Are you a Home Bargains shopper?

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No? You should be! My shopping habits have been revolutionised since they opened up a store near me. They sell everything from stationary, to groceries, toiletries, toys, cleaning products, hardware, home furnishings, pets and more!

One of regular purchases here is 4 packs of John West tuna chunks. They sell 3 varieties – in brine, in sunflower oil and in spring water. All are £2.79 for a 4 pack, that’s 67p per tin! The next cheapest I could buy is an economy, supermarket brand at around 80p per tin, although the price has come down recently and you can buy Asda Smartprice or Tesco Value for 65p per tin. However I don’t think the quality compares, as economy brands are usually grey mush and barely resemble a tuna steak. I rarely see John West for less than £4 in the supermarkets. The tuna is pink and meaty, definitely top quality!

I use a lot of mailing bags and tissue paper for sending eBay items. I used to buy my mailing bags at Wilko, as I found them the cheapest. Their A4 mailer bags x5 are £1.50 are and A3 x5 are £1.75. The same at Home Bargains are 49p for 6x A4 and 89p for 6x A3. They sell 10 large sheets of tissue paper in a rainbow of colours for 49p, the next cheapest I can find is at a local bargain store for 99p. There’s just no contest is there? You can see how the savings start to add up!

I regularly buy sweets and chocolate here, as they are so much cheaper than the High Street. They have a HUGE range! I also love my oatcakes and I can buy them for 65p per box here. Compare that even to Poundland, where surprise, surprise – they cost £1 a box! They have a huge range of cheap biscuits and top brands too. As someone who eats a gluten-free diet, I often spy gluten-free items in Home Bargains at a mere fraction of the supermarket cost. A while back they were selling Nutribix for 79p a box! They cost £3.79 a box in the supermarkets- they had a slightly shorter best before date of 1-2 months, but what does that matter when you’re going to eat it soon anyway?

I buy some of my toiletries here too, dental products are much cheaper than the high street and I always pick up big name toothpaste for £1 a tube, like Colgate, Sensodyne or Arm & Hammer. They often have bumper sized packs going for this price too.

Do you use Cif cream cleaner? They sell it here for £1 a bottle. You might find it for £2 in the supermarkets if you’re lucky and occasionally £1.50 a bottle at Wilko. But other than grabbing it from time to time, in Poundland – you won’t find it regularly, this cheap. They also sell Dri-Pak Soda Crystals at 65p for 1.5kg which is way cheaper than £1 a bag at Wilko. These have so many household uses and I’d never be without a bag.

In the pet section today, they had pet carriers for £20 and scratching towers for the same price. They are always cheaper for treats here, like Weebox sticks at 79p per pack, next cheapest is 99p in the supermarkets or Wilko.

I regularly pick up Sequin Art kits here for £6-£7 instead of the £15-£18 they are full price. I have had lovely hardback Disney notebooks for £1-£2. If you check out http://www.moneysavingexpert.com and look on the ‘Quick Grabbit’ forums, you will find a Home Bargains thread where members post the hottest deals. But I want to encourage you to go there anyway for your everyday basic items because they are much, much cheaper! Oh and be sure to come back and tell me what you’ve found 🙂

Lush Mouthwash Tabs – Zero Waste Mouthwash

I was unable to find a Zero Waste alternative to the regular mouthwash I had been using. I tried making my own, but I was worried about the safety of the essential oils I was able to source, as you could technically be ingesting some. Plus, it really didn’t taste all that great nor did it seem very effective. So it was back to the standard off the shelf stuff for me.

Then, my favourite store for Zero Waste bath and body products – Lush – decided to invent mouthwash tabs! They come in this tiny plastic bottle – OK, not perfect by Zero Waste terms, I would prefer they come in a little glass bottle or a little tin. But I can’t choose – though I will feedback to them. The massive plus point is that they are dry tablets, so they are much smaller and lighter to ship which has a massive impact on the environment/carbon emmissions. They are perfectly portable, ideal for travelling or just keeping in your bag, to freshen your breath at any time.

Personally, I’ve only tried the mint ones as I have a preference for minty dental care products. Call me traditional if you like! There are 2 or 3 other flavours in the range, for those who like something a bit different. All you have to do is take one tab and crush it with your teeth, add a mouthful of water and swill like a normal mouthwash. Then spit it out and voila, minty fresh breath is yours!

I think this tiny little  bottle will last me 2-3 months, possibly more and that’s with daily use. This is way better than my old, standard option which I needed to purchase every month in a huge bottle. I therefore suspect that these are much better value! The frugal-natured part of me wants to try and calculate exactly how good these are, when I have some time.

Aside from all of this, these are much more natural; with ingredients like: sodium bicarbonate, essential oils and stevia. I am super-happy not to be putting Triclosan into my body anymore. For this reason, I’ll be sticking with these from now on – no matter what the cost. My only other minor criticism is they use a ‘frosty holly lustre’ in them which is man-made and to my mind, totally superfluous- it makes the tablets look sparkly. No-one needs a sparkly mouth, quite literally! I wonder what impact this unnecessary ingredient has on both human health and the environment?

When all is said and done, I think they’re a great option if you’re aiming to be Zero Waste, but why not let me (and Lush) know what you think! By feeding back to manufacturers, we can encourage them to make even better products!

Solid toiletries, hard water & clogging pipes!

I’ve been a little quiet of late, as I’m renovating my home. But I wanted to come back to talk about the difficulties of solid toiletries and hard water. It’s resulting in our pipes clogging far too frequently. From my internet reading, apparently the fats in solid soaps react with hard water (hydrolysis of fats) to form soap scum (a precipitate of the calcium salt of a long chain of carboxylic acid).

The problem we are having is this soap scum solidifying into big chunks of white mass once it gets into the drain outside. Believe me, this is not a fun job to rectify! You need rubber gloves up to your elbows and the large part of our Zero Waste attempts in the bathroom are being ruined by the need to purchase bottles of commercial drain cleaner. Since soda crystals are not strong enough to tackle this problem! The only long-term solution I can see, is the installation of a water softener.

Like me, this may all come as quite a surprise to you – as I thought the soap obviously dissolved in water!!! But the calcium and magnesium in hard water reacts to form an insoluble curd which lodges in pipes (yes, it really is like curds and whey! Only it smells gross!!! Is that TMI?!)

So, we have a problem for the time being- until we can afford to install a water softener. I would also only want to do that if the tap water we drink can remain unaffected, since my aunt had one installed and I can’t stand the salty, soft water. Until then, I am left wondering whether you can wash with something other than soap. Or whether for the sake of our pockets which are not infinite, we shall have to return to our old methods of cleansing.

Can anyone share any tips?

Lush

Today I want to write about a local, ethical and sustainable business called Lush. Chances are, you’ve probably heard of them already- I think they’re best known for the bath bombs and the amazing smells that emanate from their stores!

Ever since I read Bea Johnson’s Book about a year ago, I have been looking for Zero Waste toiletries. Lush immediately sprang to mind, as I knew a tiny bit about them- in the recesses of my mind, probably because they are local. I’ll admit that I wasn’t that keen on them- I found the smell in their stores completely over-powering and even walking too close, when passing by was too much for me! I’d even been given the odd bar of soap and not liked the smell, so sold it on eBay.

However, things were different this time- I wasn’t looking just to purchase toiletries- I was looking for a more ethical, zero waste purchase. They are in-fact pretty unique, as most organic toiletries are still packaged in plastic. As shampoo and conditioner were the things I was about to run out of, I tried their solid shampoo and conditioner bars. They were fab, completely unpackaged, free of silicones and very convenient- as they last much longer than bottles. We have never looked back, even though we’re paying slightly more for our toiletries. I now have total peace of mind that we’re doing our bit for the environment and are supporting a local business, thus also keeping our carbon footprint as low as possible. They are actually made about 3 miles from my house- although I have to drive over twice as far to get to a store!

I recently placed my 1st online order as they had a sale and I wanted to share this with you, as a great example of a sustainable company working towards zero waste.

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A recycled cardboard box arrived, sealed with paper tape. The first thing that hits you is the gorgeous smell coming from the box- unfortunately I can’t convey this over the web!

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Inside was a copy of my order and ingredients lists for all the products I had ordered, all printed two-sided on recycled paper. I felt this was a little unnecessary for me personally, as I am perfectly capable of going online to check these things. I am going to contact them and ask if they could provide an option to opt out of paper communications in your order.

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Your order comes packaged in what looks like polystyrene chips, but they are in-fact Eco Chips! They are completely biodegradable and one of their assistants recently gave me a demo in-store, where they dissolve completely in water. They are made from potato starch and also biodegrade quickly in soil. I will be keeping mine for re-use, in one of my many eBay parcels. I will make sure I make a note to tell their future recipient about them.

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This was my order- all safely stowed underneath. As you can see, most of the products I ordered are solid and come completely unpackaged. In the top right are solid conditioner bars, but because I ordered so many (I stocked up at 1/2 price!) that little cardboard box contains 8 more. Disappointingly, it is sealed with plastic tape- another thing I will be contacting them to ask about!

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So here are all my goodies in their unpacked glory. I have got my first unpackaged Lush soap to try- it’s the rectangular one in the middle and is marzipan fragranced. Above this is a yellow, citrus ‘massage bar’- this is actually a solid body lotion. The bright pink and green items are solid conditioners, as you can see it’s stamped on them. I’ve got the pink one to try because at 1/2 price it’s a good opportunity to do so- as Lush recommend. This is also why I bought the gift set.

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The Winter Garden gift set is a giant metal bauble and is packed inside with Eco Chips to protect the contents. I will re-use this to make a gift for someone in the future.

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Inside, a tub of hand cream, a rose jam shower gel and an Elder and Bergamot solid soap. Lush pots are made from 100% recycled black plastic (polypropylene) which is far more easily recycled. They have also changed their labels from paper to plastic, so that they can all be recycled together. Lush seek to make their  plastic recycling activities closed loop, in turn creating zero waste and so customers are encouraged to return empty, washed pots to their store. They offer an incentive of a free face mask for every 5 full-sized pots returned. This initiative is mentioned on a sticker on the side of their pots. They also moved production from China to a factory in Poole, 1 mile away from their own- so their carbon footprint has been massively reduced too. this in-turn is further supporting the local economy. There is also a mini brochure containing details of most of their products available in store. Again, I would prefer not to have this but I understand they might want to promote their products to people who wouldn’t normally purchase them and don’t know about their ethics.

This little lot cost me around £50 in the sale, including delivery which was a really good deal. Lush only have a sale once a year and it only contains short-dated products and Christmas gift sets. This is because they believe that they are charging a fair price all year round, for their ethically sourced, handmade and zero waste products. I find it really helps me when I’m shopping, as I’m not tempted to buy things that I don’t need and I’m not (normally) tempted to stock up. As their items are made using minimal preservatives, they are best used fresh. But solid items do have a longer shelf-life, since they don’t have as much water in them. If you go in-store, they will package your solid items in a recycled paper bag or  you can buy metal tins to fit them which you can then re-use. I also take my paper bags back each time and re-use them until they fall apart.

Overall, I feel enormously proud to be supporting this local company. They have been around for over 20 years- let’s hope they are here for many, many more!