Sunday, 3 May 2009

Spending to Save

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

I’m really starting to realise lately that buying quality is serving us well. Very early in my adult life I was gifted several sets of Tupperware brand plastic containers. I also bought several other pieces over time. I have used these continually for over 15 years now with only a few split lids (which Tupperware replaces for free). The amount of money, food and landfill I have saved by using these containers must be huge! I still use the odd snaplock bag (which we wash and re-use, cling wrap (have had a roll for years) and take-away style containers (also re-used) in the freezer but would ideally use 100% Tupperware if I already owned enough to meet all of our needs. Without wanting to sound like an advertisement for the company, we use these containers for: storing dry goods, keeping leftovers in the fridge, freezing bulk meals and foods bought in bulk, taking food to work for lunch or on picnics or other outings.

Thinking about my Tupperware got me thinking about other items we own…

The quality stainless steel saucepans given to us as a gift 15 years ago are used almost daily and are in the exact same condition as when they arrived in their box (okay, they aren’t quite shiny anymore!)

Our towels were bought from a manchester shop – seemed like a huge outlay at the time but they’ve been used almost non-stop for over 10 years and are still thick and absorbent. I am tired of the colour though! Cheaper ones from a chain department store have not lasted nearly as long before fraying at the seams, going out of shape and fading.

Cane laundry baskets have outlasted several of the plastic type. In fact, I will only be using cane baskets from now on (we do use several baskets for wet and clean/dry laundry each day in our larger household).

Last time I replaced our electric kettle and toaster I bought near-industrial quality ones – brushed stainless steel outers, decent warranty period, no flimsy switches or other disappointing features. I’d bought a few mid-range ones from chain department stores over the years, so thought I’d try paying around twice as much (on sale!) for a better brand from a homewares store. These were even better quality than I could find in the local electrical appliance shops and have been worth every extra cent. They work well, look great and so far they’ve outlasted most of their predecessors and yet seem to be as new.

We are very blessed to have been able to afford, or been gifted such great quality items. I tend to request practical gifts, or spend any gift cards or money on practical items (or trees), because I’m not a jewellery or perfume kind of girl.

Other items we’ve bought which save us money include:
* freezer - bulk buys and bulk cooking
* Vacola unit - preserved harvests
* slow cooker - less energy than the oven
* wind-up torches/flashlights - no more batteries
* battery charger - no disposable batteries for other items
* sewing machine – repairs, clothing, shopping bags and other useful items
* sets of quality cloth nappies (diapers) – saved $1000s on disposables for our large family
* timber furniture – might get scratched and dented, but it doesn’t crumble, snap, warp or otherwise disappoint (this was a slow process – investing in one piece every few years, making some and buying 2nd hand)

What’s at your place that has been a larger initial outlay, but saved you a lot of money, time and/or waste in the long term?


MystikMomma said...

What is the process for tupperware replacement? I have a lid that is split and not starting to tear off. I just don't use it anymore and it is a great size for most leftovers.

fullfreezer said...

I also have some Tupperware that I got while in college (20 years ago!) and it's still going strong. My parents gifted us with a set of copper clad stainless steel cookware for a wedding gift (also 20+ years ago) and it still looks and works great.
For ourselves, we made the outlay for high quality cast iron cookware that we use on an almost daily. We have also discovered that for tools (both power and hand) you definitely get what you pay for. Quality does matter.

ChristyACB said...

For me the list is a lot like yours.

I also noticed that my cheaper store versions of the tupperware were wearing our or leaking but my much older tupperware were still going strong! Now I'm looking to expand my tupperware. Though I don't like plastic, period, it is unavoidable and so I do get the best.

Also with Kitchen Aid small appliances, I've never had cause to regret those. And better quality in building my house a few years ago. Definitely saved energy funds, maint and repair funds.

Also, modern electronics like TVs and the like. I buy the best and keep it forever. In fact, I've only just replaced the old 25 inch TV with the old fashioned rounded screen and it still works and is being passed on...after 11 years!

If more people would go for quality instead of quantity, I think they would make out in the long run.

Great post!

Attila said...

Shoes and boots.
Furniture: second hand and good quality, rather than "cheap" tat that doesn't last.

Miles To Go Before I Sleep...... said...

We recently have started our "quest" into a more simple and frugal lifestyle...

In the years that I was a consumer and now when i try to stretch everything we own/use/buy I have noticed ONE thing in common from all newer purchases... THEY ALL BREAK.

EVERYTHING I have bought trying to save money, or it was on sale, or it was cheap... is junk. EVERYTHING I have spent money on and bought a more expensive item that gaurantee's longer use, has LASTED.

I have some tupperware containers I bought at a party and they are the most durable set of tupperwares I own!

Let's see... any appliance in my house? I would take an older appliance ANY day of the week... yes they may not be as fuel efficient but I canpromise you that they don't break and fill up landfills like my brand new HD computer monitor that only lasted 1 year and 11 months! (Pulled an older one out of the attic and it seems to work JUST FINE!)

Ok... huge ramble but that was an excellent post.

(One thing I will spend money on, in agreeing with the last comment is shoes and boots for the kids. Cheapy generic Wal-Mart brand = shoes and boots that last for maybe a month!)

The Thinker said...

I love my cast iron cookware and would not trade it for anything. I have a few pieces that belonged to my grandmother and are probably forty years old or more. I have enough pieces now for cooking, but I do hope to find a few specialty pieces--a tea kettle for instance, and a dutch oven with a bail handle for hanging over an open fire. I try to buy second hand when I can find it. I will be passing this stuff on to my sons!

Also a lot of the things like you mentioned. Sewing machine, slow cooker, etc.

One thing I spent money on when I could have bought a cheap one was my Hamilton Beach brew station coffee pot. We were a family that went through those cheap ($15-$20) coffee pots a couple of times a year. I paid SIXTY DOLLARS, a scandalous amount of money for a coffee maker in my opinion! It's still going strong about five years later, though. It was just what we needed. No carafe to break, no element burning out.

Oh, I also bought a toaster/convection oven because the big oven on my stove went out and I didn't want to buy a whole new oven. It was a mid-range model (around $70) and I have learned to bake pretty much anything in it... cookies, pizza, sourdough bread, cake, casseroles and anything else! Not only did it save me ten times its price on a new stove, but it cooks much faster and uses less energy.

James said...

My wife and I have a dining room set that has a durable table with 6 steel tube-frame chairs. The cushions were coming apart, as they has survived 9 years of twins jumping on them! So we got some new, heavy duty upholstery material and covered the cushions. BONUS! the material matches the curtains and goes with the rest of the decor!

It took us about 2 weeks to do the project, and while we were at it, we replaced the foam pads too. We used one of the old pieces to make a pattern for the new ones. Aside from finding out that the wooden base was made of particle board, the chairs are very well made. That was 5 years ago, and the chairs are still holding up nicely.

The table has served us well, and has a few creaks and groans (from kids leaning on it) but otherwise still does very well!

Buy Quality! Cheap fashion items break because the manufacturers want to sell more stuff!

Taryn said...

Tupperware is amazing. My mother is still using stuff I had as a kid. And now I am slowly accruing some of my own. Good stuff.

heather said...

oooh fun! one of my favorite investments was my commercial grade kitchen aid stand mixer. it's fifteen years old and i've used it at least a few times a week since i've had it. it works like the day i first turned it on.

i worked in a bakery years ago and they used a household grade kitchen aid... they also replaced it every few months!! i never could understand the logic behind that. when i was setting up my own kitchen, i knew i wanted an upgrade.

and boy are you right about quality towels! we mostly use vintage/thrifted towels from the 1950's and they are STILL nicer than anything i've bought new. ;)

Helen said...

The copper bottomed stainless steel pans given to us as a wedding present 38 years ago are still in daily use. Were they expensive at the time. We never buy cheap, we do without until we can afford good quality.Cast iron pots and my pressure cookers are high on ly list too. Wooden furniture not only because it lasts but it looks good too. We make the most of good quality items in the sales or bought second hand. I use daily my grandmothers treadle sewing machine for sewing, mending and patchwork and quilting. Still going strong and looking good after 76 years.
The old adage 'you get what you pays for' is still true.

BusyWoman said...

I have many hand-me-downs from my grandmother that lasted her and now are lasting me as well.

I even have a spoon from my geat grandmother. She used it then gave it to my Grandmother to use and now to me. Considering my grandmother is almost 102 years old, can you imagine how old my spoon muxt be ?

I often wonder what belongings I have and use every day that will be able to be handed down to my children or their children ? Sadly, I think it will be things that were made in years gone past rather than in modern times. The trend today seems to be to manufacture things that need constant replacement. ( our whole economy works on continual replacement of possessions)

thanks for a great article!

Rhonda Jean said...

Great post, Bel. We go for quality every time too. It pays in the long run.

Sonya said...

I had hesitated (for 2 years) to pay out for stainless steel garden hand tools, and finally decided to take the plunge - $20 for one always seemed steep. My Gran, however, helped me put it all into perspective - "So, with all the flimsy, cheap ones you bought and killed in that time, isn't this one really a $40 tool that you had on layby for two years?!" - Thanks Gran. I can always count on you for a reality check.

So, how long will you put something of quality on layby/hire-purchase before finally deciding on quality that will last - Hmmmm?

My son lovingly quoted a recent animation movie character, and contributed this little gem - "Mum, a man often meets his destiny on the road he takes to avoid it"

- Grrrrr.


Bel said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. MystikMomma - to return Tupperware you simply ring or email the office in your state (contact details are online) and they will give your details to a rep for you. The rep will arrange to collect or receive your broken item. They'll usually give you their latest catalogue too. In a couple of weeks, your replacement piece will come back. The replace for splits and breaks from wear, but not impact breaks (from dropping items) or melting from heat etc of course.

Yes - tools are another item where I aim for quality! My expensive secateurs and hand tools have been hanging around for years. Also my dressmaking scissors etc.

And kitchen utensils.... I remember the ones I bought when I first left home and just needed any old egg flip, you know? The plastic handle cracked in no time. Then I replaced my utensils one by one with stainless steel one-piece ones. I would buy one each fortnightly shopping trip! The old stuff went into our camping kit (and is still there.)

Shoes and boots, yes! I am very fussy with my shoes so like to own just a few pair which I wear for years, then repair or replace. Fashion shoes are unkind to my feet!

And clothes too - denim, wool socks, 100% cotton and other natural fibres... I like my 'basics' to last and last. I still indulge in a couple of pretty fashion items most seasons but the basics just live on and on.

Lovely to read of others' favourite items - repairing them, finding them 2nd hand, inheriting or passing them along...

Sonya, you are surrounded by wise ones!

If anyone's following Melinda's "Buy Sustainably Challenge" - this part all comes under #5 Buy it To Last.

Mistress B said...

Tupperware, good quality knives and saucepan are all things I look at as investments.

We own a lot of timber furniture too - luckily most of it bought at very discounted prices as hubby works for a timber furniture manugacturing company - double bonus - timber so longer lasting, locally made so minimal transporting.

Slice of life said...

My pantry/emergency food stock pile, is in a wooden cupboard I bought at the YMCA shop. dark wood shaker style. Bought for the grand sum of £40. A kitchen MDF carcase is that and more. Plus the price of a door!!! I think it may have been a wardrobe at one point, then someone put shelves in it.

One of my best buys. I have also inheritted a arts and craft side board from my Gran. This is excellent quality and stores my inheritted dinner service. A place for everything, cutlery, carving knives. All made by hand. It must have cost a fortune when it was bought from my Gran as a wedding gift.

linda said...

Plastic is not sustainable, green or healthy.

If you must use it, NEVER heat food in it, or put food in it until the food has cooled.

Also, acidic foods will leach more of the chemicals from the plastic into the food.

Endocrine disruption is becoming a huge problem, and plastics are a huge contributor.

I store all my leftovers in glass jars, like the ones left-over from almond butter or honey, and even freeze leftover soups in them, allowing a bit of space for expansion.

Mason jars are also a good investment.

Plastic may be simple, but it is not green.

Bel said...

Linda, I am careful about the plastics I use in our home. I don't heat food in plastic, cook in plastic or put piping-hot foods into plastic containers. Some things I store in glass, and I think that recycling glass jars and bottles is an excellent method of storing food. We use glass and metal water bottles as well.

Here's a link to some info about Tupperware with regard to safety:

I looked into BPAs and use my plasticware according to my research.

I also understand and respect those who choose to avoid plastics altogether, so thank you for your comment.

SGLoughlin said...

I totally hear you about tupperware! I can't get enough of the stuff. In our house, we also reuse plastic ziplock bags, which are surprisingly easy to clean with a little bit of effort. I also use to buy big purchases like the stainless steel teapot because you earn cash back, and get a discount, and save money.

Mary Q Contrarie said...

You know what it took me a while to figure out was that those cheap accordian laundry drying racks were terriable. I think I finally found a clothes drying rack that will last for my lifetime and I might even be able to hand it off to my grandkids some day. I found it on line at

KimS said...

One thing I haven't seen mentioned here is that you can often buy superior quality/repairable products for LESS by going the vintage route.

Our prime example would be our stove-- a 1940's gas Chambers stove. It's built like a tank and has pieces that will never wear out. No electronics, no plastic parts. We're investing in refurbishing it, and expect to never need another stove again.

But I also buy refrigerator storage dishes, glasses, coat hooks, and anything else I can find from secondhand and thrift stores whenever I can. It saves us money AND usually increases the quality of the product! is now a great source of cute vintage stuff... just fyi.

Bel said...

Kim, I love vintage and 2nd hand as well. Some of my favourite finds have been: our wood stove, a huge enamel baking dish, a great stainless steel kettle for on the pot belly stove, our cast iron frypan, our wicker laundry hamper, the basketry tray our fresh fruit sits in on the benchtop, some of our musical instruments and some of our furniture - solid timber of course!

Anonymous said...

Love my cast iron too! Most of my tupperware is 20+ years old The newer styles that go in the microwave that have the pop tops to vent the steam I got used and Love them. They reheat rice, spaghetti and such perfectly. I get good garden tools and they last forever. We have had a couple cheaper lounge chairs but the lazy boy one we got ages ago is still going strong. When something does happen they come to your house and fix it free...they stand behind their products. They have good sales too. We replaced our big refrigerator a while back and the electricity savings was Huge! The newer ones use Way less energy. Jody

Mary Q Contrarie said...

Great post. I came to a very similar realization when I bought my hundredth accordian style clothes drying rack from a big box store only to have it fall apart after a handful of uses.

I spent the $50 for a quality one that I think I will be able to pass on to my grandkids. It is awesome.

Hana said...

One thing that came to my mind are quality rechargable batteries! We bought some cheap ones in a supermarket, but those never lasted for long.
And yes, it's also true about the towels. My grandma has a huge stash of old towels. We got some of them, and they're the best we have.
Among the passed-down items are also hair-cuting scissors from my great-grandfather, who was a hairdresser. I guess several generations of children were having their hair cut with them, and even more will. :-) And, of course, as hairdresser's scissors, I guess they must have costed him a lot back in his time.