few other things around the house now.
I tell everyone that listens about what you are doing and about baking soda and vinegar. I am a complete convert and have found that with prices going up left right and centre, I am coping quite well as I try and shop and cook the basics and am happy with the results. My family aren’t complaining (maybe a little). My eldest daughter would like to have more snacks at home that she likes as she says everything takes a lot of effort (and she cant always be bothered), but I just smile and let her know that it isn’t worth her health or mine or her pocket. I get my baking soda, washing soda and glycerine from a lady in West Auckland and get mostly everything else at either my local bulk barn shop (no Binn Inn locally) and Pak N Save. I have been using the recipes that I used when I was home with my kids when they were little and I think very carefully about everything I spend money on and have cut out a lot of unnecessary expense. My hair is also behaving a lot better since I switched to baking soda and vinegar and found the tv programme by Petra Bagust very interesting about hair products. I could go on and on but must go now.
I hope things are good with you, keep up the good work.
I have to tell you that last night I tried baking soda as a facial scrub and today my skin feels so lovely and soft. Also, it didn’t dry my skin so I didn’t need to use as much moisturiser afterwards. To think that I have had a big tub of baking soda sitting in my kitchen cupboard for ages and I’ve never thought to use it for anything other than baking bread! I must have spent a fortune on shampoo and facial scrubs over the years – what a terrible waste. I am going to visit Bin Inn this weekend and stock up on this amazing ingredient. And I have also been raving about the benefits of baking soda to my friends and family back in South Africa. They are all rather sceptical at the moment but I will convert them in time
Here’s a blog I pinched off the rubbish free web site just to give you someone else’s opinion. What cracks me up if that she was pretty sceptical at the start, but that is to be expected when you are changing lifetime habits and belief’s that have been reinforced with advertising. I’ve personally been using this hair washing method for 18-months and reinterate – my hair has never been better. Even gets rid of dandruff…. saves money and works better – what more could you want.
It’s been a long time since I, Waveney, blogged – but I want to tell you all about my hair! During our Rubbish Free Year I felt that nice, expensive salon shampoos and conditioners were ‘permissible’ – partly because I had chosen brands with hard plastic containers that can be recycled at kerbside, but mostly because my hair isn’t what it used to be. I know that’s the cue for the 50 somethings to say ‘honey you haven’t seen anything yet’ but nevertheless, as the sun has set on my silky 20-something hair a growing dependence on allsorts of hair products has steadily risen.
I say all this as a defense of some sort because I don’t use the shampoos and conditioners at my local bulk eco food stores where I can refill my own container. I also have to confess to not trying any of the completely natural, and rubbish free, suggestions that people in the know have offered – until two weeks ago that is. My mum rang me all excited, she had been told that cider vinegar is an amazing hair conditioner and she had just tried it, “Its silky” she said, ‘’you’ll have to feel it to believe it.” And when I next saw her I actually was impressed. It sat better, it looked better, it really was silky.
Do you get that problem when a hair product that used to work really well starts to be less and less effective? My conditioner has been getting that way recently and mum’s hair was looking better than mine (and she’s 60 something). It was all the convincing I needed, I tried it and actually couldn’t believe it. It worked better than my salon silky treatment stuff, in fact I don’t know if my hair has ever looked and felt so nice.
And that’s not the end of the story. A few weeks earlier I had actually read a blog, by the legendary Lyn of Taranaki (Pigs Tits and Parsley Sauce), saying that cider vinegar conditioned and baking soda cleaned hair. And Lyn was raving about it, saying all the heady things I’m saying now. Although I hadn’t quite believed it, I did remember it. So yesterday I went back to the blog to sus out the baking soda thing feeling convinced that Lyn could be trusted and that I was on to a winning ticket. Consequently, my hair got the double-hippy-whammy, first the baking soda then the cider vinegar! I waited expectantly as it dried. And the verdict? Silky, shiny 20 something hair! With results this good saving a serious bit of cash and helping the planet out almost fade into the background. I couldn’t recommend it more. But if you don’t feel quite ready to flush decades of lab tested, break through developments down the drain, then next time you think your product of choice isn’t working as well as it used to, wash your hair just once with baking soda, it will completely strip away the build up of the hair product out of your hair thus allowing it to become fully effective again.
In these uncertain economic times with prices rising and taxation (GST, ETS) increases pending and even unemployment on the rise it is great to know you can easily take control over your household spending. The feeling I get when I walk down the cleaning products and cosmetics aisles in the supermarket without spending a cent is fantastic. The positive spin off to family health and the environment with less chemicals and less waste packaging is just an added bonus.
You feel weird when you first limit the grocery budget as your natural inclination is to shop like you used to but just get less. Then you realise that there is cheaper products out there and if you don’t get sucked in to value added marketing spin, you will realise that the cheaper products are just as good if not better… we pay a lot for brands and advertising with no real benefit to the consumer.
After a while it becomes a fun challenge to spend less and get more and you and the family quickly start to realise where to find the bargains. For me Bin Inn has been a real gold mine of value and the fact that you can avoid packaging be using your own containers and recycling is a boon.
The meals I make now are not fancy but they are hearty, filling and I think healthier that before when we used to eat a lot of pre-pared packaged convenience food, no doubt laced with addictive salt, fat and sugar. Meals in our house are now much more appreciated too, no longer taken for granted.
Now I have the knowledge to make and create my own cleaning solutions using cheap ingredients like baking soda it has opened the doors to diminishing my day-to-day living expenses. I no longer feel threatened by uncertain economic times as I know we can live well on as very small amount of money. Even more importantly my children are learning by example and will take the skills with them into adult life.
Making my own cleaning products and cosmetics has definitely been the key to our success and the information I learned from the Baking Soda and Vinegar books (see buy books and recipes) has certainly stopped me from buying rip off branded products. I just wish I could get my money back from all the past things I have purchased unnecessarily when baking soda would have done the same job, better and cost a few cents rather than $$$$$. Some of these include… shampoo, cleanser, exfoliant scrub, hand cleaner and sanitiser, toilet cleaner, foot powder, damp rid, pot scrubs, oven cleaner and kitty litter. Never mind – you live and learn.