Monday, July 12, 2010

Green Groceries on the Cheap?

We were out of town all weekend driving to Virginia and back visiting family, so with so few hours of sleep this week, I am reposting a comment on the Green Baby Guide that has plenty of content for a beginning-of-the-week blog post. Thank you so much to Joy of the Green Baby Guide for giving me the idea for this post! Enjoy!

How to Lower the Grocery Bill while still staying Green?
Good for you all for looking at your spending this closely and knowing where you put your "food dollars!" So many Americans don’t pay attention and we all know where that leads our nation… Anyway, I agree with Joy, that to go organic, a food box through a co-op weekly or bi-weekly (for a two person family, bi-weekly is enough for us) and then planning meals around it is the way to go. We get whole chickens from a local farmer and those have gone up (to nearly $12 a chicken!! Sweet heavens! This economy, I tell you what!) but between that and organic meats from our local grocer (Publix here in Florida) we keep the grocery bill at about $200/mth for two people. Now, that’s not awesome, but I share your problem that I make recipes set to serve four and they serve me… and three servings for my husband!! But here are a few super basic, but easy to overlook tips:

#1. Are you including toiletries or other houshold items in your “grocery” bill? A regular $40 grocery checkout can soar to $140 easily with a month-plus worth of shampoo, toothpaste, dish soap, paper towels, etc. in the checkout aisle. Look at buying these items in bulk through “Subscribe and Save” on (especially if you buy Seventh Generation, Alba or other “green” brands that can be super pricey in the super market!) where not only do you get bulk prices but you receive an additional 15% when you subscribe for a regular shipment (which you can cancel anytime without penalty! Bonus!) has more items in bulk but no subscription discount that I know of.

#2. ALWAYS make a list, NEVER buy anything not on the list. Ever… ever… seriously, I know we are all grownups and we think we can walk around Target without a case of the “gimme-gimmes” (a great Bernstein Bears book, by the way!) but we can’t. Make a list with literally EVERYTHING you need and buy off the list and not a single item more. Seriously, it works. This is after considering what will be in your CSA box and knowing what is in season, but don't just wander around mindlessly picking up high fructose corn syrup products wrapped in ten layers of plastic packaging. Gross...

 #3. Become a substitutioner… I used to be a Martha Stewart recipe fanatic but dinner parties through her regularly cost $200+ because of her exotic ingredients. Even everyday recipes that call for mushroom soup when I don’t have it necessitate a trip to the store. So I am “The Great Substitioner”… I google first the item I need and substitutions for it (if something useful comes up, I go with that) but generally I just think about the item “Mushroom soup is thick, creamy, and salty” and then add accordingly with what makes sense (milk, cornstarch/cream of tartar to thicken and salt). And voila! A meal! Now, my husband is not at all picky (and he’s never had a bad meal) but in our three years I cook nightly and several times a weekend (we never eat out) and I’ve only made two meals that weren’t edible to me (none that weren’t edible to him!) One was bean soup that I reheated from the freezer and burned (it tasted like cigarettes… BLEH!) and a crockpot recipe that I followed by the book and it had no consistency and smelled like dog food… the dogs wouldn’t eat it, but my husband loved it!

#4. Use up EVERYTHING in your pantry. Challenge yourself for a month to use EVERYTHING in your pantry. It puts your cooking skills to the test and uses the Economics ideal of “sunk cost” at its best. Old canned pumpkin is not only delicious in June, but everyone loves a quick pumpkin pie cobbler because they haven’t had one in ages!

#5. Create your own standby meals and always have the ingredients on hand for them and then add in what you’ve got. Mine are quiche, vegetable soup and crumble. For quiche I either need to make a pie crust (flour, salt, butter) or have one in the freezer; eggs; milk; and whatever is leftover and soon to "go off"… meat, veggies, spinach/greens, bacon, cheese, etc. Quiche takes whatever you’ve got a little of and makes it into a meal for a family. Crumble takes whatever fruit you have that’s about to go off tomorrow, sprinkle it with lemon juice and a 1/2 cup sugar, and then put together equal parts flour and brown sugar with enough butter (a few tablespoons) of cold butter cut in to make a crumbly texture. Put that on top of the fruit and bake at 350F for about 45 minutes or until the inside begins to bubble... VOILA! Instant dessert and no one even requested it! Congratulations, you’ve just won four more wife gold stars!

Hope those help! Here is to Going Green in a bad Economy! Thank you to Green Baby Guide for the idea for this post!

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