Non-Consumer Fails

by Katy on March 6, 2014 · 33 comments

Lettuce Fail

I strive to be frugal and aware of packaging waste and deliberate with my daily life choices. However, even I, The Non-Consumer Advocate fail with my efforts every now and then. Sometimes even all day long.

Perfection is a fallacy.

I’ve written about how much I love that Petco sells scoop-your-own cat litter, which was a fantastic zero waste alternative to the thick bags that our Costco cat litter had been coming in. However, I was 100% happy with being able to scoop our own litter, but only 0% impressed with how well the product actually performed. Clumping cat litter is supposed to hold together when activated by urine, but the Petco brand did not. This meant that our upstairs hallway always smelled like cat pee. I tried the product for at least six months, but finally admitted defeat and went back to transitionally packaged litter. I hate packaging waste, but I really hate infusing my home with eau de kitty toilette. FAIL!

Pinterest is full of beautifully photographed images of lettuce stumps resprouting on people’s windowsills. I’ve tried this method with scallions, (worked beautifully, but since scallions give me heartburn I never repeated the experiment) but my efforts to regrow lettuce were a complete and utter failure. No, let me rephrase that. My efforts were a rotten and disgusting failure! First off the stump shrank and was on the verge of falling into the water, (which is why I poked it with skewers) and then horrible little brown lettuce leaves sprouted and then stopped growing. Yes, they grew, but only to the size that Barbie and Ken would approve of. FAIL!

My mother bought me a two month gym membership for Christmas so that we could work out together. (Building strength around her new knee for her and general fitness for me.) I have gone precisely 0.0 times since getting the initial orientation. FAIL!

The last example of a Non-Consumer fail is from the Facebook group, but it garnered enough responses to be included here.

“I have a coworker who had plumbing problems this weekend. It involved the toilet (and thankfully she didn’t elaborate). She said she had to use all her towels to clean it up and then threw them all away because she’d never want to put her face to them again and that she’d just buy all new ones.”

Yes. This woman threw away her towels because they got poopy! The Facebook responses ranged from:

“We’d be broke if we threw our towels out every time some ‘very earthy and organic’ substance were found on them.”


“Even though they can be cleaned and sanitized, I would still think of the nastiness and gag everytime I tried to use one after that. Plus I wouldn’t even want to deal with touching them and trying to get them into the washer, especially if they were dripping wet with nastiness. Much easier to toss into a trash bag and be done with them.”

The general consensus was that a sanitizing wash in hot water could have saved the towels, but even if they were permanently stained, they could have been downgraded to pet towels or rags. Everyone had a strong opinion on this one!

Have you experienced any recent Non-Consumer fails? Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Megyn March 6, 2014 at 6:56 am

FAIL #1: Trying to buy snacks from the bulk section. When I calculated it out, it was far more expensive than just buying big containers of snacks (pretzels, nuts, dried fruits, etc.) at Costco. I’m sad about the packaging, but need to stick to my $400/month grocery bill for the 4 of us.

FAIL #2: I caved and bought a bunch of convenience foods and cleaning products when the stomach flu hit our house. I ended up with tons of crackers, popsicles, electrolyte waters, and Lysol products.

FAIL #3: We’ve been trying to sell my husband’s titanium wedding ring on Craigslist as it’s far too big and can’t be re-sized. It’s been on for over 3 months with no luck. The pawn shop only offered us $10 (it was well over $200!!). We were hoping to make enough off of it to get me a replacement ring (sterling band) since I lost my “nice” wedding ring last year.

FAIL #4: I’m bummed that my hubby bought a new TV and wouldn’t accept a second-hand one. At least it has a warranty, and he stayed to a budget, but I thought our 24″ box TV was working just fine.


Alexia March 6, 2014 at 7:22 am

RE: sanitizing towels in a hot water wash….some of us live in apartments with shared laundry facilities. In my building, there isn’t any truly hot water wash cycle available b/c we don’t control the water heater for the machines (best we get is lukewarm). Depending on how much “organic matter” was on the towels there could also be some left inside the machine after your wash cycle is over, which is gross to say the least if you’re sharing the machine with others.

I don’t know what I would have done with the towels myself. I’m disinclined to just throw things out, but sometimes decisions like that depend on how much damage is done to the item vs your time and capacity to deal with it. We have only a tiny fraction of the information about this woman’s situation….seems best not to be too judgemental.


Katy March 6, 2014 at 8:35 am

Good points. Also, you just never know what kind of day that woman was already having when the toilet overflowed.



Cath March 6, 2014 at 12:52 pm

When getting rid of towels please remember your local ASPCA or Humane Society. Our local Humane Society is always grateful to get them. I don’t think the dogs and cats care much where your towels have been or how stained they are as long as they’ve been cleaned before donating.


Liz March 9, 2014 at 4:21 am

I don’t have laundry facilities at all; I have to drive them to a laundromat. And how often I do that is approximately half the rate I should be doing laundry, because life is busy during the work week. I am guilty of throwing away my dog’s towel (an approximately 7-year old, ragged towel which he inherited when I finally bought new ones) because one morning as I was putting on my shoes to take him out, he peed a river on the parquet. His towel was the only casualty. It would have stunk up the house, and I still haven’t done the laundry since the incident, so… I made a wise decision.


Mary March 6, 2014 at 7:23 am

I don’t normally use ziplock baggies very often. I keep them on hand if needed for a particular situation, but generally use reusable containers or cloth zipper bags. But for the special snack mix that I made and sent into my son’s class, the teacher needed it to be portioned out to quickly hand out to the class. So I had to resort to 25 snack-sized ziplock baggies. Fail.


kim March 6, 2014 at 7:47 am

My mom bought us a one year family membership to a local museum a couple years back– we used it a lot and had great fun with it. I asked for it again for Christmas 2012- to use in 2013– never Ever stepped foot in there until November 2013 – and that was to get a small discount on gifts in the gift shop. So wasted. So much free fun that wasn’t had. Kick myself for that. Fail.


Marieann March 6, 2014 at 8:21 am

Wait!…what!…people actually throw away towels.
Hot water and some bleach will cure what ails them and when they become geriatric they are cut down for kitchen cloths…then they move to floor cloths and if they are still hanging together after that they become cat wipe ups…then and only then are they done….and they go into the garbage or the composter… The End.


livingrichonthecheap March 6, 2014 at 8:23 am

Fail – I tried regenerating celery twice. Indoors – fail, outdoors fail. It just turned into compost after a small amount of initial growth.

Fail – I tried regenerating green onions. It worked for about two weeks so I got 3 cuttings then went all slimy even though I was changing the water.

Fail – I gave up Costco for a year to save the $55 membership as felt I wasn’t getting the money out of it. We ended up paying more for over the counter meds elsewhere. When I signed up again I opted for the basic membership versus the one that rebates back. We have ended up using it much more so that would have been a good idea, but will have to wait until next year again.

Fail – We moved Provinces. Left our old decent but 10 year old bed behind, gave it to my Stepson. Bought new bed, after six months realized it was terrible on both our backs, even though we got a great deal on it. Decided to sell it and only got $300 back after buying the set for $1000. Bought what was supposed to be a special chiropractor bed for another $1200 and now 8 months later are in the same position. If it was only effecting one of us I would know it was just us but as it is really bothering both of us, we are seriously considering buying a third new bed. We regret not bringing our old bed but it wouldn’t fit in the moving truck when we moved ourselves.


cathy March 6, 2014 at 11:11 am

You can upgrade your Costco membership to the Executive level (with the cash back) at any time during the year. They’ll charge you a pro-rated amount. The only thing is that it’s not retroactive in terms of previous purchases. However…you should call customer service. If you pay the entire difference (in our area basic is $55 and Exec is $110), they might make the start date retroactive to your membership year. I can’t remember, but Costco might also be the place that has everyone on a calendar year membership.


Allison March 6, 2014 at 8:24 am

I wouldn’t feel too bad about the kitty litter. Have you asked how they get the scoop-your-own litter into those bins? I would be willing to bet that they don’t reuse the containers it comes in. They probably just dump in giant bags or plastic tubs, possibly not very different from the biggest ones that are on the shelves. It’s definitely worth the effort to reduce waste, but it’s not just about what the end-consumer sees, it’s everything that gets the product to that point.


Christy T March 7, 2014 at 8:58 am

Thank you for this! I’m sure buying in bulk is better – but it isn’t “zero-waste”. There’s still the transportation of it, and whatever it was stored in to begin with. Yes, it’s possible to reduce *your* waste to almost zero, but only if you don’t count the waste leading up to a product ending up in your hands.

I love being able to buy in bulk and bring my own containers. But I certainly don’t buy everything in bulk and while it might be a bit more wasteful, it’s only, say 10% more rather than 100% more.


tna March 6, 2014 at 9:58 am

Toilet towels? I could tell myself that there are people in our modern world that burn animal poop to cook their food, or even how it’s totally acceptable to reuse cloth diapers….so what’s the difference? But I’m not frugal and minimalist to be some modern anti-culture martyr. Saving money and living simply makes me happy and frees up a lot of time and effort. Dealing with those towels beyond their use as a means to clean up a major mess does not fit into that mindset, and could possibly scar me for life. I would just hope nobody was dumpster diving on that particular day.


Maureen March 6, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Home made laundry detergent — FAIL! We have hard well water and after about 6 months of using the home made laundry detergent, it left our clothes yellow and dingy and spotty. I’ve gone back to buying laundry detergent and our clothes look so much better. Even my husband noticed how bad the clothes were looking.

Luckily I will not be throwing out all the leftover homemade laundry detergent as my sister was going to make some for herself and try it. I told her she could have mine. She lives a couple of hours away, so it might work where she lives.


Diane C March 7, 2014 at 6:40 pm

I find that it works on an every-other-load basis. You could also try adding some Oxi-type cleaner to the mix to give it a little boost. Lately, I just use mine for loads that aren’t too soiled and just need a little freshening up, like sheets and towels used once by overnight guests.


Adrienne March 6, 2014 at 1:53 pm

re: Petco Cat Litter. I always wondered if my standards were too high or your standards were too low!! The truth outs! I tried it for all the same reasons you did, and quit buying for the same reasons too. I’m back to the premium stuff – but I do try to buy it on sale and with coupons. And I do recycle the plastic jugs it comes in. Maybe you’ll feel better (as do I) that someone else has the same opinion! LOL


marie March 6, 2014 at 9:58 pm

Petco litter didn’t work for us either. After using nearly every brand out there and having epic fails, Safeway Priority brand is the winner!!
No coupons 🙁 but it’s usually on sale.
I only have 1 kitty, but cat box order I can’t live with.


Susan March 7, 2014 at 4:30 pm

I feel the same way about Petco litter. I was so happy to take my reuseable container back each week, but the litter was crappy. I, too, returned to regular litter. I thought it was just me!


Adrienne March 6, 2014 at 1:56 pm

re: Petco cat litter. I always wondered if my standards were too high, or your standards were too low! Nice to know we had the exact same experience. I’m back to premium – but I buy it on sale, and with coupons. I recycle the plastic jugs. At least I know I’m not alone!


marie March 8, 2014 at 3:47 pm

Same experience with petco litter, and I only have 1 cat.
i also don’t like tidy cat, it tracks too much. The Safeway brand i’ve found works great and on-sale alot. Downside, plastic!!


Sadye March 6, 2014 at 3:13 pm

A few weeks ago, I had the flu, which manifested itself just hours after I ate part of a cabbage salad I’d made. I would’ve tried to eat it all throughout the week had I not thrown it up … so into the trash it went. Sadly, so did a different salad that I also made that day — it started wilting while my stomach recovered, and honestly it too reminded me of the flu.


Carla March 6, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Same here with the Petco litter. The litter box is in a room near the center of the house, so the entire house was beginning to reek. I just couldn’t stand it.

Another fail at our house is paper towels. Before I was married, I think I went through maybe 1 or 2 rolls of paper towels in 3 years. In the 2.5 years since I’ve been married, well, I don’t like to think about how many we have used. I just can’t get my husband to make the switch to cloth for everything (though he has improved greatly!). And since they are there and he uses them, it makes me start feeling lazier about it..


Linda Gertig March 6, 2014 at 6:04 pm

Washing those towels is like washing diapers. Some people still do that.


Carole March 7, 2014 at 4:59 am

Re: using towels as rags– ideally one should have enough rags on hand that they can be used and thrown away without qualms.


Diana March 7, 2014 at 6:36 am

After trying out a bunch of standard and natural kitty litters and hating all of them, I finally found one that I absolutely LOVE: World’s Best Cat Litter. It’s made from corn by-products, so it’s environmentally friendly. It is much better than even the standard cat litters: it has a pleasant (instead of overwhelming) odor that still masks the smell of cat pee, and it clumps really well. So if you’re looking to lower not just your waste but also your environmental impact, I’d highly recommend giving it a try! It comes in big recyclable bags. It doesn’t turn out to be much more expensive than the standard brands because one bag lasts a long time.


Amanda March 7, 2014 at 10:43 am

I’ve tried making frugal girl’s yogurt several times and got watery yogurt each time. I’m throwing in the towel.

I bought a non returnable part for our dishwasher based on online reading. It was easy to swap out the old part, but the dishwasher still doesn’t work and I have to call an expensive repairman anyway.

I bought a coat at goodwill yesterday that is really nice and half off. I couldn’t try it on in the store because I was wearing my baby. Tried it on when I got home and it doesn’t fit. It might fit my non-postpartum body next winter but I hate to store it for a year just to find out that is not the case. At least I can return it.


Katy March 7, 2014 at 10:51 am

I think you have to use whole milk, and to strain it with a cheese cloth if you’re wanting a Greek-style thickness.



Rachel March 7, 2014 at 2:30 pm

try this yogurt method – it works very well for me with skim milk


Alison March 7, 2014 at 5:34 pm

When I adopted my cat from the SPCA in November, I bought the cat litter they used, so I wouldn’t stress him out. It’s the wooden pellets, and I love it. It absorbs all odours ( and I have a very sensitive nose). The problem is that is doesn’t clump at all, the wetness creates sawdust, so you have to “sift” it to get the sawdust out, leaving the untouched pellets which I toss back in the box. But I don’t mind doing this, because of the fact that it is $5 for a 40 lb. bag, and it absorbs the smell so well.


Milissa March 7, 2014 at 5:46 pm

We use cloth diapers. I wash poop infused fabric all the time. I would have just washed the towels and used them as usual.


Audry March 8, 2014 at 11:22 am

Re: Petco litter. I wondered if my standards were too high. Thankfully, you had the same experience I did. Back to premium cat litter but I do recycle the plastic jugs.


Michelle March 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm

I wonder if that woman has had small children. Or if there’s more to the story than what I’m picturing (which is tossing perfectly good towels just because they got icky.)

We had ongoing problems with the bathroom in our old house, so my towels were used to mop up all kinds of ick. Washed in hot water with bleach, several cycles, and back onto the bathroom shelf to resume their existence as towels.

At this point, I’m willing to bet that the towels we’re using in our house are far past the point that most people would cut them up for rags. But they’re for drying bodies and they do the job. And when/if something really icky needs to be wiped up, I can throw one away without guilt. One of these days, I’ll find towels I like at a nice price and buy some new ones, but for now we’re good.

I did throw away the blankets that my favorite barn cat died on a few months back. They probably weren’t as gross as some of the towels I washed during the fun with plumbing months, but it was waaaay past my personal “ick” limit.


Clara March 9, 2014 at 8:56 am

I must be the only person who really likes the Petco litter – we find it clumps really well, which is important when you have a cat with kidney disease who pees buckets! Not had an issue with smell either, and I really like that it’s unscented.


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