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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What I Brought Back Home From My Trip to the USA

I'm home!!! After a long trip- nearly 13 complete days from when I stepped out the front door until I stepped back in again, I am home from the US.
Bearing goodies!

People asked me what I bought in the US and why those specific things, so I said- why not just make a post about it?
Here is all what I bought:

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When deciding what to bring from the US back home, I decided to go with things that were either much cheaper in the US, or simply unavailable locally. At the same time, space and weight were a big consideration of mine as well, since I didn't want to "save money" bringing stuff from the US, and then end up paying extra for another suitcase or an overweight suitcase.

First off, I got my kids gifts. I know it wasn't easy on them for me to be gone for so long, so I wanted to give them a treat from me for when I got home. For these gifts, I went to Walmart.
I bought 3 packs of Hot Wheels cars- with 5 each. Hot Wheels are good quality, last long, and are about 1/10 the price in the US of similar quality toy cars sold here, and about 1/5 the price of lower quality toy cars sold locally.
I also bought a pack of toy dinosaurs, pretty cheap, but with many dinosaurs in the pack, so should provide lots of fun for all the kids.
For Anneliese, who loves to dress up, I got a doll with a matching dress and shoes for Anneliese. For her birthday I got her a doll with 5 dresses she could put on the doll, but the doll was really low quality- this is much better quality. And Anneliese got mad that she couldn't fit the doll clothes onto her, so I decided that if she has a matching dress to the doll, she'll probably be thrilled.
For the boys, who are OBSESSED with coloring, and go through paper SO quickly, I bought 2 packs of computer paper. These were on the heavier end, but so much cheaper at Walmart than they are locally, that I decided to go with it.
I also bought the kids cheap toothbrushes.
My favorite game is Apples to Apples- I bought a travel pack as a gift for myself and Mike- we enjoy playing it with friends. And I also bought a travel pack of Apples to Apples with pictures- which my kids hopefully will be able to play with us- and if not now, they'll be able to grow into it.

Another important stop at Walmart- the lingerie department. Bras are super super super expensive locally- a cheapo cheapo bra my size will cost minimum 45 dollars, and standard bras cost anywhere from 60 to 100 dollars apiece. I got 6 bras at Walmart- 3 of them nursing bras- for less than 65 dollars... Definitely worthwhile.

I stopped at Target after Walmart, and picked up an umbrella stroller for only 25 dollars. Even cheap umbrella strollers locally cost SO much more than that, so I decided to bring it. It's not shown in the picture because... :( Somehow, the stroller is missing 2 of the wheels, so if I can't figure out what to do about it, it'll end up just being trash...
My friend, Kelly, a blog reader who I met (up) with a week ago Saturday told me how she is loving making homemade laundry detergent. I told her that I stopped making it, because my husband, Mike, has this thing where he LIKES his clothes to smell perfumy and chemically... While I wish I could get my husband to agree on this with me, he's the one who does the laundry usually, so if he wants it smelling chemically and perfumy, so be it. Kelly told me that she adds something to her homemade laundry detergent called Downy Unstopables, which makes her laundry smell all perfumed, etc... So that was my gift to Mike. Totally selfless, because I would really rather he not use it, but oh well...

Saturday night, I went to Payless, and bought my husband a pair of 20 dollar sneakers and myself a pair of 10 dollar super warm fur lined slipper/shoes. Shoes are much more expensive locally, not to mention hard to find in my size...

I bought myself a bunch of makeup. Super light and compact, and a fortune locally, yet much cheaper in the US. No, I didn't buy expensive natural makeup. I wish I could afford that. I do wear makeup though occasionally- not daily, but regularly enough that it's worthwhile for me to have- and makeup is super expensive locally. I bought makeup on Amazon- lipsticks, lip stain, eye shadows, and eye liners- for ridiculously low prices, especially compared to how much they cost locally.

I had been looking for a candy thermometer for a while- only been able to find a meat thermometer locally, so ordered a 5 dollar candy thermometer from Amazon.com.

For a while, I'd read about many benefits of taking food grade diatomaceous earth, but it is simply unavailable locally. (You can somehow find non food grade stuff, but food grade you cannot.) And I was told that when shipped in the mail, customs doesn't always allow it in, so it's a waste of money. So I did an experiment, and bought a 1 pound bag of diatomaceous earth from Amazon, saying that if customs takes it away from me in the airport, I'd be ok with it, but customs gave me no issues about it. :-D So now I am excited to try it.

Another item I've tried finding locally but had no such luck is food grade lime. This is used in soaking corn to make masa harina, for making tortillas, and for making corn more digestible, among other uses, but that's why I wanted it. So I bought it from Amazon as well.

I also ordered a large jug of gluten free, chemical free soy sauce for much cheaper than I can get it locally. Locally, it is super hard to find gluten free soy sauce, and when you find it, it is pretty darn expensive. And it isn't even healthy- it has sugar and caramel food coloring, etc... If you look even harder, you can find the chemical and sugar free stuff, but its even more expensive, so I bought this also in the US.

Lastly, from a health food store I picked up a few packs of dairy free soy free Daiya cheese, some gluten free surimi (fake crab used in sushi making- I've looked for ages for a recipe to make homemade surimi but had no luck), gluten free wasabi powder, and quinoa flakes. All these are items that just are not available locally, for any price...

P.S. I know local people will probably tell me that I should have brought back kids clothes, as they are cheaper and better quality in the US- I did- I got them free as hand me downs from a few people, I just didn't buy them, hence their not being on this list. :-D

So, if/when you travel overseas, what things do you try to bring back with you, and why? 

31 comments:

  1. Do you have any of the documentation and the receipt for the stroller. I'm sure that if you complain the manufaucter and are able to get a new stroller or the the two wheels, someone would be happy to have it shipped to them and taken to you in your country. OR, if the airline is at fault, make sure you file a claim. You'll get $$ for a new stroller and once again you can ask if someone can bring one for you. I think my family will be coming over, but not until the middle of the summer...

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    1. The problem is- I have no idea at which point the wheels were lost. I bought it at target and didnt open it there- maybe the wheels were missing there... And then I flew on 4 different airlines- US Airways, American Airlines, United Airlines, and Alitalia... and I have no idea which of those lost the wheels, if it was even then, though my guess is that it was on the first leg, because after that the stroller was encased in a large plastic bag provided by the airline...

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    2. If you can I would contact target.com and tell the --they may just send you new wheels

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    3. I agree - I would just contact Target and tell them the wheels are missing. At that price, and since you just bought it, they will probably just replace it for you.

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  2. Wow, these sound like awesome choices!

    I rarely bring anything home but pictures and stories. But my favorite buy was a dictionary I bought in England because I often read British books but my American dictionary doesn't help me with some of the words that are different.

    I also like when I discover something in a new place and it turns out it's available where I live as well. For example, I discovered century plants in Big Bend and chocolate filled croissants in Belgium (of course most of the ones around here have a lot less chocolate.

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    1. Thank you Debbie! Now that everyone is awake, I can say with certainty that everyone likes the gifts. :-D
      And yes, discovering something while traveling and then learning you can get it locally is definitely amazing.

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  3. What I want to know, is how has America changed since you lived there?

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    1. Honestly, it doesn't feel like it changed too much. I mean, my home town did change somewhat, but all cities change and develop in 9 years... But the US as a whole? Seems just as I remember it...

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  4. Replies
    1. For privacy reasons, I keep that off this blog. Sorry. :-D

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  5. How did you keep the surimi cold/frozen the whole trip back??!!!

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    1. Insulating things well and bringing ice packs works.

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    2. Good to know it can be done....it's basically the only thing I miss here.

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    3. I've seen it in my supermarket

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  6. Copy Paper??? that's what you brought back? it costs $4 here, how much cheaper did you buy it for that it was worth it to carry that much wasteful weight? it goes so quickly. especially if its available locally - more local then america id say, for such a petty price. my kids go through a pack of copy paper every 2-3 months for $4 for 3 months, its a great deal. unless it cost 50$ by you, which fine. but even if you spent 20 cents on it, which i doubt it was that cheap, thats an insane item to bring back. just my two cents .

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    1. Even if you think something wasn't a good idea, there are nicer ways of saying that than calling something i did "insane". And for the record, I havent found paper nearly as cheap as what I got it for in the US- maybe i'm looking in the wrong place, but either way, just because you wouldnt do something doesn't make it "insane".

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    2. Kelly K (@RNCCRN9706)January 21, 2014 at 5:29 PM

      Penny, next year at back-to school time, when it goes on sale for 'insanely' cheap or even free a Staples, Office Max. I'll gladly ship you some more :)

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    3. Me, too. Good grief. Notice that the poster was "anonymous"....

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    4. I bet you could fit copy paper in a USPS flat rate box. I've found that packing one of those to maximum weight offers the best savings.

      Penny do you know anyone locally who works in an office? Where I used to work paper that was used on one side would get recycled but no one had a problem if someone wanted to cut it up for note paper or take it home for kids to color on.

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    5. Yeah - I work in an architect office and you're kids would probably love the huge sheets we toss (to recycling). They can also be cut up. Try finding a place in town that prints - they throw out a ton! (pm me if you want to know where...)

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  7. Can you post your homemade laundry detergent recipe along with cost breakdown? I'd love to start making my own. Also -- how do you store it?

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    1. Kelly K (@RNCCRN9706)January 21, 2014 at 5:39 PM

      I'm the blog reader who met up with Penny during her trip to the States! Thanks for the shout out Penny!

      Heres my recipe for laundry detergent. Another internet friend of mine who has a baby in cloth diapers tried this recipe first and convinced me to give it a whirl. She also has 4 teen boys!

      1 big box of 20 Mule Team Borax
      1 big box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
      1 4 lb box of Baking Soda
      3 bars of Fels Naptha soap or 2 bars of Zote Soap(found in the laundry aisle at Walmart)

      grate the soap with a cheese grater and then mix it in with the dry ingredients. I made mine in dry form. I store it in a 5 lb bucket I got at Home Depot for $5. I also bought a $4 smaller glass jar to store it in the laundry area. For extra oomph (cleaning power) I added a box of Biz and a box of Clorox 2. And a big jar of the Downey Unstoppables for a pleasant scent. I suppose things could be purchased cheaper with coupons but I didn't use any.



      Everything cost me $33. I made my batch the beginning of November. I expect this to last me about a year. There's only 4 people in my household. I only use 2 Tsp per load. I wash in cold water. I have city water and haven't had any issues. All of my clothes have come out fine. NO powered residue and the Fels Naptha soap has dissolved fine with no spots left on our clothes.

      If you have sensitivities or a baby--leave out the Biz & Clorox 2.

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    2. Cool, but I don't have these ingredients here..

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    3. Are you sure you don't have those ingredients available to you? Most people have trouble finding the ingredients the first time. Try looking carefully around the laundry soap aisle. Try big box stores and try natural stores.

      And for the bar soap, you can use any laundry soap--I use Kirk's Castile--it has no color or aroma.

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  8. nice response to anonymous january 21 @ 4;00
    pm.
    i am never disappointed in people's ability to tell you what they think. Who cares.

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  9. To the "Insane" Anonymous...you should learn some manners. I am sure there are things you do that we would find "insane" but our Mother's taught us not to be rude!

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  10. Question about buying the soy sauce - have you ever used coconut aminos in place of soy sauce? That's what I use instead and it works great in pretty much any recipe that calls for soy sauce.

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  11. May I ask if you tried ELF cosmetics? Super cheap (like $1 each for some items) and pretty high quality too. Obviously since I don't know your location, I'm not sure if it can ship to your place but it's a nice site to check out. :)

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  12. Surimi is hard to make at home because you need to finely pound white fish meat (you cannot grind it in a meat grinder) and mix it with beaten eggwhite. In Southern China people often make fish balls at home, which is very similar to surimi but a little more rustic looking (kind of like gefilte fish). Commercial surimi is made from the same basic mixture except it has been extruded by machine into string cheese form with natural or artificial shellfish flavoring added.

    All you need is skinless and boneless white fish meat, eggwhite, starch, and seasoning (usually salt, white ground pepper, ginger, scallion, etc). I'm trying to find a simple recipe with measured ingredients or a video tutorial at the moment, I'll let you know once I find it.

    For cheap natural makeup checkout tkbtrading.com. They sell all kinds of ingredients for making makeup yourself. Many items like pure silk powder, rice powder, pearl powder, natural clay in many colors, etc can just be worn straight out of the box. Best of all they sell everything in sample size for $1- $3, their sample size is bigger than most makeup you can buy at stores.

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  13. Hi Penny -I also order makeup from ebay and if you get a bunch from the same seller, shipping is cheaper...

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