Saturday, February 03, 2007

Frugal is the New Green

There has been a lot of talk lately on how being Green can be so frugal. Daily Kos, Ethicuran, and Groovy Green along with others have been touting all of the penny pinching that comes along with greening up a lifestlye. Beo has discussed on his blog how we have found that we can afford organic by making more things from scratch and cutting down on packaging. Over the past few months we've been trying to make more out of less, both for the environment and for our budget. I've been surprised at what a difference some of the little things really make.

One item we've swtiched to is bulk beans. I've had people telling me for a while that my canned beans were a convenience food, and I've scoffed and kept on stocking my pantry. Do you seriously think I have time to cook my own beans? We eat beans like they're going out of style. Sure, some organic beans are $1.79 and up per can, but at 99 cents a can, Whole Foods was making it easy for me to think canned beans are frugal in and of themselves. I decided to try a batch or two of bulk beans, and they were so easy that I gradually started switching over to all of our beans in bulk. Today I took the last step and bought bulk dried garbanzos instead of canned. I decided to do some weighing and measuring and seeing how much I was saving not just in packaging but also in cost. It turns out I'm paying an average of 25 cents for the same amount of beans that I used to pay 99 cents for in a can. No can, no sealing, no label, and I'm saving a whopping 75 percent. Not bad at all. In this veggie household that's saving us a bundle on soups, chilis, casseroles, and hummus.

Another switch we've made is a bit less about Green and more about frugality. When I read Kos's article about Kossacks being Frugal, I skimmed the list of reader submitted ideas on saving money. One was "Give up Coffee". Behind it, Kos had written "(You first.)" I laughed hysterically. But guess what? Yesterday I finished packing up our $100 coffee pot and stowing it away. We are coffee lovers extrodinaire, but we decided it was time to give up our daily 6-cup each habit. Neither of us is sure how we came to this conclusion. I had a splitting headache one day when sharing our coffee with visitors meant I didn't get as much as usual. The next day I was late in getting my coffee and the headache worsened. It was so severe that I decided that I didn't want to have something messing that much with my body chemistry, and I've only had a cup or two now and then since then. I started drinking a lot more tea, and soon Beo was on board as well. I ran the math, and I figure that we were paying almost 50 cents a cup for the shade-grown, fair trade, organic coffee that we brewed at home. The cost of a cup of tea? 15 cents. It varies a bit with the varieties we choose, but that's the average-and this is high end tea. What's more, that cost doesn't take into account re-using your tea leaves, which we do, so you can cut that in half again. We're still working on balancing out the smaller choice of organic varieties in the Tea world, but we've ordered a variety and are buying from Republic of Tea, which is a fair trade certified company. (Some of their teas have an additional Fair Trade premium on top of the already fair trade price.) We're not giving up the bean entirely, we've ordered a french press for an occasional brew now and then, but in the long run the switch from coffee to tea is saving us anywhere from $500-$1000 this year (depending on how much we'd have brewed day to day.)

I'm also happy to report that I finished the first month of 2007 within my budget limitations for kids clothes spending, and hit my goal for buying 50% of it second hand. Green = Frugal. The great thing is that like my diet-diet last year, the success of my financial-diet this year is motivating me to keep on track and see how much farther we can go. Stay tuned for frugal meal ideas. I've declared next week "Soup Week" on EcoMama Musings, and will share some of our favorite recipes.

1 comment:

Beo said...

We need to crunch the numbers, but I am pretty sure that becoming a bulk, local, slow food, hybrid, CFL, etc household has saved us about $5-6000 the past year.

Want a raise? Go Green.