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.


Randal Graves said...

Well, at least a lot of booze is made in the USA! Which you might need now that Wisconsin's favorite superhero is hanging up the cleats. I'll need a new QB for my fantasy team!

dguzman said...

Keep up the good work, Jess, and I'm looking forward to learning more about those pans....

Ed said...

If you're shopping for greeting cards, Willy Street Coop carries cards made by a friend of mine who is an excellent photographer. They're called Cards By Tami and are labeled on the back. I don't know where she has them printed, but it would really surprise me if it's not somewhere nearby. I've bought Cards By Tami exclusively for all my greeting card needs for a couple of years, now.

Mauigirl said...

Jess, good luck with the challenge! It certainly sounds...challenging!

Regarding coffee, why can't you buy Hawaiian coffee? It's made in the USA! Look in the gourmet section of your grocery store for Kona coffee.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I know it must be hard on you crazy kids but I'm glad you're all sticking it out.

Dr. Zaius said...

I can't believe the amount of detail and effort that you are going through on this laudable quest of yours. It makes me feel really guilty - I never look at the label. Also, you are shopping for a whole family, making the task all the more difficult. You are an example for us all.

Jess Wundrun said...

randal go ahead, make light on this terrible and dark day. *sob*

dguzman I will be happy to keep you informed of the great pan quest. It really does deserve its own post. [Everyone goes #snore#]

ed thank you for the heads up!

dr. monkey it's not as hard as it was at first. The attitude readjustment was the hardest part.

dr. zaius my mother would be so proud to know that I am able to instill catholic-like guilt in others. she would say her work here is done.

Distributorcap said...

jess you are my hero. i didnt think ANYTHING was made her anymore --- anything except arrogant jackass presidents.

did you know Usa is a city in China (or Japan, depending on your age).

i dont think ANY shoes are made in the US anymore

Jess Wundrun said...

mauigirl I've been thinking about the Hawaiian coffee and don't know why we didn't stipulate Hawaiian only, except that, like wine terroir brings lots of different things to it.

What I've been thinking about since your comment yesterday is because it is made in Hawaii do you think that it is Fair Trade? I mean, federal rules apply but these days, what does that mean? Definately worth looking into.

d-cap as you might know per your proximity to Jersey, we still make a boat load of chemicals and artificial flavorings! Allen Edmonds shoes are still made here. As far as women's shoes I'm checking into the place in Northern Wisconsin.

Sorghum Crow said...

Good work so far.
I'm not as dedicated as you, but I've been judiciously looking at the "made-in" stickers. There are a few things still made in the USA.
And a few surprises. Bag o' garlic? China! But I had already bought it. Even a lot of books are printed in China and elsewhere.
Toothpaste? Mexico. Shampoo? Canada. It goes on and on.

no_slappz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jess Wundrun said...

You were banned, no_slappz. Whether you behave or not you are not welcome here.

My rules.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Sweet, slappy boy is now banned from three blogs that I know of. Way to go Jess.