exponentiation ezine
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exponentiation ezine: issue [6.0:self-sufficiency]

[self-sufficiency | food]

Frugal and Sustainable Shopping Tips

For most individuals living in first world countries it is normal to get food from supermarkets and clothing from department stores. These methods, while nice and convenient, can also burn holes in our pocket books and cater to unsustainable methods of production/consumption. Supermarket prices are often slightly higher than the products themselves are worth due to the shipping and packaging costs. Why pay for these unless you really want that cool looking oatmeal or cereal box?

Do not feel obligated to buy buy buy, even though today's economically driven cultures tell you it's the right then to do. There are ways to navigate around the shopping game in order to get quality sustainable goods for cheaper than normal. Lets take a few of the big resources we all consume on an average basis and identify some methods of consumption that are healthier and will make us more self-sufficient.

I. Food

Obviously food and water are the most important resources we consume regularly. It's a scary thought that as little as one hundred years ago, most individuals knew where the food they were eating came from and they even knew how to produce it. Today individuals have given up this ability in favor of allowing someone else to do it for them. Here are a few ideas for getting back in touch with what foods you consume:

1. Grow your own food – Don't be afraid to start growing some of your own foods. This makes you a little less reliant on the supermarkets. Obviously we don't mean you should produce all the food you consume yourself, although that's a great ideal. Shop regularly at the supermarket, but substitute some of your purchases with things you grow at home. It doesn't matter if you have acres of land or just an apartment balcony, you can grow some of the foods you eat regularly for yourself, such as tomatoes, radishes, lettuce or carrots. See our article on “basket gardening" in issue 3.0 for more information on how you can start your own garden at home.

Not only does growing your own food give you the security of knowing where the food comes from and what was done to it during the growing process, but it also will give you a sense of accomplishment and brighten your day. Having a green thumb puts us back in touch with other organisms we co-exist with and as such gives us greater ecological insight. It is also a cheaper way to get some of the foods you like.

2. Join a Co-Op - May sound too hippie for some, but then again the hippies didn't do everything wrong. A co-op is an alternative to supermarkets. It places you in more control of what kinds of foods you are receiving and where they are granting you, the paying member, as a co-owner of the market. Co-ops generally have a wider selection of good foods from local growers. Buying locally is a key in living a more free and sustainable life as it supports the economy of your home and your local friends and family. Local grown items cost less for shipping as the distances to get the food to the market are shorter. Co-ops often have a larger selection of these locally grown/made products, which makes them another resource to consider when shopping smart.

3. Take up barter and trade with community members – This is another method you might attempt in order to gain more control over the food resources in your life. If you are growing some of your own foods, consider trading some of them with your local neighbors for other foods they may be growing. You might even be able to barter other products with them. Barter is a fine way to build community trust and a community relationship. If you manage to get a system going it will be cheaper for all those involved and it will keep products circulating locally.

4. Buy your food in bulk – This is one money saving strategy when purchasing food. Buying in bulk means you get more for less. You don't pay for shipping and fancy boxing like you do at regular supermarkets. Buying in bulk also allows you to create a storage cache of food, which is helpful if any tragedies should befall your community and there is a sudden shortage of food. Bulk retailers are everywhere and vary from more mainstream retailers like Costco, to small local retailers in your area that very from co-ops to small privately owned markets.

II. Clothing

Most of us probably have closets full of perfectly good cloths we never wear anymore, yet we still go out and buy new clothing at higher prices than the clothing itself cost to make. Let's discuss some alternative ways to getting and keeping good cloths:

1. Use it up, wear it out – This is a logic too few of us live by today. Why discard something just because it's no longer “cool, hip, my thing?" Use it up and wear it out. Wear those jeans and socks until they have holes. This doesn't mean you have to walk around feeling like a bum, it simply means all of your items get full use. Don't give them up after a month of light wear just because you see another pair of shorts you think are cooler. If your pants rip at the knees, turn them into shorts. When your socks get ripped to shreds, turn them into rags. Applying this logic is both adaptive and resourceful as it causes us to find alternative uses for objects than they were otherwise intended for. When you use something to its full extent you save cash as you aren't spending it on new objects when you don't need them.

2. Thrift Stores - Don't be afraid to check out thrift stores for clothing. You will probably be surprised at the amount of quality things you will find in a thrift store for cheaper than normal retail stores. If you don't find what you want in a thrift shop, then go to your retailer, but check your local thrift shops first. It's much nicer buying a good pair of jeans for 4 dollars than it is to buy relatively the same pair of jeans at a retailer for 15 dollars.

3. Surplus Stores – Visit your local suplus stores as well. You can often find items there you won't find in a retailer. Prices vary depending on the surplus store, but they can often be cheaper than retail.

4. Handed Down Items - Why not pass down good clothing to other family members if it is still good? If little Johnny outgrows his jacket, but the jacket is still good, why not give it to another family member it will fit? This is a two way street, give hand downs when they are there to be given, take them when they are there to be taken.

III. Accessories

For things outside of the two major categories we have just discussed, the field of accessories, electronics, furniture, etc, the few following suggestions yield universal help:

1. Look in dumpsters – Gasp! Dumpster diving!!! Yep. In a time of mass wasting, it is the waster who is to be shamed, not the individual that salvages the waste. Besides, we don't recommend the scavenger behavior of eating half eaten apple cores, or pizza that was resting up against the side of the trash bin, we do however recommend checking dumpsters for perfectly good and salvageable items. Dumpster diving, it should be noted, can be considered a crime in some areas, so know what you're doing and do it safely so as to not break any of your local laws.

Often electronics stores will dump out electronic equipment that is salvageable. If you are constructing your own computer, look for gadgets in dumpsters you might be able to use in building your own computer or in upgrading it.

You can find clothing, paper, linens, books, etc in dumpsters that are perfectly fine. Check your local college campus at the end of a semester to find items such as these. When students leave to go home from the dorms, they often leave materials they find unable to pack out. These items are often left in hallways and in dumpsters.

2. Buy straight from a manufacture – Avoid packaging and store shipping costs when you buy items straight from a manufacturer. Doing so cuts out the middleman. With the advent of the internet, it has become much easier to buy products from the manufacturer.

3. Buy the longest lasting materials you can find – Remember, being sustainable and self-sufficiency does not just mean getting more for less, it means getting more out of less. Sometime you must pay more to get more. When you purchase goods, purchase quality goods so that they have a long life and don't break/fail on you. When you buy light bulbs and batteries, for example, pay a little more to get the longer lasting brands that are more energy efficient. This not only gives you more out of less, it also gives you more for less in the long run. A good ethic for the frugal individual to have is to look towards the long term.

4. Surplus Store – As mentioned in the clothing section, surplus stores are an excellent alternative to other retailers, especially for outdoor gear.

5. Second hand shops – in addition to thrift shops, check out second hand shops. Second hand shops usually offer quality deals with furniture and tools. These shops are usually privately owned. Look into the second hand shop first as some are run by nefarious individuals who will charge just as much for second hand goods as they are brand new. But a well run second hand shop or a pawn shop is a good place to find tools, furniture, musical items and electronic equipment.

6. Yard sales – Pay attention to yard sales in your neighborhood. You can often find good things at yard sales and it gives you the opportunity to strike up a relationship with other members of your community.

7. Auctions – Look into auctions. Auctions, such as those run by the police, often allow you to get very expensive items for cheaper, such as cars and electronics.

IV. Conclusion

These are a few ways you can increase your self-sufficiency, health and sustainability in your purchasing and consumptive life. Remember that the healthier ethic of frugality is not to be miserly and cheap, but it is to be adaptive, creative and resourceful. Efficiency does not just mean to get more for less, it also means getting more out of less. It is the later definition that separates the miser from the strategist in the shopping game we all are obligated to participate in to function in our societies.

It should be noted that relying on others is not in and of itself bad. No man is an island unto themselves as they saying goes. Gaining sufficiency from the retailer or the supermarket does not mean giving them up and it does not mean giving up various luxuries and conveniences of the modern world, it simply means gaining more control over these resources in our daily lives so we do not become absolutely dependent on them. The strategist finds that should the system as it is fail, they will be ok because they have the much desired skills of adaptation and creativity.

In becoming more sustainable and independent, we leave a better mark on the world for our future generations. We give them a garden to tend and a positive ethic to live by when we live by our codes of conduct, and express and adaptive and creative spirit that is at the heart of our evolution. Understanding frugal shopping strategies offers us much more than just a consumer/producer logic and strategy, it offers us a strategy for merging our many goals into one holistic lived being. - Gestalt

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