I used to buy foods or household goods for convenience, regardless if they are safe or expensive. But I am learning to be wiser. Besides the fact that there are certain foods we should avoid because they are unsafe, there are things I'm learning to avoid to save money.
11 Things You Should Never Buy
- Drumsticks or Chicken Breasts - why pay twice the amount and buy drum sticks or chicken breasts when you can buy a whole chicken and debone it yourself? I buy free-range whole chicken, especially when they are on sale, and use parts and save the breast bone (and there are plenty of meat attached to it, even after you de-bone it) for making chicken soup or chicken stock. Deboning a chicken is so simple that my 16 year old can do it. Watch this awesome video to learn if you don't know how.
- Chicken Stock - OK, so you just watched how to debone a whole chicken. Well, take the body and maybe chicken wings and boil and simmer to make chicken stock. A 2~3 lb. chicken can yield about 5-6 cups of chicken stock. Save it for soup or use as broth for cooking. You know what's in it - chicken and water - and you know it's healthier and so much cheaper than buying a carton from the store. (A friend of mine roasts beef bones in the oven before making beef stock with them. She says the have richer flavor.)
- Vegetable Stock - If you use vegetables for cooking, save the bruised parts, ends, stalks, and even roots to add them to make vegetable stock. You can season with herbs and lots of garlic and onion and you got yourself a very tasty, cheap, and nothing but vegetables in your stock, without chemicals and salt. You can even freeze them in an ice cube tray and use them when you need them.
- Canned Tomatoes - BPA is in resin that lines cans. Tomatoes are acidic so it breaks down the resin and BPA gets into tomatoes. So I don't buy canned tomatoes but I buy Pomi Tomatoes in boxes. I buy tomato sauce in glass jars and tomato paste in tubes. But do you know what's better? Canning tomatoes yourself. You know what goes in them, they are much cheaper, and they are tastier!
- Non-Stick Pots and Pans - this is a no-brainer but I can't reiterate this often enough. Don't buy non-stick with PFOA. Buy cast iron, stainless steel, enamel baked, or ceramic coated. I'd love to get a set of Creuset but I already have a set of All-Clad pots and pans with a lifetime warranty - Yup, with a LIFETIME warranty! So, in essence, my pots and pans will outlive me. (I can leave them to my kids, along with my LED lightbulbs!) Imagine all the money I've saved! So, if you are on the market for a new set of pots and pans, buy a quality set of stainless steel or cast iron pans. If you season them well, food won't stick but if they do, here are my non-toxic ways to clean stainless steel and cast iron pans.
- Plastic Containers - BPA, Melamine, petroleum, you name it, they are in plastics. Plastics labeled #7, polycarbonates, contains BPA so it's wise to avoid them. Besides the fact that plastic is made from petroleum and it can kill marine animals, plastic particles can leach into your food, especially, when heated. Even if it says, "Microwave Oven Safe", it only means that plastic won't melt in a microwave oven but it doesn't mean it's safe for our health. Microparticles and chemicals can leach into foods when heated. So switch all plastic containers to glass containers. And if you still use plastics, don't ever use them in the microwave oven.
- Bottle Water - filtered tap water is cheap, creates less plastic waste, and tastes better. Bottle water is not regulated and often times, it's just, you guessed it, filtered tap water. So why pay to buy them when you have tap water in your own home? Just use a good filter, like Zero Water, and you'll have clean tasting water!
- Commercial Laundry Detergent - Have you ever walked down the soap and detergent aisle and couldn't breathe? I do. I hate the strong odor of assorted fragrances and chemicals that exude from the aisle. I started making my own powder detergent a while ago and it doesn't have a strong smell and it actually eliminated mildew from my front loader. And it only costs about 19¢ per load.
- Antibacterial Soaps or Hand Sanitizers - containing Triclosan, the chemical pesticide used in many antibacterial soaps, has been linked to thyroid damage, hormone disruption, and the creation of hard-to-kill superbug infections. FDA states that washing hands with warm water and regular soap is enough to kill any bacteria. You don't need Triclosan or Microban that actually makes antibiotic-resistant superbugs. And most of these types of soaps are more expensive so save money and buy regular soap.
- Wrinkle-Resistant Clothes - contains formaldehyde, a carcinogenic chemical. You know how much I hate ironing. To avoid getting clothes really wrinkled, I add vinegar to my wash and take them out as quickly as I can and hang them. This way they don't take that much time to iron them. A reader suggested spraying one part vinegar and one part water mixture after taking them out of the dryer, to make them wrinkle-free. I'm going to try that next time.
- Pressed Particle Board Furniture - while we are on the subject of formaldehyde, pressed particle board furniture -you know those cheap but sturdy as heck furniture specials?- all have formaldehyde. Buy solid wood furniture. If you can't afford it, shop at thrift stores and vintage stores. Nothing beats solid wood and you'll be recycling too!
- So, what do YOU avoid buying to be safe and to save money?
Drumsticks Image via Flickr by Geoff Peters 604
I do not recommend using Borax, ever. It is very toxic. Washing soda and baking soda are fine. http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/2507-20MuleTeamBoraxNaturalLaundryBoosterMultiPurposeHouseholdCleaner
Raine Saunders says
I am sharing this post today on Heal Your Gut With Food! 🙂 Thanks Karen!
[email protected] Talk says
Most furniture can contain formaldehyde whether it is from the glues or the wood used.
Most manufacturers use plywood or particleboard when they make their products. These products are real wood but not what we think are "real wood."
Now, there are no added particleboard and plywood available so be sure to ask the manufacturer if they don't list they use these products. However, to your point, cheaper products probably won't use the less toxic version.
Don't forget to ask about the glues too.
Totally agree about buying second hand since the formaldehyde would have probably off-gassed by that point.
Using newspapers to clean mirrors and windows works surprisingly well. The ink doesn't stain, it makes everything shine. I just take one sheet and make it wet, rub it on the mirror or window and dry with another (dry) sheet of newspaper. That way you triple use your paper in an eco-friendly way : read, wash and recycle.
dibzette LOVE it! "read, wash and recycle" newspaper to clean windows.
I agree with all of your suggestions. I think time is the main factor in alot of our convenience items, the more toxic, the more time saving. So, we make our own broth during a really cold winter weekend, when we can use the deck to help cool the broth really fast. Then I have my own convenient chicken broth that I pressure can.
We fiind that we like the steel water bottles the most. Work has a ice machine with a water filter four our use, so I can use my water bottle at work.
Cookerati What a great idea to use cold temp to cool your broth! Make a large batch for the year and I bet you can freeze them too if you don't want to can...Thanks for the tip!
Marianna Z says
Thanks for the post!
Re: freezing the broth: I make stock and broth when I have lots of chicken bones (for stock) or nor pretty vegetables (asparagus and celery ends, browned parsley or basil leaves etc) and I freeze it in my silicon muffin forms (one was new and 2 are from the thrift store). I also freeze any leftover pasta sauce or tomato sauce in silicon ice-trays from Ikea. Be sure to bag them in 2 bags (put them in bad (-s) and put in another bag) to prevent from freezer burn and they are so easy to use! And almost free! )))))
Marianna Z Cookerati never thought to freeze leftover pasta sauce. Great idea! Always have some sauce leftover that's not enough for a meal. Thanks for the tip!
Wow. I just love your blog.
Sounds like if you were ever stuck on a remote island or cave without any thing other than a nearby garden with some seeds you'd be quite clean and quite alright.
Thanks for all of your natural tips!
Thanks! I am now dreaming of being "stuck" on a remote island now. I can use some R & R!
Velo Treads says
To save money and to reduce the caloric (and fat!) content of granola - I make my own. It's easy to prepare and I’m able to choose which ingredients to add.
I love making my own granola! Cheap and healthy too! Great tip!
Eco Friendly Home Products says
I say go organic all the way. There are many benefits of using eco friendly home products such as eco friendly household cleaners. Besides reducing the effect of toxins, eco friendly products benefit consumers by saving them money. Most green products are made with simple and minimal packaging which could reduce their total cost. Oftentimes, it is the product's packaging which makes it's price expensive. The fancier the product's packaging is, the more expensive it gets. Aside from being cost effective, these products could also affect the health in a positive way. Since most eco friendly home products are made up of organic and natural materials, the risk of contacting allergies is significantly reduced.
I hate to iron too; I got a fabric steamer for a fairly good price. You hang your clothes on hangers and then just run the steamer over them (for thicker fabrics, put the wand inside the clothes and force the steam through them. Chemical free (I worry a bit about the plastic reservoir for the water, but realized that the only place that the water gets heated is in the metal tube), easy (I mean really easy; my hubby does his own clothes and they always look fine, and he will even volunteer to do mine in a time crunch, something he would never do with the iron), not any more expensive than a decent iron, and because it was so easy I got my hubby to agree to give up his chemical laden 'wrinle free' clothing!
The one steamer I had - albeit really cheapy one - didn't do a great job but next time there is a sale, may be I'll look into buying a decent one. Then, I won't have to open up my clunky ironing board every time I need to iron. And it's more eco-friendly to use a steamer too! Thanks!
I hate expensive household cleaners. They are costly and have such strong smells. I figure if my nose rebels, they must be bad! You have great posts on here for substitutions for them...we got along without then until just recently and there are so many ways to avoid them. Personally, I love Bon Ami powder, which is so inexpensive and cleans everything my mom used Fantastic and bathroom cleaners on (even the toilet bowl).
I am definitely going to look into Bon Ami since it seems to be safer than most.
Thanks for the reminder!
Good, but #7, only polycarbonate, is BPA not #6 polystyrene. And God bless anyone with little ones, especially toddlers, have the time to can tomatoes, piece out chickens for later use, make stocks, etc. My 2 toddlers don't give me that much time in the kitchen & pregnancy weight doesn't want me in there that long either. Lol!
Oops. Thanks for catching that. I meant #7...typed too fast!
Yea, having toddlers is difficult to do anything! And with another one in your belly? Totally understandable!
I used to do all my house chores and kitchen work when they were asleep....especially food prep for them. I made sure they ate what I prepared and not processed. I made their chicken nuggets and soup from scratch, etc. But I did give them Ore Ida Tater Tots and Hagen Daz Ice Cream. I wasn't that diligent on some things. 😛 We can only do the best we can.
Brenna @ Almost All The Truth says
Bottled water is my nemesis at the moment. As an individual, I have always shunned the idea of bottled water, but as a society we need to do better. It is not the solution to creating greater access to clean water. It is not the solution to teaching people to conserve water. It certainly isn't the solution to better health - water yes, bottled water no. Sigh.
I would add to this list not to buy any single serve products as much as humanly possible. The wasteful packaging and the extraordinary cost alone should scare people away!
I agree with you about bottled water. But I am seeing that there is a trend to refuse bottle water now. I was at a Global Health and Innovation Conference over Earth Day weekend at Yale University and the information packet clearly stated that they will no longer provide free water water bottles and for us to bring reusable water bottle to refill from the water fountain. I thought it sent a clear message to >2000 attendees. Of course, Honest Tea was a sponsor and they gave our tea to anyone who wanted it. But many attendees were carrying reusable water bottles.
Single use products are still prevalent and it is troublesome. I think restaurants should charge extra for take out containers. And they should all change to biodegradable ones. If enough businesses use them, then, the price would come down.
There are so many more to list but I couldn't list them all. I love all these ideas in the comments!
Kitty Wampus says
I was just thinking last night about how irritating it is that I have to just toss out the vegetable trimmings from dinner because I live in a condo and don't have a compost pile. I just knew there was something I could be doing with them, and now I'll make vegetable stock...I'm forever in need of it anyway! Thanks for that tip!
We also have been making our own laundry detergent for the last few years and it's wonderful. Without all the perfumes and other junk, you realize that the commercial detergents really aren't getting your clothes very clean. I don't use any perfumes at all, and I just love the smell of CLEAN. We use a liquid recipe, and it does gel up and get clumpy, but we saved a couple of the small bottles from the commercial detergent we used to use and pour ours in and shake it up well before we use it. The clumps really don't make that much of a difference when you're using the little lid cup, and the shaking breaks it up well anyway. We also use vinegar in the rinse and dryer balls instead of fabric softener (which is a petroleum product and can also wreak havoc on your machine) when we can't hang things outside.
Oh, and I have a couple more suggestions. We've completely removed all commercial cleaning products from our house. We use dilated vinegar (a natural disinfectant) sprays for counters and glass, baking soda and vinegar and boiling water for clogged drains, and I have a homemade citrus enzyme brew that is absolutely amazing at cleaning just about everything from counters to bathrooms to floors--it even smells lovely because it's made from orange peels! For extra stubborn stains on counter tops I use a mixture of toothpaste and baking soda.
Occasionally I will forget my reusable bags when I go to the grocery store, but when I do this, I always get the paper bags instead of plastic because I cut them up into paper-towel sized squares and use them for things around the kitchen, like as a blotter for greasy foods, or for gift wrapping (inside out and with a few strategically placed rubber stampings).
I know I'm writing a book here, but I also though I'd offer one more suggestion that might be a little weird sounding for some. I grew up in Europe, so I dearly miss bidets here in the States. However, after I had my second baby, they gave me one of those cleansing bottles for my post-partum care (it's just a plastic squeezy bottle with a closeable sprayer top). I enjoyed how clean it made me feel since I was actually cleaning myself instead of wiping with toilet paper. After I healed up, it occurred to me that this thing was essentially a portable bidet, so I leave one in the both bathrooms and both me and my daughter use them for the..we'll say "quicker" trips to the bathroom if you get my drift. I knitted several washcloths out of absorbent organic cotton yarn and we each have a little stack for blotting dry. I just wash them up with my newborn's diapers. I haven't figured out how to take care of the longer stays in the bathroom because the little bottle just doesn't cut it there, but you'd be amazed at how much longer that roll of toilet paper lasts now since the girls in the house aren't using it every single visit to the toilet. It may seem gross at first, but if you think about it, it's actually getting you cleaner than just toilet paper, and it's such a money saver because you're literally flushing money with toilet paper.
Thanks for the great ideas!!
I must say I do all of these except for the last one. I don't use bidet or thought to use the postpartum bottle. I remember that!! I saw a bidet kit for $40 today! It just hooks up to the existing toilet. My family would freak though if I bring it up. They are not ready.
If I forget my bag, which is rare, I do get paper bags so I can use them for putting my recycling papers for the curb.
Thanks for your suggestions!
Very inspirational post. I need to get all of my canned tomatoes cooked up. I have so many cans. I also want to try canning up some of my own chicken stock. I prefer organic foods whenever I can get them.
Yea, canned tomatoes just screwed me up when the news about BPA broke. That just stumped me for awhile. I know people who freeze chicken stock for later use. Would canning it work? Didn't think about that one. Thanks for the idea!
My Suburban Homestead says
I stopped making vegetable stock some time ago. I don't bother putting vegetables in my chicken stock either, unless it is just a peel or pieces of vegetable that aren't edible. I think its wasteful to throw the veg out. I just add a little extra aromatic veg to my soups instead.
I use vegetable stock/broth to flavor dishes, not necessarily as soups. And since we stopped eating meat, I don't make chicken broths anymore. And you are right; I don't throw away vegetables out. Wash them clean and use them for making broth.
My husband does not use shaving foam anymore, he buys shaving soap - so nice on the skin, cheap and lasts a very long time. Oh, and no more throwing away empty foam cans once a week. Super!
Totally! We (hubby and the girls) use Pacific Shaving Oil and we love it! You don't need that much, it's natural and perfect moisturizer too! Great one!
Nichole Hall-Permell says
This is such a great post Karen! All of your advice and alternatives are so simple to swap-out!! Makes it so much easier to take that next step toward a sustainable lifestyle. . . WOOHOO!! The containers that come into contact with the things we put into our body should be seen as more important. It's really a shame that more emphasis isn't placed on this, even in the health-care world (which I work - you know, the big-girl job 😛 A really great movie to watch is "Food Matters". If you haven't seen it, I know you will love it!!
Another great option I like is stoneware (bakeware)! It seasons up so beautifully and it's really not that pricey when you compare it to the "lifetime warranty" brands 🙂 And Another bad thing about particle board, is that its easily inhabitable by bedbugs; bleck, they give me the heebie jeebies.
Thanks for your enthusiasm and kinds words Nikki! I love stoneware too, like my crockpot. I'd probably bulk up in muscles if I used them daily. Win win!
And you are right about bedbugs in particle boards.....eeeeeek!
Oh, and you are right about packaging...one of the things that bother me about Trader Joe's is their individually wrapped items, including their "ORGANIC" fruits and vegetables. I wish they'd come up with a better way to package them, even if they have to separate their organics from conventional foods. Whole Foods does it; don't know why TJ's can't
Thanks for stopping by! Happy Earth Day! Make it a lasting one!
Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama says
I agree! Sharing!
I switched to soap nuts for our diaper and regular laundry, I also boil the soap nuts and fill our foaming soap pumps with the liquid (diluted) for washing our hands, I plant the used shells in our garden, I switched to mama cloth, my husband built me a clothesline and when I dry indoors I use wool dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. I make homemade baby food with organic produce. I bake from scratch using whole wheat flour and replace eggs with flax seed. We don't use paper towels anymore. I'm sure ill continue to find ways to save money, the earth and our health!
Soap nuts is my next item to try. But I never heard of boiling them to use it as a foaming soap. Thanks for tip! Making and baking from scratch is always the best - for our health, wallet, and the planet! Thanks for your great ideas Natasha!
Lisa @Granola Catholic says
We don't buy cleaners we mix them up ourselves.
Great way to avoid all the nasty chemicals!
u say you don't use plastic containers and water bottles however your recommend zero water which is in a plastic container.... how does that make sense?
I am trying to reduce plastic for many reasons but in some instances, like filtering tap water for drinking, I have no choice but to use plastic filters. And while Zero Water filters are made of plastic, I rather go with ZW that recycles filter cartridges than those that don't. Also, being that ZW filters out most of particulates and the plastic they use is BPA free, that is my choice of water filter.
I would never get water delivered or buy disposable water bottles.
Lot's of things to think about here. I never never buy anything in a tetrapak because they are not recyclable - although beginning in May they may be in some places. I buy Thomas Utopia tomatoes which are in a BPA free can. This year I am growing as many roma tomatoes as I can to freeze so that I don't have to buy as many, if any.
I tried for about a year to make my own laundry soap and have to admit that I failed. It was okay but I needed a liquid one for a low water side loading machine and my recipe kept clumping. The powdered recipe would be great but just does'nt work in my washer. Would love to hear form anyone with a liquid laundry soap recipe.
Bottled water is definitely a big no no in my books too.
I never buy paper towels or plastic wrap. I have never owned and will never own a microwave oven.
Great post Karen, thanks:)
You are right about Tetrapak and I think more and more facilities are looking into recycling them although it's hard to find regions that take them.
You should click the link to my recipe. I am in love with this recipe since it never clumps AND cleans my front loading washer that used to get mildewy and moldy. But since I've been using this mixture, it does not smell! Liquid detergents will coat the drum and will make it smell.
If you go the recipe, I posted a liquid version in one my comments. Hope that helps.
Jennifer Jagger says
Karen, I don't see the link to the Laundry soap recipe, can you post it here?
Here it is.....https://www.drkarenslee.com/2012/02/non-toxic-and-cheap-homemade-laundry-detergent/
Thanks for your reply Karen. I am going to try it again as the dry version that you use - I do have that recipe and still have all the ingredients. I see that you say the liquid one makes a front loader moldy smelling so realized that you do have a front loader too. My Mom uses the recipe I came up with for her top loader and she loves it - it just did'nt work for me, but I am now inspired to try the dry version like you do.
Thanks so much:)
Are you putting the powder in the "Powder Compartment"? My washer has a removable basket for liquid in a compartment. And I have to take it out to use the compartment for powder. One of the readers stated that she had clumping issues too. Then, when I told her about the basket, she realized that's what she was using. Just a thought that maybe it's the same with you. Just a thought.
Sarah B. says
Are you sure Thomas Utopia tomatoes are in a BPA free can? I contacted them about a year ago and they said they weren't in BPA free cans. It would make me so happy if they were as I have some in my cupboard. I heard that Eden organics also have BPA free cans.
Nikki MacCallum says
GREAT article! I've just posted it on my facebook page 🙂
Another one to avoid: fabrics with soil and stain protectors on them, especially for bedding - lots of new furniture and slipcover fabrics and even tablecloths have these!
Thanks for all the great tips and info!
Thank You Nikki!
Yes, stain protectors bug me too. I didn't include it here because I could have went on and on and on. Had to stop somewhere but you are right. And they charge so much more for it too! Ugh.
I want to give up canned tomatoes but I dont like the taste of the Pomis! I have been using Muir Glen as I believe they have gone BPA free. (But I also mix in Cento because they are my favorite, despite the BPA - ugh!)
I agree - Pomis are kinda bland. I usually mix it with tomato paste (from a tube) and lots of garlic and veggies. I found some tomato sauces in jars too so I use those sometimes. I never realized how much tomato products my family go through! Weird food, huh?
Great post! I do still buy canned tomatoes. I dunno...I can't seem to find the boxed ones near me, the fire roasted ones add a lot to certain recipes, and I figure we're all kind of swimming in BPA anyway. Last summer I freezer canned some awesome roasted tomato and garlic sauce, but I didn't make anywhere near enough. Maybe this year.
I no longer buy plastic wrap or plastic bags, avoid polyester after I learned that it leaches tiny fibers into the ocean, anything in single serving containers, and have cut way down on the number of personal products I use every day. If I happen to be at Target, I'm amazed at how little of anything there meets my ethical and environmental requirements.
Target, Walmart, Dollar Store, Kohl's.....all give me a headache when I walk in. Literally. So I hear you about their "environmental requirements". If I don't cringe in a store, then, the store is safe. I'm like the canary. 🙂
I've seen more companies make tomato sauces in jars so we've been buying more of those. And you are right; canning tomatoes is never enough! I'd have to can for weeks to feed my family.
I never buy prepared snacks or cookies. All of my sweets are homebaked cookies or sweet breads. For a salty snack, I air pop popcorn, add real butter and a shake of sea salt or other spices. Or I make a caramel sauce from scratch and pour it over the popcorn and bake it. And I have a big drawer of vintage tupperware, found at yard sales, for packing snacks.
Great ideas, Karen!
Oh, fresh air popped popcorn is the best! We stopped buying microwaveable popcorn years ago after finding out that it has all sorts of nasty chemicals (I blogged about that as being one of the 7 nasty things even food experts won't buy - the link is in this post.)
My kids love popping them in the hot air popcorn maker and adding their own spices too!
Sarah B. says
Please share your caramel sauce recipe. I would LOVE to make this baked popcorn for my kids!
I can't tell you how much I HATE the new no-iron shirts. Nano-particles...uck. For us 'women of a certain age', they are hot-they don't allow your skin to breathe and if you are doing the hot flash dance, it can be soooo uncomfortable. If you can tell me how to wash the no-ironness out of these things, I'd be appreciativ. Until then this hot momma's gonna be in linen.
I totally agree KB!
I think if you wash them with any 'strong' liquid detergents, in time, the wrinkle free properties "may" fade out. May be soak them for a long time would do the trick. I remember when we used to ski, we weren't suppose to wash the "water proof" ski clothes in liquid detergents. So I think liquid detergent must react with the chemical and the garment no longer becomes water proof. I'm hoping that the same holds true for wrinkle free chemicals. Just my hunch though. 🙂