When times are tough economically, it’s easy to tell ourselves that the most endangered species is our standard of living. It’s hard to worry about saving the whales or slowing climate change when we’re worrying that we’ve overdrawn our checking account – again – with that last trip to the supermarket.
Maybe, we think, it’s time to stop spending so much on organic food and planet-friendly cleaning supplies. And do we really need to worry so much about what we put on our skin or can we just grab that store brand baby shampoo and save a buck?
I’m in the same boat as a lot of people. Our income has gotten smaller. Our taxes have gone up. The geek is paying more for gas to get to the computer mines. It seems like everything is going up except our income. I’ve stood in the supermarket produce section, literally weighing two tomatoes in my hand, wondering if it’s really a big deal if I don’t buy the organic one that costs twice as much as the one that was grown by a Big Agro company.
What do I – a woman who writes a blog about the importance of being Green – do in this situation? You might be surprised. I’ll tell you within this list of 5 things you can do to resolve your own supermarket dilemmas and decisions that seem to pit money against the health of your family and the planet.
1. If the Green, organic or natural version is just too darned expensive, don’t buy the item, period. Like the tomatoes I compared, sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to pay an outrageous price for out of season produce. (Of course, in Maine in winter, that leaves you with pine cones, juniper berries and birch tips, but still.) Instead of tomatoes, I bought some nice organic onions and garlic, which are just as healthy as tomatoes. Together with dried beans and some organic carrots, I made a thick, hearty bean soup that lasted us for three meals and cost much less than a dollar a serving.
2. Get some staples, like flours and other bulk foods, at a co-op or health food store. We buy all our organic grains and flours at a local co-op which has much lower prices on those items. Spices, too, are usually a lot cheaper if you fill a little plastic baggie with them at the health food store or co-op and then transfer them to containers at home.
3. Keep your cleaning routine and supplies simple. I get by with liquid glycerine soap, Sal Suds, Sal Soda, Baking Soda, White Vinegar and lemonade mix for keeping everything clean and de-germed. (I use the cheap, store-brand lemonade mix to clean the toilet bowls once a month. The citric acid does a good job if left in it overnight.)
4. Make a little go a long way. I buy organic stew beef and make four meals with it. I add veggies and rice or grains to make two stir fry meals. For soup, I add beans, peas, rice and/or macaroni. Or I thicken the broth with sweet potatoes pureed in the processor or add miso to make the soup taste beefier.
5. Plan your meals around what’s on sale or what you have in the freezer. I go online to check the sales at the two supermarkets in my area. Then I look in my cupboard to see what I have on hand that will go with what’s on special this week. I plan my meals and make a shopping list around those meals. I try to keep meals simple but interesting, by adding little garnishes or extras.
For instance, we have oatmeal a lot in the winter. I love it, but the rest of the family gets tired of it, so I’ve learned how to disguise it with blueberries, chopped apple and cinnamon, maple syrup, apple pie or pumpkin pie spice, raisins and cinnamon. When I add raisins or apples, I put them right into the water that I boil before I put the oats in. It really sweetens the cereal and – in the case of the raisins, you probably won’t need additional sweetener.
To paraphrase: When the going gets tough, the tough get creative. Don’t let the economy be an excuse to get slack. Use coupons for paper goods and cosmetics that are planet-friendly. Go online to find coupons and specials. Be very persistent and adamant about living a green lifestyle and if you have a tip for going Green when you feel like you can’t afford to, please share it in a comment.