Saving Money

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Caroline Caroline
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Saving Money

How exactly are you saving money???

My family already does a few things that you reccommend. We shop consignment, we exercise daily and we eat in our home regularly (no fast food). We are also very good with our money. My husband is in banking and I am a stay-at-home mom. But here is the bad part...

You would be horrified to see my cabinets. I am a "Couponer". Therefore, I shop according to what's on sale, I match up my coupons with sale items and I stockpile, saving 50%-70% on my weekly grocery bill. I have all sorts of wasteful materials in my home that would just make you cringe.

However, I saw your clip on Yahoo and had to subscribe to your blog. I love the simplicity of your home. I love how bright, clean and healthy everything and everyone looks. I guess I don't see how you are saving money. To buy organic and eat completely healthy is expensive. What were the first few steps that you took before starting this lifestyle?

How do I even get started. Do I just start decluttering things, buy all the products your recommend for storing foods and organizing throughout my home? How did you go about cleaning out the house of things you didn't need? Did you just donate all the things in your home or did you have a big garage sale? I just can't believe how much we have... While others have nothing. I would love to learn more about your lifestyle and how you are doing this!

CMD CMD
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From my experience as vegan/veg, it's all about just changing your habit patterns and doing them gradually. It's totally doable. Instead of going all out, I'm gradually phasing things out: plastic bags was number one and is complete, and now it's going to be paper towels, which I'm phasing out in the next two weeks. We use SO many! That will definitely save money in the long run. Talk about money down the drain. Another big one is laundry detergent. I started using about half of what is recommended on the container, and I think my clothes are coming out more clean! Notice no difference and the detergent last longer. Now the next step is going bulk and/or making my own when the currently supply runs out.

I'm a noob to the zero waste world, but had been vegan for 9 yrs, and overall veg-head for 11. Which I know saves me a ton of cash not eating meat. I know for me, making food, rather than buying it pre-made definitely saves me money. Prepared meat analogs, i.e., seitan/veggie burgers and the like are a FORTUNE to buy at the store. But I've got easy recipes that I can make for half the price and freeze the rest for later. Crockpot cooking is awesome. I make a big batch of something about once a week and it last for 8 meals (just hubby and I, so four meals each). Bea suggested pressure cooking...which I think I will try. I habitually buy canned beans because I hate cooking them on the stovetop. But I think a pressure cooker will resolve that dislike. Dry beans versus canned are SO much cheaper and the cooking time is virtually nil with a pressure cooker. The other big item is yogurt. I am on the path to making my own. It's a huge money suck to buy in a store, too. Also, rice in bulk...total saver! Hubby and I buy a 50-lb bag and use a rice cooker. We've got rice all week for meals.







Stephanie Stephanie
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In reply to this post by Caroline
I was a couponer before going zero waste (I am no where near zero waste, but I am getting closer and closer every day!), and honestly, I think I spend about the same as what I use to on groceries: no more, and no less.  I stopped buying anything packaged, forget the middle aisles of the grocery store.  That saves a LOT of money. I now buy Straus organic milk in a glass bottle which is $9 per gallon at my local Whole Foods ( I was buying organic milk before going zero waste, but not in glass, and was spending $6 per gallon).  So milk is a huge expense for us now.  

I know for me, I would shop Target or Costco almost every week, and would pick up random things that I didn't really need and would usually just sit in a cabinet for months before using it.  Now, I only buy what I NEED, and I make at home as much as I can.  

Prepared foods are expensive, so if you cut those out, it will balance out the expensive milk/produce. What I tell my husband, is you get what you pay for.  Sure you might be able to get really cheap food, but is it really FOOD you're buying? Or is it food-like products with no nutrients? I would rather spend more money on real healthy food.
CMD CMD
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You seriously bring up two good points, Stephanie. Thank you so much! 1. Prepackaged foods are so much more expensive. The emphasis on whole foods, instead of processed, is definitely the route to go. 2. Target/Costco/etc, weekly shopping. I've totally changed my mindset when I go into a store like these anymore. The thought that comes to my mind is, "Do I really need this (base it on the "waste" factor)?" I'm amazed at how much I *don't* come out with when I do happen to enter one of these places. As far as the veg lifestyle, you can think you're doing the earth good, but if you're buying a whole lot of processed packaged veg foods, you're no better in the waste production category.

Also, another item to consider: 64% of the US population is either overweight or obese. Sixty-four percent! That's two-thirds! "Normal weight" people are literally becoming a minority in this country. So, we could all probably eat less anyway and be better off. Literally consuming less food and producing less waste = less money spent on food! :)
Marrena Lindberg Marrena Lindberg
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The best thing I've found, for eating healthier, saving money and reducing packaging, has been buying from our local produce delivery service.  I spend $30 a week and they deliver a big box of fruits and vegetables to my front porch, all organic and as locally sourced as possible.  You can put some items on a "No List", like I hate cauliflower, for example, but otherwise you take what they deliver, what is in season.  This encourages our family to have a wide variety in the produce we eat, save money (no strawberries in January), and help be green.  It also encourages us to eat more produce to being with, since a big box comes every week and I don't want to throw anything out.  Each week they pick up the empty sturdy plastic reusable box and leave a full one.

It's great not having to lug five pounds of potatoes home, our produce is fresh and it's saving money.

The worst thing about buying meat is the styrofoam.  Even at Whole Foods they sell some meat with styrofoam, already prepackaged.  You can go to the counter to get it wrapped in butcher paper, or as Bea does, put into your own container.  But Whole Foods meat is so expensive!  I am very carnivorous; I would not do well on eating meat once a week the way Bea's family does.  Even though I am not Muslim, I found a local Muslim butcher and his prices are half the prices of Whole Foods.  He gets his meat locally and it's organic.  He cuts the meat and poultry and grinds the hamburger to order, so I don't worry about centrally processed meat (even Whole Foods got stung with centrally ground hamburger not too long ago).  I still haven't persuaded him to stop using plastic bags, but at least there is no styrofoam!  Shopping at a halal butcher shop is a little different--you call ahead to place your order (once they know you), and there is no meat on display, it's a little strange walking into the shop.  All the meat is kept in the meat locker and brought out to be cut for your order.  The nice thing about calling ahead is you just show up and pay, everything is ready for you when you walk in the store.
cafegirl cafegirl
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In reply to this post by CMD
Also, if you're looking for a way to pass on items to others, there is a site you can join. It's www.freecycle.org, and join the group closest to you. It's all about reuse of items in good condition, to keep them out of landfills. So if you have stuff you can't sell, and don't think good will would want it, try posting to freecycle. I've successfully given away odd things that had accumulated in  my home before I got wise and started refusing, like open bottles of shampoo, magnets, swiffer items etc... I hope this helps with your downsizing efforts, so you'll be able to keep more items out of landfills.
Cassie Cassie
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In reply to this post by Caroline
Here are the first few steps that my husband and I took to get started on zero waste.

1. We went through every room, drawer, closet, and shelf in our house and made a yard sale pile. What didn't sell at the yard sale we donated. You really have to think about whether or not you NEED the stuff and when the last time was that you actually used it.

2. We bought 4 of the blue Wal-Mart bags so we wouldn't have to use plastic bags when shopping. He keep 2 bags in his truch and I keep 2 in my car. I then made a few fabric bags so we would have more. You can find patterns online to make a bag using an old t-shirt.

3. We stopped going grocery shopping and got creative. We had a ton of food in our cabinets that wasn't getting eaten so for 3 weeks we would only buy milk, eggs and bread. It forced us to use up what me had in our pantry, freezer, & refrigerator. While we were doing this we researched our new options for replacing the food, ie farmer's market for fresh bread & produce (we take the weekly adds with us the the farmer's market to check pricing), recipes for what we used to but pre-made/packaged.

For this step we made many lists so we would know what we needed to buy to replace the items after we ate everything up.

4. We built a compost bin. We have a small vegetable garden in our backyard so we found a 55 gal. food grade barrel (plastic but at least we reused it) and built a composter.

5. I stopped buying cleaning products once the old ones ran out. For cleaning around the house I use white vinegar. In my dishwasher I use baking soda and put vinegar in the jet dry well. You'd be suprised how much you save on dishwashing deterrgent.

I hope these ideas/steps help.
CMD CMD
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In reply to this post by Caroline
I want to confirm that ZW is in fact minimizing costs as I'm implementing changes. Here's the tally:

1. Saving $80 in paper towels annually using microfiber cloths (will be $100 next year as I'm factoring in cost of purchasing microfiber cloths)
2. Saving $240/annually yogurt by making homemade (yes, we eat a LOT of yogurt)
3. Switching from 96 gallon trash can to 48 gallon trash can w/city ($35 savings/annually)

So at this point, I'm saving $355 annually, or approx. $30 monthly.

Next big steps:
1. Ending "addiction" to SmartOne meals. We eat 20 vegetarian frozen meals each month @ $2/each, or $40. I've priced out making homemade ones in mass batches with glassware storage to freeze them. Will be $1/each. So, $20 monthly/$240 annually savings.
2. Moving to glass bottle milk w/delivery service. Cost will break even, actually.


Jay Jay
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Was: Where is everyone getting their bulk detergents from? Now: bulk yeast?

This post was updated on .
In reply to this post by Caroline
This is actually in response to Julie on the housekeeping/detergent thread, hope this is ok thread for this:
Buy yeast in jars. You'll be going through the little packets too quickly. If you find it in bulk, just consider how fast turnover is at that shop, yeast can go bad pretty fast without refrigeration or freezing. Bread machine or instant yeast is preferable for your machine. Just learned this: that other yeasts are coated with something (organic) to stabilize and delay blooming, which is why you're supposed to proof it. The Instant is not.
Julie Julie
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Re: Was: Where is everyone getting their bulk detergents from? Now: bulk yeast?

Where can you find yeast in jars? The last time I bought yeast was a 2lb plastic bag from BJs. It was super cheap and I'm only half way through after 2 years (although we are going to go through it much more quickly now that we are baking all of our bread). I've kept it in the refrigerator all this time and it still works great. It is instant yeast used in the bread machine. I'm sure it will last me for quite awhile more, but I'm just looking to the future. I have a friend who has made bread from natural yeast that she cultivated herself, but I don't know if that would work in the bread machine. Plus I'm wondering about sour dough mixture. Maybe I could just keep something like that going and use it for yeast...
Jay Jay
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Re: Was: Where is everyone getting their bulk detergents from? Now: bulk yeast?

That's great! The jars, only 4 oz, are on the same shelf as the little packets. You scored with 2 pounds.
SAF comes in 16 oz "bricks" but the package looks like some sort of plastic laminate. They say it's enough for about 96 (!) loaves. Bulk of course works, maybe just buy a little bit at a time until you're sure its fresh.
I've seen recipes for bread without added yeast (i.e., sour dough) but have never seen the natural yeast you're describing. Interesting. My bread machine book's directions for sour dough are pretty lame; easier just doing it the "old fashioned" way. If the natural yeast requires a sponge, may not be worth using a machine.
Be interested to hear more!
Elizabeth Bednarcik Elizabeth Bednarcik
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In reply to this post by Cassie
Today I went to Whole Foods for the first time. It is not close to my house, about 40 minutes away actually. But we had to go to another store right near there so I told my husband I wanted to pop in to check it out. We were going to grab some bread, bananas, milk and some fish for dinner. I was totally surprised and happy with all the bulk items I found. I didn't know if all Whole Foods were like the one Bea mentions where you can take your own jars and fill up. Wow, they had so much stuff in bulk I was in heaven! I plan on buying all sorts of baking items there like my sugar, flower, etc. From what I did see, it was very expensive. My husband was loving all the good foods too and told me I needed to get a better job if I planned on shopping there. That was the depressing part. My husband and I work in the public service fields, and we don't make a lot of money. However, I want to shop and eat this way. We have been cleaning out waste in our home and are very excited to work towards less waste, simple and healthier living. We are already on a very, very tight food budget so I just don't know how I am going to swing this. The milk prices made my jaw drop. I love organic and this was even more than I was use too in price!

I really like reading these posts because they give me hope that it can be done even if you are not rich. Any more words of encouragement or advice would be appreciated. Baby steps but we will make it!
CMD CMD
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Re: Saving Money

NOTE: I'm the only one working right now. My husband is a full-time student. So we eat on one modest income. :)

I have to say that my spending habits are going DOWN as a result of actively pursuing ZW, not up. We're eating even more whole foods, less packaged foods, and our food bill is going down (by $60/month currently). And we've actually ADDED organic produce. This wasn't the case before...I'm shocked our grocery bill is lower even with 80% of our produce being organic (it was flipped the other way, 80% conventional/20% organic).

I will admit, I try to avoid WF, but they do have an awesome bulk section. :) I'm lucky to have an exclusively bulk foods/goods store in my town that I stock up at. As far as the bulk, I did a cost comparison of everything I currently purchase that could "go bulk" and what the cost (per oz./lb.) would be at the bulk store. I found in every instance the cost was either the same, or slightly lower. So, it was a no-brainer. I also shop the regular grocery stores for organic produce...they have decent sales weekly, or the farmers' market when it's in season here (starts tomorrow, yea!).






Jay Jay
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Re: Saving Money

In reply to this post by Elizabeth Bednarcik
One of the lessons I am learning here, in the spirit of "refuse", is to limit the purchase of bulk foods. In the past, bulk bins were so tempting, I would buy all sorts of exotic goodies that we didn't need, and often didn't eat. I really like Bea's approach to meal planning (posted 2/1/11): once a week shopping, limited, but rotating dry goods, veggies, and fruits, and a simplified, predictable menu plan. If you follow that concept, I sincerely think it'll be cheaper. I'm working on clearing out our stockpile, so haven't really worked that out.
My biggest problem is the huge difference in the cost of meat. I get why, but that's going to be tough. No doubt we'll be eating less.

I do find WF extremely tempting, and figure when I go there I'd better keep my blinders on and stick to a list!
CMD CMD
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This is a good point about the refuse aspect. I'm writing out an exact list of everything we actually need and how much, then I put the blinders on at the store for anything else but what's on that list. I do 2xmonth "major" shopping with with 2xmonth "minor" shopping for produce/eggs/milk only.
Jay Jay
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I like the idea of a biweekly plan, CMD. REALLY like it.
I am an impulse shopper for sure, so those lists and blinders are critical; If I hadn't thought about it ahead of time, I don't *need* it. Classic need vs want. For "fun" I might browse, even produce, but now I write down, instead of buying, the possibilities. I'll research recipes, etc. before committing to buy. My brain is slowly coming around :-))

I think another beauty of this system is that IF you commit to using your own containers, then by bringing ONLY what you need to the store, you won't have any way of carrying off the goodies. That part of the process has already "saved" me more than once.
It also makes the whole idea of using permanent containers feasible and workable.
Sasha Sasha
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In reply to this post by Caroline
I know this thread is old but...I have great tips and interesting stuff!

Tip NUMBER ONE: SCRAPS

The Australian government is not the only one to start campaigning to avoid food waste. 40 percent of typical household food is discarded according to surveys detailed in the following links. Think of that as 40% of your money every week that you spend on groceries being scraped off your plate into the bin. Not to mention the cost of packaging, transporting and cultivating this food which is also having an enormous effect on the environment and wastage in general (hence the government involvement). Congratulations for already composting and doing things to avoid wastage but let me tell you there are exciting culinary delights to be had from veggie peels, leaves, roots...you name it!

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/27/dining/thats-not-trash-thats-dinner.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Interesting article! ^^^^ This thing had me rethinking my shopping bill.

I love the recipe for potato crisps made from potato peels that I would otherwise discard. I throw them in my Whirlpool Crisp n Grill with olive oil and paprika while I'm cooking and they're ready for impatient hungry mouths to eat in around 8 minutes. That contraption has saved me many a night of take away food orders, the product of exhaustion. Plus I saved money on my electricity bill as I don't need to run my oven. Yay! But less on that.

Lots more great recipes in the 'otherwise trash' column here:

http://www.purplekale.com/category/otherwise/

When they're in the fridge I use finely chopped celery leaves as an alternative for parsley in my egg salads etc. I now grow my own but when I think of all the times I bought parsley with celery in my fridge that I didn't use....yikes. What a waste of money!

Also, the Japanese use meat as a condiment not a main. Try it. And when you have eaten that yummy roast chicken, use leftovers in homemade sushi and sandwiches to pack in the lunchbox the next day THEN boil down the carcass to make chicken soup to freeze and stock to freeze. That is three or even four meals out of one.

http://www.sarahwilson.com.au/2012/10/i-love-food-hate-waste-how-to-eat-your-scraps/

The Love Food Hate Waste Program is great.  Plus Sarah Wilson's blog is fixatingly interesting and satisfying to read.

TIP NUMBER TWO: Lentils, Rice, Pasta, Bread, Potatoes, Flour + the Freezer = convenient cheapo meals.

Make your own pizza bases and freeze. Spend a Saturday with a friend making your own pasta. Dry it out, drink wine, take it home, feed the kiddies lasagna. Cook those lentils in batches and freeze in serving portions. No cans. Sides of lentils. Sides of taters. Fill up on cheap but healthy food. Cheap but healthy carbs, my friend, are your friend.

Cheap carrots? Make a slab of cheap carrot cake and freeze. Chop those cheap raw carrots etc. and freeze. Be seasonal and self sufficient.


(Someone mentioned own yogurt making? Jamie Oliver has a simple recipe you can make in the saucepan at home from your organic milk, no need for fancy yogurt makers straight away).

TIP NUMBER THREE (BESTEST TIP OF ALL):

DITCH THE BILLS. Cut them. Bye bye. My mother in law and I were having a chat the other day about the rise in the cost of living. A decade ago her only bills were a monthly line rental for $30 + calls, council rates, electricity, insurance, mortgage repayments and car rego.

Now add to that two mobile phones repayments plus their bills, home phone, wireless broadband, computer antivirus subscriptions, cable TV, car repayments, laptop loan repayments, funeral and life insurance, gym fees and ongoing infomercial crap that gets charged to the credit card each month. It's tough trying to make ends meet in this new tech world (well some things aren't new but you catch my drift). It's tough on families as it is and is it just me or does the cost of properly worming our pets every three months seem to be climbing even higher? The snowball of bills is overwhelming but when we examine them, there are plenty that are not needed.

I am reaching the end of my mobile contract and not renewing. I'm going prepaid and sticking to my old iPhone which I run through the wireless at home anyway. Sticking to my old stuff in general, no new stuff loans.

TIP NUMBER THREE AND A HALF: SHOP WITH A PLAN
 
Speaks for itself. Write a list. Do the cash envelopes thing. It is so easy to 'top up' groceries towards the end of pay week and come home with extra stuff you don't need and less money.


Wow that was a lot more detailed than I had originally intended. Is it odd that I'm passionate about saving money? Not in a scrooge way (I hope) but more like a 'help people out' way. I'm hoping this is useful info for anyone out there and you see some savings in your groceries soon .
Sasha Sasha
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In reply to this post by Caroline
Last one I promise. Brilliant blog written by a Mum who once managed to regularly feed herself and her two children for only $120a fortnight!

http://120dollarsfoodchallenge.com/about/

Treasure trove of recipes and tips.
Joules Joules
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My husband and I started buying better food (from the local farmer's market and organic from the regular grocery store) at higher prices, but actually spend less money now.

Oddly enough, because I'm paying more money for the food, I have a tendency to treat it better than before. I'm careful to store the veggies properly so they don't go bad; we have more fun at cooking; we eat in more often; the quality of the ingredients is higher so food tastes better; we end up eating less food in general because we take our time at meals (and did i mention it tastes better :) and we waste less because we're more eager to eat the leftovers.

This whole process has been a concerted effort, (because I'm just now learning how to cook) but it's been worth it. Food went from being a chore to being fun. It's pretty awesome!
Edward Charette Edward Charette
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In reply to this post by Caroline
The cost of living in Canada is 8.89%, which includes restaurants,food transportation, utilities and housing. On an average a Canadian spends a lot over utility bills, since they consume 1000kWh/month to 2000kWh per month. Few easy steps followed for saving electricity would save them their bucks. Check this article on 5 tips to save electricity http://www.theshockdoctors.ca/blog/general/5-electricity-saving-tips-keep-cool-save-money-this-summer/
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