Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Made in the USA Update
So, we've been at the Made in the USA challenge for about six weeks now. We've been trying to buy only products that have been made in the USA with the exceptions of some things that were never made here-like coffee and bananas. We've also exempted wine. Other cheats are that we can buy anything second-hand.
At first this was pretty depressing and I was willing to give up the whole thing. One day I was in a department store and there was a 70% off clearance sale on shoes. I'm not even that much of a shoe freak, but suddenly, and probably because I couldn't have something, I really, really wanted to go crazy buying shoes.
Fairly early on in the challenge I purposely bought an ironing thingamajiggy because the unironed pile of my husband's shirts was getting to me. It was this sort of press-like thing that promised to cut ironing time in half. The manufacturer was ConAir at it was most definately made in China. After I got it home I felt a little guilty, but had lots of neat excuses for cheating. Fortunately for my buying purity, the stupid thing didn't work any better than a plain old iron, and actually took more time to finish a shirt. For the record, it was much smaller in practice than it looked on the box, thanks to loads of styrofoam inside. I took it back. I suppose that was sinful like intending to cheat on your spouse, but not getting the nerve up to check in to the hotel. My bad.
We also needed a new pan. Again, everything at the department store was foreign. My husband found an old-fashioned cast iron pan proudly stamped Made In The USA. We've all gained ten pounds from the amount of fat you need in the pan to keep anything from sticking. I'm rubbing it with oil after every use to "cure" it, and of course you don't use soap on it or that will erase weeks of curing efforts. This past weekend we went to a home show at the local expo center and there were several representatives there selling pots and pans all of which said Made in America. One dealer we talked to represented a company that still produces pans made here in Wisconsin. I am looking forward to getting the information I signed up for. (That kind lady forgot to Always Be Closing because she could have sold me pans on the spot if she'd have tried a little harder).
My daughter went to a birthday party on Saturday. She wanted to go to Toys R Us and ask at the desk for items that were made in the USA. Honestly, I couldn't face it. We went to an educational toy store thinking they'd have lots of American-made products. Nope. We found a boomerang and a kind of a floppy frisbee thing, and about three other products. That was it. I learned that Crayola Crayons are still made here, but most of the rest of the very substantial Crayola line is made in China. Anyway, it took an hour of scouring the store for those toys. Yikes.
With Easter coming and little baskets to be filled, I will need to shop on-line for their toys. In fact, I'm going to need to start thinking ahead for birthdays and Christmas too. Of course, books and movies and cd's tend to be USA made, so they'll probably get more of those.
Greeting cards and other printed things are going overseas though many are still made here. Ben gave me one of those ginormous Valentines (you could turn it over and use it for a tent). I teased that it was a 'guilt card' since he bought it that day, but he says he had to buy it because it was the only one that was marked USA. I suppose that's true of whatever liquor store he bought it at. Hallmark is mostly USA, but there are some China-made cards popping up.
Thinking ahead has been the biggest lesson of this challenge. Which is a good thing because it has absolutely forced me to change my ingrained buying habits. Like overeating or binging on anything, bad shopping habits need to be unlearned even if through some artifice like a Made in the USA challenge. On the other hand, I sometimes get so excited when I find an American made product that I feel like I have to have it, even if I don't really need it.
I was shopping at Cost Plus World Market one day - yes, that's like looking for USA made at Pier One, I know - and I found some really cool cognac glasses that said Made in the USA. Since I haven't sat around drinking warmed cognac since well before I had children, if even then, I did manage to talk myself out of them. I did find an easter basket stuffer there that's one of those pictures of a guy's face with the little magnetic shavings that you move around for hair. I bought that instead.
We have bought clothes for the girls at a local boutique that has great nearly new things, which we can buy because they are second-hand. All the girls dance leotards are made in Chicago, which is great because you don't get a choice about those, for recitals they have to be the ones the school mandates. With summer coming I know that I'm going to need swimsuits for the girls so I'll have to search the internet. I have found a shoe company from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, online so I'll be able to buy my shoes through them. New Balance still makes some of its athletic shoes here, so those will have to be our choice for the girls, too. They are more expensive than what we usually spend, but again it is about thinking ahead. The way our parents used to. And frankly, in the past, the girls had just too many shoes. When they only cost ten bucks you can buy more than you should and not feel bad about throwing them away. Unless of course you start to think about what it means to expect to always find cheap products and what it means to be thoughtless about a disposable society.
Oh, and furniture: At a local store with "Euro Design" in the name, I walked in and asked if anything there was made in the USA. The clerk said all upholstered furniture in the store was still made in either North or South Carolina. Yay!!!
So as we go along it gets a little easier. But forgetting is so common. I came home from the store with canned mandarin oranges one day. Ben looked at me and said "where?" Ack! China. He laughed at me.
"Shouldn't 'mandarin' have been a clue?" he asked.