7QT: Beginner Thrifting Tips

Coat from Goodwill

Months ago I was charmed to read Jen’s early forays into the world of thrifting. It was fun to see someone’s first foray into secondhand shopping, because I grew up that way. Glamorous as it sounds, taking people’s old used stuff home with me is in my blood. It’s a way to save money, sure, but also a way to help the planet and to avoid supporting unethical business practices. And don’t get me started on the thrill of the hunt!Read More »

Frugal Accomplishments for the First Couple Weeks of October

Recently I’ve been reading and enjoying the Prudent Homemaker’s recurring series, “Frugal Accomplishments,” in which she tracks her budget-saving measures over the course of each week. (I think I first discovered her through the also excellent blog, The Big White Farmhouse.)  I come from a frugal family so many of these steps come naturally, but J and I also are careless budgeters, so we still have a lot to learn. Here are some of our recent highlights, though, since I’ve enjoyed reading others’:Read More »

Shopping Secondhand as Spiritual Practice

A few weeks before Christmas, two of my party animal friends* and I met for a hot ladies’ night out: to the local Goodwill.

And let me say, we shut that joint down. (Seriously, though, we weren’t the last ones out: there was definitely a night owl Mennonite family in line behind us.)

The only rule was this: we could shop for clothes for ourselves BUT NOT FOR OUR KIDS. (Because everyone knows I love baby clothes.)Read More »

Crunchy Cons and (Anti?-)Consumerist Posturing

Ok, so here’s a sincere question: If we spend more time acquiring goods locally and ethically, doesn’t this mean we are becoming more materialistic, not less? We are definitely thinking more about stuff and probably spending more money, to boot. This is a question that’s been bothering me on and off since AP Environmental Science in twelfth grade, and most especially since a Dorothy Day-inspired private lecture on distributism got me thinking about consumer ethics again in a special way.

Read More »

Ethical Groceries Outside the Farmer’s Market


So, everyone knows we should be shopping local. But what about when the farmer’s market is closed, or the grocery budget is tight? Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Closeout grocery stores.

Back in Massachusetts, we had one of these that sold all shelf-stable stuff, mostly organic, often dented or about to expire. It’s where we got almost all of Pippin’s squeezy foods so he could live the infant good life on his parents’ grad school budget. Here in Virginia, there’s a more full-service grocery with lots of baking supplies, an unpredictable stock of fresh and frozen food, and horse-and-buggy parking. To make this kind of shop work best, you really need to either a.) keep completely flexible on your grocery list or b.) shop two stores. I usually opt for the latter.

Another point in favor of closeout grocery stores is that, as with shopping second hand at thrift stores, you’re not directly profiting producer, so (maybe?) you don’t have to worry as much about whether the meat is ethical and the farming sustainable. (Unless you’re really committed to eating organic for health reasons, of course.)

  • Ownership of the grocery store.

Is it locally owned? (Do you care?) Is it Christian? (Do you care?)

  • Employment practices of the grocery store.

Costco is a great place to workWal-Mart, less so. When we lived in Massachusetts, I liked shopping Aldi because the savings were all about shifting the labor to the consumer: you bagged yourself, you rented and returned a cart, etc. It felt better than saddling the employees with the same amount of work for less pay, as some businesses do.

  • Donation practices of the grocery store.

In some places you’ll only have the choice of big box stores and multinational chains, but consider, if you can, whether the grocery store donates its surplus to local food pantries. This may take some digging, but in Massachusetts, where J spent a stint driving the food donation truck, some grocery stores donated and some trashed their surplus. We tried to support places that supported the poor in our community.

What other rules do you apply in grocery shopping?