Living Madly: DIY
By Emilie-Noelle Provost
Over the last eighteen months, you’ve most likely noticed that the cost of everyday necessities has gone through the roof. The packages that many products come in have also gotten smaller. Just last week, when I went to buy my favorite brand of coffee, I noticed that the bag contained two ounces fewer than it used to even though its price had increased by a dollar.
It’s not just corporations that sell food that are getting in on the trend of forcing consumers to pay more for less. The other day when I logged into my account on Ancestry.com, I was unhappy to discover that a number of features on the site that used to be free are now behind a pay wall. I guess the $100+ they charge for their home DNA tests wasn’t enough. Now, they want you to pay to see your results, too.
Another thing that’s been bothering me is that the quality of many of the things I buy has decreased significantly. Wear a new shirt once or twice and suddenly it has a hole in it. We’ve probably gone through five garden hoses in the last four years because they keep springing leaks. Brand new bath towels begin to unravel after a couple of washes. One of the worst things about this is that all of this stuff ends up in landfills after it fails.
Recently, my husband, Rob, and I decided to see what we could do to combat the pay-more-for-less trend. Like many people, we spend a good percentage of our income on food, so we decided to start there. The first thing we did was to stop buying most things that are pre-prepared or processed and make them ourselves instead. Salad dressing, for example, is very easy and cheap to make, and the homemade version is usually healthier and tastier that what you get at the store.
We started buying a lot of our produce at local farm stands. Not only are the fruits and vegetables cheaper, their quality and flavor is much better. Bell peppers, apples, carrots, potatoes, onions, and Brussels sprouts purchased at a local farm last almost twice as long in the refrigerator as their grocery store counterparts, which helps save money, too.
Shopping at farm stands has also given us the opportunity try a lot of new vegetables we hadn’t seen before. One of these is Romanesco broccoli. It’s a beautiful pale green and looks like a cross between regular broccoli, cauliflower, and a bridal bouquet. The stuff is delicious. We’ve also discovered unusual varieties of summer squash, multicolored carrots, white eggplants, purple tomatoes, and round “cannonball” zucchini.
I like that buying food at local farms helps keep the farmers in business, which is good for the local economy. It also helps preserve open space by keeping farmland out of the hands of contractors.
We’ve begun buying other necessities from local producers, too. Lowell-based Eir’s Garden makes beautiful soaps and personal care products. We buy beer directly from local breweries. And I recently discovered that one of the farms we frequent sells yarn made from the wool of their resident sheep. I’m not sure what I’ll make with it, but I’ll think of something.
I’ve also started making some of my own cleaning products. The spray cleaner I use to wipe down my countertops and kitchen appliances works better than a lot of commercial products, and it takes less than five minutes to make. It’s all-natural, smells great, and costs a mere fraction of what you’d pay for a bottle of cleaning spray at the grocery store.
Buying locally produced food and making everyday necessities yourself might seem like a passing trend, especially if you’ve seen the number of new homesteading magazines popping up on newsstands. But it’s really nothing more than rediscovering what our great-grandparents knew. They lived at a time when nearly all food came from nearby farms, when Americans were less dependent on corporations for their daily needs, and they were in many ways more independent because of it.
We’ll never be able to completely escape inflation. We still have to put gas in the car and pay our utility bills, but by refusing to participate in the corporate system when we can, we’ve found that it’s possible to reduce the influence that big companies have on our lives and wallets.
DIY Lemon Spray Cleaner
1 cup water
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
20-25 drops lemon essential oil
Put all ingredients into a clean spray bottle and shake to combine. Spray on nonporous surfaces such as countertops and appliances and wipe with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel. It’s also great for mopping the floor. Recipe can be doubled or tripled. *Shake the bottle to recombine the ingredients before each use.
Emilie-Noelle Provost is the author of The River Is Everywhere, which was released on March 14, 2023, and The Blue Bottle, a middle-grade adventure with sea monsters. Learn more about Emilie and her work at emilienoelleprovost.com.