Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I haven't blogged recently because I really haven't bought anything lately. And it had been so long since I bought anything that I "fell off the wagon" so to speak when I finally did purchase something. I purchased a labeler (for filing) upon the recommendation of this book: The labeler was made in China and the tapes are made in Japan. Oh well, one lapse is no reason to abandon the experiment.

The lapse does bring to mind the time in 9th grade when we were breeding fruit flies for our biology class. We had 2 strains and after they had babies, we had to gas them to make them sluggish and then separate them by type. My partner and I forgot them at school over a holiday weekend. Needless to say they were a giant mess of interbred flies. Pretty much killed the intended genetic outcome. However, we still made a good grade because we went into great detail about the havoc our lapse wreaked on the experiment, which ultimately involved more research than just determining which traits were recessive and dominant. Point being, I'm sure this experiment will turn out fine. The lapse is already a good reminder to think before I buy. And whilst lamenting my failure I discovered that I could have gotten a seldom used one just for the asking!

It remains to be seen if my labeler is a success or failure (and how well the book's methods work).

Thursday, March 8, 2012


School lunches are an interesting topic that hits both on the buying local issue and buying better products issue. If you have kids in school, I would advise eating a tray lunch with them from time to time. You may be surprised.

I have fond memories of school lunches. I was the weird kid who loved them. I bought school lunches all the way up through high school. While mentoring this past year I have bought a school lunch every Tuesday. The adult lunch is the exact same as what the kids are eating. Let me just tell you that they are not the same as I remember!

Austin school lunches are technically pretty healthy. They are low fat and there are lots of whole grains, fresh fruit, and vegetables. Sounds good, but in practice it falls apart. The vegetables are usually mushy beyond belief so they don't get eaten. The main dishes use very little real meat and seem to rely heavily on soy blends. They are often carb heavy and seem to consist of lots of packaged, processed foods. There are plenty of refined sugars in sugar-added milks and yogurts.

At the school I mentor at 90% of the kids get federally funded free lunch. That means you and I are paying for these lunches. I would rather pay more to ensure kids get real meat and local, fresh produce. I would rather pay more to have cooks prepare the food from scratch at the cafeteria. In the long run it would mean lower health care costs by showing kids how good real, healthy foods can be.

Sadly, I don’t think many of them get much better at home. I have a voyeuristic habit of checking out what other people are buying at the grocery store while waiting in the checkout line. Every week there are people with kids in tow buying poor quality food. I’ve seen families load up on nothing but white bread, baloney, ramen noodles, and sugary cereal. If there were no additives these people would all have scurvy!

Grocery bills are our second biggest expense (behind the mortgage). It is worth every penny to buy better food. This includes eating out. We all have to eat so we should make it an enjoyable experience! I'm all for budgeting, but living in an affordable house with affordable vehicles and few expensive habits means you can eat what you want when you want and enjoy to the fullest one of life's most basic pleasures.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


In a recent conversation with a coworker lamenting the lack of Spring Break for adults, I started thinking about how nice it would be if everything shut down for awhile. I was reminded of a trip to the Netherlands several years back...
My husband and I went to the Netherlands a couple of times for his work. I had the entire day to myself while he worked. I got to see a lot of the country during that time. They have amazing public transportation and are flat enough that you can easily walk or bike long distances. If you ever get a chance you should go. Just make sure you venture out of Amsterdam to see the rest of the country (it is much less touristy).

The first time we went was in the dead of winter. They are much further North than the continental US and have very short days in the winter (and amazingly long, glorious summer days). On one occasion I was dropped off at some city for the day and I was to meet my husband and his coworker back at a certain location for dinner later on. I went all over town and had a great time. I came back to the commercial area where I was supposed to meet them just as it got dark. All of the shops were already closing. This was around 4:30pm. It was pretty close to freezing outside and my plan to browse until they arrived was thwarted. It was an unpleasant hour waiting for them.

I found out the hard way that most of the shops and counter service eateries close before dinner time and only the restaurants are open at night. It was terribly inconvenient at that moment, but overall that idea was refreshing. After work you have a little bit of time to swing by the grocer before they close. Once it is nighttime you can go out to eat or to a bar, but that is it. You are somewhat compelled to relax!

Now, I have complained many a time about stores closing too early. I work a later schedule, so I have a hard time finding anything but grocery stores or Wal-Mart/Target open after work. If I stop and think about it, though, I am inclined to admit that shopping after work is seldom an enjoyable or profitable experience. It is usually something I don't want to do anyway. Even if it is a needed item I am purchasing, I am not likely to make good decisions at that point.

Part of buying better stuff is being somewhat thoughtful about purchases. As I weed through our stuff and get rid of a lot of sheer junk we have accumulated, I realize we could have saved a lot of money not buying this stuff in the first place. The desire to cut back on possessions combined with my endeavor to buy only American made products has curtailed my purchasing. This past weekend I tried to find a picture frame for my diploma. I went to three stores and when I couldn't find one not made overseas I ended up re-purposing a seldom seen frame in our guest bedroom. Turns out I wouldn't have needed to spend the money or add to our possessions after all.

Although I don't think we will ever see a Spring Break for all of us, maybe we could be more accepting of shorter business hours. Seems like it would be healthier for all of us. I have to say that the Dutch are far fitter and more attractive than Americans. A little extra non-commercial leisure time might do us all good.