With that said, I would not consider myself extremely eco-minded, green or "granola" as some of my friends put it. I do what works for me, what saves me money and what I believe will give my child a good idea of how to treat the planet and those around her. Since I am a stay-at-home mom, budget is very important to me. I need to keep in mind that we as a family are working with less money than we were a few years ago. It is still pretty easy to "go green". So how do I do this on a budget?
1) I use white bar towels in the kitchen instead of paper towels. They are just white cotton that wash easily. I have 20 of them or so and I wash them about once a week. They cost about $20. I used to go through a roll of paper towels a day, each roll runs about 75 cents to $1 depending on the brand. Now I go through a roll every week or so for the really nasty stuff that I do want to throw out.
2) I have reusable shopping bags that I take everywhere with me, they stay in the car. I've brought maybe 20 plastic shopping bags into the house in the last year. The shopping bags cost $1 each at Meijer or Target (I have some of each) I even have some small ones that I can keep in my purse for smaller purchases. This was about an $8 investment and a few stores in the area give a discount for each bag you reuse.
3) I bring my cooler with me to the grocery store (it lives in the car too) and I put my cold items in there when I am done. No I don't live in the boonies, in fact it takes 4 minutes to get to the store and that is only if I have to wait for the lights. I do this because it means that anytime of year I can do all of my errands at once without having to worry that my groceries will go bad. Believe me, it gets VERY hot here in the summer and I've never had anything go bad. I save a lot of gas this way.
4) We use florescent bulbs in most of our lights. This happened over the years, sort of by accident. We bought a couple of six packs of bulbs at Costco, with a coupon I think, and when the old incandescent bulbs burn out, this is what we have on hand. You've heard that they use lots less energy so they also put off a lot less heat, and I pay less for air conditioning. Did I mention that it gets hot here in the summer?
5) I manage my air conditioning. I turn it off overnight, unless it is going to be really hot, and I don't turn it on again until about 2 p.m. most days in the summer.
6) We grow our own veggies. We have a pretty small yard but there is space for a vegetable garden and we have pots on the deck for herbs and whatnot. We'll spend $50 this year on seeds, compost (yes we are working on our own composting but we don't have enough for what we need yet), plants, etc. and grow most of the produce we need. The pictures were taken today as we started some seeds to get a jump on the garden. My daughter thinks that gardening in general is great fun so I always have a willing helper.
7) We pick our own berries, etc. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, green beans, and apples are all for sale at u-pick prices within 20 minutes of our home. We go early in the day, usually around 9 a.m. pick for an hour, which is really as long as my daughter thinks it is fun, and then we come home and process them. This is not as scary as it sounds. Usually all it means is cleaning and freezing what ever we picked. We're still working on the green beans I picked last summer. I make freezer jam out of some of the berries, this couldn't be easier. Just use the recipes that come in the Sure-Jell pectin packets and freeze them in the Ball freezer jars. We're still working on the jam I made last summer too. One batch makes 8 jars and takes one hour. Have you priced organic strawberry jam lately? Trust me, it is worth your time.
8) Hit the Farmer's Market. The veggies we don't grow or pick, we buy locally from some very nice people. Our Farmer's Market is about 2 miles from our house and we make a trip each Saturday during the summer. The prices are better than the grocery store and we get great produce, meat, eggs, dairy products, even honey. All this at our dinky little small town market, I'd bet the larger markets are even better.
9) The library is your friend. We go to the library once a week. My daughter gets to pick 10 books and 2 movies. She is thrilled and so am I. It's free and it is a good way to teach her about sharing and recycling. Besides, when she is done with these items, they go back the library instead of sitting on the shelf for 3 months until she is interested again.
I hope this was helpful. It sounds like a lot but really it is just a few wise purchases and a couple hours a week during the summer. You're going to be outside anyway, why not save some money and be nice to the earth?