Don’t Buy It Reader Question

24 06 2009

So Unclutterer suggested that maybe I would like Alice.com, which is a new dry goods retailer. It sounded good — free shipping of your non-perishable grocery needs, lower prices than Costco. So I started to make an account.

First of all, they make you choose little avatars to represent your family — you, your spouse,  your kids. But wait, how did they know I was white? And married to a white man? They must be psychic!

Or, you know, it could be that they have the same obnoxious little group of avatars for everyone. Way with the assumptions, marketing department. Hope there are enough cute little matching families around to sustain your business model, but, as Liss would say, Wev.

Since I do have the matchy-matchy little family for the avatars, I turned a blind eye — for the moment — and clicked to the next page, which is a list of suggested items you may buy regularly, from say, bar soap to coffee to detergent. You can check off the things you use. This was the part that stopped me dead. I looked over the list — it has about 60 items on it — and realized our family only ever buys 9 things on this list, and half of those we only buy rarely. There are only five things on this list of 60 household staples that my household actually buys regularly.

(Bar soap, dental floss, maxipads, TP, and dish soap, if you were wondering.)

Recently this blog has had more readers, thanks to a nice review on MSN Money. So I figured it was time for a delurking question. If you’ve clicked over here to read this blog from MSN money, or somewhere else on the web, I’d be completely thrilled and grateful if you would tell me: Which of these staples do you find essential? Are there any that you’ve found ways to “don’t buy it”? (Especially the ones that are still on my list?) And are there any of them that you’d like to stop buying, but can’t imagine how you’d ever live without?

I’m hoping I can learn from you, we can learn from each other, and if there’s anything we’ve managed not to buy that you see as essential, you can expect to see that in a new blog post soon!

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21 responses

24 06 2009
Penny

Hi there,

Found you via MSN—neat blogsite! As to your question, one of my bosses at work has made a wee bit of a habit of flossing his teeth with copier paper. Yep—-paper. I think if I had to choose one of your five listed staples to give up, it would be the floss 🙂

27 06 2009
dontbuyit

Somehow I think the paper might not quite get the molars, you know? 🙂 Cheers and thanks for stopping in!

24 06 2009
Linda

All I can say is I buy a lot of those items and I would like to buy as few as possible. I really need your information. I’m working on food products now trying to learn to make things but I want to eliminate most of my cleaning products and learn to use vinegar and basic stuff instead. So I don’t have any words of wisdom I’m the one that needs help. Linda

27 06 2009
dontbuyit

My post on cleaning supplies may help out some: https://dontbuyit.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/dont-buy-it-cleaning-supplies/

Let me know if you have any particular products you want to get rid of, and I’ll do them as a separate post if I have ideas!

24 06 2009
kj

I’m here via MSN. I didn’t click on the link, but for your list, I’d say an easy one to eliminate would be the maxipads. I am a recent convert to a DivaCup (more from an environmental standpoint than a frugal one, although it fills that requirement, too). You might want to look into it – I’ve yet to hear from a user (and I’ve asked a LOT of people!) who went back to tampons or pads.

27 06 2009
dontbuyit

The diva cup freaks me out because it’s silicon. Don’t ask me why, but silicon used internally or for bakeware freaks me out — I have this gut level feeling that it’s one of those products that will turn out to be bad for you thirty years later. I’m probably being totally paranoid, but I just can’t shake it! I’ve heard lots of raves, though, and may eventually give it a try.

12 07 2009
jr

there are non silicon alternatives
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Menstrual_cup
lists other kinds and sizes

24 06 2009
kj

Oh, and there are also ways to make your own bar soap and dishsoap, though I’ve never done the cost analysis to figure out if it’s cheaper. And it would obviously entail purchasing items in order to make them, so I’m not sure if that fills your requirement or not!

27 06 2009
dontbuyit

I’d like to make soap — and I’d like to make it genuinely from scratch, the way great-great-grandmas did, with water distilled through wood ash for lye and fats saved from cooking. Haven’t done it yet, but you can be sure I’ll post if/when I do. Done that way it would certainly be frugal, but also absurdly time consuming for a product that is cheap and simple to begin with. I do plan to try it, though, just for fun. I can’t understand how you could actually make dish detergent yourself, though — detergent is a chemically synthesized product; it requires industrial processing. I would love to find an alternative for it, because it yicks me out. Anybody know how people washed dishes before WWI, when detergent was invented?

25 06 2009
Terese

For maxipads, the Divacup, the keeper, or reusable cloth pads are all good alternatives. We cloth diaper, so I use some reusable cloth pads and just throw them in with the diapers after rinsing them.

27 06 2009
dontbuyit

Love cloth diapers — our son used them, and they were so much better than disposables. Funny thing, though — health code forbade his daycare from using them without a doctor’s order! (So we got a doctor’s order, and he wore cloth at daycare, too. How stupid is that?)

I’m planning to try making cloth pads — I think I would like them. Haven’t gotten around to trying it yet.

26 06 2009
R. May

lol – no feminine hygeine products for me. i have implanon. no periods and it lasts three years.

As for that Alice site – i signed up – you’re right, way to assume everyone is white…ewww.

But those prices….not good. I pay less at my grocery store shopping sales and using coupons. And I live in the DC metro area so it’s not a cheap place. That site has no value for me anyway.

27 06 2009
dontbuyit

I know! Seriously, who thought those one-size-fits-all avatars were a smart idea? Ridiculous!

26 06 2009
Cheap Like Me

Someone referred me to that site, too. I was hesitant to sign up because I wasn’t sure if they would have the best deals on the things I do purchase (about 10) or if they would have the specifics I do buy — eco-friendly dish and dishwasher detergent that work with our water and machine; SLS-free toothpaste that doesn’t irritate my mouth.

I already have a subscription set up with Amazon.com for 1,000-sheet, one-ply recycled toilet paper. I ordered a 48-roll case in December, and we still have about half the box left now. Other things (like kids’ vitamins, dish soap, etc.) I try to find on sale when I can. So I don’t really feel a need to set up most of these regular buys.

I second the recommendations for the Diva Cup or similar, with reusable pads for backup. If you are interested, I have a detailed review after using it for a year on my blog (http://www.cheaplikemeblog.com/2009/04/28/diva-cup-date-the-menstrual-cup-after-one-year/) and last year wrote about it after trying it for a few months.

We’ve made soap, too, and it’s lovely.

Flossing with paper? All I can think about are the paper cuts … 🙂

27 06 2009
dontbuyit

Hi, welcome! I *love* your blog! I think I may have to try the TP through Amazon. I liked your diva cup review and was almost sold — but like I mentioned to the poster above, I don’t like the idea of using silicone internally (or for cookies, for that matter). I’m just not sure of it. Have you heard anything at all about health concerns related to it? This could just be me being silly…..

12 07 2009
Mac in Mi

I don’t make bar soap but I buy the base semi-clear soap to which many soap makers add their own scent and dye and and scrubbing grit. I buy about 30 pounds at a time – usually in long bars that I cut with a pasta knife into smaller bars. It’s cheap and great if you have allergies.

12 07 2009
Dawn

Hi! This is my first visit; I was referred by a friend’s blog.

Making your own soap (with prefab lye and commercially available coconut/olive oils) might not be cheaper per bar than the storebought stuff (because you are smaller scale than a big company), but you end up with lots better stuff, much easier on the skin. It also doesn’t take a whole lot of time, just a few hours for the mixing and a month of watching them cure before using. 🙂

I’m betting that pre-detergent dishwashing leaned heavily on regular soap (just like hair-washing did before shampoo) and/or abrasives, like this article goes into: http://www.ehow.com/how_4719067_wash-dishes-almost-water-detergent.html

Cheers! 🙂

12 07 2009
Audrey Mucci

I found you on art for housewives.

15 07 2009
allison

I arrived at your site via Donna Freeman’s column at MSN.com and like your spin. I agree that product cravings are large the result of marketing brainwashing, and that thinking adults can easily retrain themselves. I broke the soda habit 5 years ago and only drink it 2x a year now. Figured out I can use fast-food napkins instead of paper towels in the kitchen and bathroom, with old holey socks as rags for the tougher cleanups. For dining at home, I use either a set of woven cotton napkins (for sit-down) or white shop towels (for casual) that also double as bathroom/kitchen cleanup and washclothes. They are truly multi-tasking. Bar soap comes from my infrequent motel stays – I’ve used a nice orange-scented bar for my face for months. Smaller bottles of lotion go in my purse/car, to be refilled.

Looked at Alice.com and am not really impressed with their list of staples. Rather have the inventory of a drugstore/grocery store, with the foresight to stock up during sales or with coupons. Last time I stocked up on makeup/shampoo/body lotion was during a coupon blitz, when I used up my hoarded gift cards for two drugstores.

Here’s my household consumption preferences with respect to alice’s list: *TP & razor cartridges bought from warehouse store only occasionally
*shampoo/conditioner is the cheapest brand from drugstore/grocery, bought in large batches on sale or with coupons/GC’s when possible
*cotton swabs last purchased about 3 yrs ago at Big Lots for $1/bag (1000 count) because they were “irregular” meaning that I occasionally find one with a naked end or a huge blob of cotton. Still working my way thru the first of 5 bags – it ought to last me a while.
*also stocked up on Tom’s natural toothpaste when I found it discounted at Big Lots. Got about 6 flavors, some of which I like for morning, some for evening. Currently have 8 tubes stockpiled.
*buy “natural” laundry detergent from TJ’s and use it slowly
*buy biggest bottle of Dr. Bronner’s organic liquid soap for shower/sink use (Almond scent in shower, mint at kitchen sink). It doubles as shaving cream.
*batteries usually purchased at hardware store or drugstore, but I did “splurge” and get a set of rechargables last summer from Radio Shack. Not great for flashlights, but workable for everything else.
*deodorant usually bought on sale/clearance at drugstore/grocery. Have tried the natural kind, which works fine in winter but not during SoCal’s hot summers. So I switch seasonally.
*can’t remember how long ago I bought my current boxes of tinfoil, waxed paper, and plastic wrap. probably when I moved into this house 7 summers ago?
*prefer to use the largest size of shopping bags from Goodwill as kitchen trash bags. Because I compost all food scraps and biodegradable packaging, and recycle everything possible, the trash fills very slowly. Sometimes I’ll empty the trash bag into the curbside collector and use it again. If there’s no rotting food scraps in there, it’s not at all objectionable.
*Since going on birth control pills, my flow is a tenth of what it used to be, and I can schedule it. I discovered a folded length of TP suffices, and I have not used pantyliners or maxis in years. And I compost the TP along with my paper-handled cotton swabs and biodegradable packaging.
*I have a favorite flavor of Bigelow tea that I like all winter, but I order it by the case online because the grocery doesn’t stock it. Still working my way thru the case I ordered 18 months ago.
*No kids means no need for the expensive kiddie products, altho I use a can of wipes in my car for mobile cleanup.
*don’t drink coffee, but I do like the Starbucks drive-thru now and then. Before Christmas, Costco had 5 $20 GC’s on sale for $80. I recognized that as a 20% discount and bought the packet, which lasted me six months. Should have bought two! Currently experimenting with yogurt-based fruit smoothies made in the blender at work to satisfy the cold/creamy craving. They are a great way to use up overripe bananas!

In general, I live well but very frugally. You’d never guess by looking at me that I use the cheapest shampoo, use only body lotion on my face, eat lots of leftover food, buy my clothes at Goodwill/Salvation Army, or make do with used books and a reconditioned, pay-as-you-go, cheap cell phone. But that leaves me with enough disposable income to take classes for fun or a (drastically discounted) cruise now and then, as well as start a side business. I have no revolving CC debt, drive an older (well-cared-for) Toyota, and have a comfortable stash of cash for a rainy day.

22 07 2009
StaciM

I found your site due to MSN!

For the TP and pads, I’m going to suggest cloth pads and even reusable TP(For peeing.)
For cloth pads, you can fold a washcloth into 3rds(I’d suggest special washcloths for this personally, but it’s up to you. Painters washcloths are really cheap and the same quality.), and use a couple of safety pins for a cheap pad for the day. For night pads, I’d suggest ordering some specially made or making your own. Cloth pads are super comfy, and really absorbent. I went from needing to change my pad every 15 minutes, to getting a good 8 hours out of them before changing them due to habit. I’ve only leaked thru them once, and that was more to the side, not actually thru the layers of fabric.

For TP, you can just cut up an old cotton teeshirt(or those at AC Moore that are only a buck.), and use that for urine. Some people do use them for bowel movements, but it creeps me out a little bit personally. I also don’t feel it cleans as well for bowel movements as regular TP, but it works just fine for urine.

In the case of bar soap, you can actually make your own(Lye is made by filtering water thru charcoal hardwood ashes(If you have a fireplace. You don’t have to watch the process as it takes weeks.), or you can buy it cheaply, and mix it with a cheap fat like veggie oil, and let the soap cure. Add essential oils for scent if desired). You can also greatly reduce your need for soap by letting it dry out fully between washes, and only using it on places where you need it(feet, face, armpits and genitals, and head if you’re not using shampoo.). It’s generally not needed for our arms/legs/back on a daily basis if we’re not doing hard labor.

I can’t think of any reusable/homemade alternatives to floss or to dishwasher soap.

For the suggested list, I do buy conditioner(very dry hair and scalp, and bleeding all over the place is worth the $20 a month…), I use Doc Bronner’s Shampoo bars or Chagrin Valley, or Alaffia shampoo(Expensive though…) when going to the salon. In terms of lotion, I just use a dab of cooking oil such as olive. I buy toothpaste, with the fluorine in it. I also buy tissues, but am looking into handkerchiefs. (But the tissues are great for my compost pile…) I buy sunscreen, but have cut back on my use of it by using a parasol and long sleeved clothes so I only need it on my face and hands. I buy bandaids, but I also use Lamb’s ear for larger cuts. I’m a huge electronics person so I do use a lot batteries, and the reusable ones don’t work for our more odd electronics. I also use stamps for cards, but those are rarely bought. I do buy multivitamins due to deficiencies, but I try to eat a healthy diet. I do use laundry detergent, though I am thinking of making my own. I drink a lot of tea, and I do splurge on the good stuff. Are they seriously suggesting special children’s shampoos and products? Just buy unscented and be careful watching your kid with them if they’re really little. My mum just used Doc Bronner’s on me as a little child and kept it away from my eyes. Children don’t need special foods or products! We have to use special town trash bags in my town, but I try to limit my trash. I don’t drink coffee all that often, but my mother does. So 12 items total. We also have paper napkins for guests who are scared to to use cloth ones, but generally for most foods, I just don’t use napkins. If I’m washing my clothes that day and they’re dark(jeans etc) patting my fingers works fine, and being a careful eater works otherwise… I don’t make my own vinegar, which I do use in a lot of cleaning products.

Oh also before WWI etc, and synthetic detergents, people washed their dishes by hand with regular bar soap and a little scrubby brush. That’s where the idea of dishes being hard on hands came from. Modern day dish washing isn’t hard on hands at all, and we have nice little gloves to wear now. It’s much more costly in terms of water to do dishes by hand unless you have a double sink and are careful with the amounts of water used. Also, working class people were more likely to use metal dishes as opposed to china ones, so it was easier to clean. In terms of flossing in the past, people simply didn’t do it.

28 01 2010
Kirsten

could use family cloth instead of tp. The babies at our house use cloth wipes, so it’s a small step from there to some other cloth wipe uses.

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