Thursday, March 27, 2008

Goodbuy to old shopping habits

One of the major changes I have made in the past few years are my shopping habits. I definitely have found great joy in consuming. I was very faithful to Target and Vons with about 20 other stores in between, especially if they had a clearance section. I once bought enough stuff to fill two carts at Target, and those carts are big. It does not help that Pasadena has every store imaginable within 15 minutes.

My husband and I have always strived to be socially conscious people and I somehow thought buying in the clearance aisle was doing something good for the world. I certainly felt good buying it. At one point I had a small epiphany and realized there was better stuff out there to buy. I wasn't ready to stop consuming but I could do it in a way that actually benefited people and the planet. This also came at a time when I wanted to simplify our lives and buy healthier products. Since then we have changed about 85% (rough estimate) of our purchases to make more environmentally friendly/people friendly product choices.

My first change was to try my local Trader Joe's. I used to go there every once in a while to get great desserts or flowers but I realized I could shop there all time. Then I started loving the fact that I only had a few good choices of cookies instead of 20 good or bad or who knows what is in them cookies and I did not need to cut coupons, plus it took me half as long to get around the store and get to my car. Alleluia!! My life suddenly became a lot easier. I could get healthier organic food in smaller portions and my culinary senses were inspired all over again. Automatically I was buying better by just changing my frozen pizza to one with whole wheat dough and organic vegetables. I have since discovered the huge Whole Foods on Arroyo which has fair trade bananas and a whole lot of yummy stuff and the farmer's market. I have to give props to Vons though for having a great reasonably priced organic line now.

After I changed where we shopped for food I was once again inspired by Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade store that moved into Pasadena a few years ago. My motto had always been cheaper is better which meant I had bought a lot of things over the years that were poorly made or just bad ideas. I thought fair trade was expensive because they actually paid the artisans well but it is actually really reasonable because there is no middle man. To learn more about fair trade go to or and I will surely write about fair trade later. They had beautiful stuff that was made in the developing world and my money went to strengthen the communities that made the stuff. They actually know the artisans names, novel idea. So two years ago I got most of my Christmas gifts there. Then I discovered a few more environmentally friendly/people friendly local stores through my research which made Christmas shopping this year a lot more fun. I will do a blog on my favorite places to shop for things later.

I still love my Target like an old friend, but last time I went I only bought their great eco-friendly diapers (props to Target on that one) and stayed away from the 99 cent section. They have a great selection of eco-friendly cleaning products and body care products. They are on the right track.

So here are the new guidelines I follow when I shop that are helpful to me

*Stay away from the 99 cent sections
*Try to avoid plastic, go natural
*Try to go without something for a month before buying it
*Try to borrow or improvise before buying something
*Don't buy gifts if I do not have a specific person and event in mind
*Don't buy cheap, pay more for quality items.
*Buy Fair Trade, buy local, buy organic
*Research companies to find out what they are about
*Look beyond advertising
*Consider the eco-friendliness of the packaging
*Make presents or buy people food, tickets, plants or other creative gifts
*Read labels, looks can be deceiving
*No gadgets, I can do a lot with my own two hands

So right now I have purged most of the things I have bought over the years and not used, how sad. Suddenly our house is roomier and there is more room for breathing space. I still enjoy shopping but mostly at garage sales where most stuff is recycled and inexpensive (better than a clearance aisle). I try to get my therapy from the gym, reading, and gardening instead of shopping and I found I actually have a lot more time.

As far as the effect my new shopping habits have on our budget. My $150 a week Target bill is about $50 every two weeks or even less. I spend more on things we need because I buy quality products but I don't buy all the little junk I used to. Our food budget is more because we buy more sustainable organic food but we do save money by buying less meat, growing vegetables and being more careful to eat all the food we buy. For me eco-friendly/people friendly products are worth the time, money and the wait. This huge change took me a while so take your time. Hopefully you are inspired to look at how you shop and can find some inspiring stores and products.

1 comment:

Levi Clancy said...

Enjoying reading the changes here and there that have helped you as well as the environment (found your blog via