Green Baby Guide’s Best Budget Posts

After the holidays, we’re generally stocked on fulfilling memories and stale sugar cookies–but not so much on cash. If you’re looking to slim down your January budget, we have several vintage posts with earth friendly, budget friendly tips.

You have to eat, right? If you’d love to spend just $175 per month on your groceries, while buying mostly organic food, you have to check out Rebecca’s post on Saving Money on Organic Groceries.

If your baby is on solids, you can save hundreds of dollars with DIY organic baby purees–and you won’t need fancy equipment or loads of extra time.

Laundry is another unavoidable budget item, but we do have a recommendation for the least expensive green laundry detergent.  (It happens to be quite effective too!)
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Why don’t you . . . buy organic food?

This post is a part of the illuminating Why don’t you” series. No judgment! We’re just curious.

I’ll bet I know the answer to this one: cost. A long time ago, Joy wrote something like this for our blog or our book: “Most Americans would love to buy all organic if they didn’t have to spend more.” I remember questioning that statement. Is that true? Sure, our readers probably do prefer organic food, but a surprising number of people don’t see any benefit to organics and might even prefer conventional stuff.

I have to admit that I’m not motivated to buy organic food for personal health reasons. It just feels really abstract to me. I’ve eaten conventional food all my life, and I’m fine! (No need to educate me about this—I know on an intellectual level that it’s not good to ingest chemicals or feed them to my family!) Less abstract (in my mind) is the global benefit of organic farming practices, which is why I strive to eat organic fruits and vegetables. (And I have to admit I didn’t make much of an effort to buy organic produce until I had a baby.)
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Money Saving Monday: The Best Couponer’s Blogs

coupon clipping and green productsMy sister never buys toothpaste.  Or shampoo. Or deodorant.  Don’t worry—she doesn’t smell bad, but she is a wickedly talented couponer.  She insists that if you play  your cards right, you can get many of your household goods at absolutely no cost.  Many shoppers refer to the coupon phenomenon as “the grocery game.”

Pulling it off can involve lots of time, newspapers, and trips to the store, but it may save you enough money to buy more organic produce or join a CSA.   Is it a perfectly green solution?  No.  Another detractor is that several coupons are for highly processed food. Still, if you’re desperately searching for space in your budget and you can bike or walk to shopping, it may work for you.
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Deals on Organic Foods for the Holidays

tasty baby saleAs our holiday grocery lists grow longer and the expenses mount, it’s tough to stick with our organic ideals.  Luckily, there’s a resource that can help us save while buying organic.  My sister, a mother of five and professional bargain hunter, just introduced me to Organic Deals, “Helping moms go organic without going broke.”

For example, the site is currently featuring a post on Tasty Baby organic baby food for fifty percent off! You have until the end of November to stock up on pureed pumpkin for your babe’s Thanksgiving feast.

Scan her blog entries for the latest online deals and also check her organic coupon index for great deals on the things you need for your Thanksgiving feast.  Enjoy the sweet taste of organic foods at a much sweeter price!

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.
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Economical Organic Home Gardening

Is organic gardening really all that difficult, or costly?  We turned to our experts, Caitlin Blethlen of Growing Gardens and Mara Reynolds of Portland Community Gardens to see just how easy and inexpensive it can be to grow your own food organically.

GBG: In your opinion, are organic gardens more expensive to plant and maintain than those using pesticides and herbicides? 

Caitlin: No.  The basis of organic gardening is establishing healthy soil which can take time through using cover crops, and adding compost and creating a balanced eco system in your yard.

Mara:  As far as I know, with the exception of the initial cost of seeds, organic gardening is cheaper all across the board.  With proper planting techniques, composting, and soil amendments, you should be able to successfully garden organically with very little inputs.  (To be honest I’ve never gardened with pesticides or herbicides)

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My Adventures in Organic Baby Food

Originally I didn’t think organic baby food would be such a priority for me. No one in my very frugal extended family had considered purchasing organic food because of the extra expense. The turning point came when I read in Consumer Reports, the ultimate thrifty guide, that organic baby food was worth the extra cost not just for the sake of the environment, but for baby’s health.

 

As if I wasn’t already convinced, last Wednesday’s issue of The Seattle Intelligencer drove the point home with an article entitled “Harmful pesticides found in everyday food products”.  The article describes a recent scientific study of 21 children between the ages of 3-11.  Researchers kept careful records of their dietary habits and found that those who ate mainstream produce showed signs of organophosphates in their urine and saliva samples. These findings are a bit upsetting considering that organophosphastes were developed from nerve gas during World War II. During the winter months, the detected pesticide levels were higher in the children, which most likely showed that they were eating more imported fruits and vegetables.  Now, before you get too worried, doctors aren’t sure what effects, if any, organophosphates have on children.  Still, it feels pretty great not to take the risk.  

 

When I first did research about pesticides, I was shocked to find that the foods with some of the highest levels of pesticide residues are family favorites such as apples and peaches. I wasn’t sure I could afford to buy only organic foods, so I focused on buying organic for the foods with the highest pesticide residue.  The environmental working group has developed a printable wallet-sized card that lists the top 43 fruits and veggies with the highest pesticide load.  If you simply can’t afford to buy organic, Tiny Footprints, the website of the Oregon Environmental Council, recommends cleansing produce by mixing one teaspoon of dish soap into a gallon of warm water.  Then thoroughly wash and rinse before consumption.  The  photo below shows one of the fruits with the sixth highest pesticide residue: the humble strawberry.

 Strawberry carries high level of pesticide residue

Once I had procured my produce, I was off to become a baby food Betty Crocker (organic-style).  I bought a fifteen dollar baby food grinder when Roscoe started on solids, thinking that it was the only method for mashing his food.  It very quickly ended up in the back of the cupboard when I realized that our blender and some ice cube trays were all we really needed.  I peeled and boiled or steamed the food, tossed it in the blender with some extra water and poured it into ice cube trays.  Then I dumped the frozen cubes into Zip lock bags for storage with labels and dates. Mainly I did large batches at once—which was quite convenient but sometimes backfired when Roscoe decided that he hated my four large Ziplock bags full of sweet potato puree.  You can find some simple directions for home blended baby food on Wholesome Baby Food’s website.  Here Roscoe has decided to use his dinner as a facial treatment rather than an actual meal. 

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In the beginning, I was determined to make every drop of baby food myself. When I complained to my daycare provider about exhaustion and the stress of preparing Roscoe’s food, pumping breast milk, and writing lesson plans, she suggested a revolutionary idea: buying a little sanity in the form of prepared baby food. In the end I made some of Roscoe’s meals myself but also found deals on prepared organic foods.

 

The best discovery I made on prepared food for Roscoe came outside of the baby food aisle.  I bought large jars of organic applesauce and boxes of frozen organic pureed squash that worked great as baby food.  I also used cans of organic pumpkin and as my son grew, I used cans of organic beans and as finger foods.  Here Roscoe considers the complex flavors of pureed squash. 

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Earth’s Best was our standby in jarred baby food and teething biscuits. Roscoe always loved their food (much better than anything that emerged from my blender) and we appreciated the fact that their whole line of baby foods are certified organic.  By buying large boxes of several dozen jars of Earth’s Best at Costco, the cost was just a few pennies more per jar than standard baby food.

 

When Roscoe started to be able to feed himself, we discovered Healthy Times puffs.  They are wheat-free, dairy-free, and soy-free but Roscoe never seemed to notice that they were missing anything.  They had much less packaging than mainstream puffs and were very fairly priced. Healthy Times was started by a mom over twenty years ago who was looking for organic, healthy alternatives and now has a whole line of foods including jarred baby foods and teething biscuits.

 

Annie’s Homegrown is more of a kids brand than a baby food label, but we’ve started Roscoe on the bunny crackers and would love for him to grow up with the brand name.  Annie’s has been around for a decade and were far ahead of the mainstream organic food movement.  They offer crackers, cereal and even organic macaroni and cheese that are appealing to children and much more nourishing than the mainstream alternatives.

 

The lesson that parenting seems to teach over and over again is, “be flexible.”  If you’re planning on making every drop of baby food from scratch, be open the fact that exhaustion may occasionally trump your plans.  Or, if you think it’s utterly impossible to make your own baby food, give it a whirl and see what you think.  The decision to feed our son organic food has raised my family’s awareness about the quality of our produce and the contents of our fridge are now reflecting our move toward organic foods.  We have the youngest member of our family to thank for propelling us much further on our green journey.