Archive | February 2015

Shortening the Shopping List

I used up my last bottle of moisturizing, mineral-based, paraben-free facial sunscreen. And I had a liberating realization: I do not need to buy more. (I can just use the kids’ general purpose, paraben-free mineral sunscreen. And if I need more moisturizer, there’s always coconut oil, which makes your face smell like a Samoa Girl Scout cookie.) One more item crossed off my shopping list.

Left: Babyganics sunscreen. Right: Jar of coconut oil.

All my face actually needs. Ignore small, fancy bottle of coconut oil–I usually buy in bulk.

Limiting the number of consumable items that you buy regularly has a lot of advantages. It generally saves money. It saves time. Maybe most importantly, it saves worry. If I don’t buy moisturizing facial sunscreen, then I don’t have to worry about whether I will run out. I don’t have to make a special trip to the store because I forgot to buy it and now I’m out. I don’t have to hunt for the best price or consider switching brands. It’s out of my brain for good.

I’m fortunate in having decent skin and low-maintenance hair, so those are the things that get cut. Here is a semi-random selection of items I’ve managed to pare from my shopping list, with the already-lying-around items I’ve replaced them with:

  1. Shave gel: Bar soap

    Left: Bottle of Avalon Organics brand facial lotion. Right: Wrapped bar of Kirks Original Coco Castille soap.

    Left: An expensive unitasker (boo). Right: A cheap multitasker (yay!). This is also the soap I use for laundry detergent.

  2. Face soap (first Noxema, then Dr. Bronner’s): Bar soap
  3. Facial toner/astringent: Nothing. My skin cleared up on it own.
  4. Shampoo and conditioner: Baking soda and vinegar
  5. Facial tissues: Toilet paper in a pinch, or my wonderful stack of flannel cloths made by Grandma FP
  6. Rinse aid for dishwasher: Nothing. Results of dishwashing slightly spottier, but acceptable.
  7. Greek yogurt: I now make this by straining homemade yogurt.
  8. Almond milk: Nothing (for the kids, who were already eating plenty of cheese and yogurt) and regular milk (for me).
  9. Ovaltine: Nothing. The kids weren’t finishing their cups half the time anyway.

Then there are less-consumable items that I have found I don’t need to replace. These are things I don’t have to research, try on, comparison shop for, remove from the packaging, put away, pack up when we next move, wash, or put away:

  1. My stainless-steel water bottle. I loved this, and I managed to lose it. Instead of buying a new one, which I will probably also lose (bad for the planet–all that manufacturing and raw materials–and for my wallet), I’m just going to use repurposed glass jars and call it hipster-ish.
  2. Black socks. I just have to wear my less-favored socks now.
  3. Yoga pants. First I wore my leggings until they wore out. Now I am just wearing shorts under jeans or sweatpants, which I take off when I get to the gym.
  4. The blue plastic bowls that the kids lost in the yard. (OK, I forgot they had them out there.) We have plenty of others.
  5. The toddler spoons I accidentally fed to the garbage disposal. Turns out the boys can manage regular spoons now.
  6. The third cutting board, which I accidentally melted. Been getting by just fine with two.
  7. The backup glass measuring cup, whose writing wore off. This is not totally useless, actually (great for beating eggs in!), and for actual measuring when the good Pyrex cup is dirty, I often use an old glass baby bottle.

Making the list, I was embarrassed and rather appalled to realize how many items I’ve managed to lose or accidentally destroy, which is another reason to buy less: Every item I don’t buy is one less target for my blundering! More importantly, every time I remove an unnecessary item from my life, I feel a little zing of satisfaction, and then I feel a little lighter. One less thing to worry about. One more dollar working for me as a “little green employee,” as Mr. Money Mustache puts it. And one less tiny environmental footprint.

What have you trimmed from your shopping list? How does it make you feel?

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The FP Confronts Valentine’s Day

I think Valentine’s Day is a silly holiday, and I would like to go back in time and tell Geoffrey Chaucer* not to start the whole thing. It comes with too many expectations, too much romantic competitiveness, too much obligatory cheer.

But my children will have to make up their minds on the subject, and, well, Valentine’s Day at the preschool/elementary level is A Thing. I successfully dodged this Thing last year by scheduling a doctor’s appointment for the boys that morning and not taking them to school (it wasn’t their usual day of the week anyway), but this year Big Brother goes to school every day.

Obviously, I did not go out and buy printed cards for his preschool classmates. Rather, Big Brother and I spent an agreeable hour together making extremely simple construction paper doodads like this:

As the printer was broken, I hand wrote on the back of each one, "To: Friend. Happy Valentines Day! Love, [BB]

As the printer was broken, I hand wrote on the back of each one, “To: Friend. Happy Valentines Day! Love, [BB]”

The beauty of the design was that we could really work together. Big Brother worked extremely hard cutting out all 16 paper hearts while I cut the squares and wrote on the backs. Then we glued a few together; he got bored gluing and put on stickers while I glued the rest.

We already owned the paper, stickers, and glue stick, so the cost in new materials was $0. Priceless: Big Brother’s obvious pride in his hearts.

How do you work Valentine’s Day? Those with older kids, how have you negotiated the minefield of expectations?

*Geoffrey Chaucer’s piece The Parliament of Fowls, about amorous birds, is the first known reference to Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday.