tips, topics, info and insight to help you save money and make our world a little greener

Friday, June 4, 2010

Making a difference, a little at a time...

With the horrific oil spill taking center stage in the news, the small environmental steps we take...recycling, turning lights off and the heat down, buying used clothing and locally-grown foods...can look insignificant. It takes a bit of staying power not to feel like throwing in the towel. With the Gulf and its beaches and wetlands going to straight to hell, what difference will my tiny efforts in Pennsylvania make?

But I'm going to keep on because, deep down, I really do believe that our individual efforts can add up to important movements. I know that by staying true to what I think is important can help change other people's behaviors.

I hope that my friends and fellow eco-warriors don't become discouraged or bitter or cynical. They have every reason to go in that direction. Maybe I'm just being a Pollyanna, but I'm going to keep trying, and keep believing that we can make a difference.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Extreme frugal food? Great way to save money. Is it green? Not so much.

It's been about two months since I've posted...sort of lost my momentum for a bit. But now I'm back on track and eager to share things I've learned and ideas I've been working on.

Though I haven't been writing, I have been doing a lot of reading on green and frugal topics. Just recently, I've discovered Kristen Hagopian's blog Brilliant Frugal Living. This month Kristen is chronicling her efforts to feed herself for a month for $25. Total. That's 3 meals a day! She is able to pursue this unlikely goal by purchasing steeply discounted canned goods from a grocery outlet that offers 155 cans of vegetables, fruit, pie filling, ready-to-eat foods like hash and Chef Boyardee ravioli, for $2. That's $2 for all 155 cans! Kristen shops at the B&B Grocery Outlet in Morgantown, PA, which is near Pittsburgh. Not convenient for, but a search for grocery outlets produced a website with lisings by state, along with many other sites with regional and local listings. I may check one out in Allentown, PA, about an hour's drive from my home.

For people on a very tight budget, these stores can be a God-send. But, given the quality of the foods in the $2 boxes, I would hope that most would only turn to this approach if they are truly desperate. Think about the salt, the preservatives and, possibly even worse, the BPA in those cans of food. Then there are the environmental issues creating by industrial farming techniques, processing methods,  packaging and food transport. Extreme food savings is obviously not green.

However, saving money on food is an important part of every frugalista's plans, and it's a goal that can be reached with a variety of strategies. First, there is the issue of waste. By reducing the amount of food we throw away, we can reduce the amount of money we spend. Jonathan Bloom has been covering this topic brilliantly on his blog Wasted  Food. Next, it pays to really understand the relationship of food to real nutrition and health. Reading books like Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma helps put this into perspective. The reality is we can eat less, if we eat better. Then there is the idea of reducing the amount of meat we eat, and using the savings to purchase higher quality meat that comes from pastured, antibiotic and hormone free, humanely-raised animals. Cookbook writer Pam Anderson has written about this on her blog, Three Many Cooks. Other avenues include bulk buying, food co-ops and seasonal purchases of inexpensive produce to freeze, can or store in a root cellar.

And finally, there is growing your own. This something very dear to my heart. Some of my readers may know that my dad and I have written a book entitled The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegetable Gardening. I'm convinced that just about anyone, just about anywhere can grow at least some food. Much more on this topic in future posts.