One mom's challenge: Buy only "Made in USA" for one week

Joey Fortman tried to buy only American-made products for her family for one week, and it was a lot harder than she expected.
Joey Fortman tried to buy only American-made products for her family for one week, and it was a lot harder than she expected.Courtesy Joey Fortman / Today

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
By Joey Fortman

When Joey Fortman was challenged to buy only American-made products for a week, she thought it would be easy to embrace the red, white and blue. But she wasn’t prepared for the shades of gray.

I was a small town girl before becoming this big city mom. My parents always had American flags flying around our house.  My dad was a Green Beret in the Vietnam War and also a member of the 82nd Airborne Infantry Division. Whenever we’d see a soldier around town my mom would walk up to them, thank them and buy them a cup of coffee. 

She was proud. 

American-made was our way of life.

Now I’m even more interested in carrying on my family tradition -- because I have a family of my own.

I was challenged, as a blogger with iVillage, to buy nothing but American-made products for my family for an entire week.  I jumped at the opportunity.  Why not?  Buy American and teach my child our values by example?  Who wouldn’t want to do it?  I thought it really couldn’t be that hard. 

Not exactly.

It was actually harder than I expected it to be.

I wasn’t prepared for the blurred lines and sense of confusion I got when I tried to buy the most basic household items.

"Made in America with domestic & imported parts."

That, my friends, was what my toilet paper package said.

Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

Kinda gross, I thought. How many “parts” are in my toilet paper? And which ones are domestic? 

I had to stop and really think about what I was doing.  Was I breaking the mission?  Does that mean that it's still American?  Am I willingly contributing to foreign child labor and harsh working conditions every time my family flushes?  

Or should I look on the bright side? Did partially American-made mean I was uplifting the economy?

But then I kept thinking, well, there HAS to be some kind of toilet paper completely “Made in USA.”  


I ended up buying the “Made in USA with domestic and imported parts” Charmin after having no luck finding entirely domestic-made TP.  I searched high and low.  And I’m sorry, but I, my husband and my 4-year-old can’t live without toilet paper!

On to food, the next essential.

I visited a local farm near my home in Philadelphia and was super excited to see all the great things they had to offer. I picked up fresh eggs, milk, butter, zucchini, gorgeous tomatoes and flowers.  My local farm also sold fresh meats, so I grabbed chicken and beef to go with dinner every night. 

The prices were about the same as what we would spend at the grocery store.  I’m not a hero in the kitchen.  Definitely not Paula Deen, but I can rock a good grill when I need it. 

My husband loved it, 'cause he wasn’t stuck starving through all this.  We also had sandwiches from fresh bread bought at the farm; at the grocery store I found lunchmeat with a big fat “Made in USA” screaming at me from the middle of the package. 

My family and I needed some things to just get through the week, so I hit up what Oprah so eloquently calls “Tar-jay.”  Target. 

It was impossible to find clothing that was American-made.  Let me tell you how fast my blood boiled when I was checking out their 4th of July attire only to find “Made in Bangladesh” on the label. Yes, I get the fact that we, as consumers, are buying the cheap stuff; it’s supply and demand.  But I challenge you to look at the tags when buying clothes. End of soapbox.

After all this sleuthing and shopping, I got to reward myself for trying so hard all week. 

I was actually invited on a trip by the US Hot Air Balloon Team because my girlfriend was doing social media for them. I, of course, jumped on it!  Especially after they told me that the entire balloon, fabric, basket, insides were ALL "Made in USA"! In Michigan, to be exact. 

So I wrapped up my week with a ride in an American-made hot air balloon SEEING America! It was one of the most amazing things I've ever done.  We took off at a small municipal airport in rural Pennsylvania. It gave me goosebumps to see how beautiful our country is.  And Pennsylvania has some serious all-American glory when it comes to natural beauty.

The week was a big eye opener for me.  I enjoyed the thrill and the excitement when I found true gems that people in our country had created.  I loved knowing that by buying that product, I was helping to keep an American job. But I wasn’t prepared to have to dig so deep to find necessities. There are people all over our great country who ONLY buy American made.  I sure wish I knew how they do it.

Joey Fortman is host of Real Mom Radio in Philadelphia and founder of Real Mom Media, LLC.  Find her on twitter & facebook and also at

Joey Fortman tried to buy only American-made products for her family for one week, and it was a lot harder than she expected.Courtesy Joey Fortman / Today


 Video: Patriotic trivia -- 5 fun facts about the USA