Archive for budget

Free Potatoes!

If you have an Earthfare, this week you can use this coupon to get a 5 lb bag of organic potatoes FREE with any purchase.

You can also sign up for their newsletter where they send a new coupon every week, usually for free food! I used to get these emails, but they stopped for some reason. Maybe it is time to sign up again!

Thanks, MoneySavingMom!

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Brown Rice and Lentil Casserole

Last night’s dinner was a cheap one, but it is easy to prepare and we really enjoy it. It is simple but can easily be changed to accommodate different flavors and spices.

Brown Rice and Lentil Casserole (based on recipe from The Complete Tightwad Gazette)

3/4 cup organic lentils – $0.38

1/2 cup brown rice – $0.50

1 cup chicken broth* – $0.00 (I make my own so it might as well be free)

2 cups water* – $0.00

2 tsp italian seasoning – $0.15

1 tsp garlic – $0.10

1/2 cup cheddar cheese – $0.35

2 1/2 cups frozen broccoli florets – $1.00

1. Mix all ingredients except cheese in baking pan (I use an 11×7).

2. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour 10 minutes at 300 degrees.

3. Uncover, cover with cheese, and bake 20 minutes more, or until cheese is nice and melted. Like most casseroles, it is best to let it sit for a few minutes before cutting into it.

4. Steam broccoli and eat with casserole.

Total cost: $2.38 – The casserole technically makes 6 servings…but the two of us (and the Kid when he feels like eating) can polish off a whole one off if we are really hungry. The broccoli was just for one meal, though.

* You can use any combination of liquid here that you like – chicken/veggie broth, water, even tomato sauce. You just want to make sure you have 3 cups total.

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All-Purpose Cleaning

When it comes to beauty/personal care products, I have pretty much use one thing:  Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.

photo courtesy of http://www.drbronner.com

Dr. Bronner’s is a castile soap, which really just means that it is an all-vegetable oil soap. The (few) ingredients are listed clearly on the front to show that this soap is truly organic and all-natural. There are no questionable ingredients with potentially harmful side-effects. Dr. Bronner’s is biodegradable and no harmful waste is produced when it is manufactured.

The soap comes in liquid and bar form, with the liquid being very concentrated. The liquid is what I personally use everyday. What do I use it for?

  • Body wash. I put 2-3 squirts on my body poof, lather it up, and wash.
  • Shampoo. I tried this after I just couldn’t get my hair clean with baking soda. So I just use a a squirt of Dr. Bronner’s on my hair, making sure to work it all over. I have found, however, that occasionally switching the Dr. Bronner’s out for baking soda works really well.
  • Face Wash. Since it doesn’t take much to clean my face, when I wash my face in the shower I like to wash my face after I have lathered my hair but before I rinse so that I can use the suds already on my hands. If I am out of the shower I just use a couple pumps of my hand soap.
  • Hand soap. For this use it is best to dilute the soap. How much, though, depends on your preference and what kind of pump you use. A regular soap pump will require more soap but a foaming soap pump will allow you to use much less. For my pumps I filled the dispenser up about 1/2 inch or so and filled the rest with water. You can always buy a nice pump, but I simply went to the Dollar Tree, bought some foaming soap, then rinsed all that soap out so I could use the pump. For this use I have found that it is best to thoroughly wet my hands before using 2-4 pumps of soap.
  • Toothpaste. Okay, this one is a lie. One of the many uses of the soap is toothpaste, so since I was going to be talking about personal care/beauty products, I figured I should try it so I could talk about it. Unfortunately I didn’t like it AT ALL! But I think that is my fault. The peppermint soap is what is recommended for brushing your teeth, but I only have almond in liquid form, so that is what I used. But I like having versatile products, so I think I may get the peppermint soap so I can add one more use to my Dr. Bronner’s.
  • Baby wash. I either put a squirt on a wash cloth and wash his hair and body or put a couple squirts in the bath water and just wash him from that. They even make one without any scents so it is mild enough for baby. Sometimes I use that (I have it in bar form) and sometimes I just use my almond.

Using Dr. Bronner’s has really only been different that using conventional products in one way – it does not lather as well. You can still get a good lather if you want it, thanks to the high fat of the organic coconut oil used, but just not as easily as other products. This is because those products use ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate, a chemically-derived surfactant, to produce the rich lather. But I will gladly substitute that lather for my health.

Along with the many personal care uses for Dr. Bronner’s I also use it in other cleaning around the house (but I will save that for another post). The initial cost may seem a little high up front, but since it is concentrated a little goes a long way and it lasts forever. I bought a 32-ounce bottle a few months ago and am not even 1/5 of the way done with it. Plus you aren’t having to buy multiple products! So not only does it save you money in the long run (or even short-run if you are needing to buy multiple products at once) but it produces far less waste from the packaging. That makes it green and thrifty 🙂

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$200/month? Seriously?

Some people, or perhaps most people, may think that $200 a month for an organic lifestyle is crazy and that this amount is nowhere near what I will need for food and other household items that tend to make up the “grocery” budget. I will admit that there wasn’t a whole lot of thought put into choosing that amount and whether it was achievable or not. All I know is that $200 used to be my budget before I became a hard core coupon queen (okay, not really, but I was pretty good with those things…) and I really wanted to prove to myself that I could feed my family well on only $200 a month. I know that for some people this amount is nowhere near high enough. But I think that with careful planning and spending I can achieve my goal. Aside from there only being two (and a half – the Kid doesn’t eat very much) adults and two cats, this is how I plan to keep my expenses low:

#1) Cook from scratch. I really like to cook and bake so this one is pretty easy. I like doing the whole “domestic” thing and really don’t like buying things that I can make myself at home from scratch for next to nothing. This goes for loaf bread, tortillas, pita bread (though I really need to improve this), yogurt, pizza, muffins, and syrup (okay, I don’t make syrup anymore since we switched to REAL maple syrup, but I did before then because I wasn’t paying $3 for a bottle of sugar water). I cook dinner at home almost every night. This is not only better for our wallets but better for our health as I know exactly what is in what we are eating and can cater it towards our health needs and taste preferences.

#2) Plan. Plan. Plan. Menu planning is key to sticking to a budget. Whether you menu plan weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or just the night before it is so important. Not only does it minimize (or eliminate) out food waste this way, but it saves us from resorting to processed junk or going out to eat. I always try to plan ahead if we are going to be out one day and bring a snack with us so we don’t go out to eat or buy something quick to cook at the store because we are too hungry to wait for a nice meal once we get home. I also try to at least have an idea of what I want to buy at the store when I go. When I have a list (in some form) it helps to keep me from impulse buys (like those yummy looking items in the bulk bins at the grocery store).

#3) Be flexible. Sometimes I have my entire menu written out for the week along with a detailed shopping list. I am dashing through the store getting just what I need until I happen upon some great deal that makes me stop. Most recently it was a cart full of organic lentils for $1/pound. When I find a good deal on something I stock up. I may spend more that week but it will save me money in the long run. Sometimes I might find some produce marked down for quick sale and snatch it up. I will have to cook/eat/freeze it that day or soon after, but with some foods it is worth it. That is where flexibilty also comes into play. I may not have mushrooms on the menu at all that week, but if I find them cheap we will be having them for sure that night!

#4) Eat less meat. We already don’t eat as much meat as I am sure the average American does, but my goal this year is to cut that back even more. One reason is that we are switching to only organic, free-range poultry (we don’t really eat red meat, but if we did, we would only buy grass fed) with a hefty price tag, The other is that meat has a large impact on our environment. I am not ready to switch to becoming vegan or even just vegetarian, but I will do my part to lessen the environmental waste.

#5) Eat organic. Not only will I be keeping many of those nasty pesticides out of my family’s bodies, but I will also be helping to keep some of those toxic killers out of the environment. Are you a #3 person? Read this to see why organics are so important. Are you a #2 person? One of my favorite blogs, PhD in Parenting, has a list of 10 ways you can afford organics. She covers everything I have and would say much better than I can so I will only add my own comments to a couple of her points.

  • Since I am on a budget I do selectively buy organic produce depending on the pesticide level. I am not going to pay twice as much for organic bananas, but I will pay more for organic lettuce. I feel every little bit helps and one day maybe everything will be organic.
  • I do not have a garden. I want a garden. I dream of a garden filled with lettuce, eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, and more plants than I can name. I dream of picking cherries, blueberries, apples, grapes, pears, and strawberries from my own backyard. Am I delusional? Just a bit. But I do plan on having at least a modest garden of lettuce, zucchini, and tomatoes this spring.
  • I am not a member of a CSA. But I am desperately trying to find one that isn’t already all filled up for the spring (and that will email me back!).

#6) Breastfeed.* Breast is best. Period. It is a great choice for me, the Kid, the environment, and my wallet.

#7) Cloth diaper.* I know there are a lot of people who think this is gross, but I think toxins, such as the carcinogen dioxin, sitting next to the Kid’s most sensitive areas all day is much grosser.

#8) Reduce paper usage.* We do not use paper towels or paper napkins. We have cloth napkins and dishrags that work great as cleaning rags. I don’t use toilet paper for #1 and am working up the courage to do it for #2. No amount of money could convince the Husband to give up toilet paper, though.

#9) Homemade cleaning products.* Vinegar, baking soda, and castile oil soap go a long way when it comes to cleaning my house and my body. Combine those with just a few other ingredients and I never need to buy traditional toxins and poisons again.

#10) Recycle. Okay, this one doesn’t really save us very much money. But we do save because we do not have to buy nearly as many trash bags. We take off our own trash because we live in a rural area, but if we lived in the city limits, we would save because we would not have to pay to have so much garbage hauled off. And of course their are the environmental benefits, but I am sure everyone knows those 😉

* These topics will be covered individually in later posts.

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