81. the July Stuff challenge — successes and failures

This is one of several posts discussing Richard Foster’s chapter on Simplicity in Celebration of Discipline.

How did I do in July with trying not to buy much that might “break the back” of someone else?

I promised to let you know the results, and here it is the end of August beginning of September!

I did some things well, and some things were harder. But I won’t say that I failed at anything, because all month, I was very conscious of what I purchased, and where and how it was made; and I have to say, that it has carried over into August. Well, sort of… More about that later…

Knowing my memory lapses, I kept a notebook of my purchases, both ordinary and not. So here’s the results:

  • Paint and House Supplies:

I bought paint — Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Willliams are both made in the USA. Behr (Gasp, yes, I bought Behr!) was a little more difficult to find information about — I actually had to google it…They are owned by Masco (Arrow staples, Delta faucets, Behr…) with headquarters in Santa Ana, CA and manufacturing facilities in Georgia, Kansas City, and Chicago. Made in USA is written on both Ben Moore and S-W paint cans in very large lettering. One would think Behr would take the hint…

Paintbrushes were a task as well. Purdy brushes are made in the USA, but they are very $$$. Mr. H.C., the contractor husband, gasped and complained mildly when I brought two Purdys home this month. The second time he specifically asked me to get him a brush, and he showed me the one he wanted from his stash of seventy gazillion paintbrushes. It was a Zibra. I said, “I’m not buying it if it’s made in China.”

I practically opened the Zibra brush in the store — I read the entire label and the country of origin was nowhere to be found. It was two dollars cheaper than the Purdy. So I put it back, bought the Purdy and resolved to find out about Zibra. According to their website, they are a women-driven company from the U.S.. Yes, their paintbrushes are made in China, but they also run the Made in China Foundation, which is a foundation existing solely to make it easier for U.S. families to adopt Chinese babies. So, the jury is still out on that one…

  • Clothing:

I bought three pieces of clothing in July. Two of them — scrubs and a t-shirt were bought at the local Mission store. The other was a nice dress.

My son is getting married in September, and my daughter made a secret Pinterest board for me called Mom’s Dresses.  She pinned 63 dresses for me to look at! So I bought one from Shabbyapple.com. It was made in Malaysia, but on the dress is this tag:IMG_2588

On their website, they say, Shabby Apple donates 5% of its net income to support work with 62 microfinance institutions in 31 countries throughout the world. So the jury is still out  on that one too.

And I have to add here, since it is September, that I’ve bought some clothing — for the wedding, and for back to school — and this is where I think it is the hardest to discern what to buy and what to avoid. In addition to finding something that looks good, fits well, is within a budget, and is made of  natural fibers, NOW we have to worry about where it was made, and under what conditions??? Sometimes all that is Just. Too. Hard.

  • Groceries and Food:

This was where I failed the most, but it is also — overwhelmingly — where I spent the most money. Avocados from Peru and Mexico; Bananas from Guatemala; Organic limes and grapes from Mexico.

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But I also found Fair Trade Coffee at Aldi’s Market (and they have started carrying organic Fair Trade bananas as well) and Fair Trade Raw Sugar from Malawi at the Food Coop. July made it easy to go to the Farmer’s Markets where local produce was abundant. There is also Fencerow Farmer’s Market in Waynesburg where they sell local meats, (Greene County lamb is world-famous!) honey, milk, and eggs year round. Also right up the road from us at Apple Hill is Mother Earth Farm, who also stock local organic eggs and fruits and vegetables. It is almost more convenient to buy locally in Greene County, than it is in Pittsburgh. Of course, Pittsburgh has the Food Coop and Trader Joes.

Buycott Phone SnapNow I will tell you about my new-found app to make buying and supporting (or not supporting) companies easier. It is called Buycott; and it really helps in the grocery store, where most of my problems occurred. Of course, that could be because 75% of my consumer dollars were spent buying food.

It is a free app. You spend a little time inputting what you want to support, and what you don’t want to buy. Then you scan the barcode of your items and it tells you (most of the time) where it was made or other information. It’s cool. It makes your shopping time longer, especially the first few times you use it. But then, once you know what products are safe, you can just go to them every time.

  • Miscellaneous Health and Other Supplies:

I also broke my own rule and went into a Dollar Store. I needed Band-Aids and Triple Anti-biotic Ointment, both of which were had at cheaper prices than the drug stores, AND they were made in the USA as well. Success! I also found that greeting cards in the Dollar Stores are made in the US. And as far as deodorant and dishwashing liquid goes, this month, I MADE MY OWN! but that’s another post…

Here’s another example of cheap vs. natural: little scrubby sponges — the green ones you buy for scrubbing pots? At the dollar stores they are cheap — sometimes three for a dollar. Made somewhere far away, probably by some poor woman who can never get the green dye off her hands. The alternative is  a nice natural sponge, made in the US, a pleasant tan color like a sponge should be, and it costs $4.99!  I bought that one (mostly because I don’t think sponges should be green). But I gotta say, sometimes it just depends how much money I have that week!

Two other things stymied me — gasoline and aluminum foil. I have no idea where Getgo (Giant Eagle) gasoline comes from, who the company is that supplies them, and I’m really of the mind that it doesn’t matter; all gasoline is from bad companies. If anyone can correct me on this, please do.

And aluminum foil —  Reynolds has a very good ethical statement on their website, but I rarely buy Reynolds Wrap, I usually buy the cheap stuff, and I have no idea where it comes from. And it doesn’t say on the boxes, either…

  • Eating Out:

Found this photo at

Found this photo on the blog CarrieOn


We didn’t eat out too often this month, but when we did, we ate at locally owned restaurants except for one lunch — we were on the road, with a group of people, and we ate at Wendy’s. But to be honest, this was atypical too. We do eat at Subway and Wendy’s and Papa John’s  more than we should…

In some ways, July was an atypical month of spending. I’m not working through the summer, and cash is always a little tight, We were watching spending anyway this month, so it was a little easier to buy cautiously. For instance, I will confess that just last week (August) we went to a big box store and bought a new light for our city kitchen, knowing full well that it was probably going to be made in China. Yep, it was, and we bought it anyway.  Sometimes cheap is more important, I’m sorry to say.

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I’m glad I did this buying challenge. It translated into giving me a cautious buying mood (most of the time). And it made me consider what I really need; I don’t think I bought anything frivolous in July. I’m going to really try to have this be a new attitude for my spending.

Ellen Tracy "Ophelia" ballet flatsBut I might need a pair of new shoes for this wedding that’s coming up soon…

9 thoughts on “81. the July Stuff challenge — successes and failures

  1. I’m so impressed! Nice work! It can be very time consuming to find information about the origins of products. I think knowledge is everything. I like to buy local whenever possible, even if it is more costly. This post is motivating! 🙂

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    • Oh, thank you so much! It is really gratifying when someone nominates me for an award. Usually, I’m so lazy or busy or something, that I don’t often do anything about it Please don’t take it wrong if I don’t manage to do anything with it It isn’t ungratefulness. I think it is a time-issue. Thank you!

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      • You know what? I totally understand. It really does take a lot of time to put it all together. No offense taken.
        I’m still very thankful for you & really glad that I “met” you on my journey 🙂

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