Saving Money on Organic Groceries

I spend $175 a month on groceries for my small family of three.  I wrote about spending less on groceries in this post about eating meat-free.  Several people (okay, two people) asked me how I manage to pull this off.  According the USDA’s “thrifty” meal plan, a family with a man, woman, and three-year-old would spend $414.20 per month.  (We’d spend $800 on the “liberal” plan!)  So it seems that we are spending less than half of what other “thrifty” eaters are spending–and we eat mostly organic food!

This is a bit puzzling to me, as we don’t do anything too extraordinary to save money on food.  I haven’t planted a garden since two summers ago (and it was a failure), I don’t clip coupons, and I don’t shop at Costco or other huge warehouse stores.  I also buy many expensive ingredients, like olive oil, nuts, and fancy cheese.  If I had to, I could save even more money if I got better at gardening, stopped buying organic foods, and cut out a few costlier items on my grocery list.
(more…)

Keeping a Freezer Inventory Saves Food, Time, and Money

This idea is so simple, but it has changed my life!  Okay, not my whole life, but that tiny part of my life that was dedicated to rooting through the freezer in search of a stray tortilla or wondering what mysterious sauce I’d frozen in a jar five years ago.

After digging through the freezer and finding four bags full of bread heels, a half-empty jar of graham cracker crumbs, and a three-year-old tub of ice-encrusted raspberries, I knew I had to do something to keep more organized.  I simply made a list of everything in the freezer by category (sauces, vegetables, and bready things seemed to fill the bulk of it).  If I add something new, I simply write it down on the list, along with the date.  (Nothing in my freezer is labeled.)  If I take something out, I cross it off the list.
(more…)

Beet Chocolate Cake: An Earthy Earth Day Dessert

How can you have your cake and beet it, too?  (That should win an award for worst pun ever.  It doesn’t even make sense.)  Well, I had a surplus of beets and figured I’d try to sneak them into a chocolate confection.  I’ve got to say I was pretty shocked when it actually turned out.  I found a recipe online but modified it so much that I can now claim that this is my own original creation.  (Read my Cooks Illustrated-style account of my little experiment after the recipe if you’re into that kind of thing.)  The result?  A moist, chocolatey, delicious cake that my beet-hating husband and child devoured.
(more…)

New Earth Day Resolutions for 2009

Last year I made three resolutions on Earth Day, and I managed to accomplish two of my goals.  Once again, I’ll keep things simple by choosing just a few resolutions.  Baby steps, as they say.

I resolve to purchase carbon offset coupons when I travel by air.  I resolved to do this last year and didn’t.  Ever since I read that book about reducing my carbon footprint, I’ve felt guilty about traveling–something I used to think was essential for learning about the world, experiencing new cultures, and connecting with relatives across the country.  I thought buying the coupons would allow me to travel without the guilt.  Still, I didn’t do it last year.  Perhaps it just doesn’t seem right to “buy” my way out of this one?  We had a bit of a discussion about this on my last post.  I’m still conflicted.
(more…)

Baby Gear I am Still Using . . . Three Years Later

My daughter is now three years old, so even though I co-write The Green Baby Guide with Joy, sometimes the baby years seem like they were a part of the distant past.  In our upcoming book, we talk a lot about reducing the amount of gear you buy for your newborn–after all, so much of it gets used for  just a few weeks or months.  Then I looked around my daughter’s room for relics from the past.  Three years out, is there any baby gear we’re still using?  Yes!

Cloth diapers.  Audrey potty trained at 2.5 years, but we still put her in prefolds with a cover at night.  She rarely wakes up wet, but we haven’t yet  made the leap to diaperless nights.  The prefolds are the same exact ones we’ve been using since her second week of life.  She’s fit in the same covers for at least a year and a half.
(more…)

Natural Egg Dyes: Which Ones Work, Which Ones Just Make Your Eggs Look Dingy and Sad

Last year, Joy and I became obsessed with dyeing eggs using leaves, grasses, spices, and anything else nature threw our way.  Commercial egg dyes aren’t the worst thing in the world, but wouldn’t it be great to tint eggs without frightening chemicals and excess packaging?  Yes, it would be great . . . but do these “organic” egg dyes really work?  Here’s what I tried, with the disappointing results.

 
I dyed these eggs using blueberries, chili flakes, and a leaf . . . in my imagination.

Beets.  Beets stain everything around them bright reddish-purple, so they seemed like the perfect natural egg dye.  However, after many attempts, I could never manage to dye eggs with them.  The eggs turned slightly brownish, but that was about it.
(more…)

Baby Gift Ideas: Favorite Children’s Books

There’s been a baby boom in my family lately, and more are on the way!  We published a great article about throwing  a book baby shower last year.  I’ve always loved giving books as baby gifts because they’ll be enjoyed for years and even handed down from generation to generation.  That’s more than you can say for frilly outfit or a pack of disposable diapers.

When my niece was born over two years ago, I picked out a few of my childhood favorites to add to her library: Where the Wild Things Are, Little House in the Big Woods, and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day.  Now she has a little sister who needs to start a collection of her own.
(more…)

Vegetarian Pregnancy, Vegetarian Baby

Is it possible to have a healthy pregnancy and baby on a vegetarian diet?  I have been a vegetarian for about twenty years and have lived to write about it on the Green Baby Guide.  Still, many people seem surprised that I’d continue living meat-free once I had a baby on the way.  Why do I do it?  Here are two reasons:

It’s cheap.  We are full-time vegetarians and rarely spend more than $150 a month on groceries for a couple and a toddler, allotting $60 to organic vegetables and the rest to whole grains, nuts, cheeses, and fruit.  A family our size would shell out $368 on the USDA’s “thrifty plan.”   Instead of relying on coupons and other cost-cutting tricks, we save by skipping the meat. 

(more…)

Used Clothing: How Safe is It?

In the March issue of ShopSmart, put out by the publisher of Consumer Reports, experts analyzed used baby gear to determine “when you can gratefully say yes and when you should gracefully say no thanks.”  I am devoting several posts to discussing their findings.  (This is the last in my series of “used gear safety” posts.  Whew!  Check out my posts on secondhand baby bath tubs, car seats, cribs, high chairs, strollers, and toys.)

Here are ShopSmart’s views on hand-me-down baby garments:

Safe: As long as buttons and snaps are on tight and none of the thread is unraveling from the fabric, the used clothing is fine.
(more…)

Secondhand Toys: Which Ones Should You Pass Up?

In the March issue of ShopSmart, put out by the publisher of Consumer Reports, experts analyzed used baby gear to determine “when you can gratefully say yes and when you should gracefully say no thanks.”  I am devoting several posts to discussing their findings.  (I’ve already written about baby bath tubs, car seats, cribs, and high chairs.)

Here’s what ShopSmart had to say about used toys:

Safe: Stuffed animals and most children’s books make fine hand-me-downs. In the case of lead contamination in used toys, there are many home lead inspection kits which can be purchased for under twenty dollars which will tell you whether the toys are safe.
(more…)