DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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14 November 2012

Truth in advertising and ingredient lists

When I first decided that I'd had enough of my rampant spending and the insidious system that encouraged it, I realised that a lot of the products I bought were advertised under a veil of misinformation. I knew that if I was to go on to develop a better life based on my values, I'd either have to disregard advertising altogether or at the very least, read and understand ingredient lists, examine products carefully and look beyond face value.

My path from then on was to think about everything I bought, particularly the ordinary and mundane things that fill up our fridge and pantry as well as clothing, shoes, makeup, appliances and most of the other "must haves" that make up modern life. Over the course of about a year, I cut many things from our grocery list by asking myself this simple questions: What is the truth of this? I realised that for many of our common items, I could make them better, healthier, cheaper and in a way that didn't impact on the already overstretched planet.

Making spring rolls at home.

Beetroot grown in the backyard for baking and pickling. Two small crops of beetroot will see us through our warm months when we have it pickled, with salads.

The "What is the truth of this?" question works well on food and groceries. The truth is that generally these products have been based on a simple recipe and then various preservatives, colourings and flavour enhancers are added because nothing tastes as good as home made and these commercial products have to sit on a shelf until someone buys them. I used to be one of those buyers but not now; now I make everything I can.

If you're not making you're own laundry and cleaning products at home, you're paying too much. Forget about your favourite brands and cut down on the number of chemicals you have in your home.


Cleaning and laundry products are the shining stars of what can be done better and cheaper at home. You don't need wood cleaner, bench cleaner, wall cleaner, glass cleaner, floor cleaner, bath cleaner, or any of the one-job products stinking up the cleaning aisles of most supermarkets. Most things can be cleaned effectively using vinegar, soap, bicarb, citric acid or just water and a stiff brush, or a recycled, soft, cotton cloth. You can make your own soap. The soap I make has four ingredients - caustic soda, olive oil, coconut oil and rain water. Regular bar soap contains a list like this: Tallow (this is animal fat), water, sodium cocoate, glycerine, fragrance, sodium chloride, titanium dioxide, ethidronic acid, tetrasodium edta, CI73915, CI74160. Your skin is your body's largest organ, you should trust what you wash yourself and your clothes with. The story's the same with laundry products. They can be easily made MUCH more cheaply than commercial products and they work really well. I make laundry liquid using four ingredients - soap, borax, washing soda and water. Have a look on the packet of commercial liquid and you'll find the story is completely different.  And it doesn't have to be. The recipe for making laundry liquid using four ingredients is in my side bar.

Calendula oil, made by infusing calendula petals in olive oil and just sitting the jar in the sun for a week or so. This can be used for itchy and inflamed skin, nappy rash, eczema, stings and bruises and also as a base for lip balm and ointment. If you make your own soap, you can also use it to make a soothing soap.

When it came to products not purchased as frequently, I still asked that question. "What is the truth of this?" The answer could be anything. It could be, in the case of clothing or shoes, that it was made in a sweat shop. In the case of makeup, it could contain harmful ingredients or that the ingredients hadn't even been tested for safety. For appliances, the answer may be that it was made to break and be unusable in a short amount of time - generally just outside the time the warranty expired. So I started teaching myself to make clothes and while I'm not making everything, I do make some things and I'm happy that I do. I can't make shoes but I'm still wearing the shoes I wore when I was working for a living. I have certainly stopped wanting new outfits and matching shoes  every year. I never look fashionable but at least my clothes are clean and tidy. And when I'm shopping for appliances, I look for those that can be fixed, have a low need for electricity and, hopefully, made in Australia; although that is now becoming a rare find indeed.

Cheap and easy biscuits - recipe is here  and to make the condensed milk you need in the recipe, that is here.

There are some good products out there but you have to know what they are and if they suit you and your budget. Do your research. Don't buy something because you always do, be mindful of your family's health when you shop and if the price is an issue, see if you can make that product at home. Most food and cleaning products can be made at home, just like our great-grandmothers and all her antecedents did. Most of the products we use regularly arrived in our supermarkets in the 1950s and 60s. It wasn't always like this.

We've been spun a line, a line that contains mostly a commercial core and I've stopped believing that our products have been tested and are safe. I no longer believe that our government protects us. They're more concerned with keeping big business profitable. I want all our countries to continue to prosper but not at our expense. So at every opportunity and small step by small step, I look at something I need and continue to ask the question. What is the truth of this?

Are you a mindful shopper? Do you check ingredients lists and country of origin?

41 comments:

  1. Yes like you I am a mindful consumer. I agree with everything you have said.I believe we can change the world by how we shop. That's how we are in the pickle we are in. Now we have an opportunity to change it for the better by spending where it counts.

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    1. Kate, I too believe we can change the world by changing how we shop.

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  2. Hi Rhonda a good though provoking post. I also do many of what you mention. Yesterday I dropped some grapes into the trolley and when I got home I saw they were imported...silly me...I should know that grapes are not ready here yet as my own have not starting to even set fruit! However, when we switched 4 years ago I asked another question of my most frequently used items or foods: can I make this myself? So I learnt to make yoghurt, cream cheese, bread, pasta and other thing. Now so much part of our lives that even our children don't want take outs or dinner out which is good because it wouldn't happen anyway ;)

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    1. And it's not difficult to make these changes, is it. I've found that home making things I use makes such a big difference to the quality and the cost. It looks like we're very similar.

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  3. I am on a journey to also make what I can, including food from scratch as much as possible. Your blog and others like it have helped me in this regard. I still go through my periods of too much spending but these are getting fewer and farther between. I also no longer believe that everything we buy is safe and that our government protects us.

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    1. We all go backwoods sometimes, Joyful. Keep up the good work. Small steps. :- )

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  4. I'm a mindful shopper but I'm still trying to educate my husband that the trade-off is time. He gets so frustrated when I pop into Vinnies and have a browse! With a growing baby we can't afford to to buy her all new clothes and I save us so much money by buying gorgeous things second hand, and I feel better about our environmental impact too.

    I went to a Sydney City Talk last night by David McWilliams with a panel discussion afterwards and it was so interesting! It was titled 'A Recipe for Change' and looked at issues like consumption, production, and the threat of peak food alongside peak oil. We may be approaching a Malthusian catastrophe- scary thought!

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  5. Thanks so much, Rhonda, for your continuous inspiration.. I particularly love the last paragraph of this post. I feel empowered to know that we can't rely on what advertising tells us (I don't listen anymore anyway, we hardly use the TV). Life is so much more fun and rewarding when we take it into our own hands!

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  6. HI Rhonda, You know I love to make things from scratch and will do as I can, I miss that I am a little out of rhythm with it all at the moment but with the change of circumstances for us and the added busyness of my family with young Laura I am relying on convenience food so much more at the moment. Mostly biscuits and snacks and there has been no soap making here yet :( Back to Palmolive for me!. Convenience certainly has its place and these days we could not survive without it. However I am very mindful of the ingredients and try to keep as natural as I can get or afford.(Lets not even go into about the added pressure from the kids about what all their friends get in their lunchboxes!) I have been caught recently with a large bulk purchases of dried apples from another country that tasted just awful and the whole lot went into the bin before I fed it to the children.
    I'd rather them eat a fresh apple, (lucky we live in apple country now!)
    karen xo
    xo

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  7. I am also not a confident consumer and have the end goal of making everything from scratch. If the ingredients and integrity of such doesn't sway me, the difference in the cost of buying raw material and buying a processed product does. It is a slow but steady journey - and along the way I have been helped by so many bloggers, yourself included. I have also found the internet to be a great help finding bulk producers close to home. I find it fascinating that in days previous you relied on handed down information (a lot of which was more tried and tested than most of the products on our shelves)...and that was good and bad. Now we have the whole world at our fingertips to make an even more discerned choice. Thank you for sharing, I love to get that little push to go a small bit further in the quest.

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  8. A good post, Rhonda. I also agree that we can change the world in how we shop - and leading by example. If we can demonstrate to family and friends some simple ways to shop, prepare food or make some things instead of buying them, they may feel confident enough to make a change too. I said "or" there as whilst I'm sure there are some individuals out there who decide to live another way and change a whole heap of things at once, many of us take it in steps and stages...

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  9. Great post Rhonda, and so up my alley. I rid our house of chemical cleaners nearly a decade ago (although I tried baking soda etc, I use Enjo) and in my research of bleach etc, it horrified me to learn of government double standards and how they affect people's long-term health. There are a long list of chemicals that the law bans from being stored in business premises because of the danger, but you're allowed to buy them at the supermarket and keep them in your home. Since the end of WWII (so when my grandparents were still kids), more than 80,000 chemicals have been developed and most of them have ended up in households. Statistics show there are more chemicals in an average household these days than in an actual chemical factory.

    Most of the chemicals humans come in contact with have not been tested for long term health impacts. Sure, you won't die when you come in initial contact with them, but many are bio-accumulative, meaning that they stay in your body and build up over the years. Bleach has been found in the tissue removed from breast cancer patients.

    And it's the same for skin care and food, as you say. Food has become so processed it hardly resembles food at all, and as a society we have been led to believe this is normal and to buy it without a second thought.

    I feel so strongly about food additives and the unhealthy way we have been conditioned to live, I actually started studying in the area last month, with the plan to take a career change and hopefully help encourage mothers inparticular to ditch 'food-like products' and return to simple, home-made cooking, and to improve the nutrition and health of the next generation.

    I agree with you 100 per cent - we have been sold a line and government policies aren't about protecting people's health and wellbeing. Just because you can buy something at the supermarket doesn't mean it's good for you or safe - you can buy cigarettes at a supermarket too - so it really is a case of buyer beware, even when buying life's essentials.

    I hope my reply isn't too long! It is kind of my pet subject area (you can probably tell :) )
    Have a great day

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  10. Hi Rhonda
    I have three children with skin problems so I changed toyour washing liquid and love it but I still use sards wonder soap. I would love to try your soap but ( another but haha ) I have not used soap in years I use soap free body wash would your soap work for us
    Linda

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    1. Linda, one of my sons has sensitive skin that flares up with harsh soap or laundry products. He uses my soap with no problems. I've also used it on the babies.

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    2. Thanks will give it a go
      Linda

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  11. I am a mindful shopper now. I certainly never used to be. Now, I start with a menu, check the pantry, fridge and freezers to see what I already have, make my grocery list from there and stick to it. When shopping, I check ingredients and country of origin (made in Australia from local and/or imported ingredients???)and when I get home, I go over the docket to see whether there was anything I could have either made myself or done better somehow.

    It is amazing how much money can be saved when you apply yourself and it is even more amazing where some of our food comes from. I recall looking at a box of cracker biscuits and seeing 'made in China'! I can't remember the name of the cracker now but it was something I expected to have been made in Australia.

    On another note, I find it to be highly hypocritical for there to be a push on not using plastic bags for groceries. The variety of bin liners that for sale is amazing.

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  12. We've been living more like you for the past two years, too. This is the way we grew up, but somewhere along the line our lives got busy and "convenience" took over. Now, we've returned to gardening, preserving food, cooking and making cleaning products from scratch and I'm even enjoying some of my old hobbies of sewing and knitting, and giving the products that I make as gifts. Its become a challenge to see how much we can do ourselves, and with a little planning, it fits into our busy lives without much difficulty at all. My husband and I both work full time, we have 2 busy kids, horses and sports activities, but we've never been healthier or happier (and we have so much more money now that we dont throw it away on unnecessary things). We live much more mindfully and enjoy life so much more.

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  13. I agree! I have made my own sopas and cleaners for a while now, no turning back, my allergies have been all the better because of it! Your ideas suggestions are wonderful and I thank you somuch for sharing your skills with us!

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  14. The way a person shops changes everything. Even for farmers...if more people were asking for and buying 'grass fed ' beef, there wouldn't be so many cattle in feedlots all crammed together being injected with growth hormones. ...it would change the way farmers do things. There are systems in place that can be changed simply by making a conscious decision everytime we pick up an item in a shop.

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  15. g'day rhonda
    a wonderful post yet again. i have had to shop mindfully for quite some time now because of an allergy to dairy products (cows milk & by products) which causes severe rheumatoid arthritis, which now i have permanently anyway.
    it's amazing what you find in processed foods when you actually read the ingredients, did you know that in half the breakfast cereals they pass off as muesli, is milk powder? they use it mostly as a filler in a lot of processed foods too not just muesli.
    then of cos there are all the additives & preservatives in everything, i've stopped using the commercial soaps & thought soap free was good for our skin? wasn't i so wrong in that area! atm i'm buying Tilley's Australia soaps from a bloke at our local markets, & my skin hasn't looked back (psorisis from head to feet) they say its natural & i looked up on their site too, at $2. a bar i'm not complaining as most natural soaps people tend to sell for a lot more.
    oops, sorry got rambling on there
    great post rhonda, always love reading your blog
    have a great day

    selina from kilkivan qld

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  16. I am a mindful shopper as well. I have been striving to replace the pre made ingredients of canned and pre packaged foods in recipe's with home made. I grew up in a time where you add pre made foods to your shopping list and come home and combine them to make your meals. While this is a step up from take out, I still am not certain of what ingredients or care is contained in our foods completely and I want to know what I am serving my family. This process has not been easy as we are a huge society of quick, fast, and readily available but slowly a recipe at a time I am converting things to home made and that feels like such a worthwhile accomplishment! It is worth any and all efforts to take good care of my family by making both our foods and cleaners as well. Thanks for posting this I was just discussing this on my blog as well, as I am very concerned about this topic and will be discussing it further later on. Hugs Amy :)

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  17. Hello Rhonda,

    That is such a great post. I make a big effort to make everything from scratch, both for economic as well as health reasons and eating everything in its purest forms. It took a little while for our children's taste buds to adjust, but now we can not imagine any other way of being.

    Interestingly, up until 18 months my eldest child was on three seperate preventative prescriptions for chronic asthma and hayfever as well as over the counter remedies. His health issues completely cleared up once we had turfed out the food containing additives. Needless to say, we no longer eat edible food-like substances but stick to the real stuff instead.

    Michelle.

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  18. There are always great things to be said about bi-carb and vinegar, with their ability to clean almost anything. But one of my other all time favourites, is Eucalyptus oil. I use it on a dry cloth to polish my wooden furniture and it leaves the house smelling beautiful. I also use it to mop the floors. The beauty is, you often need so very little of it.

    It's also great for getting the sticky glue off jars, once you've soaked the labels off. Some of the tougher glues require a bit of rubbing, but it feels nice to know I'm not using anything harsh on my skin - plus I can rewash the rag without killing my septic.

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  19. "You don't need wood cleaner, bench cleaner, wall cleaner, glass cleaner, floor cleaner, bath cleaner, or any of the one-job products stinking up the cleaning aisles of most supermarkets."

    Very true. This is marketing at its best (or worst!) Leading you to think that you need a different product for different surfaces or rooms in the house. But we must understand that even companies like your sponsor, Eco Store, are guilty of this. When I started my cleaning business, The Kind Cleaner, I was using a range of products to suit different purposes. I now use one multi-purpose spray that I make using a coconut-derived surfactant, essential oil or hydrosol (depending on the client) and water. As I make it as I need it I don't bother with a preservative, such as potassium sobate, but certainly would if I were keeping quantities of it for a time. Whilst panty items make good everyday cleaners, I haven't had success with them in my business. Mainly because no two houses are the same and some are just too dirty.

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  20. just had to tell you that i love your little bio/paragraph about Making of a Home. I am a 36-year-old mother of 5 little ones. I know the value in building a home like the kind you describe, but it isn't always easy in this world of fast-food, etc. But being self-reliant and knowing how to make things from scratch helps teach us and our children to take care of ourselves. Anyhoo... thanks for your message - it inspired me to try a little harder even on hard days (like today!!!). :)

    heather

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  21. Hi Rhonda,
    I love this post. This is definitely a subject close to my heart.... in terms of ingredients of food and other consumables, and in terms of the 'consuming' focused messages we receive daily from all other parts of our lives. I have found that 'bunkering down' at home more is good for my soul, and enables me to escape the shopshopshop lifestyle. I am so grateful for our simpler life.
    I made your washing liquid recently, and I am just loving it. I am almost ready to attempt soap :)
    Thankyou for your inspiration.... you write sometimes about how you find it refreshing to spend time with younger people who are on this path. I am a 32 year old mother of three, and I find it refreshing to read your blog, as most people of my mother's and grandmother's generation that I know have either embraced convenience wholeheartedly and are disdainful of the 'old ways', or have no inclination to pass on their skills to others. So, I thank you for passing on what you know and have learned.
    Kind regards,
    Nicole.

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  22. Thanks for this. I am based in South East Queensland too and after much consideration, and the inspiration of blogs like yours, my husband and I are in the process of moving from Brisbane out to 11 acres and a rundown farmhouse in December (fingers crossed). I handed in my notice at work this week and can't wait to be a SAHM to our daughter next year. We're so excited about everything the future holds for us now, thrilled to getting away from the ratrace and so thankful for the many people we've encountered who've reminded us there's another way to live. So, thank you!

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  23. Wonderful post again Rhonda. As far as I'm concerned, advertising is the devil incarnate! I cannot believe that so many people fall for it's total lies about everything. I am indebted to you for all your excellent advice, I have saved a fortune on laundry liquid, washing up liquid and soap already. I nominate you for a knighthood!

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  24. I am increasingly a mindful shopper, especially having a child with food intolerances. That has been an eye-opener for me as I now have to look at every product so carefully. It has led to me making more food from scratch, growing my own food and a host of other changes in the way I consume, so it's been a positive experience.
    Sometimes I still fall off the mindful consumer path, but not often these days.
    Looking for the truth - that's what I really appreciate about you, Rhonda - that you do that, and you know how to communicate it so clearly, without judgement.
    x

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  25. I love the fact that I can make most of our meals from scratch and feel a little guilty when I can't because of time restrictions. I started making most things from scratch when we had some children with behaviour difficulties come to live with us. Taking them off preservatives and artificial food colourings and flavourings really did make a difference to the way they could control their behaviour. I have also been making cleaners and soap for several years now and find that I have become very sensitive to the perfumes they put in the factory made cleaners. I am starting to panic though as I haven't made any soap since our new baby came to live and am running very low on our stock of handmade soap. Oh well, I guess some things have to give a little at times!

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  26. I´m trying to be a mindful shopper, being gluten intolerant I don´t buy ready made foods, just a few canned goods and I cook at home every day. For about 1 year now I have been making soap and the washing liquid from your blog, and what a difference that makes to the budget and to allergies, etc. I haven´t bought cleaning products for quite a while now, I can´t stand going past the cleaning aisle, those chemicals really stink!

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  27. It is amazing all the things we've been lead to believe we need someone else to make for us. Recently, after it looked like we were going to again have to replace a non-stick skillet, we made the switch to cast iron. Matt keeps exclaiming that cast iron IS non-stick and how did we ever get convinced that we needed chemical coated pans that chip and are then supposed to be replaced?! And an old example that I use to explain to people about my DIY leanings is that as a child we always ate Minute Rice cooked in the microwave. I always assumed cooking rice was hard and thus that was why they made Minute Rice....so imagine my surprise when I started cooking rice on the stove top. Its so easy and really doesn't take long...and cost a lot less and has fewer ingredients! It is so interesting...and sad...and encouraging when you break out of it! Thanks for this post!

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  28. Hi Rhonda,
    This post has reminded me of a question I've wondered about for a while: why do you use Lux flakes for your laundry liquid, and not grate your homemade soap up? I'm wondering even more now, because when I made my second batch of laundry liquid last week (with grated homemade soap, though not homemade by me - I'm all set to go, but haven't had my courage and time align yet... soon, I hope!), it stayed quite runny. Hardly any gelling effect at all. Since the ingredients are in there, I'm assuming it will still work and am using it, but I'm now even more curious about whether homemade soap is not suited to making laundry liquid????

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    1. Hi Donna. We had some Lux flakes given to us then bought some at a good price and so I use it. I sometimes use grated soap but I'll keep using the Lux until it's gone - it will takes years to finish it all off. Homemade soap is fine to use. The only soap that won't work, that I know about, is the Dove facial soap and probably the other facial soaps. They're not real soap. I'm sure you'll have success with your laundry liquid and it will save you a lot of money.

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  29. Hi Rhonda

    It's funny you should write about this, as I just posted this week about buying locally grown Olive Oil instead of imported oil that isn't very good quality. It's getting harder and harder to buy local food, but I will keep persevering because of the sorts of risks that you highlighted, not to mention the food miles as well. I hope that other people read and learn this, as it will make the demand for Australian made produce higher. Maybe that in turn will stop all our crackers being imported from China. I actually laugh in the supermarket at where some of their food has come from - countries I'd never even dreamed of visiting.

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  30. One of the things I switched to a couple years ago (on the advice from a nurse) is cleaning with hydrogen Peroxide. It's cheap, safe, and doesn't smell strong like a lot of chemical cleaners. I use it for toilet seats--after swishing out the bowl with baking soda; to clean my litter boxes and mixed with water to mop the floors (it doesn't streak like vinegar) as well as all the surfaces in the bathroom. I wish I had made the switch years ago. Live and learn. (note. I've used on vinyl tile and laminate wood...not sure about hard wood floors) Enjoy all your tips! Jan

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    1. Jan, I've kept a bottle of peroxide in my home for more years than I care to remember and while I used to use it for all sorts of cleaning, now it's only for first aid and wound care - and it can't be beaten for that. The reason being that it's so expensive now. I'm told by my chemist that it's one of the chemicals used by terrorists/bomb makers and that, somehow, has increased the price. Do you live in Australia? If so, where do you buy your peroxide?

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    2. No, I live in the U.S. I can get it at the dollar store for $l.00 for a quart bottle. Walgreen's also has a two pack (of quart size) for $2.00. A quart bottle lasts me quite a long time. I've used it now for years, and I'd be lost without it! Jan

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  31. Hi Rhonda,

    Thank you for such a brilliant post. I began questioning the "norm" a few years ago and I haven't looked back. I make as much as I can from scratch now. While I haven't tried your laundry liquid yet I buy a locally made environmentally friendly powder. It costs about the same as the commercial stuff but no nasty ingredients. I will try to make my own soon.

    Based on my own experience with those older than me (my parents, their friends, relatives) I think you are amazing for choosing to make these changes. I cannot get through to my parents no matter how I approach it. My Mum thinks I'm mad that I don't douse my house in every product on the market and she can't understand why I'd pay an extra $1 per kg for apples from our local organic supplier rather than just buy ones from Coles.

    However, as much as this irritates me, I also understand it. There are things I would love to try but I'm hesitant on taking the next steps. I would love to learn how to sew past a basic level, knit and crochet but sometimes I feel like I'm almost too old now to learn to do these so I can get to a point where I'm making clothes, knitting booties and jumpers etc. I anticipate it will take me years and years to get past a basic level. As it is, I just can't see I will be able to even start to learn within the next two years simply because of the ages of my two children. I don't have the energy in the evenings and being home full time with them the focus I need just isn't there. That may sound like an excuse however I know within myself it is genuine, I have gone to huge effort the past year to change the way we live and we have made huge progress.

    Did you find making these changes daunting? Did you ever feel that it wasn't "worth your while" to learn to make your own clothes and it would just be easier to op-shop? I'm not sure if I'm explaining myself well...hopefully you understand what I mean!

    Sara

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    1. Hi Sara, I started answering your questions but it was getting longer and longer. I thought it would be best to make it into a post, which I will do early next week. So come back then and I'll have a nice long answer for you. In the meantime, take care of yourself, love.

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  32. Love it!
    I started down this path 5 years ago, inspired by you and others around the world rethinking normal, and I'll never go back.
    It hard to believe when I started this journey I had no idea where it would take me. I've gone from a total city girl who bought everything to an organic farmer in the middle of nowhere making as much as possible from scratch. What a wild and rewarding ride!
    Thanks for your instructions along the way.

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