My Shopping List

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The impending ban on regular plastic carry bags in Queensland has created a definite upswing in interest in alternatives.

There will be heavy duty plastic bags for sale, however, these are really no better as very few people seriously reuse them and the inherent problems still exist – the use of non-renewable resources to create the plastic and the waste which invariably ends up in waterways and the oceans.

Many of the so-called ‘reuseable bags’ are also derived from plastic and are far from ideal.

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You can make your own fabric bags (preferably from second-hand or salvaged fabric) or buy from groups such as your local Boomerang Bag group.  Otherwise, grab a cardboard box or two to stack your groceries.

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Beyond these obvious choices, there has been much discussion, both online and in real life, about the impact of the changes.

But what will I use to line my bin?
The fabric bag won’t fit the metal packing rack?
There is no space to pack my groceries?

And so on………

All of these questions are valid.  We need to think outside the box and perhaps change some other habits.

The first thing that springs to mind is reducing waste so that there is less or no need for bin liners.

Secondly, is about how you shop, what you buy and where you buy it.  This is what I want to discuss today.

In an online forum, I recently mentioned that I bought very little at the supermarket and could generally place it directly in my cloth bag as it was scanned through the checkout.  I place the handle over one arm and with the other hand I load the items into the bag.  I think this comment raised some interest about how I actually achieve this.

The most important tip is make the supermarket your last resort.

Eat simply, cook from scratch, grow some of your own food, support local small businesses, buy in bulk, buy online, buy at Farmer’s/Growers markets and finally, go to the supermarket.

I do not shop at either of the two major supermarkets here in Australia, Coles and Woolworths.

We live near a small town with a Woolworths and an IGA supermarket.  I buy a few things at the IGA and also go to the local butcher and our Co-op which stocks a wide range of organic products from both Australia and overseas.  Most of my supermarket shopping is done at Aldi which is about 10km away in a different direction.  The fruit and vegetable vendor that I go to is not far from Aldi.  I buy the majority of my dry goods at a family-owned shop with bulk bins.  It is about 45km away so I plan my trips and stock up about twice a year.

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By shopping at small, independent retailers you will find it much easier to use and pack your own bags as there is generally more counter space, less pressure and the seller will probably be much more supportive of your decision.  I also take my own containers/bags to have them refilled in almost all instances but that is a discussion for another day.

To give you an idea of what I buy and where I buy it, I have created the following lists of everything I buy, including food and non-food items.

I have not included fruit and vegetables from the greengrocer as this is seasonal and depends on my planned meals for the week as well as what is growing in the garden.

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Beef mince
Diced beef
Chicken breast fillets
Gravy beef

IGA supermarket

Vita Brits
Taco shells
Cleaning vinegar
Soda Stream gas canisters


Brown rice
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar
Face wash

Simply Good

Bread flour (white)
Wholemeal flour
Rye flour
Potato flour
Brown rice flour
Chickpea flour
Quinoa flour
Almond meal
Flaxseed meal
Corn meal
Raw sugar
Sunflower seeds
Flax seeds
Kidney beans
Black beans
Haricot beans
Red lentils
Brown lentils
Mixed peel
Psyllium husk
Chia seeds
Bicarb soda


Corn chips
Cat food (tinned)
Cat food (dry)
Frozen peas
Dijon mustard
White vinegar
Balsamic vinegar
Tuna in springwater
Flavoured tuna
Baked beans
Corn kernels
Coconut cream
Curry paste
Stock powder
Tinned tomatoes
Rice cakes
Rice crackers
Skim milk powder


Dog food
Eucalyptus oil

Direct from manufacturer (local)

Laundry liquid
Enzyme soaker
Dishwashing liquid
Dishwasher powder

I am sure you can see items missing from the lists, so please feel free to ask questions.  It may be that we simply do not use it or that I make it myself.  For example, I make tomato sauce, worcestershire sauce, tabasco sauce, jam, peanut paste, onion flakes, pasta, pizza bases and GMan makes bread.


Boomerang Bags


A few months ago I wrote this post in which I mentioned the fact that I was interested in getting Boomerang Bags started in Maleny.  Well, interest was as far as I got before life and other stuff got in the way.

However, others were a bit more pro-active.  The latest issue of the local newspaper, Hinterland Times, featured an article about 2 enterprising young women in our local community who have set up a Boomerang Bags group in Maleny.

Thanks to the article and the Facebook page, a group of about a dozen people gathered on Monday to discuss how to progress this fabulous idea.  There was lots of positive discussion and I came away with a renewed enthusiasm to be involved in this initiative which has the capacity to make a real difference.

I came home to check my freshly organised stash of fabric and found several pieces, several of them gifted to me, which will be perfect for making the bags.

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My job this week is to wash and iron all of the fabric ready for cutting out.  The calico at the front of the photo will be used for making the screen-printed Boomerang Bag logos which are sewn on the bags.

I am really excited and determined to see our small group have an impact on the plastic bag usage in our town.

If you are reading this and live in or near Maleny and are interested in being involved in any way or donating suitable fabric please let me know.

Here is the official Boomerang Bags website if you would like to set up a group in your community.

Instead of despairing the lack of action by governments, becoming involved in grassroots community initiatives like Boomerang Bags may be the way forward.  I believe we hold the potential to define our future in our own hands.

The Big 4 – Part 2


Following on from my previous post about coffee cups, the next item on the list is bags.

Bags really fall into 2 categories in my opinion.  The first is carry bags – from the supermarket, other grocery stores as well as department stores and specialist boutiques.  There are reusable ‘green’ bags which are only marginally better than the single-use plastic bags that they are supposed to replace.  They are still made from plastic and do not have a long life as they are prone to tear.  I have a selection of bags that I use which have come from a variety of sources.

Here are some the calico ones including the one which has had the handles replaced.  You can read that story here.

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This one was a gift that my sister brought back for me from Alaska.  They were made in the town she visited.  It is sturdy and folds up into its own pocket for easy storage.  Yes, it is plastic but I believe it will last forever.

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Finally, this one is my go-to bag every time I leave the house.  It is looking a bit the worse for wear after almost 5 years of constant use.  I bought it in Vermont when we visited the USA in 2012.  It was plastic-lined – fused onto the inside of the hessian but when the plastic began to break up, I removed it all and sewed in a new cotton lining.  The project is detailed here.

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The second type of single-use plastic bags are produce bags – the flimsy ones that you find at the greengrocer or the fruit and vegetable section of your local supermarket.  Apparently, reusable alternatives can be purchased from various Etsy sellers and also on Amazon but I simply chose to make my own from some leftover tulle that I had at home.  They are very easy to make with very basic sewing skills.  You could really use any fabric but I find the tulle is perfect because it allows for the cashier to identify the produce and because they weigh virtually nothing, I do not have to worry about tare weight.  The fabric does not fray so there is no need to worry about finishing the edges.  I also chose not to worry about drawstrings or ties as I find there is simply no need.  Remember, the plastic ones are just a bag with no added extras.

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I also carry a folded Ecosilk bag which I use on the rare occasions that I make clothing purchases.

New bag

There are other opportunities for refusing plastic bags but if you are starting out, I would strongly suggest that you begin with reusable carry bags and produce bags.  This will make an immediate difference.

Do you use your own bags?

Plastic Bags – A Curse


A couple of days ago I read this post from Joanna over at Every Week is Green where she discussed being ‘forced’ to accept a plastic carry bag from a retailer.  I have had a similar experience, albeit, close to 20 years ago.  Refusing plastic bags at the time was far less prevalent than it is today so I regularly was confronted by some very odd responses.
On the particular occasion in question, I was in a department store in Adelaide where I intended to buy a pair of socks for The Duke.  I approached the counter and as I handed over the socks, I advised the assistant that I did not wish to have a bag.  Then ensued one of the most bizarre ‘arguments’ I have ever had the misfortune to be involved in.  She was adamant that I had to take a bag and I was equally determined that I would not accept one.  Her reasons were quite ridiculous but she finally became exasperated and asked, “Well, how will people know that you bought the item at *******?”  Seriously, I had to accept a bag so that the store could advertise that I shopped there?  I was not about to back down and advised that I would not accept a bag or I would not buy the socks.  I finally paid for the socks and left with them and the docket in my hand.

It was then and there that I realised just what hard work it was to stick to my principles.  I have continued to do so and it has become easier, however,you need to be constantly on your guard to avoid plastic bags sneaking into your life.

Don’t give up, Joanna.

Finally, here is my hessian bag that I finished relining.

Bag with new lining
You can read about the beginning of the project here.  It is towards the bottom of the post.  I did try handsewing the lining in but it was too difficult so this morning I used some heavy linen thread and sewed it on the machine using the heaviest needle I had.  The stitching is clearly visible but I am not concerned as I now have a functional bag again.  Thanks, Carol for the lining fabric.  🙂

Busy with Bags

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This afternoon I re-acquainted myself with my sewing machine.  I have several projects that I want to get done but I decided to start with something manageable that I could finish in an afternoon.

First, I mended this reuseable silk bag which I was given about 10 years ago.  It is used frequently and some of the stitching at the top of the side seams had come undone.

Ecosilk bag

Next, I retrieved a piece of material I bought some years ago for the purpose of making another bag using this one as a pattern.  Sometimes my grand plans turn out to be more complex than I imagine but it was not the case this time.

New bag

I successfully replicated the original, complete with side gussets and double stitched seams on the handles and bottom edge of the bag.

The best part about these bags is that they are lightweight and fold down to almost nothing.  I was spurred into action as I wanted to have 2 lightweight bags to take when we travel overseas.  They can be used for grocery shopping, carrying personal effects to a shared bathroom or keeping worn clothes separate from clean ones when packing.  They can be easily washed and will dry in a matter of hours.  The total weight of the 2 bags is 79g.

Folded bag
Finally,  I made a lining for a hessian carry bag that I bought when we were in the USA in 2012.  The bag originally had a plastic coating on the inside but it was starting to crack and deteriorate as you can see here.

Inside of hessian bag
I removed all of the plastic coating and then washed the bag as it was quite grubby from use every week.  I measured the dimensions of the bag and then cut out and made a lining from some navy poly cotton fabric.  It matches nicely with the print on the outside of the bag.

Stitching new lining
Here is the new lining assembled and pinned in place.  Tonight I will sit and handstitch the lining to the top edge of the bag.  I will add a photo of it when I am finished.

It has been a successful afternoon of some small sewing tasks.  Do you make or repair items that you use?  Do you use reuseable shopping bags?

Dishcloths & Doing My Best


Today I am writing this from Burra in the mid-North of South Australia.  Our holiday is going really well so far.  We have just had 3 nights with our dear friends in Strathalbyn and were able to time our trip to join in a 70th birthday celebration of Sunday followed by dinner on Monday evening for a 21st birthday as well.

We left Strathalbyn this morning  and visited The Duke’s mother, who is in residential care due to Alzheimer’s Disease.  Despite the effects of this cruel affliction she was pleased to see us and it was good to be able to spend some time with her.

Then it was off to Burra , but first we stopped at the suburban shopping centre and stocked up on a few groceries.  As we were walking through the shopping mall towards Foodland I noticed the post office and popped in to see if they had a 4 pack of Sally Wise’s cookbooks which I had heard mentioned on the forum of Simple Savings.  I was in luck as I picked up the last 2 packs – 1 for me and 1 for my sister.  They were an absolute bargain at $15 for a pack of 4 cookbooks.

Our accommodation is very well appointed and even has a slow-cooker so I will be making the most of it and making a casserole tomorrow while we are out and about.  My attempts to maintain my sustainable habits are going well so far.  It is easy to take my calico bags to the shops as plastic shopping bags are not an option in SA.  Why can’t the rest of the country follow suit?

I finished the first dishcloth the other day and have started a second one.  I just do a bit occasionally but it is good to have some handiwork to do when I feel inclined.

More holiday news in a day or so.