Monday, October 25, 2010

My first post: What did I buy? And why am I making it public?

See that pile of groceries?  That's what I bought today.  A head of locally-grown Romaine lettuce, some toilet paper, an onion, a head of garlic, some oat groats, date pieces, brown rice, brown lentils, Chinese cabbage, spring mix, shoyu, and a couple of tablespoons of arrowroot powder.  I bought it at Fiddleheads, our local food co-op.  I spent $22.07.

Nowhere in this photo is there a jar of organic peanut butter and a box of chai tea.   I wanted them.  I held them in my hand.  I thought about how wonderful it would be to make a Thai-inspired peanut sauce to accompany the broccoli I have in the fridge, and to drink hot chai tea in our cold house.  But sales were slow at the craft fair this weekend, and peanut butter and chai would have added another ten dollars to my grocery bill.  So I didn't buy them.'s what this blog is about.

I decided to keep this record of everything I buy--and sometimes don't buy--for a couple of reasons.  First, like just about everyone I know, I'm having trouble paying my bills and am wondering where I might be frittering money away.  Second, I like to think of myself as someone who uses my money ethically, but is it really true?  A close look might reveal otherwise. 

And why make it public?  I thought maybe someone out there would be interested.  There are a lot of us who are watching our budgets carefully, almost obsessively.  And it's an exercise in honesty: you learn a lot about someone by knowing their spending habits.  I also wonder if knowing I'm going to blog every purchase will cause me to think twice before opening my wallet.  Would I really want to post that I'd just bought, I don't know, false eyelashes and a pound of salami? 

As it happens, today was an unusually virtuous shopping day.  I shopped like a saint.  I bought all organic food; I supported local farmers and our local co-op; everything was nutritious and vegan.  I didn't even consume any gasoline because I walked to the co-op. 

And yet--just so you know the demons I battle--my very first thought after deciding to start this blog was, "I'll need to buy a blackboard to keep track of everything."   Yeah, I resisted.  For today.


  1. What a great idea! You are a brave and inspiring woman!

  2. Kay, thanks so much for reading and commenting! I don't know if I'm brave-okay, I know I'm a chicken--but I'd be very happy if this blog inspires anyone. Funny, but it strikes me as a blog you could write. We think so similarly.

  3. When I read you wanted to buy a blackboard, I automatically translated that to "acquire a blackboard." That's because I've been using craigslist for items I want but don't urgently need.

    I'd search your free area for a blackboard a few times a week til you get one. Save it from a landfill and enjoy it guilt free. When I was looking for a file cabinet for my classroom, it took about 2 weeks for a free one to pop up there. When I was looking for a white board, there were a couple I saw but missed out on, but then I acquired one through an alternate source.

    I'm not all organic like you, but I spent 3.43 yesterday on 6 boxes of instant oatmeal packets, 1 set of organics shampoo and conditioner, and a bottle of aveeno shampoo. The purchase generated $5 in store credit coupons and a $7 rebate. (small profit)

    That was at a drugstore 3 miles away, and I did drive to it. But now I have 60 breakfasts of oatmeal for free (well, 58 - I added two packets to a batch of zucchini-ground cherry muffins) and the profits paid for about 12 pounds of produce for the week at a local market.

    It's a tradeoff, the produce is from a small local market, the other goods are not local, they're corporate - but the corporations at least didn't profit from me at all. I guess what I'm saying is a food coop seems like a pricey way to go, I don't spend $22 a week on my groceries, but that might be something you aren't willing to compromise on. I admire the commitment to ethics, I'm too cheap to do it myself.

  4. aawfoodbank, thank you so much for your in-depth and useful comment. The world of radical coupon clipping is new to me. I'd always been a little afraid of it, thinking if I'd end up buying stuff I didn't need or want. But judging from your experience, it's worth looking into. And craigslist! Why do I always forget about craigslist?

  5. Sometimes you have to buy extra things you don't need or want to get the best deals. That takes some adjusting to, and some creativity in figuring out how to pass those items along to people who can use them. I loved the post from The Penny Experiment where the guy talked about the dilemma of having to buy tampons in order to get free peanut butter: