Hi! My name is Elliot, and I'm new here! I came across Bea's blog late last night, and spent a good portion of today reading (literally) the entire thing. I love it! I love, love, love it!
Quick background on me. I'm 21, living with my fiance in a house owned by his parents (but they live out of state) in Southern California. We have 4 roommates, a dog (there are two in the house, but the other is his sister's), and 8 guinea pigs (3 are ours, 5 are foster piggies).
In November of last year, I became unemployed. Since then, we have been watching our finances very carefully (leading me to do a lot of online research). What we realized is that by eating in more, and shopping healthier, we would save a significant amount of money (ALMOST enough to offset my lack of a job). It was in my search for healthier alternatives that I came across this blog.
I have been amazed day after day, emptying FULL trash cans and FULL recycling bins, just how much crap comes in to our home (remember there are 6 humans and 2 dogs here). And every time I attempt to clean our room, I just come out with boxes and bags and arm-fulls of crap, and I can't even figure out where it all came from, and why we've had it so long!
Another thing that amazes me is our weekly "fridge cleansing." With 6 college-age people in our house, food just /collects/ in the fridge, and most of it gets forgotten and unused. Sean (fiance) and I have gotten in the habit of 'cleansing' the fridge once a week (usually the day before trash pickup). We go through the entire fridge (and the freezer once a month). Anything that expires that day, we attempt to use in dinner (regardless of who it 'belongs' to. At 9PM the day before it expires, they aren't going to use it). Anything past it's date (even by a day!) automatically gets thrown out. It has made me realize just how much food our roommates are wasting! Because of this practice, it is now extremely rare for something that we brought in the house to be tossed. We are more aware of what we are and aren't consuming, and are buying appropriately.
The past couple of weeks, Sean and I have also been looking into cheaper alternatives to things like shampoo, cleaning supplies, toothpaste, etc. Most of the cleaning products I've found are WAY more cost-effective (especially if you reuse bottles!). We also started baking our own bread (his parents left this nifty bread-maker in the house when they moved, and we love it!).
We were already starting down the path to a more environmental-friendly lifestyle, and I feel like this blog has really shown me how much more I can do.
Today we started transferring a lot of our products in to stainless containers and mason jars that I already had (previous used for craft storage), so that when we have to refill them, we'll already be accustomed to the way they come. In the process, we realized how much food his parents left behind, and that a lot of it had gone bad. (All of the food his parents left had been kept in the 2 pantries, while all of the roommates store their food in the cupboards, so much of it went unnoticed and unused in the year and a half since they left). We saved what we could, and unfortunately tossed the rest.
As we did this, we realized that already, there were a couple core items that we could use bulk amounts of. We rounded up some of my small mason jars, and the biggest stainless container we could find, and headed to Whole Foods. We were actually extremely disappointed by the bulk selection at our Whole Foods (HOW do you not have all-purpose flour? Or at least something comparable? I don't want bread or cookies made with oat germ flour. Not the same.). However, we did pick up garlic powder and cayenne pepper. We made sure to check in when we got there, and got our containers tared (the lady kept thanking us over and over for bringing our own containers). Checkout was a breeze when we showed the guy our slip of paper with the tare amounts written on it.
From there we hopped back on the freeway and cruised to the nearest Sprouts. I happened to have a giftcard for Sprouts from Christmas (thanks, Mom!!), but it is a little further away than Whole Foods, so we had been hoping our needs would be met there. The selection at Sprouts was amazing! We not only found all-purpose white flour, but also wheat flour, and bread flour. In the spices section, they had a MUCH bigger selection, and they containers they were kept in were much easier to use (at Whole Foods, Sean managed to make a bit of a mess attempting to get the spices in our jars instead of the wide-mouthed plastic containers they provide).
Two downsides to Sprouts:
1. We checked both stores for milk in returnable glass containers. Both had them. Sprouts only carried the smaller, quart size, while Whole Foods also carried the larger half-gallon. Bonus, though! Sprouts was cheaper!
2. The checkout was a nightmare! Albeit, it was 8PM, and the guy working was new. Both stores we made sure to check-in and have our containers tared before filling them. However, no one seemed to know how to take the weight off at the checkout! We ended up having to do the math of a cell phone calculator. >.< And thank god Sean and I are good at math, because these guys were not. Hopefully next time I will be able to find someone who knows how to do the process, and if we continue shopping there, will teach other cashiers how to do it as well.
That's the best we could do today, and it's a start. Tomorrow I will continue to attempt to tackle the unending masses of "stuff" we've accumulated, and work to simplify our lives, and reduce our global footprint. Thank you to anyone who bothered to read all of this!
Well said! Amongst your many excellent comments, two things in particular stand out for me: the concept of "disposable income", i.e., losing your job has heightened the awareness of how much $ is spent on what becomes "disposable"- letting food going to waste, spending money on packaging, so forth. The other is that it DOES take trial and error to work out your system; this can be fun, it can be challenging. Over time, you'll find what is best for you and your household, but that challenge to reach ZW will always be there, and can be fun!
Congratulations on your progress and thank you for sharing.
Likewise, kudos, Elliot! I wish I had started ZW when I was younger and before I acquired so many unnecessaries. It has literally taken me several years to pare down my belongings to a manageable level... You will save much (wasted) time & money by never letting your acquisitions exceed your space!
Great story! I'm surprised that both stores had no issue with bringing your own containers - you give hope to the rest of us! We just got a Sprouts, though it's about 10 miles away. I haven't been except to when it was Henry's Mkt near mom's in SoCal.
Wonderful to hear such a good start to your journey - welcome!