There are days I reflect on my life now, at this moment, and there’s some pretty substantial things that have changed. Especially when I think about the 25 year old me who was on the verge of a pretty nasty eating disorder, where I couldn’t even have food in my apartment otherwise I’d binge, to now, where I own a food store and am continually surrounded by food. But there are smaller changes that were gradual and probably less noticeable unless thought of collectively. So I thought I would do just that, as these things should also be celebrated. What’s that saying, “We don’t need a handful of people doing it perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly”.
So here it is, in no particular order, my list of 10 things I no longer buy;
1. Cling Wraps: This, by now, is pretty mainstream and I jumped on this bandwagon about 8 years ago. At first it was hard to not want to grab the convenient obvious choice, gleaming at me from within my pantry, but as I made a vow not to repurchase it once it ran out, I was forced into having no choice but to find other solutions when I needed to. As I’m quite a crafter gal, I made beeswax wraps, and then even invited my neighbours over to make some with me too. I didn’t find it hard to use them for sandwiches, wrapping cheese, separating lunchbox items, and wrapping leftover dinner plates of food. At first, washing them was a bit of a deterrent, but as life took on new routines, I found a washing system that worked for our household. Our morning routine always involves a full sink of warm soapy water to wash up all the bits and pieces before heading out for the day, so the wraps just get dunked and swooshed in there a bit and hung on top of our goose neck tap. Over time as well, as I had random things that needed to be stored, I realised how many things I could use to store food. “Oh, I’ll just put the leftover pasta sauce back into the jar from the puree I used to make the sauce”, or, “I can just put that cut side of the ‘tomato, watermelon, cucumber, etc) onto a plate or bowl and that’ll keep it good till the next time”. The important message here is that you need to find a way that works for you. If it’s too hard to do, then you won’t do it.
2. Sanitary Products: This is a more recent one. It was one I put off for a long time, as the options I was aware of just didn’t sit well with me, and just weren’t conveniently near me to shop for. But as time forged on, I pushed out 3 children; I was being forced by my body to find another more comfortable solution. It wasn’t until I had the store that a good chat with a worker evolved and reusable pads was brought to my attention. I’d heard/saw them before but for some reason never gave it a second thought. Now though, my body said it was the right thing for me. So I did it. Bought myself a solid collection to get me through that time period, and I’ve never looked back. In fact, each month it makes me really happy to use them. When, after 25 years of throwing these products in the bin, to all of sudden have NO waste at all, it’s the most empowering feeling. Again, my routines slightly altered to accommodate the new system, and I don’t never even noticed it. Better yet, I NEVER have to waste time going to the store to buy products anymore!
3. Face Products: I can’t even count how much money I’ve spent in my lifetime on creams, washes, toners, ph balancers, blah blah. I don’t want to count it….I think I’d cry. It’s been about 10 years now that I’ve been dubious of the cosmetic industry. All these promises and could I really ever notice a change??? Nope. So when I switched to just one natural face bar, a Konjac (a plant based sponge), and some sweet almond oil for a moisturiser, I was not at all surprised that my face didn’t turn to an imperfect mess. In fact, it actually seems to have calmed it down and I now feel like my skin is just me, the way it wants to be, and I love it for what it is.
4. Deodorant: I always hated commercial deodorants. I actually made the switch not because of the horrible things in it, but because I was tired of them not working for me and needed to try something different. I was living in Hermensburg in central Australia at the time, where it was 44 degrees every day and just simply Googled how to make deodorant. I ordered the stuff online, drove to Alice Springs to pick it up, made it at a friends house there, and I’ve never looked back. I do feel though that it’s a personal thing, different for everyone. I’m a firm believer that natural deodorants are what everyone should be using, but I also believe that there’s a lot of trial and error to find the one that works for you. So if you’ve tried it before and thought “nah, that sucks” I encourage you to try other brands till you find the one for you.
5. Toilet Paper: Ok, so we still buy toilet paper, but it’s the plastic wrapping holding the toilet paper we ditched, and we’re not contributing to cutting down trees to wipe our asses. To me, this was a no brainer. Not only are there so many options out there to buy plastic free toilet paper, but most of these conscious companies do more then just make and sell TP. They usually have their hands in some sort of charity or donation system. We also love that we can buy it in bulk (48 rolls) so that we’re only restocking twice a year. One less time waster heading to the shops….. no ones got time for that!
6. Tea Bags: This one was harder for me to switch to. The convenience aspect had a firm grip on me. So it was more transitional for me. I had both tea bags and loose leaf at home. At first I committed to loose leaf on the weekends, and tea bags in the mornings before work. Then the tea bags ran out, and by this point I wasn’t buying too much from the super markets so it was a bit of a pain to go there to buy more tea bags…… so I didn’t. And that was it. Loose leaf forever now. I will totally admit though, that even though I had committed to loose leaf then, my work morning brain was always wishing I had a tea bag. This brain lasted for some time, maybe months. Then once again, it just fell into a new routine for me. I’m a bit impatient, so waiting for a tea to steep was killing me. So now that time is filled with emptying the dishwasher. It’s the perfect timeframe for the steeping, and keeps my patience at bay. So switching to loose leaf has not only saved me from millions of micro plastics and packaging I have to spend time disposing of, it also has made me more productive!! Win Win. I’ll also note here that, now, after years of loose leaf, going back to a tea bag is so inferior in taste, I just can’t do it anymore. Yuck. Oh, and I forgot to mention why I even wanted to switch to loose leaf…..well google micro plastics in tea bags, and you’ll want to switch too!
7. Tortilla Wraps: We home make all our own tortilla wraps. I had a friend over one taco night and as we chatted I whipped up a batch and rolled and cooked them while we talked. Mid story, she stopped me and said, “I’m sorry but can I just express how amazed I am about what’s happening here. It seems so effortless” haha. Well, the thing with anything you do lots of, it does become effortless. I find making wraps more effortless then actually putting on the bread machine. Seriously. It’s 3 ingredients, plus boiling water, roll, and cook on a dry pan. Eat right away or store it away for up to a week. I even whip these bad boys up while we are camping (a wine bottle is a great rolling pin). We made the switch when the first hard core covid restrictions rolled out. It was after that first batch that my husband and I looked at each other and said “holy cow that was so easy and these are amazing”. Once again, now we think store bought ones are gross……… which of course it is from all the gross unnatural ingredients in them. Please try it. And try it again and again. If it’s something that you eat, please please start making them from scratch, and save the ziplock bag from the last store bought ones you had, they make the best storage bag for your new homemade ones!
8. Bread: I love that Covid made so many people make bread. It got people to make something from scratch that to a lot of people seemed hard or impossible…… and made it possible. I grew up with a mom that made bread by hand from scratch. Every other day! I can still picture coming down stairs in the morning to have breakfast and mom standing at the counter kneading the bread aggressively and looking like she was doing her morning workout! But once I moved out and went to uni, I started buying bread, then basically at the same time my health took a turn and I developed all sorts of food allergies. It’s not all the breads fault, but it was moving to the city and no longer having mom’s homemade food that caused that to happen. I know that now, I didn’t then (well not for another 2 years anyway). This was the point in my life when I changed my diet significantly. I was 20 and was determined to improve my immune system to fight off my A4 sheet print out of all the allergies I had developed, and not have to take drugs to sort it out. It was a 4 year journey of learning, trying, failing, and trying again. Man I had some major fails. I’ll never forget the last fail, succumbing to some craving of something I shouldn’t have, and suffering afterwards for it. I remember sitting on my couch in my apartment in downtown Vancouver, feeling like crap, and so calmly saying to myself, “yea, that so wasn’t worth it. I didn’t even enjoy what I ate. I’m so ok with never doing that again”. And that was it, it was a major turning point in my life, and it was the point where I had all my allergies at bay, not affecting me anymore. I wasn’t eating bread at this time, but as I got older, and got married to a bread eating man, I found my mothers roots inside me and began beating the dough just the same. It’s been 12 years now of making bread, all sorts of breads, and again, another one that we just can’t ever bring ourselves to buy store bought ever again. I honestly couldn’t imagine having to travel to buy bread every 2 days, what a waste of time!
9. Meat/Produce: Again these are products we still buy, but we do it differently. I’ll do anything to not have to waste time with travel. So I’m always making lists and organising routes to be the most efficient. So to me this also translates to buying bulk, meaning less trips to buy your regular items. So when I finally got to the point of making a change to the way we bought meat, we searched out a pastured fed cattle farmer as close to home as possible and also willing to sell a whole calf. We found this at Maugers Meat in Moss Vale. We share a whole calf with another family and we got a second freezer. It lasts us about 5-6 months, which equals a hell of a lot less trips to the shops to purchase meat. As for produce, I’m a big fan of gardening, so I do try to grow as much as I can for our consumption at home, but then would supplement from farmers markets. Now though, I’m fortunate to own the store, which allows me to get all organic fruit and veg, and basically everything I need without traveling far. We still do the half calf twice a year, and get pork from the Nowra CBD Fresh Food Markets (Martins Ridge Farm – Conjola). Chicken currently is the only thing we buy from shops. Hopefully I can change that in the future too.
10. Mulch: As mentioned in No.9, I love to garden. I totally fell into the trap of believing I needed to buy mulch to grow good veggies. Then COVID hit and I couldn’t go buy my usual sugar cane mulch. One thing I’ve well trained myself to always ask is, “what else do I have that I could use?”. My eyes turned to our beautiful bamboos. The leaves were perfect. Since then, I have never bought mulch ever again. Mulch is to simply protect the soil from the sun and keeping moisture in the soil. The bamboo leaves do exactly that. I shake my head at how much money I’ve spent on sugar cane!
So to everyone who thinks it’s too hard, or they couldn’t do it, I hope this might inspire you to try one thing. Just one. The biggest advise I could give is to choose and do one thing at a time, until it becomes effortless to you. Then you take on another change. I’m continually asked, “how do you manage to do everything you do?”, and I honestly believe I have more time from making things from scratch then buying the “convenient” store bought option. I see now how ‘not’ convenient those options were, and I reap the benefits at having simple ingredients in my pantry that can do it all. I’ve always considered travel time as wasted time and have moved many times to live where I work because I could never justify spending so much of my life traveling from location to location. I also reduced this by always doing large single shops each week and never multiple little shops. Now, with the items I do above, I don’t travel at all, and I truely believe this is why it appears to others that I have more time to get more done.
Breaking free from a world that told me I had to rely on others to provide for me has been one of the most empowering journeys. I feel strong in the face of uncertainties that the future might hold.