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

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.


  1. I'm not so much into "green" eating but more into "nutritional values". Seems that Kristen has forgotten that eating should be a pleasure that keeps our bodies healthy. Kristen's experiment leads to cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

  2. The deeply discounted canned goods boxes sound like they could be instrumental in helping stretch a food budget, but, like you, I wouldn't want to have to rely on it for the majority of our food. There have to be, and are (as you point out) better ways to reduce one's food budget. I'd rather spend the money on good food, and scrimp in other places. You know that old saying, "you are what you eat?" I want to be made of good stuff!

  3. Nadine - eating is sometimes too much of a pleasure for me! Seriously, the quality of the food is what is important. We try to eat as many locally-sourced foods as we can, but we have to watch our budget too. It's a dilemma. I think Kristen's experiment is clever, though I did suggest that she check her blood pressure at the beginning and then the end of her experiment. Swigget - I agree, we are what we eat in so many ways. So we need to be really conscious of what we put in our bodies. Thank you both for visiting. I'm so happy to be writing again!