Healthy, hearty winter meal preparation is simple with these “real food” staples on hand.
What is “real food”?
Real food is organic, seasonal, fresh, non-processed ingredients. Local is best, of course, but getting things fresh from closer-to-home is more of a challenge in winter, so when our neighboring farms are in low supply we do okay at small organic markets.
Here’s a shopping list* of things we try to keep in stock for a week of deeply nourishing soups, stews and suppers that keep us going through the cold months.
Real Food Shopping List
- Whole pastured chicken
- Beef Stew cubes (grass-fed)
- Soup Bones (grass-fed beef, foraged pork, pastured chicken feet)
- Pastured Eggs
- Fresh root vegetables–carrots (purple or red for more nutrient density), parsnips, turnips, beets, rutabagas
- Other seasonal vegetables-sweet potatoes, orange and purple varieties, white potatoes, cabbage (red and green)
- Greens (kale, chard, dandelion, spinach, lettuce)
*Some Real Food Shopping Tips
- Look for “pastured” eggs and chicken, if possible, as opposed to organic, free range, or cage free, all of which are misleading labels.
- Choose the loose vegetables over the ones in plastic bags, boxes or containers.
- Choose the carrots with the tops still attached. This usually indicates they are more fresh.
- Resist the urge to place all of your produce into separate plastic bags. Just put it all directly into your shopping bag and you’ll love not having to deal with the annoyance of all that plastic when you get home.
- Check out this blog for a lot more information on real food shopping, and optimizing nutrition when buying from the supermarket!
Below are meal suggestions for the week using these ingredients. You may of course want to supplement with bread, rice, pasta, cheeses, etc. as desired.
Real Food Daily Menu Suggestions
Roast the chicken (basic recipe here) with carrots, potatoes, garlic and onion. Add beets, turnips or other root vegetables tossed in olive oil if desired. Serve a fresh green salad with your meal. Remove all meat from the bone and whatever is left over from your meal refrigerate for later use. Place the chicken carcass (and the chicken feet, if you have them) in a slow cooker, cover with water, add with a quartered onion and two celery sticks cut in half, salt and pepper. Cook on low for 12-18 hours.
When cooled, strain the broth removing the bones and vegetable matter for the compost. Cut up onion, celery, garlic, carrots and chopped cabbage, cook in the bottom of a soup pot in plenty of grass-fed butter until tender. Add the broth and let it cook on low for 2-4 hours. Enjoy your soup dinner and store leftovers in the refrigerator to eat later.
Start your beef broth by placing the bones in the slow cooker just covered with water and adding onion, salt, celery and any other vegetable scraps. (Here’s the authoritative book on broth!) Set on low and let it cook for 24 — 36 hours.
Chop up mixed greens and add the leftover chicken for a light supper.
Strain your beef broth early in the day and let it chill. Save the bones in the refrigerator. 2-3 hours before your meal, brown the beef stew cubes in butter with onion, garlic and a little flour. Stir in chopped celery, cabbage and any root vegetables such as parsnips, rutabagas or potatoes and allow to cook for a few minutes. Remove the beef broth from the refrigerator and take off the fat that has formed on top .When vegetables are softened add the skimmed broth to the pot. Cook it all together slowly on a low temperature a couple of hours or until meat is tender.
Serve leftover beef stew or chicken soup with a chopped slaw using the red cabbage, what’s left of the green cabbage, chopped celery, onion and a grated carrot. Mix together and dress with olive oil, apple cider vinegar and salt to taste.
Early in the day, start another batch of beef broth with the bones you used earlier in the week. For your evening meal, saute several cups of fresh spinach, kale or chard with some chopped onion in a skillet on the stovetop and whisk 4 eggs in a separate bowl. When the spinach is nearly cooked down, add the eggs to the skillet and stir until they are cooked and blended with the spinach. Season as desired, sprinkle fresh cheese on top and serve.
Cool and strain your beef broth. You’ve already removed the fat so you don’t need to chill it this time. Start your dinner by using any leftover vegetables you desire and slow cook them in the broth. When the vegetables are tender, take an immersion blender and partially puree the soup so that it’s thick and chunky. Serve with green salad if you still have greens left from the week or any leftover slaw.
So there you have it, a full week (or more!) of fresh, nourishing meals made from simple ingredients straight from the earth! Whenever you’ve eaten through all of this you can go shopping and repeat the menus, mixing them up or varying them in any way you want, or of course adapting your own favorite recipes to real food ingredients.
You get the idea. No plastic, cardboard, cellophane, preservatives, additives required–no factories involved and ideally, minimal distances traveled from ground to table. In our way of looking at it, eating locally and simply is an important aspect of slow living because it’s supporting better health, less waste and a more sustainable food supply.
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How do Americans say “I love you” on Valentine’s Day? According to statistics, we do it by spending money – and a lot of it!
Here are a few Valentine’s Day spending figures to make your heart pound, gleaned from the National Retail Federation’s Valentine’s Day Consumer Spending Survey:
Gift cards – $1.5 billion
Candy – $1.7 billion
Clothing – $2 billion
Flowers – $2.1 billion
Night Out – $3.6 billion
Jewelry – $4.8 billion
Total – $18.9 billion
In terms of sustainability that’s quite a cringe-worthy list, considering all of the paper, cellophane, plastic, empty sugar-laden calories and world-wide slavery all of that represents, most of which is destined to be tossed and forgotten by the next day. I’m going to make an understatement here and say that perhaps we don’t need such excess to communicate our love to one another. Not to be the Valentine Grinch, but if everyone was more aware of this, don’t you think that most people would do it at least a little bit differently?
What about Valentine’s Day in our economy? It’s one of the holidays that retailers count on to help their bottom line. Does that mean that as consumers we have some sort of responsibility (or excuse) to perpetuate such over-the-top waste?
I think not. Given a little bit of thought and creativity, there are certainly ways to avoid participating in thoughtless buying rituals while still observing the delights of Valentine’s Day traditions. When we ourselves step away from the frenzy we become examples for how it can be done. What follows are some easy ideas for making your Valentine’s Day more about love and less about senseless waste.
6 Low-Waste, Sustainable Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas
- Instead of a store-bought card, write a heartfelt personal note. (True story–in our family we keep old cards going back many years in a box. On birthdays and holidays, we dig around to find one that fits and give it again! Corny, but fun.)
- Call a friend or loved one and set up a time to get together. Your time is a gift.
- Give a plant or flower bulbs (tulips, daffodils or dahlias) instead of cut flowers.
- Find your jewelry or clothing gifts at a local thrift store. They have a story!
- Give slavery-free chocolate–or a home-baked treat.
- Speaking of home-baked, we have an amazing HEALTHY (really, it is), gluten-free, chocolate cake recipe that’s not only a delightful treat but is filled with super nutrients–our Valentine gift to you!
Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Recipe
Chewy Chocolate Ganache Superfood Brownie Cake (Gluten Free and Nutrient Rich!)
- 1/2 cup real butter from grass-fed cows (Kerrygold is a good brand and widely available)
- 1 cup of organic coconut oil
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (a good fair trade brand here)
- 1/2 cup 100% pure maple syrup
- 1 cup almond flour
- ½ cup raw sugar or coconut sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 eggs ( from your local farmer if possible or buy “pastured” eggs in the store)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 1.5 QT oven-proof bowl (or you can just use a brownie pan if you don’t want it to be a cake).
Prepare the ganache–Place the butter and coconut oil together in a saucepan and stir until melted. Add ¼ cup of the cocoa powder and maple syrup and stir until all the ingredients are well combined. Let cool
In a bowl, whisk together the almond flour, remaining cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla.
Combine ⅔ cup of the cooled chocolate and butter mixture with the egg and sugar mixture, setting aside ⅓ cup for later use. Mix into the dry ingredients until just moistened. Bake in the greased 8×8 pan for 30 minutes or until done.
Take out of the oven and after it has cooled briefly, remove the cake from the bowl by turning it upside down onto a plate. While still warm, poke several holes through the top with a something long. (I use a shish kabob skewer). Spoon the remaining ganache over the top one large spoonful at a time so it can seep down through the cake and drip over the sides slowly. Then let it cool completely.
Slice, serve and share the chocolate LOVE!
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Sustainable Fashion is getting buzz in Washington, DC!
Sustainable Fashion Conference
Last September 2018, Lady Farmer was excited to be a part of Unveiling Fashion, Conversations about Fashion and Sustainability, a sold-out event hosted by the newly formed DC Sustainable Fashion Collective less than a year after launching their organization. Designers, writers, lawmakers, activists, entrepreneurs and fashion professionals from across the industry came together to discuss the negative impact of the current industry on our fellow man and the planet, its effect on their daily lives, and how they can implement sustainable changes in their lives and their neighborhoods.
The day was loaded with information and discussions, including a keynote address by Lauren Fay, Executive Director of Fashion Revolution USA, presentations by Whitney Bauck, Assistant Editor of Fashionista Magazine and Marci Zaroff, Founder & CEO of Metawear Manufacturing. In addition, there were four panels covering various subjects in the broad realm of sustainable fashion. Lady Farmer joined panelists Diana Watts of Trinity Washington University, Kaveri Marathe, co-founder of a textile recycling business called Texiles, and Amy Dufault of the Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator in discussing The Consumer Trap (Buying Things You Don’t Need and Why). What is the impact of the current levels of consumption and its far-reaching economic effects around the world?
DC Sustainable Fashion Collective
The DC Sustainable Fashion Collective is a community-based organization, whose purpose is to foster and educate consumers in the D.C. Metropolitan Area on the importance of sustainability and ethical practices in the fashion industry. Established in January 2018, DCSFC is poised to develop educational programs, retail opportunities, workforce development/training initiatives, and networking opportunities for the local creative, sustainable and ethical communities.
Sustainable Fashion Movement
The level of participation in this lively and successful first-time event indicates that there is a keen and growing interest in the sustainable fashion movement. In our efforts to educate and inform consumers on the existing issues in the apparel industry, as well as to provide responsibly sourced and manufactured alternatives to fast fashion, we at Lady Farmer are delighted to join this organization in spreading the word!
The season of celebration and festivity has begun, and with it a blast of cultural messaging telling us that it’s time to get busy and buy lots of things! Meanwhile (here in the northern hemisphere) the light is waning, the plants are shifting into dormancy and animals are going into hibernation. Nature– our nature– tells us it’s time to go inward to seek respite and restoration while the voices of commerce would have us believe that peace and joy come with going out and shopping. While we know that’s not true, avoiding it altogether usually isn’t practical.
Celebrations and gift giving are true expressions of the heart — but the real and meaningful behind it all is too often entangled with consumer habits that drain our energy, our resources and our joy. We experience this conflict in our minds and our bodies and end up exhausted. So how do we navigate this season where nature, our traditions and our consumer culture are pulling us in so many different directions?
In recognition of Black Friday and all that it stands for, here are some suggestions for keeping the buying in balance.
A Guide for Slow Shopping
- Think about the holiday traditions and activities that bring you the most enjoyment such as planning gatherings, cooking, baking, gift giving, traveling, attending special performances, listening to seasonal music, etc. Make it a point to plan your time around these as much as possible.
- From the above, make a list of which ones actually require purchases.
- For instance, if you’ve having people over, take a good look through your cupboards to see what you already have before making your list. Challenge yourself to use things you already have to reduce what your have to buy. Consolidate your shopping trips and plan them during a time when you aren’t as likely to be tired or rushed.
- For gift giving, consider giving experiences rather than material things.
- This is a great idea for anyone of any age. Promise tea with a friend, an evening of Netflix with your teenager, an afternoon of making cookies with a pre-schooler. If the presentation is important to you or the recipient, you can cleverly gift -wrap a note of explanation!
- Be conscious of who and what you are supporting with your purchases.
- Think about materials, sourcing and labor practices and seek alternatives for those things that you feel don’t deserve your dollar.
- Try to observe when the outside noise of advertising and false expectations are draining your energy and joy.
- Focus again on the things that you know you love about this season and center your activities around those.
- Remember that The gift of kindness is free to everyone!
- Look for the beautiful, peaceful, and joyful expressions of the season and you will find them!
We’re intentionally having a slow holiday week with family, but we’ve curated some lovely sustainable, responsibly sourced lifestyle items as “slow shopping” choices for you. Look for them to be up in our online store by Wednesday. In the meantime enJOY this special time of year.
Lady Farmer Love,
Mary and Emma
We’re living in amazing times. Women are changing the world with their courage to speak out, take a stand, and act outside of a male dominated paradigm. We listen to unfolding events and yes, we feel the surfacing of deep anger and frustration at the status quo, but at the same time we feel hope and inspiration because we know that there is a movement.
photo: Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin by Peter Strangmayr
We believe so deeply in making change! We want to do something. But sometimes we get stuck. Beyond watching disturbing telecasts that entrench our convictions, posting on social media to people that already agree with us and traveling to events that we hope will amplify our voices--what do we do? Well, here is something huge you can do to help the cause of women’s empowerment–every single day.
1) REFUSE Fast Fashion
Yes, that’s it. There are few things reflecting women’s disempowerment on such a broad scale as the clothing industry. It doesn’t show up that often on social media and is not being televised on cable TV twenty-four-seven, but it’s something in which practically every single one of us is a participant. Yes, it sounds overwhelming– but it is every bit within your power to RESIST, starting now. Start with that T-shirt you have that proclaims the power of women and find out where it came from. In all likelihood, it was sewn by a woman who does not earn a living wage, who possibly has to live away from her children to have this work, who cannot afford adequate food, health care or child care. Please do not wear this shirt or buy it for your sisters or daughters or book club until you confirm the truth behind it.
80% of garment workers in the fashion industry are women. Fast Fashion is a women’s issue.
2) STOP perpetuating this behemoth of a broken system that enslaves women.
Is the fast fashion industry really that bad? Yes, it’s really that bad, and the worst of it is that the vast majority of people are literally buying into this system daily without even realizing what they’re doing. Don’t be one of those that doesn’t know. You can read all about fast fashion and its devastating impact here or here or here.
3) DO seek, find and support fast fashion alternatives.
Once you know, please don’t make excuses for not using the power of your choice. There is nothing that can change things in our economy faster or more affirmatively than the informed consumer. If you want to be truly invested in the empowerment of women, it is necessary for you to know this truth.
We’re doing our best at Lady Farmer to educate and provide consumers with alternatives in their clothing choices. There are also some great lists and blogs online that will guide you, such as this one and this one.
Want to empower women every single day? Be a part of this movement by exercising the power of your consumer choices and refusing fast fashion.
We’ve been sold the goods–literally. Somewhere along the line, we were convinced that it was better to buy everything we needed rather than to make, that our lives would be better when our food, our clothing, our living spaces and everything in them was produced somewhere out of sight and out of mind. This message, delivered through the word “convenience” was that our time was better spent pursuing other things. And we bought that whole idea–along with all of the other millions upon millions of products that have filled not only shopping malls, outlet centers and megastores–but our houses, lives and landscapes.
It’s ironic that the human quality of ingenuity that made our self sufficiency possible in the first place is the very thing that’s taken our culture to such extremes. We are creative beings, and have reached our position as the dominant species by our perpetual spirit of invention. Every perceived obstacle on our human path is met with a solution, a product, a system that eventually becomes an industry. We have an incessant forward-moving instinct. But we are at the far end of the pendulum’s swing. Our consumerism is a cultural tsunami, full of brokenness at every level from our earth home to the very deepest part of our human hearts and everything in between. We are soul-sick with longing for balance.
It will be the same quality of problem solving that will eventually see us through this, that will bring us back, certainly not to the self reliance of our predecessors–there are too many of us and we’ve come way too far for that– but at least to a place of more equilibrium and more of a circular economy. Yet right here and now it’s time for the medicine of “making” to be fully embraced as a step towards healing. We’ve all made something at one time or another, some food or clothing or craft, and have felt that surge of satisfaction that comes from creating.There’s no denying that this pure and simple act is part of our humanness, essential to our individual well being and to our society as a whole.
We recently attended a retreat in Maine hosted by A Gathering of Stitches, during which both of us, guided by skilled instructors and surrounded by a community of fun loving, creative and supportive new friends, learned not only how to make a garment from scratch, but how “making” is so much more than a pastime. It’s not only part of our own healing, but is a radical political statement and an act of transformation. In refusing to feed the beast of fast fashion, we do our small but powerful part in cutting off its lifeline. Without a continual, massive infusion of consumer participation, it cannot live, and neither can the broken food industry or the pharmaceutical companies that have compromised our nation’s health, or the scourge of single-use plastics or the toxic residuals of waste dumps filled with the refuse of our collective illness.
Paradigm shifts don’t happen overnight, however, and we don’t do ourselves any favors by becoming loud zealots who have no patience for the power of increment. History has shown us over and over that it’s the ripples of the small acts that create the waves of change.
So how can you be a “maker,” even in the smallest of ways? You certainly don’t have to be an artist or a gourmet cook. You can make your own coffee or tea instead of going to Starbucks, find a new use for something you might have thrown away, make a meal instead of going out, recycle a piece of paper to write a letter, make a cute patch for that hole in your pants. The possibilities are endless–and the effect is profound.
So what’s your medicine today?
I feel like I’ve blinked and the summer has passed completely. With one day left at my internship with Lady Farmer, I thought I would share a little bit about what I’ve spent my time working on and what I’ve learned as I walk away from Three Graces Farm.
Lady Farmers Vanessa, Mary and Emma enjoying a little front porch time
My excitement for Lady Farmer began months before I started working with Mary and Emma; I found LF on instagram and absolutely swooned over the Persephone dresses and every beautifully edited photo they had posted. As an environmental leader on my college campus and a two-year employee at my school’s small, education-focused organic farm, I totally aligned with LF’s purpose of shifting consumer culture through well-sourced and responsible clothing.
During my time here I’ve filmed and edited the product videos you’ve been seeing around (more to come!), written blog posts, and helped wrap and ship out your orders. Emma has shown me how to use software that manages LF’s social media platforms and given me access to online classes that have helped me pitch the brand to magazines, draft the perfect instagram caption, and more. All of which is immensely marketable experience that’ll likely help me find work after I graduate; I couldn’t be more thankful.
On the other end of things, Mary has given me advice whenever I needed it, taught me about backyard herbalism, shown me how to ferment vegetables, make kefir, explained the importance of raw milk and foraged foods, and been a real-life example of how a busy person (a mother, author, and business owner) can actualize Slow Living. She’s given me life skills that I will be able to take with me wherever I go in the future, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.
My favorite part of working with the Kingsleys was their ritual lunch; no matter where we were in a project, at 11:30 one of us would set a table in the shade of a walnut tree while the other two would bring out an inevitably delicious combination of foods from the fridge or garden: toasted sourdough, fresh tomatoes, raw cheese from the Tuesday afternoon markets, pesto made with sweet basil and lambsquarters, fermented beets and cucumbers, sauerkraut, boiled eggs, dandelion salads. With Mary’s tulsi tea in hand, we’d eat and “talk shop,” discussing the fashion industry, influencers we admire on instagram, the Slow Living Conference, new discoveries about the benefits of such-and-such. The ever-present thread that connected our conversation, us, the company, and everyone who follows Lady Farmer was the question: How can we live slowly, consume consciously, and work to better the planet while still going through the motions of “normal” life?
I don’t know the answer, and I doubt any one person does–even Emma and Mary. But another value they’ve impressed on me during my time here is community. And beyond just selling clothes, I believe that Lady Farmer is working to foster a community of women who are equally baffled by the above question and want to come together to discuss it, whether that’s through social media or in person.
I’ll be studying in Madagascar this fall, and while I’m there I hope to interview the women who head households, work in agriculture, and heal their communities–meeting the Lady Farmers of another culture! One of the few drawbacks about my upcoming trip is the fact that I’ll not be here in November for the Slow Living Conference. After hearing so much about it, writing about the speakers, food, and location, I’m very disappointed that I can’t go myself. What the conference seeks to accomplish is to start answering that lifelong question, even if it’s only in select areas of our lives. It will provide people with new tools to achieve the life that we all dream of, while introducing the unique and inspiring Lady Farmer community to meet and love and learn from each other, as I have been fortunate enough to do with Mary and Emma for the past two months.
I’ve loved this summer, loved my wonderful bosses, and loved getting to know you all! Thank you for reading and watching my work. I hope the descent of autumn brings you closer to the communities of inspiring women you have already in your lives.
Signing off for the last time!
We are so excited to introduce Mo this week, not only as our Lady Farmer Spotlight but as one of our dynamic workshop leaders for the upcoming Lady Farmer Slow Living Conference Retreat, Nov. 9th-11th, 2018. She will be helping attendees plan for cultivating healthy kitchen gardens of their own. Early Bird Registration spots are available until they run out!
All photographs in this post are taken by Lise Metzger of the blog Grounded Women, where you can find a few different in-depth pieces on Mo, with the striking photography that is sampled here. You can also follow @groundedwomen for more!
Every year we marvel at the ecosystem of our farm- delicate yet powerful- and the privilege, and responsibility, of our role in it.
Mo Moutoux owns and manages Moutoux Orchard, a diverse sustainable farm with her husband, Rob. Located in Purcellville, Virginia, they operate a unique whole-diet CSA program and raise livestock, vegetables, fruit, and dairy. Their goal is to reclaim our food—from field to kitchen— and provide healthy, whole foods for our local community. They are committed to healthy food, healthy animals and believe in the power of healthy soil and community.
Mo fell in love with farming while in graduate school for cultural anthropology.
I knew there was nothing I wanted to do more than get my hands in the dirt and grow food.
What inspires you?
There is an eternal optimism that comes naturally to farmers. It is something that makes (spring!) such a joy. Of course these seeds that we are planting will grow great crops. Maybe the best yet. Of course the berries will be delicious. Of course we will grow loads of great grass, and our animals will be healthy, happy, and well fed. We flourish on the hope found in a seed.
As farmers, we are managing an ecosystem. Every year our goal is to see that ecosystem and its inhabitants through another cycle of birth, growth, death, decay, and rebirth. Every year we marvel at the ecosystem of our farm- delicate yet powerful- and the privilege, and responsibility, of our role in it.
What does being a “Lady Farmer” mean to you?
There are so many women who devote their lives to growing food for themselves, their families, and their communities. I think we, specifically white Americans, forget that most of the rest of the world is agrarian and that most of that work is done by women. And it is hard. Really hard work. You are subject to the whims of the natural world and we are so disconnected from Mother Natures power in the rest of our lives. These women deserve our respect and admiration!
Any advice for aspiring Lady Farmers, especially those who aren’t able to actually farm?
Join a CSA! Commit to supporting small, family farms and commit to eating locally and seasonally! Shop at your local farmers market and talk to your farmer! Know your farmer and KNOW YOUR FOOD! You’ll feel better, too!
Thank you, Mo! Follow along for more of her story at @moutouxorchards and check out their website!
Successful thrift store shopping doesn’t have to be fully a game of luck. Thrifting helps your wallet, your community, and your planet…but my favorite part is the search itself: I feel like I’m on a sort of adventure, looking for a gem in a messy jungle of fabric. The normal dopamine rush that I get from shopping is doubled when I’m thrifting: after taking time to explore, finding the piece that matches your style and size perfectly is incredibly gratifying.
Right now, I’m wearing Dansko clogs, Patagonia shorts, an Urban Outfitters shirt, Victoria’s Secret underwear and bra, and I spent less than $8.00 for the entire outfit.
As a self-proclaimed thrifting connoisseur, playing the “how much did I pay for this outfit” game is one of my favorite pastimes. I’m in college, and only have a part-time job during the school year–I don’t exactly have a large margin of disposable income. But thankfully, my hours spent in consignment shops has taught me that you don’t need to spend big bucks to look great!
Even if you do have enough money to buy name-brand clothing regularly, there are so many reasons to go thrifting instead! For one, it supports your local economy: buying an Old Navy dress at a consignment shop downtown supports a local business, instead of zooming directly up to a giant company. And many thrift stores are charity-based organizations that will use their profits to support local causes–I’ve been to stores that support hospitals, churches, after school programs, community centers, and more.
Shopping second-hand is also worlds more environmentally friendly. Imagine this: A woman goes into an expensive retailer and buys a blouse. Her money is supporting the production of A synthetic-blend textile, the pollutive process of dying the fabric, the factory assembly of the garment, and the shipping from overseas to the checkout counter. For one reason or another, it eventually is tossed in a trash bag labeled “donate,” and taken to Goodwill.
Fingering your way down a rack of tops, you find the blouse and take it home. It’s still cute, still high-quality material, and still a recognizable brand. But you pay a fraction of the price, and none of your money supports processes that exploit people or the land!
Thrift Store Shopping Tips
After getting my clothes almost exclusively second-hand for years, I have a few tips for finding the hidden treasures of consignment shops without wasting time. It doesn’t need to be a struggle or a 3-hour commitment!
1) Research where the good spots are to go.
Ask around about where people recommend shopping second-hand. It’s hard for people to accurately review thrift stores online, so word-of-mouth is valuable here. Some general advice from me is to go to the wealthier neighborhoods’ consignment shops; people who live and work in more affluent parts of town will typically drop off their donations close to home, and these spots tend to have a higher concentration of expensive brand names. (A side note for my friends down in the Southeast–Unclaimed Baggage in Alabama is by far the greatest spot to shop, with high-end clothes that can be over 80% off! Definitely worth a couple of hours in the car.)
2) Go early in the week, in the early afternoon.
As you start shopping at new thrift stores, ask the employees when they sort through new donations–Most places will sort through donations early in the week, and bring it out on the floor in the mornings. But always double check! Schedules vary, and you want to be one of the first people to look through their new clothing.
3) For a quick trip, know what you need.
If you just want a rapid, in-and-out trip, you need to shop with intention. Know what you need, run in and flit through the rack or two the store has. If you find what you wanted, great! But the more specific your expectations, the harder it’ll be to find, and you may have to go to a few different shops.
4) Save discernment for the dressing room.
Something about pre-loved garments make it difficult to tell if they’ll look good on or not; half the time I absolutely fall in love with something that I only mildly liked on the rack, or end up hating I thought was really cute at a glance. It’s hard to tell! So if I have the time to delve more into a store, I keep some flexible ideas of what I want in terms of fabric type, color, and brand, but give most clothes a shot. And as soon as I step into the dressing room, I kick my judgmental side into high gear to make sure I only walk away with clothes that I love and will wear regularly. It can be deceivingly easy to leave lugging armloads of stuff that you don’t really need, and the place to prevent that is in the dressing room.
5) Always check the non-clothing sections.
A quick walkabout through the kitchen section and a glance through the purses can yield incredible results, and it’s always the fastest part of my trip! I would never have found my black leather Coach handbag if I hadn’t left the clothing section. And although I only fantasize at this point about my one-day kitchen, I am positive that it will be composed of mostly second-hand goods. I’ve found mason jars, cobalt glasses, complete fondue sets, pressure cookers, and more just by quickly walking past and glancing at the shelves. Incredibly easy, and incredibly worth it.
I hope that these tips will help you explore the exciting thrifting world! Second-hand shopping is a great way to vote with your dollar against fast-fashion, prevent textile waste, and save money. Best of luck, and happy hunting! 🙂
– Vanessa Moss, 2018 Summer Intern
When my mom and I first came up with the idea to design & create clothing that we loved and were proud of producing, neither of us had any experience in the garment industry outside of being the committed bargain-hunters that we were. It wasn’t until a few months later, in the middle of one of the largest trade shows in the industry’s (MAGIC) showroom floor, when it hit us that my great-grandfather (my mother’s grandfather) had helped see a west Tennessee cotton mill through the Great Depression, and that we had unintentionally stumbled into a family legacy. For many reasons, but particularly this one, we were feeling highly motivated and affirmed despite our lack of industry experience. Though we saw clearly what we were up against, we chose to proceed with only the highest standards and expectations.
We want to explain a bit about the implications of sticking to those standards. To start, for anyone who isn’t aware of the human exploitation and environmental destruction in the current fashion industry, we recommend that you begin by watching The True Cost documentary (available on Netflix) – an inspiring and engaging depiction of not only the problem at hand but how we can begin to tackle it. There is also information on our website to help you understand different aspects of the issues. Click on Our Poison Closets, Fashion Revolution Week 2018 or Slow Fashion At-a-Glance for some additional insights.
We want our clothing to reflect the nature of their source, the fibers themselves. As Lady Farmers, we realize that in highlighting clothing as an agricultural product, it helps frame a lot of the issues within the industry. If we are learning as a culture to be more conscious of our food sourcing, it becomes easier to cultivate the same discernment for what we put on our bodies as what we put in them. Our clothing, like our food, is one of our most basic needs, which ultimately starts as a seed in the ground.
So back to our trade show, where we enter bright-eyed and ready to change the world, asking where we might find the “Made in America” section, particularly domestically made and organically grown linens…only to be met with blank stares. Turns out that domestically grown woven fabrics (linen, etc.) are rare or non-existent, and any other organic domestic apparel fabrics are few and far between. In this moment we became starkly aware of two things: 1) the problems with sourcing were much bigger and even more complex than we could have known when we started and 2) we were going to be met with many obstacles, but our commitment was to doing the very best we could under the circumstances. We knew that in telling our story transparently, we would have an opportunity to educate where the gaps were while creating an alternative.
Despite our lack of choice when it comes to sourcing organic (sometimes the only option is “Made in China”) there are some areas where there is simply no compromise. All parts of each piece we design and produce must be made of natural materials. We do not use any polyester, even the recycled kind (a discussion for another day). We do not use zippers, plastic buttons, elastic, or any type of notion that might compromise the circular life cycle of the garment we hope to produce. The well-being of the human who forged the buckles, wove the fibers, spun the thread, then ultimately sewed the garment together are of the utmost concern to us, and where we have direct say over those workers’ wages (our USA-based sewists), we offer fair market value in exchange for labor.
During our very first call with a New England based manufacturer, we were asked about our design ideas as well as our ideal price point. At that point, we really didn’t have a frame of reference for the true cost of producing these items. We threw out a number that we thought was “a good price” and quickly realized what we were up against, wanting to create something so clean and good for so little money. Knowing what we know now we’re reminded of all of the gaps – the information gaps, the sourcing gaps, the opportunity gaps, the challenge of no elastic, the predicament of designing a pair of overalls with no buttons or pants with no zippers–but eventually we did it (for what we understand now to be a completely fair and “good” price), and we feel more affirmed than ever in our goals and designs.
Yes, the price on our garments might be more that what the average consumer is accustomed to paying in this world of cheap, disposable fashion, but here’s something to consider: What if “a good price” meant that the cost of the item actually reflected its true value all the way down the line, from the manufacturer to the supply chain to the producer of the raw materials? What if “a good price” meant a decent wage for every human being involved in the production and the enforcement of responsible environmental and health standards? What if we all thought of these things when looking at a price tag with the goal not being to spend as little as possible, but to exchange our own resources for something with meaning and integrity?
The higher cost for a better alternative is an ongoing discussion in our community, yet we are encouraged that there are other ways to refuse participation in fast fashion. Thrift and consignment stores, clothing swaps, wardrobe repair and “upcycling” are all ways of rejecting the prevailing system with minimal cost. Increasing awareness of personal lifestyle and consumer habits are powerful tools in shifting personal patterns. Individuals can quickly learn that a sense of well- being is not necessarily compromised by consuming less, but can in fact be enhanced by such reevaluation. We support and encourage all of these efforts.
In the spirit of full transparency, we are excited to offer you a pricing breakdown of one of our own garments – the beloved Brigit Overalls. We think it’s important that consumers are fully aware of what things cost, and that they know where their money is going when they make purchases! Because exact numbers are constantly changing due to fluctuating material costs, etc, we’ve chosen to break down our pricing via pie chart, the sections are as follows:
Materials: The materials we’ve committed to using (natural, non-toxic, responsibly grown) are in lower demand and are therefore more expensive to produce, leading to longer lead times. The more consumer demand there is for these types of materials, the easier it will be to get them and economy of scale will encourage the prices to come down a bit.
Labor: Local labor at fair market price is much higher here than overseas, where most of the clothing we wear has been sewn. In many cases, the garment workers making our $10 jeans and $5 tank tops have been paid well below poverty level, if at all.
Operating/Administrative Costs: Website infrastructure, shipping and shipping materials, non-production related labor and wages, taxes, etc.
Net Profit: What will go back into the company for new designs and production, sourcing, planning events (conferences and workshops), creating content around education and awareness which serves to increase demand and lower costs, networking, investing in future regenerative fiber material, training future Lady Fiber Farmers, etc.
1% for the Planet: As members of this organization, we give 1% of sales to our non-profit partner, Fibershed, to aid in the advancement in their work of developing regional fibersheds domestically.
We’re incredibly proud of what we’ve made. We believe that each garment, born of a passion to heal what is broken, has the potential to tell a story that will shift a paradigm. We’re excited to share more about what makes them so special, and why we believe we are left with no other option than to vote with our dollars and to spread the message that as consumers, we have the power to truly change the world.
Thanks for following along,
Emma (& Mary)