Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thoughts on Frugality and Being "Green" - Part 1

I have blogged much about our journey to healthier eating. I am truly thankful I have been able to initiate positive change in this area, (not that we have "arrived" at any sort of official destination; we are still very much on a journey) yet in recent months I have begun to ponder what many of these changes have meant to our grocery budget. A very few have reduced our budget, like making our own bread, but most have increased our budget - in some cases dramatically. It's happened slowly over time. A few cents for this product, a dollar for that one. It all adds up...really quickly.

Our grocery budget is definitely higher than I want it to be but I just haven't been able to reduce our expenditures enough to really make a difference. I've always tried to be careful with money. I've cut coupons for years. I try to stock up on items when there is a good sale. I make a monthly trip to Wal-Mart to get items that never have coupons and are significantly cheaper there. I have switched to generic products for 80% of what we buy. I even did Grocery Game for 18 months. Still our grocery bill has risen over the years. Then I saw a thread on the message board I frequent that talked about frugality and I was intrigued. There is a whole world out there of others on this quest to be frugal who are sharing their insight and wisdom - websites, message board and blogs. Who knew?! ;) This is a new area of learning for me. I'll blog more about changes we've made in Part 2.

Another area I have been noodling on (love that expression - lol!) is living "green". Eliminating chemicals from our diet has been very expensive so when I began researching how to get rid of them from the rest of our lives - at least the ones in my control - I have been delighted to find that these changes can be much more budget friendly. You can go two routes here. There is a huge market for enviro-friendly cleaning products, and at my local grocery store I see new items each and every week. Most of these are considerably more expensive than their "non-green" counter-parts. Or you can go the homemade route. I chose the latter having replaced all the cleaners in our home with four simple ingredients: white vinegar, baking soda, lemons/lemon juice and borax. In my research, you can pretty much clean every single spot in your home with some combination of these four products. A gallon of white vinegar cost me $1.50, a box of baking soda was $1.00, three large lemons were $1 and a box of Borax was $4. I also made a one-time purchase of spray bottles at Home Depot for $.96 each. One I filled with pure vinegar and the other with 50-50 vinegar/water. Not bad considering I won't need to buy another item, other than lemons, for several months.

Here a few links I have found helpful in learning how to clean "green" on a budget:
vinegartips.com
The New Homemaker
3 Homemade Natural Cleaning Products
Non-Toxic Bathroom Cleaners and Homemade Cleaning Solutions

This is still all very new for me so I am learning as I go. For every person the exact formulas that will work for them varies depending on the surfaces in your home (I have white linoleum, white laminate counter tops, and very light beige carpet...and lots of each - ICK!), the type water you have (ours is hard) and the types of stains/grime/dirt you are likely to be fighting (with three boys and a dog it's any and everything in this department- grin) . At first I was very daunted by this try-and-see process, but I finally realized it's no different than my trying several store-bought products until I found just the right ones that did the job - some work and some don't. This is no different. I will soon be trying homemade laundry detergent and dishwasher powder as well.

It's been nice to make some changes that are good for my family's health, the environment and our pocketbook. How refreshing!

P.S. Don't forget to become a follower of SSA and leave a comment on this post before midnight on 7/13/09 to enter my very first giveaway! :)

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10 comments:

carole said...

I have appreciated the cost benefit of going green with cleaning supplies as well! So far I've been using Charlie's Soap for laundry. I have yet to find a cost effective green dishwasher detergent. Have you found any recipes?

As far as eating organic/local (that's my push - I know yours is much more specific) - lately I have had to tell myself that there is a balance between the "good" of those things and the good of my family's balanced budget! :)

Tracie said...

We've been slowly detoxing our bodies. No gluten for me, but my boys are still working on it (especially my son). We go all-natural on the meat/chicken and organic when it's on sale. Have you seen how expensive it is (we shop at the same store)?! We try to go all natural on other food items and I'm beginning to make a lot of foods from scratch.

It kills me to spend 5 bucks on GF noddles, when I can get regular for under a dollar. I looked at healthier soap for fun the other day. The bar I looked at was $2.59, for 1 bar!!! It's insane how much more the healthier stuff is. It frustrates me that we are suffering (financially) because we care about our health and bodies. But, I know we are benefiting from it and our health is worth the extra money. Anyway...on my last visit I saved $40, with coupons, my discount card, and sales. I heard angels sing when the cashier told me how much I saved. LOL. But then she told me a guy save $107 earlier that day. Buzzkill.

Maybe we can do a coupon exchange (could swap at church--I work every other Sunday in the 3YO room). I toss so many coupons, maybe you could use them--and you can share the ones you won't use. Just an idea....

We haven't embraced the living green thing too much, but might have to try it.

argsmommy said...

I've been cleaning with vinegar and baking soda for about 4 years now, and have been very happy with the results. I do still buy a few greener products like laundry detergent (although I do want to try making my own soon), but I get it cheaper through my food co-op. Can't wait to read Part 2!

Kelly said...

I've been "noodling" about becoming a more green family for quite awhile, but haven't put much into action. The cleaning products you mentioned seem to simple to ignore, I'm going to start on those right away! We're also considering joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) coop soon for fresh, organic fruits and veggies. The journey begins :).

ahhh... just me! said...

Can't wait to see what your ideas for reducing the grocery budget are! My grocery budget has gone through the roof since we decided to be healthier.

Jennefer said...

Carole,

Looking into Charlie's Soap right now! Thanks!!!

Here is a link that shows how to use your own dishwashing soap. I've read that you really have to use vinegar in the rinse cycle to not have grit on your dishes when it's done. I've already started using vinegar in the rinse cycle as I am finishing off the cascade I have and all of my glasses are spot free!

http://frugallygreen.blogspot.com/2008/06/how-to-make-your-own-dishwasher.html

Jennefer

Jennefer said...

Tracie,

I think a coupon exchange sounds great! And I feel your pain about feeling the frustration that I have to choose between healthy options or staying on budget. It is forcing me to great really creative! :)

Jennefer

Jennefer said...

Kelly,

I would love to find out what you learn about the CSA co-op and what all is involved in that! Also I think I need to take a field trip to check out your gardening beds. I just put the book Jason recommended on hold at the library!

Jennefer

Kelly said...

It is a great book for getting started, it makes gardening seem very doable. But I would recommend waiting until Fall to check out our gardens...the summer heat zaps a lot of our production. We have some tomatoes, onions and zucchini hanging on, but the rest will be pulled up soon in preparation for fall crops. But you are welcome to check out the design any time!

Lisawa said...

Hi pretty lady... I just read part 2 of your tips and had to come over to read part 1!

Hope this note finds you well... it sound like you are on the ball... as usual! You are so good!! :) Great tips...

miss visiting...

lisa~