7 Lovely Places to Buy Used Clothes Online. (Or, How to Spend Less But Buy Better. And Ya’ll, I Bought Some Jeans.)

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A friend of mine recently mentioned that she doesn’t love most of her clothes and wants to rebuild her wardrobe. But also doesn’t want to spend any money. I completely resonated with this, especially the not wanting to spend money part.

(I’ve gotten rid of the 80% of my clothes I like the least, so most of what I have left I like pretty well. Read here for my advice about creating a new wardrobe just buy eliminating the clothes you like the least, if that’s where you are; that post was written about getting rid of fall clothes, because that’s the season it was at the time, but it could just as easily be applied to your spring wardrobe, if it happens to be spring where you live. It’s still definitely winter here, so we’ll just move right along and I won’t be one tiny bit jealous that you’re wearing linen and flip flops and basking in the sun!)

Anyway. I’ve been thinking a lot lately, well the past few years, about building a new wardrobe when you don’t have much (or any) money to spend on it. Simply because we live in such a spall apartment I haven’t had room to keep a ton of clothes, so I’ve become a minimalist out of necessity. And through the process I’ve realized that it is so, so, so freeing to own fewer clothes.

And also through this process I’ve realized that the things I love the most are generally pieces that I spent just a little more money on. Not always, but usually.  For example. When I was a freshman in college I spent $50 or $60 on a black cowl neck sweater from J. Crew. (It was one of maybe 4 or 5 clothing purchases I made in college that wasn’t from the thrift store or Target.) BUT that sweater has lasted for 17 years (yes, I am old) and it’s still my favorite sweater. If I could go back in time I would have bought 2 in every color they had.

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As another example– 2 summers ago I found a linen dress (with pockets) at Garnet Hill that I adored, and I bought it when it went on sale. (I spent $70 on it, I think). But I have worn it every day (when it’s not in the wash) during the summer, for hikes with the children, splashing in creeks, and to church. (The $70 still felt extremely spendy though, so last summer I didn’t buy any clothes, other than a couple of t-shirts. And I may very well buy nothing this summer, because of this guy, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. Well, and because of her. Somewhere she says, about clothes, that she already has “more than plenty.” Yes and Amen.)

BUT I think the mentality of wanting to buy quality clothes can lead down a path of simply spending too much. Over the past few years as I’ve tried to be more conscious of buying better quality clothes I’ve ended up, more often than not, just not buying anything at all.

Because what if you really can’t afford the price tag of nicer clothes? 

Enter the world of online consignment stores. Here’s the thing: once you buy almost anything brand new in a store and take it home, its value drops by about half. Possibly a bit less than half if you never wear it and it has the tags, but the point is– you can find nearly new clothes in pristine condition for half or less than what they cost if you buy them brand new. (If you’re not as worried about the actual cost of clothes, there is also the environmental/ethical side of the clothing industry, which makes purchasing secondhand simply the best way to buy clothes, in my humble opinion.)

So probably everyone is familiar with Thred Up. But here are a few other stores to try. It can be really overwhelming to sift through so many listings, but if you can figure out some brands that you LOVE but can’t afford new, just keep a list of those and start searching.  (I’ve learned about a lot of super pretentious brands from this blog that I could never afford, but which I look for secondhand online, see for example, her post about blue jeans.) (Or, in any of the below stores, just search by quality materials– linen pants, linen dress, silk camisole, etc., and see what comes up.)

I haven’t bought any clothes in the past few months, used or otherwise, but I’m hoping to buy a pair of really good quality jeans from one of these stores below soon. (My current (one) pair of jeans are at least 3 years old, I think actually 4, from the Gap. They are so stretched out and faded it’s getting quite pathetic.) (UPDATE: I actually JUST bought a pair of J Brand jeans from The Real Real, see below. They were $55. Guys. I have been wanting a nice pair of jeans for literally years. Now we’ll just have to see if they fit!)

Anyway, enough of all of that. Here are some places to try if you’re looking for lovely, secondhand clothes (or shoes, bags, coats, etc.):

7 Lovely Online Consignment Stores (Other Than ThredUp)

  1. Tradesy Everything from the Gap to Louis Vuitton. Super easy to search by brand, color, price range, size, etc. You can search for “linen pants” or “silk dress” etc. and then refine your search by size, price, etc. (Referral link: you get $20 off a $50 purchase, and I get a $10 credit!)
  2. The Real Real. Basically the same as Tradesy. Some really insanely expensive stuff, but also more reasonable items. [I JUST bought a pair of J Brand jeans from here. It’s my first purchase from this place, so I’ll let you guys know how everything works out once the jeans come!] (Use referral code for $25 off your first purchase).
  3. Slowre. This is a smaller website that specializes in selling secondhand clothes that were produced ethically. Eileen Fisher, Elizabeth Suzann, etc. I haven’t bought anything from here (everything’s still quite pricey, but worth a look!).
  4. Poshmark. Less fancy than the above, this store features clothes sold by their owners through the Postmark website, sort of like an eBay just for clothes. Again, as with the others, it’s really easy to search by brand, price, etc. And since you’re buying directly from an individual you can contact the seller and haggle a bit on the price. (They also sell kids’ clothes)
  5. Vinted.com. Similar to Tradesy and The Real Real.
  6. WornWear for used Patagonia clothes. I’ve never bought anything here, because it’s all really expensive, but I browse every once in awhile because there’s a coat I love of theirs I’d like to find used. (And here’s a similar website for used REI clothes & stuff.)
  7. Ebay.  Just wanted to throw this one in there. A good place to look if you’re searching for a specific brand. You might not find what you’re looking for, but it’s worth a look.

A few more notes: all of these stores are also places where you can send in your unwanted items for store credit or cash. The only place I’ve actually done this is ThredUp, and it’s super simple. (They mail you a bag for free, you fill it and mail it back. They deduct some from what you earn to pay for the shipping.) Just check the various websites for instructions. Just be prepared to get a lot less money back than you think you deserve. (Remember: clothes lose an insane amount of value as soon as you wear them once.)

The other thing is that I don’t know how easy/hard returns are for these stores. Just check before you buy. ThredUp has free and easy returns. Make sure you take that into account.

Read here for advice on buying secondhand clothes for kids.

(Also, if you can’t find something secondhand that you love, try Everlane for ethically produced basics. Their new underwear line looks amazing. And hell yes to their underwear models. Amen.)

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5 Ways to be Awesome at Buying Used Children’s Clothes (Or Your Own)

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DSC_2562Guys, I’m just going to be really honest. I’m way more persnickety about children’s clothes than is befitting of someone in our income bracket. I like for my children to be dressed, at all possible, in wool, linen, and organic cotton items of navy, white, black, gray, and red, that are handmade in France. However, I also have approximately a $0 budget for clothes for myself and the children, and while I occasionally exceed that budget by a bit, I can say that I have bought fewer than 5 brand new items for each of my children since they’ve been born (they’re 2.5 and 4.5 right now), other than some socks and, as Will has gotten older and shoes are harder to find, a couple of pairs of shoes. Everything else has been hand-me downs, or thrift/consignment finds, with a few things bought used on eBay or ThredUp. I’m not saying that to brag at all, because it would be quite possible to spend a ton of money only buying secondhand things, but just that it IS possible to dress children decently without buying a ton of new things.

Probably, if you’re reading this post at all, you already are interested in buying secondhand clothes. Other than the quite obvious reason that you can save enormous amounts of money (even if you are buying the cheapest new clothes available– sometimes I look at the prices of kids’ clothes at Target and I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW MUCH THEY COST!!!!!!!!), there’s also the insane human and environmental impact of the clothing industry. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but everyone has seen this movie, right? Every time we buy some new clothing item, that’s a ton of pesticides poured on the cotton it’s made from that lead to health problems for the cotton farmers, toxic dyes that pour into rivers and streams, not just poisoning any little river creatures, but also the human beings who have to drink that water, and heavens to betsy if anyone is purchasing new clothes made out of fleece or polyester!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It shouldn’t be legal to sell that shit. Please, please, please, if you want to buy everything else brand new, at least do not buy new clothes made out of fleece or any other synthetic material. Buying used will literally save you thousands of dollars if you do it well, and it’s a just and humane way to shop if you can’t afford to buy all your children’s clothes from places like this.

Ahem. Now that no one except my parents are still reading, if I’m that lucky, I’ll continue.

(And, also just before I dig in, I will say that for some people it makes sense to buy more things new than used– one friend of mine has 3 children, all girls, so if she buys good quality, new items, she knows they will get used by all three girls. Since we have a boy and a girl, it’s harder to justify buying new. So I’m not saying that everyone needs to do exactly what I do. This is just what works for us, for this season. I think it’ll get a bit trickier as the kids get older, too. But for now, it works.)

(Below, Petit Bateau rain coat I found at our consignment store. It was $20, but it’s a size 6-7, which means we can roll up the sleeves for Will this year, and then he can use it for the next year or two, before Margaret then uses it for another year or two. So I think we’ll get at least 4 years out of it. Maybe 5.)

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So, for anyone who’s interested, here’s how we do it:

1. Beg and Borrow. Well, we mostly haven’t had to beg, but we’ve been offered bags upon bags of hand-me-downs from friends and cousins. (If people hadn’t offered, I would have asked. I have absurd hopes and dreams for how I want my children dressed, and zero pride.) Only keep what you like/need (see #2) and pass on the next to another friend, or (if the person who gave the clothes to you doesn’t need them back) take the rest to a children’s consignment store if there’s one in your area and use the cash or store credit to buy something that you like or need a bit more. (Or give the cash back to the friend who gave you the clothes! It’s hard to keep track, but I try to give $ back when I can!)

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2. Only keep/buy what you REALLY need and like. The fewer clothes you believe that you need, the fewer clothes you can own, and therefore, the fewer you will buy, and the more money you will save. Voila. Just because it’s a good brand or a jaunty little red canvas raincoat that was made in France and only costs $15 at the consignment store, doesn’t mean you have to buy it.  Same thing with hand-me-downs. You don’t have to keep them all just because someone gave them to you! Each of my kids gets 1 dresser drawer for clothes, for pjs, underwear, socks, shirts, pants, etc. Outerwear goes elsewhere, but everything else: one drawer. So we have room for 4-6 shirts, 4-6 pairs of pants, etc. I could (and probably will) write a whole other post about a minimalist wardrobe for kids, but I will just say that I prefer to buy basic colors– blue, gray, white, black, red. If you read any book published in the 1950s or earlier, you’ll see children dressed mostly in those colors. I do have some pink and flowery things for Margaret, but mostly I want my kids to look like characters in Robert McClosky books (like this less known but EXCELLENT one).  The other reason for this is that when I stick to buying basic colors, I can pass them down from Will to Margaret. Red pants, black pants, yellow raincoat, breton striped shirt, wool sweater: they work for both genders. Bright green Ninja Turtles raincoat/bike helmet, rain books, tennis shoes, t-shirt, not so much. Ditto with anything hot pink and princess-y. (If we ever have a third). Although maybe what you REALLY like is different: brighter colors, etc. You do you. But know what you like (or your kid likes) the best, and let go of the rest. Kids don’t need that many clothes. (Especially if you make them take their shirts off when they eat messy food, if they’re younger than 3 or so).

(Below, organic cotton dress, $3.95.)

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3. Know the good brands/buy natural fibers. Boden, Hanna Andersson, Crewcuts, Petit Bateau, Garnet Hill. I also like Circo and Gap, Etc (see #3a.).  Know them, but don’t buy them new.  (Also: cotton, linen, wool, silk. They hold up better, look better, feel better. Check the materials before you buy.) So for example: I used to babysit for a family who got a catalogue for Serena and Lily, and I would drool over everything as I turned page after beautiful page during the babe’s nap. Haven’t thought of that brand in years, but today I checked to see if the consignment store had any crib sheets (because we just switched Margaret into the crib, and the only sheets we have have seen 2 years of wear from an older brother, so I thought it might be nice if she could have a sheet of her own, you know, and right there in the bin of crib sheets was a Serena and Lily sheet! For $3! So I bought it. Photo below. I never in 5 million years have considered buying it new (I just looked them up and they’re $38), but because I vaguely knew that brand, and knew that it should be excellent quality, I grabbed that sheet and didn’t need to look at the rest). Anyway, if you are, like me, an insufferable snob about quality, know which brands hold up and look good. Keep your eyes open for those things and skip the rest. Even if it means you leave empty handed sometimes. Also, if you really must buy fleece, buy it secondhand, but really, fleece and everything else made out of plastic belongs in whatever subterranean depository our government has for nuclear waste. It is that bad, and it shouldn’t be legal to sell. (We have some secondhand fleece jackets, etc., one of which is a vintage red coat with a pointy hat that I love, but really, just please, please never buy anything new made out of fleece. It needs simply to go out of production.)

3a. Ok, this is related to #3, but very important! Nice brands are all well and good, but if you’re always worrying about something getting spilled or feeling more nervous about the clothes than you really should, maybe reevaluate a bit? I bought Margaret a white linen dress at the consignment store when she was under 1, and it was so, so, so darling, but I couldn’t bear to have her wear it because food! And crawling in the dirt! etc! Also, I was trying to look up pictures of my kids dressed all adorably in their second-hand ensembles for this post, but in pretty much all of our pictures someone is wearing a costume or a bike helmet or is half buried in the sandbox or has ice cream dripping down her arms, etc. Which is as it should be. We never quite attain the Robert Mccluskey simplicity or Breton charm of my ideals. And we’ve had enough bloody noses, stomach bugs, and strawberry/blueberry/raspberry juice stains to know that white frilly clothes are not our friend.

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4. Know where to shop. We have 2 different kids’ consignment stores in Ithaca, one which only sells up to 3T, but the other, Mama Goose, sells all ages, plus maternity, shoes, toys, books, coats, etc. (Mama Goose is an exceptional store, and the only reason I’ve been able to buy so many pretentious clothing items at such good prices! I don’t know what I would do if I lived somewhere else!) I shop less often at the Salvation Army here, but I’ve found a few good things there! There’s also eBay, ThredUp (use this link for $10 off!) and Poshmark. I haven’t bought anything from the latter of those, and maybe 3-4 things total from each of the former. With ThredUp you can search by brand or type of clothing you’re looking for, with filters for size, color, etc. I bought some really cute Crewcut shorts and a Makie sweatshirt for Margaret from ThredUp two summers ago (the shorts in size 2T so she wore them when she was 1 and 2). Last year I thought I would go crazy if I didn’t buy something from the summer Boden catalogue for her, and instead I looked on eBay for used Boden things, and I found a pair of the cutest ever strawberry print shorts for maybe $6. Which is, admittedly, expensive for used shorts. And, per #5 (see below), I bought their size 3-4, so they were too big for last summer, but hopefully they will be the every day shorts for this year, once it warms up, which, of course, will be about 5,000,000 years from now. (Per #2, I’d rather have one pair of shorts for her that I LOVE than 8 pairs that are only so-so.)

5. Buy a few sizes up (but not too many sizes up). If you buy a size 6 raincoat, your almost 5 year old can wear it for 2 years, see? (And I actually promise you that your child will survive. We’ve done that also for winter coats, and it works quite well.) Or if you find a cute, 3T swimsuit last summer that consists of matching swim shirt and shorts, and fits your then 2 year old as long as you take a little tuck in the shorts, she can wear the same suit last summer and then this coming summer. I’ve found that some brands fit on the small side. So my 4 year old wears a Breton striped shirt (Boden) that says it’s a 6-7. The sleeves are a little long, so we roll them up. Today I found a little size 6-7 striped t shirt for Will. I’ll either have him wear it this summer or wait a year. So you can buy early and have a child wear something an extra year, or buy early and save it, if it’s a really good find, for when they’re old enough to wear it. As long as you’re not stockpiling too many clothes, this saves a lot of money in the long run. (See below– size 4-5 denim skirt WITH TINY POLKA DOTS! Couldn’t resist. So we’re tucking it away until next year.)

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Now I know that the only person left reading is my mom (which is fitting, because she is the one who taught me the joys of the thrift store) but I will just say that most of these principles apply for buying second-hand clothes for yourself. Except for buying sizes ahead of where you currently are, one can hope. Buy less, buy good, buy simple. And do your mending.

(And I’d love to know where other people shop for kids’ clothes! Anyone else buy used? Make their kids wear coats 2 or 3 sizes too big? Any favorite secondhand finds?)

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Some Pants I Got For Free (And a Pretty Good Source for Organic Cotton Basics)

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(So, for all four of my faithful readers, I wanted to say a few things! First of all, thank you! And I love you! Also, I’m going to tinker around with some new themes, to change things up a little bit, so if it looks different that’s why! Also, I’m planning to either shut this down completely, or to start using this as a platform to excoriate the continued production and purchasing of single-use plastic products, with some posts about small space living with kids thrown in. I’ve been moving towards having our family consume and toss/recycle less plastic for several years now, and I also have figured out how to have 4 people live in a small 2 bedroom apartment with some measure of ease and loveliness (well, about as much ease as you can expect with 2 little kids, but I mean, I don’t have piles and heaps of THINGS stacked around everywhere), and I want to write about both of those things a bit more.)

Anyway. Back to this post, before John gets home from the park with the kids!

A few weeks ago one of my friends gave me a little bundle of hand-me-downs that included a pair of black Pact yoga pants. (I think they’re these ones, which as I’m typing this are on sale for $17.50). As soon as I touched them I realized that THIS, THIS is why people buy nice clothes. Because the cotton feels like straight up silk. They were and are the essence of yoga pant perfection (as someone who does not prefer to do yoga in skin-tight, crazily patterned leggings which seem to be what all the youngsters are wearing these days).  I have had one pair of yoga pants for the past about 8 years. I bought them from Athleta when I was first married and they are ok, but super synthetic and I haven’t been crazy about them lately.)

Anyway, you guys probably didn’t want to read my yoga pant life story, but there you go. The essence of what I am trying to convey here is that these new ones are amazing. They are all I want to wear.  And as I wore these every single day I started to imagine a pair of leggings made out of the same silky Pact material. Or actually, what happened was an ad popped up in my Facebook feed that featured Pact leggings on sale for $15, and then I started imagining how life-changing such an item would be. I don’t know how Facebook knew that THAT WAS EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED TO BUY, but there you have it.

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I’ve been on a pretty big no-buying anything kick lately, but I wear leggings a lot in the winter, and my current ones were made out of polyester, and the texture just makes me cringe every time I wear them. So guys? I bought them. Shipping was free, and when my leggings arrived they were just as silky and soft and a little thick but not too thick, and the package came with a voucher for a free pair of socks! (Caveat emptor: the sizing chart on the Pact website, based on inches, which I re-measured just to make sure, indicated that I should buy a size smaller than the size of the yoga pants I had been given. However, the yoga pants fit quite well, and possibly even a bit on the snug side? So I ordered my leggings in the same size as the yoga pants, a size up from what their sizing chart said, and they fit perfectly. If that even makes sense?)

ANYWAY, I know no one cares, BUT if anyone is in the market for cotton t-shirts, socks, under-things of various sorts (for men, women, and children) that happen to be pretty reasonably priced (when on sale!) and supposedly somewhat ethically produced, Pact is a good place to start. (Use this link for $20 off a $60 purchase).

I know everyone has seen The True Cost (you have, right?) and it’s pretty old hat that we shouldn’t be buying as many clothes for all the various environmental and ethical reasons, and I guess trying to buy basics from a company like Pact is possibly a slightly better alternative than running out to Target? But as this must-read article points out it’s a little more complicated than that:  “we are not going to shop ourselves into a better world.”

(In case anyone needs a little inspiration to buy fewer things, read this blog! This young lady is hysterically funny, brilliant, and lives in Paris. I want to be her. This is what she says about her tiny, 100% thrifted wardrobe: “It’s more than plenty.” Yes, amen, even so.)

(Read a bit here about how to refresh & renew your wardrobe without buying a thing.)

A Bean Recipe, Some Cheap Dinners

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It’s been too long since I’ve written anything about the loveliness and importance of beans, but I saw this recipe recently and wanted to share it (about doctoring up a can of beans, with a 7 minute egg on top). And then saw this post about 6 family meals from Whole Foods for $30.  (Which came from this post, about how three other people met the same challenge.)  And then there’s this cookbook.

So anyway, here’s to meals based on beans, eggs, and potatoes! To humble food! To the great delight of sitting down to beans, with or without a 7 minute egg on top! To toast with cheese! And hoping you all have a lovely weekend, drinking tiny sips of joy from the simple moments of your days.

Also THIS OH THIS!!!! I haven’t tried this recipe yet but I’m going to soon and I can’t wait.

Easy Way to Save Money! (And a few pictures of life around here)

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So probably everybody already uses Ebates, or there’s some really dreadful thing about it that I just don’t know yet, but I just heard about it and signed up for it and even just used it to buy some insoles for my LL Bean slippers (the shearling is totally worn out in my right heel, not sure why). SO for anyone doing last-minute Christmas shopping this is a super easy and awesome resource for saving some money! (Well, making some money back on stuff you would be buying anyway).

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So anyway, for people who might not know: Ebates is a website where you can sign up, and when you use their website to shop online you get a certain percentage back in cash. They just mail you a check. Or put money in your PayPal account! You don’t give them your social security number, your bank account numbers, or anything scary like that.

You can shop at just about any website at all: Amazon, Gap, Nordstrom, J. Crew, Groupon, Snapsfish, Sephora, Target,  Amazon, Walmart, Ebay, and on and on. Even Etsy!!! And did I say Amazon?! And travel booking websites! You just go to the ebates website, and search for the store or item you’re looking for, click that link to go straight to whatever website you want, and get cash back for stuff you would have bought anyway.

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Today a lot of the cash back deals are doubled, so for a lot of stores you can get 10% cash back. And when you sign up and spend $25 in purchases within the first few months, you get a $10 credit. And you still get each individual store’s discounts! So for example, everything at Lands End is 40% off today, and if you shop through Ebates, you get that 40% off plus 8% cash back through ebates.

And if you refer 3 friends you get a $100 credit. So that’s awesome.  (If you sign up using this link you will count as one of my 3 people, ahem, mom, dad, etc, cough, cough.)

Ok, that’s all for now!

Bedroom, Before and After

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IMG_1886So when we were moving up to Ithaca four and a half years ago we stopped at an IKEA and bought these shelves.  We knew we needed some extra clothing storage in our bedroom, and these shelves ($60) seemed like a better deal than buying a whole dresser for $200. So we’ve used these shelves mostly for John’s clothes, and then once our tiny second bedroom/office room became the nursery, we moved the printer and some office-y things in.  And a stack of DVDs. And a down comforter and pillow. Not a pretty sight, though I never really thought anything of it.

Until a few weeks ago, when my nesting craze began. I realized that I hated these shelves! And that we must procure a dresser immediately! Fortunately, this urge settled in right around the time we were planning to go visit John’s parents in Maryland, so we went to IKEA and bought a dresser (which I know I’ve already mentioned, but I thought the before and after pictures were worth sharing). Excitement! Joy! The picture frames are going to be hung on the wall at some point, and yes, that is a camo hat hanging in the corner.

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Good & Cheap: Amazing Cookbook for Small Budgets

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I ran across a blog post this week by a woman who feeds her family of 7 for $300/month.  So theoretically, I could be feeding my family of 3 for $150/month.  That is definitely not happening any time soon, but I am always trying to find ways to reduce our grocery budget. In her post she mentioned a cookbook by Leanne Brown called Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day. ($4/person, per day is about what is allotted under the SNAP program, i.e., food stamps.) You can download this gorgeous book for free! Free, I say! On Leanne Brown’s website, here.  It is gorgeous, and I love her food philosophy so far: buy good quality eggs, even if you are poor; eat much less meat and many more vegetables & beans.  And use lots of spices and make things taste good! Yes! And the pictures are gorgeous (did I mention that?). She includes lots of Asian-inspired dishes, a Filipino Chicken Adobo that looks incredible, and things like cornmeal crusted veggies, Mexican street corn, smoky and spicy roasted cauliflower, and six variations on oatmeal. Anyway, this is a beautiful book, which you can also pre-order on Amazon, here. (The first edition has sold out, and the 2nd ed. is going to be released in July.)