“Could this be an heirloom someday?”

by Kristen on June 5, 2012 · 85 comments

in Green and Frugal

I recently read Garbology, a new book by Edward Humes (Laura Vanderkam recommended it to me), and I thought it was a really, really excellent book.

I’ll tell you more about it when I do a “What I’ve been reading” post, but in a nutshell, it’s a book about the study of garbage…how much we produce (102 tons per person per lifetime on average!), where it goes, how other countries in the world are handling their trash problems, and what we can do about it here in the U.S.

For the moment, though, I wanted to talk about one concept in the book that really stuck out to me.

Andy Keller, the owner of Chico Bag (a reusable bag company) is quoted as saying that we should be looking at the kinds of things we purchase and ask:

“Is this thing I’m buying going to be in the trash in a year or two? Or is it going to be useful and treasured for many years to come?”

And:

“If you’re buying something and thinking it could be an heirloom someday, then you’re on the right track.”

Trash is a complicated problem, yes, and there are aspects of our trash problem that we can’t personally do anything about.

But we are not doomed to produce 102 tons of trash before our lives are over. We make choices every day about what we will buy and what we will not buy.

When we buy products that are made to last, we’re decreasing demand for disposable, junky products and increasing demand for well-made items.

Do heirloom items cost more?

Yup, they do, at least up front.

But I am not necessarily convinced that they’re more expensive over the long haul.

For example, I own two Vollrath cookie sheets. At nearly $21 apiece, they’re not cheap. But they are incredibly heavy-duty, they don’t have a non-stick finish that will wear out, and I cannot imagine that they will ever warp. In short, these two cookie sheets should last me the rest of my life, and my descendants will probably still be able to use them.

Before I got the Vollrath sheets, I owned flimsier sheets (airbake sheets, nonstick sheets) and they didn’t last. They warped, the nonstick finish chipped, the edges bent, and they are no longer in my kitchen drawer.

If I kept buying cookie sheets like that, I’d easily spend more than $42 over my lifetime, and I’d produce a fair amount of cookie sheet trash.

So the more expensive, heirloom-ish option reduces my trash output and ends up being less expensive after all.

This is especially true if you can find a high-quality used item.

The bed I bought for Zoe is almost all wood and it cost me $50. When the new white paint finish wears out, I can fix it. Or if we get tired of the white, I can change it. There’s no reason that bed can’t be in our family for a really, really long time.

On the flipside, I recently saw a bed frame that was made of particle board with a sort of wood-look vinyl coating on it. This is not the sort of thing Keller would encourage us to buy…the finish on that bed frame won’t hold up, and there’s no fixing it when it wears out. Refinishing particle board furniture is normally not a successful endeavor, and trying to repair broken pieces is a nightmare. Once it begins to wear out (and it will in fairly short order), it will be no good to anyone.

If only a handful of us adopt an heirloom mindset as we shop, we won’t make a very big difference. But many handfuls of people can effect huge cultural change.

Obviously, not everything we buy can be an heirloom…you won’t hand your toothbrushes down to your grandchildren (although you can buy compostable toothbrushes!) and food won’t be in my will. ;)

But whenever possible, before you buy something that’s supposed to last, join me in asking, “Will this be useful and treasured for years to come?”

If the answer to that question is no, then maybe you don’t need the item.

Or perhaps there’s a better quality item out there that you can save up for.

And maybe you can even find that high-quality item on the used market.

We can do this, people! Let’s buy things that last…the planet and our bank accounts will be happier for it.
________________________________

How do you manage to buy heirloom quality items on a budget? And what do you think about the whole concept of shopping with heirloom quality in mind?

Leave a Comment

{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alison June 5, 2012 at 8:25 am

I definitely agree with making purchases that last a very long time. We have found that one of the best ways to do this (especially with furniture) is to buy used. For example, we are moving into a new home later this month that has an office at the front of the house. It is the first thing that will be seen as you walk in the door. I was able to find a solid oak desk in good condition for $25 at a thrift store. It will need new handles and a little bit of love, but it is going to be perfect. I can’t imagine what the desk would have cost new, certainly not a price I would be willing to pay. Good quality, for a great price!

I’m headed over to my library website right now to see if they have Garbology. Thanks for the book report.

Reply

2 Linda in MA June 5, 2012 at 8:29 am

I am thinking about my stuff a lot lately as I clean out my basement. So much stuff that I need to organize and get rid of. A lot of what I buy is used, but still, do I need it? No, especially if it is not a tool and ends up in my basement.

Reply

3 Theresa June 5, 2012 at 8:33 am

This is kinda funny – we spent last night hanging a crystal chandelier that had been my grandmother’s over the landing of our stairs. It came via my parents who replaced it with one of their parent’s chandeliers. (Yes, that’s a lot of light floating around our houses!). But I am so happy looking at it and can’t wait for the sunlight to come streaming in through the window creating cascading rainbows of light along the stairs and walls. The previous fixture was a simple light – a recessed canister which now resides in the attic – serviceable but uninspiring. This new (to us) lovely light will grace the home of one of our children some day – a treasure, an heirloom, a piece of family passing from generation to generation.

Reply

4 Jessie@Jessie:Improved June 5, 2012 at 8:49 am

I also buy used for quality (which for some people seems an oxymoron). Real wood furniture, high quality clothing – I’ve even found somebody’s grandma’s pots and pans in the thrift store that have been around 40 years and will probably be around 40 more. I still have the cheap baking sheets that we registered for when we got married 8 years ago (when we didn’t know any better) but I can guarantee I’ll be getting some nice ones this time around. I always ask myself, “Can I make this the last X I ever buy?” If the answer is yes, I usually go for it.

Reply

5 Jessy M June 5, 2012 at 8:56 am

Unfortunately, many people think the opposite. Conversation I heard yesterday: “The dollar store is the greatest place to take the kids! When the toys they pick out break you don’t feel bad throwing them out because they were so cheap!”. OH DEAR. What do you say to people like this?

Reply

6 Suzette @ jambalaya June 5, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Ohh…*groan*…that is just disgusting.
No idea what you say – honestly I’d probably just walk away, otherwise I say something entirely too abrasive!

Reply

7 Joan June 6, 2012 at 1:58 am

I normally answer sorry I would rather buy something that last now than have my kids living in housing that was built over a rubbish dump when they grow up.

Cause there’s only so much space before that’s whats going to happen.

Reply

8 WilliamB June 5, 2012 at 8:59 am

I try to buy for the time period and frequency I expect to use the thing. Desk? One inch oak plywood with mortise and tenon joints. Nonstick skillet I use just for eggs? Inexpensive. Butterfly-shaped cake needed for a single event? Tin foil.

Surprisingly, two of my Ikea dressers not only lasted several moves, but passed muster with my fancy-dancy interior decorator friend. I expect to replace them before I die but no time soon.

My airbake cookie sheets have gone the distance for me, I wonder what happened to yours?

Reply

9 Battra92 June 5, 2012 at 9:03 am

My mother, a “freelance” baker on the side, got into the whole airbake fad but said they didn’t last for her either. She also was unimpressed by the bottoms on the cookies. They didn’t burn but they didn’t brown, either.

I just got her two Nordic Ware commercial type aluminum sheet pans and it was like I gave her gold. :P

Reply

10 Jen June 5, 2012 at 11:52 am

My airbake sheets have held up fine but I don’t like the way they bake either.

Reply

11 Kristen June 5, 2012 at 10:55 pm

Me neither. I hate how blonde the bottoms of my baked goods are.

Reply

12 WilliamB June 5, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I use silpat sheets on airbake and like the results. Breads and biscuits get brown on the bottom, I’ll have to check the cookies’ bottoms next time I make them.

Reply

13 Battra92 June 5, 2012 at 9:00 am

There’s an old saying that says “Buy cheap, buy twice.” It’s not *always* the case but it is true to an extent.

The interesting thing for me is, a lot of the things I already own are already heirlooms or at least second hand. While I lust for some nice All-Clad (or even Tramontina Tri-Ply) sauce pans and skillets, I know that there’s something to be said for owning my wife’s grandmother’s set of RevereWare pans she got in the fifties Heck, I even repaired them by replacing a handle that her grandmother broke in the 1980s.

Which brings me to another point, her grandmother lived with a broken handle sauce pan for over 20 years! I spent the $9 for a new handle and repaired it. Most people I know would’ve thrown it away!

I get picked on at work sometimes for being a bit eccentric when it comes to reusing and saving things to reduce garbage use (or at least give it another stop before it makes its way to the landfill.) Just today I brought in cookies using an empty breadcrumbs container (I didn’t buy them, I swear ;) )

Reply

14 Barrie June 5, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Haha my parents Farberware sauce pan has a broken handle and has had one since I can remember. I should go online and see if I can get a new handle. It’s just a screw on, there’s nothing really crazy about it.

Similarly, I somehow lost a couple of the attachments to our vacuum. I contemplated buying a new vacuum altogether, but went online and found replacements, pretty reasonably priced too!

Reply

15 Jo@simplybeingmum June 5, 2012 at 9:31 am

Poignant post today Kristen, as I have just received a notification that ‘Trial Food Waste Recycling Scheme’ in my area has been scrapped. Apparently ‘results indicate that the amount of food waste collected is minimal’ and ‘not financially viable’. Okay so my food waste won’t become an heirloom, but it does lead back to the question of when you buy something ‘what will you do with it when no longer required’.
As a conscious spender I have 10 questions I ask myself before purchasing anything!

Reply

16 Virginia Dare June 5, 2012 at 9:31 am

I work in the “garbology” field. It’s a field that many look down on, but it’s the best job security around because garbage never stops. Nothing makes you realize just how much material we throw out until you visit a landfill or other disposal facility and see it all piled up–and that’s just part of one day’s worth that you are seeing. I think they should add field trips like that to school curricula whenever possible, just like they do field trips to courthouses and hospitals and jails. You just can’t wrap your head around 3,000 tons of waste (that’s the daily amount generated in my municipality) until you see it!

Reply

17 priskill June 5, 2012 at 10:14 am

Yes — just as important as trips to museums and historical sites — kids (and Me, too) need to be bowled over by the amount of sheer waste! Brilliant suggestion, if we really mean to change things.

Reply

18 Suzette @ jambalaya June 5, 2012 at 11:53 pm

WoW! What a great idea- I just saw my first landfill over a year ago (24 yrs old) and I was just totally shocked. When my husband brings the garbage out I just get a wee bit sad for a moment. I actually drive to the neighboring town to recycle because we “outside city limits” of our town and so we can’t recycle – is that so crazy or what!?

Reply

19 Lili@creativesavv June 5, 2012 at 9:32 am

I think when we buy quality (whether we buy it used or new), we feel more inclined to make a repair on it rather than toss it. And often, the parts needed to make these repairs are still available.
You know how frustrating it is when after just a few years with a vacuum, something breaks, you take it in to be repaired and they tell you that the parts are no longer available. Or, with dishes, you buy a set, break a few, and when you go to replace them, you discover that the manufacturer no longer makes that pattern. It truly pays to do the research before you buy, on whether or not something will have replaceable parts.
The other thing about quality products that I appreciate, is there seems to be less plastic involved in the construction. Plastic is a great material, but it can’t be repaired as readily as wood or metal. And plastic doesn’t decompose in a landfill with ease, as wood or paper will.

Reply

20 Meredith June 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm

I just found my everyday dishes that were given to us 19 years ago as a wedding present at Goodwill. I was able to buy 3 dinner plates for 50 cents each that had never been used to replace 3 that had broken over the 19 yeas. Love Goodwill!!!

Reply

21 Kristen June 7, 2012 at 8:51 pm

I found some of my dishes there too! And they’re over 15 years old. Love that.

Reply

22 Shannon June 5, 2012 at 9:59 am

Cost per use is what I think you are getting at.

Example, if I spend 250 dollars on professional hair dryer and it lasts me for 20 years (or more) and I use it daily, it’s cheaper in the long run than buying a 20 dollar hair dryer every year for 20 years (400 dollars, 150 dollar savings).

Reply

23 Libby June 5, 2012 at 10:04 am

I’m laughing at this post while sitting at my late 1800′s dining room table that originally belonged to my great grandparents while working on my laptop! This dichotomy illustrates the value of quality-made, timeless design that can last and fit in with “modern” needs and decor.

When I lived in Europe 30 years ago, I was amazed at the high prices of clothing. What I learned from the mother of the family I lived with in France, is that French women normally purchased only 1-2 new items of clothing each year but expected them to last for decades. They “jazzed things up” using accessories. What a 180 degree difference from our throw away mentality.

Great post Kristin!

Reply

24 Virginia Dare June 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I am constantly disappointed in the quality of clothes, even so-called “better” brands, and especially knits. As I was putting away my maternity clothes after my baby was born, I was kind of shocked at how worn they were. Granted, I wore the same stuff every single day, but I also was able to wear a lot of my non-maternity shirts for most of my pregnancy. I wore lounging clothes whenever I was home, and extended the need to launder my work clothes by wearing undershirts, and they still looked bad. Doesn’t 4 pairs of pants and a dozen or so tops seem like enough clothing to keep most everything from looking shabby after only 7 months? Even my maternity coat looked pretty bad, and my baby was born in January so I only wore it for about 2.5 months!
BTW, the stuff I got from JCP looked much better than the items I bought from the maternity store–which included that coat!

Reply

25 Suzette @ jambalaya June 5, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Same issue – on my second pregnancy and so disappointed at how my clothes are nearly thread bear and I still have 6-8 weeks to go! My husband recently asked if we could save-up and purchase high quality classic pieces of clothing rather than superstore and mall clothing. Hopefully we can get some good quality American made pieces!

Reply

26 Lisa S June 5, 2012 at 10:11 am

It’s funny you talk about your cookie sheets. Mine are something I would absolutley never part with. My grandfather owned a sheet metal business. My cookie sheets are ones he made in his shop for my grandmother, maybe 80 years ago. So much of what is in my kitchen came from either my grandmother’s house or my MIL’s house. And I love all of it. I prefer glass to plastic anyway since it’s easier to clean and doesn’t take on smells. We’ve made a conscious effort to reduce waste in our home, but I think we were already doing pretty well. My husband will try to fix almost anything and a lot of what we have has been passed down to us. I’ve been amazed at the replacement parts he’s been able to find on ebay. 25 years ago I thougt we paid a lot for our used Electrolux vacuum. But it still works just fine!

Reply

27 Elspeth @ paper armour June 5, 2012 at 10:27 am

I don’t know about the “food not being in your will” thing. ;) My husband’s grandfather left a large pantry full of canned goods behind when he passed away, and those are still edible and yummy.

Reply

28 Virginia Dare June 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm

When my grandfather passed suddenly, my grandmother did not have to buy canned goods for a year because he had stockedpiled so much in the garage. :-)

Reply

29 maria in chicago June 5, 2012 at 10:28 am

Another important and thoughtful post! Thanks for writing this. We are unfortunately part of an incredibly wasteful society, and we need to stand back and look at how to change this. Didn’t know about this book–I’ll check it out.

Reply

30 Karen June 5, 2012 at 10:48 am

This reminds me of that captioned picture going around the internet — an old couple with the statement that they attribute their long marriage to the fact that they’re from a time when if something is broken, you fix it instead of throwing it out. I like that!

Reply

31 Laura Vanderkam June 5, 2012 at 11:15 am

Glad you liked the book! It certainly had me looking at some objects differently. Like a $1 party favor that’s a plastic bubble container shaped like a popsicle. It’s a momentary pleasure for a kid — and priced appropriately — but that plastic will still be around long after we’re all moldering in the grave.

Reply

32 Sara Tetreault June 5, 2012 at 11:18 am

Most of the “heirlooms” around our home are items that were purchased second-hand. Reducing the amount of trash generated is a daily goal in our home and I try to keep this in mind whether I’m buying food or anything else for our household.

Reply

33 Ada June 5, 2012 at 11:21 am

I saw a really engrossing movie about garbage called Waste Land. It is available streaming on Netflix. It’s about garbage pickers in Brazil and an artist who visits them to make art out of the garbage. It’s a great film, wonderful cinematography and beautiful to look at. Also some heartbreaking moments but I think you’d enjoy it.

Reply

34 Elaine in Ark June 7, 2012 at 12:15 pm

When one the guys I worked many years ago with came back from a business trip to India, he told us about the people who literally live ON the mounds of garbage. They have metal shanties and they spend all day walking through the mounds looking for things they can eat, use, or sell. Can you imagine the smell and the diseases? They almost never leave the dumps. That kind of poverty is so sad…

Reply

35 Lili@creativesavv June 5, 2012 at 11:45 am

Here’s something to think about. In the history of mankind, the use of landfills is a relatively recent development. Prior to landfills, people “discarded” no longer used items on their own property. If you took everything that you have disposed of in a landfill, over the course of your tenancy at your current residence, and disposed of it on your property, how pleased would you be to look out your window? How big a hill would your no-longer-of-use possessions mount? As Earth’s population continues to grow, empty places continue to shrink, landfills will be in someone’s backyard, if not already, sometime soon. Is this the legacy we want to leave to our grandchildren?

Reply

36 Cate June 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm

That’s a great way to think about it. Right now trash just goes “away.” But that won’t always be the case. I try to give away as much as possible for that reason (and limit what comes into the house in the first place).

Reply

37 Kristen June 5, 2012 at 10:56 pm

Yep, that’s definitely part of the problem. We don’t actually see where our trash goes.

Reply

38 Starr@ The Kiefer Cottage June 5, 2012 at 11:47 am

I have this dirty-looking cookie sheet my MIL gave me–it is commercial grade, and I will never part with it unless it turns to shards, which isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. Love it.

When I buy furniture, I don’t buy anything I have to put together myself (you know, in a flat box that’s small but weighs 300lb), unless we’re buying the solid wood to construct something. I bought my girls a pair of 3/4 size beds at an antique store, and they are so beautiful. They are obviously very old, too. While the custom mattresses were a tad more money, I’m very glad to have gotten such solid beds.

The only thing I can think of that I purposefully buy cheap is an egg pan. Non-stick pans, even the expensive ones, don’t have very long lives, and while I’ve got beautifully seasoned cast iron pans, I prefer dedicated non-stick for eggs.

Reply

39 EcoCatLady June 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Try a well seasoned cast iron pan for eggs. Works MUCH better, is non toxic and will last forever. You can probably pick up an old one at a thrift store for a dollar or two. You may need to sand off some rust and re-season it, but it will be well worth the effort!

Reply

40 EcoCatLady June 5, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Oops! Just read more carefully and saw that you don’t like cast iron for eggs… I’m baffled – my eggs come out perfect in cast iron!

Reply

41 Kathy June 5, 2012 at 12:03 pm

This topic is so relevant to me. Two weeks ago, I realized that I really had to replace my kitchen knives. I decided to spring for a small set of Henckle knives. $150 with a coupon. The minute I used them I realized what I had been missing in terms of less stress on my hands; I have arthritis and these top shelf knives
are worth every penny. I wish I had bought them years ago! I expect they will last and last.

Reply

42 WilliamB June 5, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Some of my knives were my parents’ Henkels: 55 years on them and counting. All I have to do is keep them sharp.

Reply

43 Kathy June 5, 2012 at 12:14 pm

They are amazing! Do you hand wash them?

Reply

44 WilliamB June 5, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I do, my parents didn’t. For all the hoo-rah we hear about treating good knives carefully, these Henkels survived 45+ years of mistreatment needing only a good sharpening.

Except for the long slicer. Pop tried to use is to lever something open. Don’t try this at home … or anywhere else. Now it’s a short slicer and the favorite story of our itinerant knife-grinder.

Reply

45 Battra92 June 5, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I wish my parents had knives worth passing down to me. ;)

My grandmother did have a superb set of cast iron skillets but those went to a family friend. :(

Reply

46 WilliamB June 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm

I suppose buying your parents some good knives to pass down to you isn’t quite what you had in mind…

Reply

47 Jen June 5, 2012 at 12:05 pm

My mother chose to wear my grandmother’s wedding band to save money and feel close to her mom when she was starting her married life (her mother had died when she was 12. Now, I’m wearing it. I think it’s lovely to be wearing a ring with so much family history and that did not require me to purchase any gold being mined in a manner I find morally reprehensible.
I do think about this issue when making medium-large purchases–it’s the little stuff that drives me crazy. Why do crackers have to be packaged in little plastic trays? Why are small appliances now disposable? And let’s not even talk about computers, iphones, ipads and all those other electronics. And electronics are full of expensive metals that cause lots of disposal problems.

Reply

48 romney June 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I can beat that. Not only am I wearing my grandmother’s wedding ring, but she got it second-hand! And its not even an expensive ring, so working out the cost per year – well, we must be into just pennies now.

Reply

49 Kris June 5, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Jen, you bring up an excellent point about electronics and appliances. My parents and in-laws have been using the same appliances for decades. If you go to an appliance store today, the salespeople will tell you that the lifespan of an appliance is much less than 20 years–probably closer to 10. And I shudder to think of all the electronics clogging up our landfills. So I agree that buying quality will affect longevity … but what do we do about manufacturers who produce items with a short life-span?

BTW, we have found that Goodwill happily accepts old electronics to use in job skills training. Isn’t that a great concept?

Reply

50 Surviving and thriving on pennies June 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm

So proud of your post here!! Your blog has been ever evolving and I love it! Shared this on my fb blog . I hope someday to pass down my heirlooms to my children. Including my 12 pc cast iron pan set I was lucky enough to get from my grandmother. Way to go Frugal Girl!

Reply

51 Thrifty Mom in Boise June 5, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Great way to look at purchasing. I concur. Not only will it save us from throwing more trash in our landfills but money down the road. Thanks for this post!

Reply

52 Megg June 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm

We don’t have a lot of money for nice things that will last, but I understand the sentiment. I tend to “shop” on Craigslist a lot because often I can find a high quality something (for example my 100% wood coffee tables for my living room and family room) for a lot less than I could normally afford! It’s even usually less than the particle board, could fall apart at any time furniture.

Reply

53 EcoCatLady June 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm

I agree. Getting things used is a great way to go. I have a set of cast iron cookware that I got for free because nobody wanted them at an estate sale, and they will last forever! I also have a sturdy wonderful oak desk that was probably built in the 1940′s or earlier, and my former employer tossed it because it was too big. It cost me nothing and will last as long as I can possibly use it.

I have the same philosophy with clothing… if you buy it used, you already know it’s not gonna fall apart after one washing because it’s already stood up to the test of time.

Reply

54 Kelly@thehungryegghead June 5, 2012 at 12:34 pm

When my husband and I relocated from NYC to Hong Kong we only brought necessities with us. Living in a 550sq apartment has made me evaluate each non-edible that I purchase. In short, I don’t buy a lot of things and when I do buy a dress, an old dress will be donated so that we do not accumulate more things.

Moving to Hong Kong has been a real eye-opener to me. I realized how lucky I was to be living in the US. Even though the economy in the US is really bad these days. It is still so much better than Hong Kong. Over here I see senior citizens way past retirement age performing hard labor every single day. It makes me realize that I need to save for the future and not live just for today.

Love your blog btw.

Reply

55 Jess June 5, 2012 at 1:11 pm

I love this idea, and have enjoyed hearing about the high quality products people are mentioning in the comments, I’ve been adding them to my amazon.com wishlist for when I move out on my own. Please keep sharing :)

Reply

56 WilliamB June 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Since you ask…

I think one of the best deals for the kitchen is Revereware pots and pans. They’re not the highest quality on the market by any means, but you get a lot for what you pay. They have a full-clad copper bottom (meaning the copper goes up an inch or two up the sides of the pan, rather than just on the bottom surface) but aren’t expensive, and can go in the oven up to about 400F.

Reply

57 Kristen June 5, 2012 at 10:57 pm

My mom’s old Revereware pots are SO much better than mine…mine have all warped on the bottom and are much lighter in weight than hers.

Reply

58 WilliamB June 6, 2012 at 8:29 am

Dagnabbit. So maybe put “Revereware from estate sales” on the list rather than just “Revereware.”

Anyone know how good the Kitchenaid standing mixers made in the past 10 years are? KA was bought out and ever since, I’ve been wondering if the motor quality was degraded by the new owners.

Reply

59 Katie June 6, 2012 at 3:57 pm

I have a KA stand mixer that is about 5 years old. I use it abotu 3-4 times a week and it still works and looks like new. I’m curious to see how it will hold up :)

60 WilliamB June 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm

And one more set of ideas:

If you want to be serious about cooking, you need good knives, a way to keep them sharp, and a good cutting board(s).

KNIFE: I heartily recommend starting with just two knives – a 6″ or 8″ chef’s knife, and a 3.5″ or 4″ parer. Good knives are excellent long-term buys. Best way to figure out what you want is to go to a fancy kitchen store such as Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma, and ask to try out their knives – preferably actually cutting with them and not just holding them. You’ll find out what sort of handle is comfortable for you, if you prefer Western chef’s knives or Asian, and long or short blades.

SHARPENER: The cheapest way to keep a knife sharp is a stone, YouTube has many videos of how to use one properly. Cook’s Illustrated has reliable recommendations for knife sharpeners, the least expensive recommended one is about $40. CI’s favorite is about $150.

BOARD: For board you need either softish poly or wood/bamboo. Do not, for the love of little apples, get a cutting board that’s clear poly; they are too hard, microscopically chipping your knife as you cut. There’s a lot of controversy about whether poly or wood is safer; my conclusion is there’s no consensus so get the one you prefer. Poly is cheaper. Don’t put wood or bamboo boards in the dishwasher, they come apart.

Reply

61 Cate June 5, 2012 at 3:29 pm

I would also suggest a good bread knife if you’re going to be making your own bread. I use my chef’s knife, paring knife, and bread knife about 98% of the time!

Reply

62 Barrie June 5, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Love it!! We have a ….JN Henkle/Hinkle? knife set that my Mother In Law got us on clearance at least 2-3 years ago. I think she said it was regularly priced at $600 and she got it for around $100. I’ve never had them sharpened but I probably should (I’m too much of a klutz to do it on my own. I’d slice my hand off).

Reply

63 WilliamB June 6, 2012 at 8:34 am

Definitely should. Dull knives are a hazard because they’re liable to slip off the food and cut your fingers instead. The fancy kitchen stores (Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, etc) have sharpening services, Bass Pro Shops will do it for free, and many areas have specialty stores but you have to look for them.

$100 is a great deal. A high-quality Henkel’s 8″ chef’s is on the order of $125.

PS: JA Henkel.

Reply

64 Alexis June 7, 2012 at 5:38 pm

We get our knives sharpened for free at our local grocery store (it’s an area wide chain). It’s very convenient–we just drop them off when we shop! Maybe a grocery store near you also does this?

65 Jess June 5, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Thanks William, they have been duly added. I realized that my sister has Revereware that I think is fairly old, but it is holding up really and cleans up pretty easily so it’s a double endorsement. I appreciate the suggestions :)

Reply

66 lindsey June 5, 2012 at 3:12 pm

One of my most beloved end tables is the solid oak treadle Singer my grandmother bought the week she came to the U.S. in the late 40s. She made her living as a seamstress and used that dang machine until about a week before she died at 99. When I inherited it and opened the little drawer, and found the original purchase receipt and a tiny can of oil, which she received with the purchase and must never have used.

The machine is quality from top to bottom.

Reply

67 Cate June 5, 2012 at 3:30 pm

What a lovely story.

Reply

68 SusieQT June 5, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Very thought-provoking post. As I write I am looking out at the garbage cans our neighbors just put out. Our families are the same size and age, but we have one small can that is about half full. They have two giant cans overflowing. I can see from here that it is full of cans/bottles (they don’t recycle- why???) take-out food containers and cheap plastic toys. As you might imagine, we have very different views on what is important in life!

Reply

69 EcoCatLady June 5, 2012 at 5:33 pm

I totally LOVE this post, but there is an evil flip side to the whole “heirloom” thing. My Ex was a “collector” – and to him EVERYTHING had heirloom potential. Seriously, the man would come home with things like a six-pack of Pepsi that had some dated promotional thing printed on the cans, and nobody was allowed to drink it because if it sat unopened for 50 years, it would (according to him) become a very valuable “collector’s item.” AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH! See why he’s my EX?!?

Anyhow, I think you have to take the “heirloom” thing with a grain of salt and ask yourself if the item is going to serve you well for the amount of time that you think you will require its services. I find that buying things used is a great option because you can already see if it’s gonna stand up to the test of time or not.

Reply

70 Barrie June 5, 2012 at 9:08 pm

My parents are like this (sorry mom if you read these comments!). They say everything has “value”, but I tell them, it only has value if someone wants it! My husband and I are buying their house and they’re moving into an in-law that’s 1/3 of the size of their house, and I’m getting really nervous because every time I try to get them to get rid of something, they tell me how much “value” it has.

To date – I haven’t sold any of this “valuable” stuff on eBay or Craigslist. In fact, we’ve given away 2 things because no one wants to buy them.

Oh well.

Reply

71 EcoCatLady June 6, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Sometimes it feels like the fellow from the movie “The Gods Must be Crazy” where the Coke bottle becomes this incredibly valuable object. And the truth is that on some level I don’t think it’s the people who see value in every object who are really crazy, it’s the disposable culture that’s nuts. Unfortunately, if you try to save all of that “valuable” stuff, you end up living in a garbage pit! Trust me, I’ve been there, I know!

Reply

72 Audrey @ Mom Drop Box June 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm

This is such a great post, and buying quality (and less) is something I’m thinking about a lot more these days. It is amazing how cheap & flimsy so many products are- they’re built to be replaced every so often instead of to last.

Reply

73 Charis June 5, 2012 at 7:05 pm

I just bought toothbrushes with replaceable heads! So when they need replacing you’re creating less trash because you’re throwing away much smaller items.. just the heads! I’ll see how they work out.

Reply

74 Alexis June 7, 2012 at 5:43 pm

I’d love to get some of those–where did you find them? I’ve only seen electric brushes with replaceable heads.

Reply

75 Cate June 5, 2012 at 7:37 pm

I love this post, Kristen. I just got some beautiful vintage end tables from freecycle and then repainted them. During our year-long search for end tables on Craigslist and freecycle, we vetoed a bunch of them because they were particleboard or otherwise likely to fall apart easily. I will admit that sometimes cheap plastic toys and other things like that do enter our house, but over time I’m trying to prioritize quality over quantity. That can be difficult for a collector like me. I’m not as bad as EcoCatLady’s ex, but if I find something I like, I want every version…

Reply

76 Emily June 5, 2012 at 8:33 pm

I have Pampered Chef baking stones that my mother and grandmother have passed to me after years of use. Pricey, yes, but they are really fantastic! My favorite use is chocolate chip cookies, of course, but I have used it for baking a whole chicken, or bacon, or fish. They’re wonderful!

Reply

77 Barrie June 5, 2012 at 9:05 pm

We bought a very, very expensive (for us) bedroom set for our now 10 month old daughter. It’s made in the US, real stained wood, and convertible into a full sized bed. It will last her until she is in her 20s (at least) and then from there, could be either passed down to her children, or put in a spare room if she’d like.

I’m pretty cheap and get nervous about spending a lot of money, but I have started getting into the mentality that “cheaper” isn’t always better. Cheaper, sometimes, is just cheaper!! The bedroom set set that my husband bought before we were married is okay, but it’s not the best quality. It will last us at least 5-10 more years, but we could have bought something higher quality and paid more and had it for the rest of our lives. Same with our kitchen table, and other items in our house.

I’m only 28, so from here on out, once our “cheap” stuff goes, we’ll be replacing with future heirlooms.

Thanks for the quick write up on the book! I’m going to see if I can get it on my husbands Kindle from the library. Sounds interesting!

Reply

78 Lindy June 5, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Great post! You might be interested in watching “Bag It” on netflix. I watched it a couple of days ago and it really opened my eyes about waste! It was about plastic bags and the chemicals in everyday items we buy and use. I hope you can find the time to watch it. I believe it is also online, possibly youtube?

Reply

79 Kristen June 5, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Ooh, I’ll add that to my queue.

Reply

80 Heather :) :) :) June 5, 2012 at 10:18 pm

This is a great post. That’s how I”m really starting to look at things I buy, even at yard sales. I used to buy stuff because it was cute and cheap, but then my closet started looking like something out of American Pickers…and I’d either donate it or throw it away. Now I”m more “intentional” with my spending and I think about whether this would be something I would still be using a year from now and would I want to pass it on down to my kids? Great post ;) :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

Reply

81 Renee CA June 6, 2012 at 12:14 am

Haven’t read all the comments. Did anyone recommend “American Wasteland” by Jonathan Bloom? Mostly about food waste. Really helped me. Also “The Story Of Stuff” by Anne Leonard.

Reply

82 Suzette @ jambalaya June 6, 2012 at 12:14 am

So, as the 100s before me have said, great post! We are really moving towards this – only problem is that our budget is so tight that we squeak when we walk! But by slowly saving a bit each month (working on debt payoff, so savings is minimal) I know we can get to where we have a bit of money for true, true needs. Thinking of starting a 30 day buy list. Never had much luck with this before, but since our budget is tight it might go hand-in-hand! :0)

Reply

83 Rachel June 6, 2012 at 12:29 am

My mom has a few things in her kitchen I want passed on to me. She has this old US Army spoon that is durable and fits perfectly in the mouth of most jars. She also has Magnalite pots that I love cooking in. I know the popular pots and pans seem to be cast iron but I can’t eat food cooked in cast iron with any regularity. It increases my iron levels to the point I am sick as a dog. So, for me, cookware isn’t just about durability (which Magnalite has) but also health (which cast iron does not have for me).

Reply

84 Grammomsblog June 6, 2012 at 8:13 am

I was honoured when my Gramma gave me her bread pans – she finally stopped baking her own bread when she was 85!
I have many items I know my children and grandchildren will cherish – most bought second had (somebody else’s heirlooms!), like my 100+ year old dining room table with hand-carved legs and apron, for $25.00.

Reply

85 Grammomsblog June 6, 2012 at 8:13 am

I was honoured when my Gramma gave me her bread pans – she finally stopped baking her own bread when she was 85!
I have many items I know my children and grandchildren will cherish – most bought second had (somebody else’s heirlooms!), like my 100+ year old dining room table with hand-carved legs and apron, for $25.00.

Reply

Previous post:

Next post: