Sixteen months ago my family made a pact to slash the weekly grocery bill to less than $100 a week. Amongst the many joys that we have discovered within our changed shopping habits is a massive reduction in our household waste. Saving cash was the original sole motivation behind the ‘$100 a week grocery budget’, but we have also become much more environmentally responsible by default.
Our determination to spend no more that $100 a week on groceries has forced us to chose alterative solutions to common household problems including making our own cleaning products and cosmetics. As a result we are no longer purchasing such pre-packaged items as spray cleaner, tampons, toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner and laundry powder. Instead we are purchasing a narrow range of ingredients which includes bi-carbonate soda (baking soda), sodium carbonate (washing soda), salt and citric acid. These can be purchased cheaply at a bulk store (ie: Bin Inn) and we are able to recycle our own containers for this.
By making products quickly and simply at home we are not only saving thousands of dollars in cash but we are significantly reducing the pile of rubbish generated by our day to day activities. Another spin off is that we have reduced the range of chemicals going down our drain via cleaning products from an unknown chemical cocktail to just 7 known substances, 5 of which you would bake with and one of them is water. That makes me feel good.
Amongst the containers we no longer have to dispose of annually are 26 laundry powder cartons which include 26 little plastic scoops. 12 toothpaste containers, 12 deodorant bottles, 24 plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles and 12 spray cleaner bottles. Some of the chemicals we are no longer putting into the environment via the drain include sodium monoflourophosphate, solvents, sodium laurel sulphate, ammonium chloride, bleach, aluminum chlorohydrate and tricalcium phosphate to name just a few out of hundreds. In itself the environmental impact of our changed, lifestyle are minute but if those benefits were multiplied by every household in Taranaki/New Zealand, the positive impact would be immense.
I am not green enough to believe that all households would voluntarily make the changes necessary to make an impact but as a living example of how easy it actually is to implement positive changes around the home certainly want to promote the concept. We are mostly caught up in a rat race, striving to make some headway in a rapidly changing modern world. We might be trying to climb the corporate ladder, trying to juggle a family and cling on to a career or trying to get on top of the mortgage as well as the massive pile of bills that accompanies modern lifestyles. We might be rushing around the supermarket before picking the kids up from school and thoughtlessly filling our trolleys with all sorts of packaged food and overpriced cleaning products that are supposed to save us time, handing over in exchange a sizeable chunk of the wages from the job that ate up all the time in the first place. Take a moment to reassess the situation –there is a better way.
Putting a cap on the grocery spend was what enabled my family to see the light. Now our supermarket shopping is limited by the monetary resources we are prepared to put into it. We have been forced to trim off all the fat and only purchase the bare necessities. Once the initial shock wore off we were pleasantly surprised that we can still fill ourselves up quite nicely thank you very much by buying more generic products and avoiding value added, heavily advertised, pre-packaged items. Surprisingly we are now eating more healthily than before. If a grocery item has packaging, I would even go as far as to say don’t buy it, you could probably make it from ingredients, find a cheaper healthier alternative or do without. Why would we buy veges with packaging. I’m not sure why bananas sometimes come wrapped in plastic, they already come with natures wrapping. I have been guilty, in the past, of buying lettuce leaves in plastic bags, why I don’t know. They cost more and you throw the plastic bag away – it makes no sense of you think about it. Pre-packaged fruit and veges are off my shopping list. I prefer my fresh stuff to come au naturel. Better still grow your own… make the time or get the kids to do it.
So if pre-packaged items are off the list, what have we been doing without? Here is an idea of what my family has been doing without for the last 14months. We are not missing; packets of biscuits, cakes, boxed breakfast cereal, muesli bars, drinks in cans, cartons, glass and plastic bottles, yogurt, fancy cheeses, processed meat (luncheon, salami, bacon etc), fancy breads, dips, spreads, sauces, pre-grated cheese, washed potatoes, fruit strings, pies, fancy desserts… I have actually forgotten many of the products we used to love buying, which says it all. (I am actually appalled at the way I used to shop and at the unhealthy sugar laden treats we used to indulge ourselves in.)
Of course the supermarkets are set up to encourage us to splurge unwittingly on strategically placed specials and unnecessary treats. It is up to us whether we want to give our hard earned cash away to them. Nutritionally speaking many of the things we no longer buy were major threats to our long term health anyway, being sugar, salt and preservative laden, better to make your own treats – at least you can use healthy ingredients.
New Zealanders put at least 3.156 million tonnes of waste into landfills annually. This is not sustainable. I have stumbled across a positive solution to minimise my family’s contribution to this waste and it’s something we could all do if we cared.
Stevie and I did a fortnightly grocery run the other day. On a $75 a week grocery budget that meant an upper limit of $150. We were shopping locally (New World) so not necessarily the cheapest supermarket in the world, however they did have the coupon special on… not that we had any coupons as I reckon through temptation they actually cost more than you save.
Our list is never particularly exciting these days and doesn’t vary much. So we zoomed around the tinned fruit, creamed corn ,tuna, cheap-as bread, seasonal veges etc, etc until we got to the dairy cabinet. I needed butter and cheese, the two items I have vowed not to buy if they exceed a certain price. The cheapest butter was $5!!!… so that was out of reach (my limit is $3-99) and actually drove me to making some butter when I got home, which was surprisingly successful. There was cheese on special, $8-99 if you had the coupon, a whopping $14-99 without. I put 3 in my trolley as that is a good special and right on my cheese price limit, an opportunity to stock up before diary prices get out of hand again which I think is currently on the cards.
We have (in our own minds) got so good at cheap shopping that we don’t normally need a running tally to come in under budget, but I had bought some meat and chocolate, so was concerned reaching check-out that we may have over spent. I asked Stevie what she thought and she reckoned we might be just over. Sure enough the total came to over $160. Luckily the courteous check-out operator scanned her key coupon card for us and took the total down to around $145. We were really happy as we had got all that cheese, a few treats and still came in under budget. The trick now is to make all those groceries last a fortnight.
If you are up North here is an opportunity for you. MAKE Cleaning Products demonstration. Get started on the road to supersavings. Monday 3rd May 7pm. Bin Inn Kamo, 386 Kamo Road, Kamo, Whangarei. To register email firstname.lastname@example.org or ph Kamo Bin Inn on 4354494. $25 or $20 each if you prebook with a friend.
Here is a film review I wrote published recently in Taranaki Daily News. It is a bit random but there is a stark comparison between the fast shallow way of life – Hollywood Blockbuster, and the more thoughtful, sustainable approach – local doco…
Anyway have a read and see what you think….
I could actually see the cows this morning as I rounded them up for early milking, the end of daylight savings another sign that this season is drawing to a close. I don’t like to whinge because I do like daylight saving but I also dislike blundering around in the dark, which is what I have been doing every morning since the end of September. But it has also been nice ending the day with enough light for a barbeque on the deck and you can’t have it both ways.
Another sign that the end of the season is nigh is a bit of extra energy to be bothered doing something after work for a change, so when Danni suggested she and I go to the pictures the other night I jumped at the chance.
I’d seen the trailers for the romantic comedy Bountyhunter and it looked quite entertaining. The gist of the story seemed to be Jennifer Anniston getting chased around by Gerard Butler who was the Bounty hunter but also her ex-husband. When I see it written down like that, I now question why I ever thought it would be good but I got caught up in the hype. It was Tuesday night, so the tickets were cheap, but we fell into the trap of going along hungry and pigged out a bit at the Candy Bar. So much for the $75 grocery budget that week – should extortionate pop-corn prices be part and parcel of going to the cinema? Mind you no one forced us to buy it.
Laden with ice cream, popcorn and drinks and with the EFT POS card screaming for mercy we settled in and waited to be entertained. One hundred and ten minutes later I was still waiting. All the good bits were in the trailer – there were no more good bits to this movie. It was a great movie trailer – end of story. I left the theatre feeling ripped off. Bountyhunter appeared to have it all, big name stars, action, comedy, stunts but at the end of the day it was violent, sexist, nonsensical, had no continuity and was all 100% hype – 0% delivery.
Jenifer Annistons character, whose name I have forgotten, spent the whole movie looking great in incredibly short, tight skirts and running away from Gerard (man-boobs) Butler, whose name was Milo (which I only remembered because it was the same name as the chocolatey breakfast drink.) If only Jennifer had taken her ridiculously high heels off, then Milo would not have been able to catch her and put her in the boot of his car but alas, she kept her stilettos on and he captured her easily every time. Apart from a few baddies chasing them and Jennifer eventually blowing one of their heads off with an AK47, I don’t think anything else much really happened in this movie. On the way home I remarked – ‘That’s the last time I’m going to the pictures!’
To get another perspective on the movie, I just asked Danni (17) – ‘What did you think of Bountyhunter?’ Her succinct review, ‘Bullshit!’ That girl does not mince her words.
True to form I went back to the pictures less than a week later, this time to the Arthouse Cinema, where you can sit in a bean bag and watch the movie – how cool is that? Prompted by a positive preview in the Daily News, I took both the girls to see This Way of Life, a documentary style film shot on the East Coast of New Zealand over a four year period. Unlike the Bountyhunter this unpretentious Kiwi film delivered on so many levels and still has me thinking about it days afterwards, as amazing, enriching and memorable as Hollywoods Bountyhunter was horrible and forgettable.
This Way of Life follows the mixed fortunes of the Karena family, Dad Peter, Mum Colleen and six kids whose names I could remember, Llewelyn, Aurora, Malachai, Elias, Corban and Salem Ottley-Karena. Narrated by an 11 year old child (Llewelyn), This Way of Life is allowed to unfold with such a quiet subtlety that the whole impact of the story didn’t fully hit me until days afterwards.
This Way of Life has had such a profound effect on me that it is actually a struggle to find words that do the film justice. The storyline follows the Karena family in the Hawkes Bay where they live a natural life style which contrasts sharply to what most people would call ‘normal or modern.’ When asked what he does for a living, long haired Peter Karena replies, ‘I live for a living.’ But to make money he elucidates that he will do ‘anything that doesn’t compromise my integrity.’ In the duration of the film we see the Karena’s lose their house in a suspicious blaze, we learn about the tension that exists between Peter and his step-father, we see them living rough, Mum, Dad and all the kids, including a new born baby, in a caravan and later on, a shed. We feel their happiness as they revel in the freedom offered by their lifestyle, we marvel as little kids race around rivers, beaches and the country side on huge wild horses, we see the sorrow on the lines on her face as Colleen talks about the loss of her unborn child, allowing just two silent tears to fall and we hang onto Peters every word as he articulates quietly (from the branch of a tree) about his love and respect for God, family and nature. This Way of Life drew me in and consumed me in an unprecedented way. I resented the intermission because it intruded on the short time I got to spend with the Karena family. Days afterwards and I am still thinking about the layers of stories contained in the glimpse of the life I saw.
Filmed on a zero budget This Way of Life made me think about what is real and what is not, what is valuable and what is worthless. In stark contrast to the insultingly loud, million dollar, star studded, box office, Hollywood forgettable disappointments, this New Zealand film rises above the rest as an understated triumph. If you get an opportunity to see This Way of Life, make sure you go… then you will see what I mean.