Shop Small 2013

A 365 day challenge

Archive for the tag “small businesses”

Day 31: Did we stay on budget shopping small businesses?

As we’ve reached the end of the first month, the $25,000 question is, am I staying on budget while shopping small.

Before we get to the answer, let me preface with the fact that January is always an expensive month for us (why does it seem like January is the LONGEST of 31 day months?): the kids are on holiday break, then back to school grocery shopping, restocking household items, etc.

The five categories mainly affected in this challenge are groceries, dining out, general shopping (dog food, vitamins, & non-essentials), “non-target” (toilet paper, cleaning supplies, household essentials), and gas.

I read in the Tribune that the average family of 4 (with two school-age kids) spends $235/week in groceries. Even shopping organically, that seems a little high to me. My weekly budget is closer to $125 (family of 4, kids are 11 & 10). Which would be about $625 for the month of January.

So…did I do it?

Yes and no.

Since there wasn’t truly 5 weeks in January, my grocery budget was $560. I spent…

Still under $625 and only $6 over my budget. I’d say that’s pretty good. And, if you go with the Tribune’s average of $235/week, we did really good!

Adding in dining out, general shopping, “non-target”, and gas- I was about $200 over. But, I really don’t attribute that to shopping small. The dog food & vitamins I restocked last 6-8 weeks; and, with my grandma in the hospital, the extra driving equaled one extra tank of gas.

I have a feeling, though, it will all average out next month.

I don’t miss Starbucks, but I am still searching for a local indie coffee shop (I miss you Koobies!). Suggestions?

Which Small Businesses did you try for the first time this month?

Day 28: For our Four-Legged Friends!

I don’t remember how I first stumbled upon Pet Supply Outlet, but it’s been almost 7 years now and I love it just as much now as I did day one.

It’s family-owned, so chances are you’ll run into Rick or his sister, Jolene, both are fabulous.

When I first started going here my dog was just over a year old and had terrible allergies. Her incessant scratching left bald splotches all over her skin. Rick helped me find a food that would reduce her allergies and improve her coat. Her scratching stopped almost immediately, and her baldspots were soon replaced with healthy fur. We were also able to stop her prescription Benedryl.

Although every product isn’t organic, they do focus primarily on holistic foods, supplements, and treats. Don’t worry, it is an outlet, so you won’t pay a month’s grocery budget for your pet’s food!

Rick is a wealth of knowledge, though. You can even bring your dog in and he’ll help you decide which food would be best for your favorite furry friend.

Don’t have a dog? Pet Supply Outlet often has rescue days with local organizations so you can find a one that needs a loving home.

Cat lover instead? They have plenty there for you too: food, treats, and toys.

Because this is a large warehouse space, there are three other complimentary businesses within the same building: a vet, full-service grooming (or self-wash), and dog daycare/boarding. When you go to pick up your pet’s food, allow a few extra minutes so you can watch the daycare dogs play!

I love that I’m greeted by name shopping here (that’s one of my favorite parts of shopping small!), but with Pet Supply Outlet I love how much they’ve helped our family pet most of all.

Have a picture of your favorite pet?

Day 16- What’s old is new again…

If you drive approximately 30 miles east from my house, you’ll end up in Chicago. If you drive the same distance west, you end up in Morris.

Two polar opposites.

Today called for a little bit of solitude and quiet…definitely not the city.

I try to go to Morris 4-5 times a year. It’s a quaint little area with a five block downtown area. My favorite part about it- aside from the Hallmark store, they’re all small businesses. Some of them have probably been in the family since Morris was established!

My favorite vintage/resale store used to have a 2nd location in my town, but now just the original exists. It’s about 4x the size as the one we had! Set aside some time when you hit Vintage: Yesterday’s Memories, Today’s Treasures. Although it is overflowing with amazing furniture, antiques, repurposed items, and just plain awesomeness, it doesn’t feel overwhelming. You can actually follow a relative order throughout the never-ending space. But, look everywhere! Up, down, on the walls…and don’t expect to see everything the first go around. While almost everything is vintage, repurposed, or handmade, there are some “shabby chic” resale items so you will find a few “made in China” items here and there. I didn’t find anything for myself today, but I did pick up an antique lantern for my step-father. He can make a lamp out of ANYTHING!
Vintage doesn’t have a website, but follow them on Facebook and she posts great pictures of new/seasonal items.

My next stop was right across the street at Blackbird’s Bowl Barkery. This is no ordinary dog/cat pet food store. Owner Tammy Janel is the real deal in creating healthful treats and food for your furry friends. You’ll find real, human-grade ingredients in her treats- all with a conscious concern for your pet’s wellbeing. Is your pet (and you!) suffering from their incessant scratching, shedding, or digestive issues? Tammy can help suggest dietary changes and supplements all with a holistic element. Even though I buy my dog’s food closer to home, I always pick up some treats when I’m in the area- she had her nose in the bag before I could even get my coat off!

I planned on those two stores as my only stops, but Tammy told me about another store that recently opened & it’s neighbor store. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about Gigi & Lola. So glad I found them!

I’m a true sucker for vintage stores- I’ll happily take a great vintage necklace over anything in a Tiffany’s box any day. Where is your favorite vintage shop?

Day 15: Best Boys Clothes!

UPDATE (10/3/13): I’m not certain what is going on with the actual store, it was very empty the last couple of times I was in. However, they’re website is still up and offering great deals!

Today started with a quick trip back to Tischler’s & Peter Rubis.

My kids were hungry for ribs & since we haven’t had them for a couple of months I agreed. Unfortunately, there weren’t any in the display case at Tischler’s. So, I asked the man working if they happened to have any- and he said he’d be happy to cut some for me. Gross- but fantastic! Love their customer service.

I kind of over-did it at Peter Rubi’s,
image but everything has been so good. Plus, my skin doesn’t look so great, so I needed some avocados (don’t know why eating avocados helps my skin, but not complaining!).

At least shopping hungry led to more veggies instead of junk food.

On to Red 21. By far the best clothing store for boys. My son was never a “teddy bear” or “cutsie” type of boy. He’s had a ball in his hand or wheels/skates on his feet since he was two…sadly I’m really not kidding. What we have saved not buying toys for him (very few ever interested him), we’ve made up in hockey fees. Red 21 carries mostly Wes & Willy which is incredibly soft and tagless (very important for kids that hate scratchy tags/fabric). Even though he’s a “sports” kid, I’m not thrilled about Nike or Adidas splashed across everything he wears. These shirts have great sports themes without promoting any specific teams. Not a sporty family? Don’t worry, they have plenty of pirates, dinosaurs, dogs, rock & roll, and preppy too. But, these clothes come with a bit of a price tag- $35 for an everyday shirt is a bit much for me. That’s why I watch for their 75% off sales (2-3 times a year). Word of warning, go the day it’s advertised. I waited 3 days and there was nothing in my son’s size (10-12). This is the one I really wanted, only in navy:
image 3T was the only left *sigh*

The only other non-chain store in this 30+ store “mall” is Barbara’s Bookstore. It’s definitely not “The Shop Around the Corner” but it’s ok. The youngest employee seemed most familiar with the books I wanted and had some decent recommendations, but they didn’t have them in-stock. The do have a decent selection of unique magazines, but it didn’t have a cozy, curl-up and read kind of atmosphere: I felt more claustrophobic & anxious.

Any recommendations for a favorite bookstore?

Day 14: Concrete Jungle Where Dreams are Made From: Chelsea Market

Ok, I’m not really in New York, though I so wish I were.

My step-father is there right now, so I guess I have to live vicariously through him.

Although my day was bursting with excitement, I figured you’d rather hear about two of my favorite NYC spots than about cleaning the house and taking my daughter to swimming. Jealous, right?

One of my favorite things about Manhattan is the abundance of small businesses, chains are actually the rarity. Although when I was there in November, I was a little surprised by the number of Dunkin’ Donuts.

Back to New York. Anytime someone from my family heads to NYC, the same question is asked, are you going to Chelsea Market or Fishs Eddy? Yes? Here’s my list!

Chelsea Market is its own enclosed oasis. There is truly something for everyone here, and the Food Network actually films upstairs. (I’ve never run into any “celebs” while shopping at the mini-grocery) Fine by me, more lobster bisque from The Lobster Place for me! Need a sweet treat? The packaging for Fat Witch bakery brownies are adorable, but they’re aren’t my favorite. L’arte del Gelato, on the other hand, has incredible fresh gelato. Inspired to cook & bake at home? Bowery Kitchen Supply has everything you could possibly need.


Now that you’re cooking- get thee to Fishes Eddy!

It is a plethora of fun mugs, plates, serving pieces, and linen. Kitchy, vintage, even a gift registry. I have to admit, I had serious juice glass envy with the set my sister gave my 92-year-old grandma! They do deliver, but you definitely want to spend some time in the store if you’re in the area. What’s on my wishlist today? The Spiral Floral Italian Wine (or juice) glass- $6.00.

imageWarren are you reading this?!

Day 13- So disappointed…

Had a nice start to my Sunday…brunch with mom.  No, it wasn’t at an indie restaurant, but remember my theory- if someone is kind enough to make me a meal (or take me for one) I’m certainly not going to complain!

I enjoyed some solo mom/daughter time- and some delicious crab legs!  Thanks mom!

On my way home I wanted to pick up some lunch meat for school lunches.  There’s a cute little deli, Ellie’s deli, between our houses that I always liked.  Though I couldn’t always understand the Polish man who owned it, he was always friendly and always got my kids to try something new. A bag of amazing potato/cheese pierogies from their freezer would make its way into are basket too. Today when I arrived, new owners. I guess I haven’t been there as recently as I thought- new owners have been there at least 3 months. While it still looks relatively the same, the charm is gone. Instead of pierogies, the freezer is stocked with On-core frozen meals. And while the new owner’s son was very nice, I really didn’t want to see his “belted” jeans half-way down his ass. Something tells me, come next summer, there won’t be a bunch of kids on bikes enjoying an ice cream treat in front of the deli anymore.

A disappointing change.

Another reason why it’s important to support our favorite small businesses…more frequently.

Day 10: Downtown Glen Ellyn Shopping

Today was a good day.  Got to hang out with my sister for a while which is a rare treat.

My sister is a chef and culinary instructor, and she was in need of Indian spices.  Spice & Rice is the real deal for any Indian ingredients you may need.  The owner is extremely helpful and found all of the spices she requested, even recommended others that were better quality or flavor. Since I didn’t know what she was making & I only had a list, he said it was no problem to bring any of them back if she preferred seeds over powders. If you aren’t already using garam masala in any of your dishes, go pick some up! They’re a family run business and incredibly friendly. Don’t expect much from their website, their true business is in their store.

After picking up the spices, my sister and I met at the new Blackberry Market. Barely a month old and the place was packed. The line for sandwiches & salads was almost to the door, but it did move quickly. I opted for the bakery line and had the best blueberry muffin I’ve ever had. I was hoping for more “market,” but there were a few things for sale: organic cotton tea towels, condiments, and a gorgeous recycled sari table runner- definitely out of my price range at $95. Food prices were more in line with Panera, but certainly looked more delicious. Based on customer’s comments, the food is fantastic. Looking forward to going back to try a meal, and picking up a few muffins for the road!

On to Marcel’s Culinary Experience. If you’re looking for a special gift for someone who’s happiest in the kitchen, this is the spot. The store is beautiful, ample space for all of the culinary classes, and they carry some unique items you won’t find at Williams Sonoma or Sur la Table; I love the Chamba bowls. But, unless money is no object, it’s not for everyday shopping. Even at 40% off it’s expensive. Gorgeous, high-quality, and great for browsing. I have tried a couple of classes though & they’re fantastic: entertaining, educational, and include wine or beer!

For the most part, shopping in this town is spendy, but you can find some good sales. M & Em’s (adorable kids clothes & a nice selection of women’s wear) is one of my daughter’s favorite stores. Aside from clothes they have fun gifts, jewelry, and basically everything that makes 11 year old girls happy. Score on the sale rack, fleecy pj pants for $5 (from $20) and a cute top for myself. I asked if I could exchange sale items if they didn’t fit my daughter, I received an emphatic no. Another sales person questioned the owner(?) if I couldn’t just exchange for size- I was slightly worried the woman was going to lose her job from the death stare she received.

Last stop, AliKat. I love boutique stores, hate sterotypical sales clerks. I received a once-over look, and no hello. I normally would have left right then, but I was curious how long it would take for someone to say hello- 4 1/2 minutes- from a different sales person. As I left I overheard the clerks discussing how slow business was. Hmmm.

Day 9: Door to Door Organics

Someday I will happily live within walking distance to a cute little flower shop, farmer’s market, and a bakery with fresh bread.

I’ll have a basket on my bike & I’ll never have to drive again. Bliss.

Seriously, I hate driving. The exception- gorgeous summer days, the windows down, and music blasting as I cruise along the highway. Other than that, I can do without driving.

That’s why today’s delivery was perfect: Door to Door Organics.   Awesome!

Essentially, they’re a farmer’s market brought to your door. They have assorted sizes of fruit/veggie boxes (substitutions are allowed) as well as groceries, dairy, and meats.

Aside from delicious (and mostly organic) produce, virtually everything is from midwest farms. And the best part- they brought it all right to my door!

A week’s worth of groceries for $70!

I have to admit, so far I’m a little surprised that I’m spending less on groceries shopping small & local this year than I did last year at the grocery stores.

I’m not certain if it’s because I haven’t had to replace staples yet (flour, sugar, cereal) or if it’s because I’m getting more creative with using what’s in the house. Normally, if I’m missing an ingredient I’d run to Target & pick it up, along with a bunch of crap I didn’t need. Now, I look for a susbtitution I have on hand.

Although it’s kind of a pain in the ass to plan every meal a week in advance, it is really nice to avoid the “I’m starving- what are we having for dinner” frenzy.

Want to know what’s on the menu?

Day 8

It arrived!!

I mentioned yesterday that I was waiting for something cool…it’s here!


What is it you ask?

Well, a wise group of friends got together and decided that they were tired of paying high prices for trendy glasses. They also didn’t like trying on glasses without being able to get other’s advice (besides that of the person trying to sell them). So, this intelligent group formed their own little company- Warby Parker– and they send you (for FREE!) 5 pairs of glasses to try & model for friends. And…they’re packaged in this snazy cool box!
What’s the catch? You have 5 days to return them (for FREE!). At that point you can send them your prescription & they make them for you, or you can try another five pairs. Oh, did I mention they’re under $100! Available for men & women- sunglasses & monocles (send me a pic if you own one of these!) too. Thanks for the great tip, Dana!
*Forgot to mention the coolest part! When you buy a pair, they donate a pair to someone in need!

Feeling artsy in my “tester specs” I decided to get crafty. We’re in the process of changing my son’s room to a sport theme and I’m upcycling his dresser into a desk. Gone are the zebra drawer pulls, but the baseball ones I found were $12 each. Since I’m not willing to pay $48 for drawer pulls, I decided to give it a shot myself. My favorite online eco-friendly (small) business, Favor the Earth, carries mini-vegan nail polish for $5. I already had the white, so I figured I’d paint them with that! Just need to add one more coat and the red baseball “stitches.”

After school, it was back to Salon Giovanni for my daughter’s haircut. All three of us are now well-coifed for the next 3-4 months!

My pork-chops for tonight’s dinner didn’t defrost yet (so much for planning ahead!), so while we waited for her at the salon, my son & I walked down to our other local meat market, Miller’s Old Fashioned Butcher Shop. Since I don’t eat much red meat, I don’t go here very often, but the owner is always friendly & helpful. Apparently if you’re a hunter he does deer processing too. Although meatloaf and potato salad is not my favorite, the kids had seconds and were quite happy!

Of course, if we picked up dinner, we needed dessert too. Cathy’s Sweet Shop is a couple of doors down from Miller’s- and Blackhawk’s cookies prevailed. Plus a couple of kolacky cookies (buy one get one free after 3:00) and a lemon bar!

Looking for a suggestion for photo printing. Ideas?

*Forgot to mention the coolest part about Warby Parker. When you buy a pair, they donate a pair to someone in need! They’re like the Toms of eye-glasses!

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