Procrastination has paid off nicely for me at times. Considering I’ve made it this far, I have no intentions on changing a thing. In my last post I listed out our expenses for the prior two weeks, in which I revisited the smoke detector saga of 2013.
Archive for Found it!
Yesterday was a big day for us here at Thrift & Thrive, as the long awaited renovations on our downstairs showroom finally began! That’s right…in just about two months we will be doubling our size, thanks in large part to the SBIF/TIF money available to building owners that house small businesses in the City of Chicago. Between the owners of our building and others on the block, partnering with Alderman Cullerton and the Portage Park Chamber/Irving Austin Business District, since October of last year, you may have noticed some nice changes happening here in the neighborhood. Last October the scaffolding went up and construction crews completed the roof and tuckpointing on our storefront. Later in the year, contractors upgraded the HVAC, electrical and plumbing and as well, installing the fabulous new wall racks that we purchased from Simplified Building Concepts…causing some minor interruptions in our business, but nothing that we couldn’t work around. We took a break for the holidays and are back at it again with the final (and most exciting) part of the job!
If you’ve had the opportunity to visit us at Thrift & Thrive, perhaps you’ve come to notice that when you return home, your bag may have the name of an area grocery store, discount retailer, or pharmacy. That’s because every single time we bag your purchase, we’re using a bag that was used at least once before. We’re extending the “first” life of the product and, metaphorically, increasing its percentage of post consumer waste value by rescuing it from the trash or recycling bins, using it, and then passing it on to the next user. Perhaps then, and we hope, that next person uses it again, passes it to someone else, or disposes of it in a way that is responsible.
We started the practice of reusing shopping bags on day one, and I estimate that in the last year and a half, Thrift & Thrive has saved both the need to create approximately 27,500 new plastic bags, and the wholesale to retail direct cost of about $530 during that period of time. Add on shipping expenses from a supply distributor (both in terms of $ and environmental cost) and you’re just now beginning to see a true picture of the cost. As well, we have diverted the original 27,500 we reused away from the expense of recycling or carting to the landfill. It’s amazing to quantify the impact that one small retailer, in one city, can have on the big picture. As they say (and aren’t “they” so wise) change begins at home.
The principles in our personal lives bleed over into our business, and as you can see from our resolution this year, vice versa. When we first opened up back in July of 2011, it was a “no-brainer” that we were going to find an alternative to purchasing new bags since we did not ethically agree with it. Not only was it more in line with what we do in our industry, but for a start-up business that was boot-strappin’ it, it just made plain economic sense. We started with the grocery bags that we saved at home, coupled with some more that were collected for us by friends and family. As the donations started to come in, we were thankful that they were coming in reused plastic, paper and sometimes even cloth(!) retail bags. Every one of them got used. Pretty soon it was easy to see that the demand was going to outpace the supply, and so the need to find an alternative source was born. We put out shouts on Craigslist and Facebook, and have since even resorted to liberating them from the recycling bins at the neighborhood grocery stores. Talk about a last minute pardon!
There are so many items that you can recycle in your home, and even better, those that you can reuse multiple times before you recycle. We haven’t bought a trash bag in years, (among other common disposables) opting to re-use our plastic shopping bags instead. While this means that we don’t “traditionally recycle” every single one of our plastic shopping bags, it does mean that we have reduced the need for the manufacture, transport, sale and disposal of another plastic product. It’s funny, because even though we bring reusable shopping bags with us to the store, we still end up with these plastic bags in our house. They multiply on their own, and in rapid fashion! We’ve gone from throwing out probably one full-size brand name kitchen bag a week when we first got married, to one average grocery-size bag a week now with a family of four. That’s about a 75% reduction in waste over 10 years, simply by changing habits. Recycling and composting has made a tremendous difference, and now we look for ways to challenge ourselves to reduce even the amount that we recycle, which begins with the life-cycle of any product we bring into our home. This is not for the faint at heart!
I am not advocating that every retailer needs to have used bags in their stores, after all, that is not practical. Even I draw the line at using someone else’s used bag at the grocery store (so we bring our own!) When Melissa lived in the UK years ago, she became quite accustomed to bringing her own bag to stores with her (long before it was trendy in the US) because there, if you forgot your bag, they would charge you for one if they even had them available for sale at all! It’s an interesting spin on a problem that plagues our country, and might not be a bad solution. There are already stores that don’t offer bags (discount clubs and chains like Germany’s Aldi come to mind) here in this country, and I would hope scores of others at this point that use the same idea we do at Thrift & Thrive. Just yesterday I saw a plastic bag in a tree on my walk home from work, and it made me reflect on how glad I am that we have the ability to be part of the solution. So do you!
What to do with the leftover Half and Half in the fridge when it’s dangerously close to really expiring…? Why, break out that ice cream maker you got as a wedding gift, dust it off, plug it in and get ready to use it for the SECOND time in almost 10 years! I almost never have half and half in the house as we’re black coffee people, but I attempted a disastrous martini experiment at a holiday party a couple weeks back, and needless to say, was left with the majority that I bought. Now to make lemons into lemonade!
While we did exclude food from our “buy nothing new” resolution, we are still extremely conscious of how we shop, what we buy, and of course, minimizing food waste at all costs. Sometimes buying nothing new can be achieved purely through maximizing every bit of what you bring into your home, and allowing zero tolerance for waste of any kind. In this case, buying nothing new manifests itself in two simple ways for us today: not throwing away half and half a couple days past its printed expiration date, and not forking over another $5 for a pint of ice cream. When did deliciousness become so expensive??!
Melissa and I both grew up with homemade ice cream memories. Hers were memories of family gatherings in the back yard with the hand-cranked ice cream freezers, rock salt, and fish fries. Mine were memories of my Aunt Grace (who lived in a perpetual state of 1950′s Americana well into the 1990′s) with her hand-cranked ice cream machine in my Grandparents kitchen in Kansas. We have always had high hopes of making some of these memories with our children, but our ice cream machine is electric and generally sits on the top shelf in our pantry. Not this year it doesn’t!!!! Time to make our second-ever batch of creamy goodness.
For this I simply adjusted the recipe in the manual that came with the ice cream maker after reading some online recipes and learning that it is perfectly fine to substitute half and half for heavy whip and milk. Typically you’re looking at a 2 to 1 ratio (cream to milk) but in this case, we’re going to be a little less creamy and a little more milky with our 1 to 1 mixture. Small win if you’re just now realizing that half and half is half cream and half milk…! I also scoured the cabinets to find the additional ingredients needed, which of course line the pantries of most homes in America: sugar and vanilla extract! I also decided to get a bit crazy and use some of the frozen berries that were in my freezer, after being persuaded by Melissa that the boys would probably enjoy wildberry ice cream over coffee ice cream. I guess she’s right. The recipes with berries all called for lemon juice (and it just so happened that I had a lemon in the fruit bowl) but I assume bottled lemon juice concentrate would have also worked if that’s what you have on hand.
4 cups half and half
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups berries
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Wisk together the half and half and sugar on low setting or by hand, 1-2 minutes.
- Pour cream/sugar mixture into ice cream freezer, add vanilla and freeze/mix for 20-25 minutes (according to my brand of ice cream freezer…you may want to follow your own directions if your freezer is different.)
- In separate bowl, combine fruit and juice and let set. My recipe called for 2 hours with fresh berries, but I adjusted to the 25 minutes and frozen berries I had while the ice cream was blending. It worked fine.
Total prep time was about 10 mins. 30 mins total time in the freezer with a total beginning to end project time of 40 mins. Not bad for homemade ice cream with stuff I had and stuff I was going to have to dump down the drain!
Hope you enjoyed this post as much as we’re enjoying this ice cream! What are some of your favorite flavors or memories of homemade ice cream?
Someone walked out of our shop this morning shortly after discovering that all we sold was second hand goods. It put quite an interesting perspective on our new year’s resolution and made me realize how thankful I am that I was raised with the ability to see past that categorization of “new vs. used” and look more at condition, cost, and usefulness. If anything, being the second (if not third, or tenth) owner of something has always added value for me, in the sense that these once new, lifeless objects now possess a certain warmth after they were loved by someone else, if however briefly, before me.
We’re in the process of remodeling the store, and getting ready to begin renovations on the basement which will soon double our size! Right now we’ve got an expected completion date somewhere around the end of March. The next few weeks should see us busy, not only supervising the general contractors, but as well building some fixtures out of bits and pieces and painting/refinishing some used furniture that we purchased today. The first fixture that needs fixing is a proper display for children’s toys, and I found some solid wooden click-couch legs that I’m most likely going to be using in this project. Plan on seeing some pictures of that later this week. As for the furniture, we’ve acquired (used, of course!) some nice old pine hutches to better display our kitchen/dish ware and will soon be sending those gondola shelves back to the 1980′s grocery store they crawled out from under…
The last few days I have felt that maybe this resolution of ours isn’t that big of a deal, especially considering the fact that everyone seems to be cutting back in many ways lately. Then someone walked out of our store without even looking at what we had to offer, simply because it wasn’t new. Perhaps our shop, or our challenge to ourselves will one day inspire someone to think differently about their own personal beliefs or habits, and that is pretty cool. This update is late and short, but I’m doing my best to keep the pace up and reflect on every little bit that we do this year to honor our commitments for the new year. I read today that somewhere around only 12% of the population is still on track with their resolutions. Of course, they also said that 79% of Americans didn’t have a resolution at all. Hmm. Sign of the times? I know that our treadmill isn’t getting any less dusty, but we’re determined to keep avoiding new goods at all costs in 2013.