50 Things To Never Buy

50 Things You Never Have to Buy

A few months ago, I posted 10 items we no longer buy and have had a resounding response. Well, they were actually 20 items, since the original list of 10 came from Suburban Pioneers. I’ve decided to up the ante and compile a list of 50 items you could cross off your shopping list. I’ll start at 50 and work my way down to the first 10 listed by Suburban Pioneers.

Here goes:

50) Bottled Water: Let’s just not ever buy bottled water unless we absolutely have to. Ok? With a little forethought, there’s no need to buy water packaged in plastic.

Bottled Water for Sale

49) Air:  Who buys air? Apparently the air is so bad in Beijing, the Chinese do.

48) Note paper: Notes can be written down on any scrap paper. We write notes on the backside of letters with only one side printed, that come in the mail: envelopes, anything with room for a few paragraphs, a list, or some doodles.

47) Wrapping Paper: There are so many wonderful alternatives to wrapping paper, including cloth, paper bags, your children’s artwork, and chip bags. We have a stash of reusable cloth bags that I make each year to use as gift bags. We save wrapping paper, too, and reuse it and reuse it and…

46) Fly Paper: We’ve started making our own sweet fly paper and it works most of the time..

Hanging out to dry. Photo © Liesl Clark

45) Pot Scrubbers: Crumpled up aluminum foil works. Really. Don’t laugh. It totally works.

44) Planters: Almost anything can be converted into a planter — you just have to use your imagination. If it can hold anything, it can be a planter. I’ve seen bras and toilets as planters, bike helmets, and baby shoes. Here are 5 planters that I photographed while in Nepal.

43) Trellises: As above, trellises are a garden feature that can include whimsical reuse. Here are 25 beautiful trellises you can make from your trash.

42) Chicken Bedding: We use cut grass, dried leaves, roadside grass and — our favorite — shredded paper.

Shredded Paper Bedding Photo © Liesl Clark

41) Yogurt Maker: Skip the yogurt maker and make your own in glass jars. It’s easy.


Off-The-Grid Yogurt Over The Pilot Light ©Liesl Clark

40) Window Washing Liquid: Vinegar and water works perfectly, along with newspaper instead of microfiber rags or paper towels.

No-Smudge Newspaper Method. Photo © Liesl Clark

39) Laundry Detergent: Try this DIY recipe and save some money.

38) Dish soap: Here’s a DIY Dish Soap recipe that’ll surprise you.

37) Salad Dressings: Remember simple balsamic and olive oil dressings? Just make your own delicious dressings in a jar. They get better with age and will give you no excuse for not eating your greens. Try our favorite recipe and you won’t be disappointed.

Adding Vinegar to Taste is Best. Photo © Liesl Clark

36) Fire Starters: These are so easy to make and they make excellent gifts.

35) Balloons: If you visit Balloons Blow on the Web, you’ll understand why you never want to buy them again. And as an alternative, try a pretty no-sew bunting.

34) Saran Wrap: We never use plastic food wrap any more, now that there’s the ultimate reusable alternative.

33) Gift Tags: We’ve been known, come Christmas, to repurpose last year’s cards as gift tags. You can do the same with all the pretty cards you receive throughout the year — turn them into tags to add to your gifts.

32) Padded Envelopes: We receive so many of these throughout the year, and reuse them of course, that we even give away in our local Buy Nothing group a box or 2 to other local businesses that can reuse them.

Don't Buy New! Reuse Your Padded Envelopes.

31) Christmas Ornaments: Ornaments are one of the sweetest items to make, as they’re treasured year after year. It’s a family tradition.

Click Through For Trash Backwards Trash to Treasure Ornament Roundup in our app!

30) All-Purpose Cleaner: Orange peels and vinegar will style you with an all-purpose cleaner you’ll love.

DIY All-Purpose Household Cleaner

29) Fruit Vinegar: Fruit scrap vinegar is one of the DIY recipes that’s really changed my buying habits. I make a better apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, and blackberry vinegar than I can buy in the store.

Vinegars Photo © Liesl Clark

28) Potatoes, Arugula: If you’re a gardener, you’ll understand this. When you inadvertently leave a potato or two in your garden, you end up with more next year. Same goes for arugula which always goes to seed in our garden. We never have to replant it. So we simply don’t buy it.

27) Garlic Crusher: In a pinch, use a wide knife to whack at your garlic cloves. Or, go caveman-style as I do and find a great stone for crushing.

Garlic Crushing Pestle.jpg Photo © Liesl Clark

26) Furniture/Floor protectors: So many items can be used to protect your floors from the scratching legs of your furniture. Flip flops are one among many.

25) Silica Gel: We get a lot of silica gel through products that are sent to my husband for his work and then give it away. Silica gel has so many uses! If you need it, just ask on your Buy Nothing group and you’ll likely find plenty.

Silica Gel, Photo by Liesl Clark

24) Beach Toys: So many beach toys are washed up on our beaches, obviously left behind by others, I’d love to see people simply stop buying them. There are great alternatives to buying these redundant plastic items.

Metal beach toys from the thrift shop, photo by Rebecca Rockefeller

23) String: We rarely buy string anymore, because we aren’t ashamed to say we salvage it from all sorts of items, like our chicken feed sacks.

22) Doorstops: Get creative with your doorstops and you’ll find joy in refraining to buy one.

Boot Doorstop © Rebecca Rockefeller

21) Easter Egg Dye: We discovered a great reuse for an Easter egg dye that we’ll definitely use again — magic markers! Whether they’re used up or not, soaking them in water for a while doesn’t hurt them one bit.

Use your dried up Non-Toxic Markers for Easter Egg Dye

20) Paper towels: Um, use cloth ones.

A few good rags in a basket = alternative to paper towels. Photo © Liesl Clark

19) Hair ties: Look in every parking lot and on any sidewalk and you’re bound to find a hair tie or 2. I mean it, they’re everywhere. I find them on trails in the woods, too.

Hair Ties and Hair Clips Recovered From the Parking Lots and Sidewalks of the World. Just wash them. Photo © LIesl Clark

18) Pens: As above, look in every parking lot and on the side walks. Pens are everywhere.

Pens Recovered on Puget Sound Beaches

17) Ribbons: Simply look on every shoreline and ribbon can be found there.

Ribbon Found on Our Beaches (including the spool), Photo © Liesl Clark

Ribbon Found on Our Beaches (including the spool), Photo © Liesl Clark

16) Styrofoam Packing Peanuts or bubble wrap:  (Just ask for it on your Buy Nothing group.)

15) Ziploc bags: Wash them.

Gaiam Bag Dryer, Photo © Liesl Clark

Gaiam Bag Dryer, Photo © Liesl Clark

14) Plastic children’s toys: Just ask any parent for them, they’ll gladly give you a box or 3.

13) Books: Of course, I do support buying books from your favorite author, but for many of the books you’ll need throughout the year, use your library!

12) Plastic straws: Plastic straws are a scourge upon the land and water. Use your lips, or find a glass, bamboo, or metal alternative.

plastic straws recovered from Point No Point and Schel-Chelb Estuary, WA, photo by Liesl Clark

11) Cigarette Lighters: Plastic cigarette lighters replace matches way too often. We still collect cool looking matchbooks from bars and restaurants.

Lighters Recovered from Puget Sound Beaches

Lighters Recovered from Puget Sound Beaches

(For these last 10, be sure to visit Suburban Pioneers for their full post)

10) Post-Its

9) Plastic Funnels

8) Microwavable Neck Pillow

7) Pet Fur Remover (Brush or Stone)

6) Travel Toiletry Containers

5) Rubber Bands

4) Reusable Grocery Bags

3) Pet Poo Bags

2) Cleaning Rags

1) Plastic Leftovers Containers

What can you add to our list?  Enjoy your frugal living!

In Praise of Dried Grass

Sometimes a thing you need is hiding right there in plain sight. For 8 years we’ve had chickens, 14 girls a-layin’ in a coop my resourceful husband, Pete, made of salvaged materials. For bedding, on the floor of the coop to absorb their droppings, we’ve used pine chips, sold in bales wrapped in plastic. It’s clean and dry and when the bedding becomes soiled with excessive chicken droppings, we shovel it out of the coop, into the compost pile and lay down new chips …  Until we discovered the shredded paper method.

Through our local Buy Nothing group, I now procure shredded paper for use as chicken bedding and it works beautifully in both the coop and the compost, breaking down even faster than the pine chips in the heat of the composter. It’s free, and we make sure we only get shredded paper. No plastic bits please.

The nest boxes require straw for soft egg-laying. Again, for years we’ve used straw sweepings we get for a few dollars at our local feed store. And then I saw what looked like straw laying on the side of our road. Two or 3 times a summer, our island road maintenance crew cuts the tall grass on the roadsides, leaving the “hay” to dry in the sun. It remains there until the next batch of grass is cut and laid on top of it. Last week, we took a basket down the road and filled it with the beautifully dried hay and brought it home for the chickens. Our guinea pig loves the hay, too!  Nothing better than freshly cut and dried nest box material right at the end of the driveway.

My dear friend, Yangin Sherpa, is my inspiration. She spends long summer days in her region of Nepal, Solu Khumbu, hiking up mountainsides in the jungle, searching for tall grasses to cut and then take home to dry in the sun. She later sells the grass to yak and dzopkyo owners for winter feed. She sells 40 kilos of hay (carried on her back) for about $60. Not a bad price for rural Nepal.

For Yangin, seeing the free cut dried grass here by the road, no one collecting it for their animals, is a waste of a great resource. It’s just a few hundred yards off our property, so we’ve collected 2 loads of hay for the coop that should last us through the winter.

We lay it out on our lawn to dry further in the sun and when it’s dry, Yangin separates the hay and knots it into easy-to-grab bundles. We hang it up in our carport in an old hammock (destined for the landfill because it had a hole in it) for easy retrieval.

Yangin knots them into easily transportable bundles. Once again, an age-old technique that has served cultures well for thousands of years, so simple and practical, brings us closer to the rhythms of the natural world around us. Yet we’ve somehow lost this connection and knowledge over the years, no longer utilizing the resources hiding in plain sight.

Eat Your Brassicas, Flowers And All

Kale florets are sweeter than broccoli raab. Photo © Liesl Clark

If you’re a gardener, you’ll know what I’m talking about. Can you eat the flower heads of your brassicas (broccoli, cabbage, kale, collards, arugula, mustard)? Yes! As my friend Rebecca says, “We just call it “raab.”” It’s like broccoli raab but much sweeter in the case of kale and collards which we’ve been enjoying for the past few weeks. And if you don’t believe me, visit the Mixed Greens Blog where you’ll learn more about the wonders of the brassica family.

Kale flowers pinched off to make the plant produce more! Photo © Liesl Clark

Brassica florets, leaves, stems are all good for you. Even the yellow flowers themselves can be added to salads for color. These versatile veggies house nutrients that help protect you against prostrate, bladder, colon, pancreatic and breast cancers. We simply consider them among our “deep greens” family, easy to grow in most climates and hence worth finding great recipes for.

Saute brassica florets and leaves in garlic and olive oil. Photo © Liesl Clark

I pinch off the flower heads before they actually flower and they’re just like broccoli flowerets which can go in salads, omelets, macaroni and cheese, quiches, you name it! Pinch right down to the leaves and new florets will resprout. As long as you don’t let your plant flower completely the florets don’t get too bitter.

Once your brassicas flower the leaves become more bitter. But the honey bees love the flowers and the flowers work nicely in a salad. Prolong the life of your brassicas! Photo © Liesl Clark

I guess it’s a sign of not being able to let go, but these brassica flower heads are too delicious not to harvest and they extend our food crops sometimes indefinitely. We do let a few plants flower just to keep the honey bees happy. One winter, I fed my family off of 4 brassicas the entire winter: the leaves, the stems, the florets, and then the flowers in salads. Seeds, too, are edible. We simply let the bees do their collecting of pollen and watch the flowers turn to seeds which drop to the ground and I never plant brassicas again. They resprout all over the garden. A perennial self-sustaining food forest that could feed many families for years to come.

Home made macaroni and cheese with sauteed kale florets. Photo © Liesl Clark

Enjoy your brassica florets and do share your favorite recipes with us so we can extend our brassica bravado into new culinary adventures.

IMG_4541 Photo © Liesl Clark


Because I was 15, spending a summer abroad to learn French, and I didn’t know who to talk to when you’d come to my bedside and grope me in the night. #WhyWomenDontReport

Like so many women, I don’t have adequate words to share in the spaces between these highlighted occurrences. They’re just a few among others buried in my subconscious, ingrained in the tactile memory of my cells every time someone touches me, even in moments of tenderness.

Because I was one of your guests, and I thought we were all enjoying a night swim in the Mediterranean. Yet the darkness hid your assault in broad moonlight. #WhyWomenDontReport

I’d posit that women are robbed of their own pleasure, for years, when their bodies become the unwitting object of another’s unwanted, yet continued, advances.

Because my  job was to film you, but you’d kiss me on the mouth every morning and “slept” for hours in the car with your head in my “lap” while my boss looked on and smiled. #WhyWomenDontReport

When sexual predators are in positions of power, there’s a feeling of communal embarrassment that goes along with the knowledge that everyone saw what they did. Why report, if all are in the know anyhow and were unwilling to help stop the impropriety?

Because I never saw your stranger’s face hidden in your jacket as you jerked off while I sat by the river, writing in my journal. I ran home terrified you were following me. #WhyWomenDontReport

Every woman knows the terror of sensing they’re being followed by a stranger. And when it is someone who half-hides half-naked, it’s even more frightening since boundaries have lost all meaning.

Because I was your girlfriend and there was no safe space between virgin and whore in your mind. #WhyWomenDontReport

I hope, for my daughter and son, that they’ll both find representations of strong smart funny and admirable women front-and-center in their books, magazines, ipads, and laptops. I had no female role models in literature or on TV and neither did the boys and men I grew up with.

Because I was traveling alone, and didn’t speak the language there. #WhyWomenDontReport

A culture that prides itself on complimenting women is one thing, but grabbing onto our bodies to bring us in close and cop a kiss or a feel, without knowing us, is another. When it happens in public for all to see and validate, a woman feels humiliated and powerless.

Because after you yelled lewd comments out your truck window for all to hear as I was jogging, you crashed into the parked car ahead of you and I still felt shame. #WhyWomenDontReport

Maybe karma has a way of working things out in small but poetic ways.













Doll House Haunted House

It was a dark and stormy night…(yes, we get plenty of these in the Pacific Northwest) and a couple of innovative kids created a mini haunted house from items they found in boxes and toy collections. They wanted to create something to play with but also to put on display outside the front door, without purchasing anything new. This haunted doll house is now a treasure, simply because they transformed a few everyday items and found some seasonal ones to add to the ambiance. The key is: Buy nothing and craft a cool Halloween decoration.

Here’s how this easy rainy-day project can quickly come to fruition for you, too:

1) A dollhouse will need to be your centerpiece.

2) Then, a glow-stick-style flashlight that glows a flourescent green will need to be procured from a closet. Or, use a regular flashlight and use some green plastic sheeting as a gel for your light.

3) Tiny plastic bugs must be curated out of your vast collection of creepy crawlies.

4) Next comes a search for white yarn scraps you might have thrown in the waste basket but thought better of. These will serve as cob webbing.

5) And finally, any tiny otherwise useless Halloween bits and bobs you’ve accumulated from previous years will make your mini haunted house’s yard art especially intimidating. If you don’t have anything, just ask for them on your local Buy Nothing group.

6) Put on some scary mood music (Pandora can be great for that), and let the mini doll-style Halloween fun begin.

What no-buy, no-waste Halloween ideas have you crafted up?

Tree Stump Planters

Tree Stump Planters are Natural and Easy. Photo © Liesl Clark

It’s been raining so much here, I started looking through some sunny photos and came across these. We have some enormous tree stumps on our property, old growth douglas fir stumps measuring 6-8 feet in diameter, left behind by the logging that took place when the San Francisco fire took its toll on our island’s trees. Our oldest and tallest helped rebuild that city, hundreds of miles to our south. One stump is so large we built a playhouse for our children off the edge of it, the perfect platform plus huckleberry garden for a pallet playhouse for little tree climbers.

Turn your trash backwards: Used wooden pallets are perfect for treehouses

But the mid-sized stumps on our cleared land just sat there for years, slowly rotting out, a small mass of wood and rocks that would take a bull dozer to remove. I decided to turn one, in the middle of a yard, into a planter. Since the stump’s interior was soft, I removed what woody material I could and then put potting soil and compost in its place. My planter was ready for an indigenous perennial.

I turned an unwanted tree stump into a favorite feature of the property. Photo © Liesl Clark

I chose crocosmia because they’re hardy, come from a bulb and need to be contained. Their reedy thin sword-like leaves spreading forth from the round and flat stump offer a pretty look. And the flashy red flowers are especially stunning in the late summer.

Tree Stump Turned Crocosmia Planter. Photo © Liesl Clark

Stump planters are a natural way to take advantage of the remains of an old tree. Here’s one made from a palm tree stump that my mother-in-law used to plant cacti.

Trunk Planter For Beach Cacti. Photo © Liesl Clark

You don’t have to wait for your trees to become stumps to make planters. These geraniums add color to a twisted trunk with a hole large enough to hold a geranium plant or two.

A hole in a trunk makes room for pretty geraniums. Photo © Liesl Clark

Do you have a stump or natural planter you’ve created for your blossoms? Please share.  Planters can be made from nearly everything.

10 DIY Fire Pits

The allure of the fire pit. Photo © Liesl Clark

The allure of the fire pit. Photo © Liesl Clark

We love outdoor “rooms” with fire pits. They extend your outdoor time by weeks. Seems the latest craze is repurposing metal things into fire pits. Here’s a list of some of the most innovative ones we could find:

1) Metal Wheelbarrow Fire Pit: If you’ve got a metal one that’s broken down, try to turn it into a fire pit. It’ll look cool in your back yard.

2) Washing Machine Drum Fire Pit: Our app users love this. Next time someone you know is getting rid of their washing machine, ask for the drum inside. They make beautiful fire pits.

3) Paver Brick Fire Pit: Brick and concrete pavers make easy fire pit insulation material. There are many tutorials to find on the web for these homemade fire rings.

4) Wash Pail Fire Pit: A metal wash pail can work as a fire pit. Just be sure that if it’s galvanized you give plenty of time for the chemicals on the metal to burn off.

5) In-Ground Fire Pit: This is a classic and easy fire pit to make at home.

6) Old Grill Fire Pit. Wait for an old grill to come up on your Buy Nothing group for this fire pit option.

7) Shopping Cart Fire Pit: My favorite, with built-in log storage rack.

8) Industrial Wire Waste Fire Bowls: You can always try your hand a making fire bowls like these.

9) Tractor Rim Fire Ring: If you have access to a tractor rim, it makes a great fire ring.

10) Castiron Bathtub Fire Pit: Maybe you have an old tub hanging about?