Green and Organic Savings: Summer Delights

May 31st, 2008

Thankfully OrganicMania hit the grocery stores three times this week, because while one trip was a total bust (extreme overspending), the other two trips – without kids in tow – were great for finding bargains. Did you know I go just to take pix and scope out the bargains for OrganicMania? Call me crazy!

On Thursday I visited the Arlington, Virginia, Whole Foods, the first organic grocer I ever frequented, way back in its Fresh Fields days of 1994. It was there that I saw Seth Goldman, now the CEO/TEO of Honest Tea, stocking the shelves with Honest Tea. He was hard to miss – he just didn’t look like your typical supermarket stock boy! DH (then Darling Fiance) and I told him we were sure he would make it big with the organic iced tea. Ten years later and he’s got The Coca Cola Company as a major investor, we’re working together on Bethesda Green, and he’s interviewed here on OrganicMania. Small world!

The Arlington Whole Foods looked like an ode to summer. From the gorgeous organic plants filling the front of the store to the (finally) in-season organic berries, summer’s on its way!

Now’s the time to buy organic berries. Remember, strawberries are in the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen most pesticide-laden produce. But with high prices and low availability most of the year, it can be hard to swallow the normal prices of organic strawberries. Now you can enjoy a box for $4.99. That’s the best price OrganicMania has found at the DC metro My Organic Markets and Whole Foods, and it’s the word on the street too. Anyone find them for a lower price? Organic raspberries can also be had – 2 for $5.00, a great deal, since they’re normally $3.99 each. The California organic red grapes are delicious and just $2.99 a pound, a savings of $2 per pound – also a great deal since conventional imported grapes are also part of the Dirty Dozen.

OneLight(TM) “green” charcoal is on sale now for $3.49, a savings of $1.50 off the regular price. Buy now and stock up for summer! Why green? This charcoal does not require the use of lighter fluid, which emits Volatile Organic Compounds, the third biggest contributor to greenhouse gases.

Who doesn’t love Late July organic crackers? They just taste so light and fresh, plus there are no nasty GMOs with them, as with practically any conventional cracker these days. Now on sale – two boxes for $6.00. Still, for price alone, you can’t beat the 365 brand organic golden round crackers at $1.99 per box. They’re like Ritz crackers, only better. Toddlers love them!

Did you know you can pick up a case of Santa Cruz organic lemonade on sale for $15 per case, a savings of $8.38?

I’ve bemoaned the high price of fresh organic bread before but this Whole Foods sale is pretty good: 2 freshly baked whole wheat baguettes for $4, a savings of 98 cents.

Hmm…charcoal, berries, lemonade, baguettes, crackers? Picnic, anyone? Did you find any good deals this week? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Looking to Save on Organic Food? Ten Tips: The DON’TS!

May 29th, 2008

As we all know, we learn the most from our mistakes. So before I regale you this Friday with more great bargains, let me fess up. I normally keep the weekly grocery bill for a family of four to between $140 to $170, and that’s for mostly organic, fresh local food. This week I gasped when the check-out clerk chirped, “That will be $247.06.”

Why the difference in cost this week? I violated some cardinal “don’ts.” We all know the famous don’t – don’t shop when you’re hungry. But here are some others you may not have thought much about.

1. Don’t Shop When You’re in a Celebratory Mood – Too Happy

If you like to “reward” yourself when things are going well, you may succumb to rewarding yourself with some expensive treats you normally pass by. That was the case with me today. I wish I had simply found a more appropriate way to celebrate my good fortune instead of shelling out extra bucks at the store!

2. Don’t Shop When You’re Feeling Anxious

DH is going out of town for a few nights, so in anticipation, I stocked up on some expensive convenience foods we don’t normally buy, but that I figured would make my job of preparing meals a bit easier. (Yes, DH cooks all the meals!) Did I really need to buy the expensive, refrigerated pasta for $8.48 when a less expensive box of pasta would do the job just fine? To make matters worse, I sprang for pesto as well, at $4.99.

3. Don’t Let Your Kids Influence What You Buy

Big Boy loves to shop with Mama, because he knows I’m “a softie.” Daddy has been saying no to certain organic cereals for months now, but today I finally caved, shelling out $4.69 for a box of “Organic Kid Marketing Clifford Crunch, when I know I can buy “no name brand” organic cereal in large bags or in bulk for a much lower cost.

4. Don’t Violate Rules That Work – ie, Don’t Buy More than One “Treat” per Trip

A few months back, when DH and I realized that our grocery bills were over the top, we decided to pare back on snacks and non-essential foods. Actually, DH decided this a long time ago. He was an advocate of “no processed foods” before anyone had heard of Michael Pollan! Of course, Big Boy likes to take a bag of snack foods to the soccer field to share with the other boys, and I prefer “organic junk food” to hydrogenated oil and GMO junk food, so I normally allow Big Boy to choose one or two items per week. Today we bought six bags and boxes – to the tune of $13.80 instead of the usual $5 or $6. That’s stuff we really don’t need. Plus, I sprang for some organic ice cream (Green & Black’s – yum!) for $4.29.

5. Don’t Buy an Expensive New Item That You Haven’t Researched Ahead of Time

I shelled out $18 on new Natures Gate sun creams that I hadn’t researched. I normally run everything through the Environmental Working Group’s excellent SkinDeep cosmetics safety database, but today, I didn’t. Unfortunately, in very few cases does a brand score consistently well in all product categories – and Natures Gate was no exception. One of the products is ranked as a “high hazard” with a score of 7, whereas the other sun cream is a low moderate hazard of 3. That means wasted time and money for me – I’ll be returning at least one bottle, and perhaps two.

6. Don’t Stock Up on Non-Sale Items

DH asked me to pick up some of that great Whole Catch frozen fish I’ve blogged about here. One or two packages would have been fine – we still have one in the freezer. Did I need to buy four packages? No? If I had purchased only two, I would have saved $15.08.

7. Don’t Buy Bulk Items You Can Order Online More Cheaply

Finding a well rated sunscreen that my kids will use – and even apply themselves – was a challenge. You guessed it- it’s one of the more expensive brands out there. The California Baby SPF30+ Sunblock Stick is a great product, but at $12.99 it’s pricey. Did I need to buy two? No, especially not when you can stock up online at sites like this one for just $10.14, with free shipping on orders over $75. So let’s subtract one tube plus the $2.85 price differential I would have saved if I had ordered online.

8. Don’t Continue “Treats” from One Week to the Next

Last week, as a special treat for the holiday weekend, I purchased bagels and cream cheese, then promptly left the cream cheese at home and let the bagels get moldy. Did I really need to buy more bagels at $3.69? No. We could have put cream cheese on our home made bread and it would have been just as delicious!

9. Don’t Buy More Perishables than Your Fridge or Counters Can Handle

All of those fresh fruit and veggies look so good. There’s a reason I call Whole Foods the Nordstrom of grocery stores! But did I really need watermelon and organic apples and bananas and organic pears and organic raspberries and organic grapes? Not to mention organic carrots, of which we had plenty at home. Perhaps the same assortment but in smaller quantities – I could have easily saved $10 and still brought home a fine assortment of fruit.

10. Don’t Buy Things You Really Don’t Need

It sounds so simple, and yet my receipt shows $8.99 for “The Naked Bird.” I have no idea what this is! I can’t even find it, and a Google search didn’t even turn up a likely match.

And as for that $250 bill? I asked the cashier if most families spent that much on groceries. She smiled knowingly and said, “Yes, that’s typical.” You’d never know it from some of the online discussions I’ve seen about organic food. I think people understate how much they actually spend!

My tally on the “don’ts” – I’m embarassed to fess up, but these ten mistakes added up to $94.05 in excess spending. Subtract that from the $247.06, and my bill should have been $153.01 — right in my normal range.

Happy Shopping!

Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Time for Fun: The Oregon Trail Game

May 25th, 2008

Needed a bit of levity this morning, and found the perfect thing: a fun challenge to list the four bloggers you would take with you on the Oregon Trail, courtesy of Crunchy Chicken, who found it on the Arduous blog, who found it at this great site called Cinco (Making Blogging Fun Again: 5 Steps at a Time).

Anyway, on the crazy OrganicMania wagon (blogger edition) is Jessica from SurelyYouNest, because she’s the only person I know who does as much research as me! Between the two of us, we’d lay out an eco-friendly trail. Then there would be Expat Chef, because she would make sure we were well fed! I’d want La Marguerite along because she would challenge us to think Deep Thoughts and so it would be a very interesting trip! And finally, it’s a tie between Sher from WrekeHavoc and Julie from Internet Marketing Report because they always make me laugh!

There’s also a celebrity edition. But they’re too high maintenance! I’ll stick with my bloggy pals!

Who would you take?

–Lynn

10 Tips to Green Your Memorial Day Picnic: Green and Organic Savings Friday

May 23rd, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend is the time for traditional picnics and barbeques. This year, go green! There’s never been a better time to do it – prices on biodegradable and corn-based disposable cutlery, plates and cups are down, and organic strawberries are in season. Here’s a look at what you can expect at the stores this week-end as you stock up, along with 10 tips for greening your Memorial Day holiday.

1. Need to mow the lawn to make your yard look beautiful? Forget about conventional gas and electric mowers. Go retro with a good old fashioned push mower. Not only will you help to save the planet, you’ll get real exercise too! If you must use gas or electric, how about sharing a mower with your neighbors?

2. Running out to pick up a grill? Diane MacEachern has some great tips on solar-powered and other “green grills”at her blog here.

3. The Big Green Purse author also suggests using lump charcoal instead of briquettes, which may contain coal dust and other additives. Diane says to look for hardwood briquettes from forests certified by the Rainforest Alliance’s SmartWood program, or lumps made from coconut husks. Cow boy Charcoal, sold at Lowe’s, Trader Joe’s and under the Whole Foods 365 brand, makes chunk charcoal out of wood leftover from furniture making and construction.

4. Cleaning off the dirty lawn chairs? Remember to use green cleaners. There’s no excuse now, with prices down to $2.98 on Green Works cleaners at WalMart.

5. Planning the menu? Re-think the beef. Beef is a key contributor to global warming. Can you go veggie? There are great veggie alternatives available like delicious veggie burgers, soy-based corn dogs, and of course the old staples of potato and pasta salad.

6.My Organic Market has a great in-store display up of everything you could possibly need for a green and organic Memorial Day picnic. From Drew’s Organic and All Natural Dressing and Marinade to Walnut Acres Organic Baked Beans, Rudy’s Organic Wheat Burger Buns for $3.29 per package, Rudy’s Organic Hot Dog Buns for $2.59 per package, Tree Free Plates for $7.99 a package, Biodegradable Forks, Knives and Spoons for $2.99 per package, and Tree-Free bowls for $4.69 per package. There’s a huge selection of organic beer and wine, and for the kids, Honest Kids Juice Quenchers are on sale for $3.99 for a box of 8 pouches. They even have gourmet lump charcoal – 100% all natural hardwood. (May be a contradiction in terms if you’re buying tree-free bowls, but we’ll leave that alone!)

7. What’s for dessert? It’s strawberry season! Finally, organic strawberries have fallen in price to the $4.99 a level (seen at MOM’s). You can even make a red/white/blue dessert with organic strawberries and blueberries and vanilla ice cream. Try Julie’s Organic Ice Cream. Its to die for!

8. Time to clean up? Whip out the biodegradable plastic trash bags, now just $4.95 per package here.

9. When dusk comes, and you head inside, open the windows instead of turning on the air conditioner. You’ll save money and the environment!

10. If you’re heading back home to the big city after enjoying time at the beach, you may want to check out the local farmers markets or grocers. We pick up organic fruits when we are in smaller towns that enjoy a lower cost of living than our big city home town.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

10 Tips for Eco-Friendlier Fast Food Dining

May 20th, 2008

Let’s face it, it’s the rare person who does not at some point end up in a fast food joint. As we’ve discussed here before, trying to eat healthy & organic while on the go can be a real dilemma.

The fact is, there truly is no Broccoli Heaven. So when you find yourself in a McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Burger King, or other fast food place off the interstate, don’t despair. Here are ten steps you can take to make your dining experience a wee bit more eco-friendly.

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1. Bring your own cup.
2. If you didn’t bring your own cup, request a glass or regular cup — you know, the type that can be washed! Otherwise, odds are you’ll be given a plastic disposable cup or “kid cup.”
3. Remember that salad dressing will be brought to you in a plastic cup or pouch unless you request otherwise. You can skip the dressing, or ask for it to be poured directly on your salad. (You might want to ask for half the usual amount!)
4. They’ll bring too much stuff. Ask for just ONE condiment cup instead of TWO.
5. Go topless. Why use lids? Save the plastics!
6. Don’t take a “doggie bag” (often a Styrofoam container) unless you are really certain you will eat the leftovers. Do you really want all those extra calories anyway???
7. Tell your server that you don’t want a straw. No plastic straws!
8. Order vegetarian. Meat products are a significant contributor to global warming. Think pizza, fries, or a garden salad.
9. Bring your own napkins to avoid using paper napkins (keep cloth napkins in your car).
10. Don’t take more plastic cutlery than you need – you’re not setting the dinner table!

Works for me!

If it doesn’t work for you, talk to the manager. Customers have power!

Oh, and to answer my bloggy friends Gift of Green and Julie – with no Broccoli Heaven around, we went to Pizza Hut!

Broccoli Heaven

May 18th, 2008

Ah, spring weekends – the time to hop in your fuel-efficient car and head out to the beach or parts unknown. But with kids in tow, you’re decidedly less footloose and fancy free than you used to be. We’ve had discussions here before about what a dilemma it is to be Organic & On the Go. Where do you find a decent place to eat off America’s highways?

This weekend, DH and I really thought we had the problem licked. A simple 2 1⁄2 hour trip and we were loaded and ready:
Organic Apples, washed, and knife – check
Organic Rice Cakes – check
Organic American Cheese – check
Organic Carrot Sticks – check
Home Made Organic Whole Wheat Bread – check
Biodynamic Cookies – check
One gallon water jug and BPA-free cups – check

Unfortunately, traffic lengthened our trip and before long we heard the incessant whine every parent dreads. The “I’m hungry!” kindergartner whine.

“Eat your rice cake,” was our response.

“No, I’m really hungry. For a real meal. Not these SNACKS. I want to go to McDonalds.”

“There are no McDonalds along this road, honey,” I responded.
“There’s only Broccoli Heaven.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s a new organic fast food place where they serve broccoli. And you can get organic milk too,”I jested.

“I DON’T WANT TO GO TO BROCCOLI HEAVEN, I WANT TO GO TO MCDONALDS!”

“Well, we’re not going to McDonalds. Eat your rice cake.”

“You’re starving me!”

“Honey, we’re not starving you. Look at all this food in the car!”

“These are snacks. I want a meal at McDonalds. And besides, Broccoli Heaven doesn’t exist.”

“Really? Why do you say that?”

“Because broccoli doesn’t go to heaven.”

Boy’s got a point. Can’t argue with that.

Wonder how McDonald’s is coming along with their Organic and Eco-Friendly Happy Meals!

Happy trails!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Green and Organic Savings Friday: CVS “Organic” Make-up, Late Night Specials at Whole Foods, Organic Baby Food and More!

May 16th, 2008

Last night OrganicMania discovered an advantage to waiting until the absolute last minute to pick up groceries. Never before had I heard the voice booming across Whole Foods announcing, “Two-for-one Special! Buy One, Get One Free!” Buy what? Where the heck was I? For a second, I thought I was back in Germany, where at Kaufhalle a flashing blue siren goes off before a voice announces “Sonderangebot!”

But no, it was the gorgeous sandwiches in the prepared food section that were on sale. Every night at about 9:55 p.m. you can pick up two sandwiches for the price of one. OrganicMania nabbed two gorgeous eggplant sandwiches for $3.15 each! Can’t beat that…

Well, maybe….we just tried the eggplant sandwich and sad to say, it is a bit past its prime, despite the prepared food manager’s assurances that it would taste just fine. My DH deemed it better suited to a midnight snack, and suggested we keep experimenting “in the name of research” to see if any of their sale sandwiches hold up better than the eggplant. More on that subject another week!

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Isn’t it great to see all these sale signs on organic make-up? Now’s the time to try Physician’s Formula Organic Make-up with the 2 for one sale at CVS. Not only is the make-up 2 for the price of 1, but CVS offers incredible coupon savings through their CVS card program. So savvy CVS shoppers may be able to get their make-up for nothing or next to nothing!

I haven’t tried this make-up yet, but one thing I love about it is the sustainable packaging. The powder is packaged in recyclable paper instead of petroleum-based plastic. That’s one trend we should all hope that the other cosmetics makers adopt.

On the flip side, this make-up is marketed as “organic” when it has many chemical ingredients and is not certified USDA organic. The marketing of this “organic make-up” falls into that “gray area” OrganicMania discussed here with Diane MacEachern, noted environmentalist and author of the eco best seller “Big Green Purse.”

But as with so many other cosmetics lines, you need to be careful about the specific products you purchase. Check out this overview of Physicians Formula ingredients by the Environmental Working Group, and you’ll see that the safety rankings are all over the map. Best bets?

The powder and foundation are both ranked 3, or “moderate hazard” by the EWG, which is actually very good compared to most cosmetics.

OrganicMania considers the eye make-up remover pads and sunscreen “best buys” with EWG rankings of 2, or low hazard. It’s unlikely you’ll find a better choice for your money .

Now that you’re all beautified, what does that lead to? Romance! Love! Babies! Baby food! How’s that for a segue?

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Safeway once again has its housebrand O Organics Baby Food 4.5 ounce baby food jars on sale, 10 jars for $7.00 or 17.5 cents per ounce, saving you 90 cents on ten. Unfortunately, that’s a whole dollar more per ten than this organic baby food sale Safeway ran about six months ago, when organic baby food was priced at a just a penny more than conventional baby food! But 10 jars for $7.00 is still a good deal with today’s rising food prices. Are you planning to keep buying organic for your baby? Leave a comment and share!

Did you find any good deals this week? Please share your tips! And check out these other savings tips here. (Warning: some green, some not so green!)

Happy shopping!

Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Stinging Nettles Need a New Name!

May 14th, 2008

Belonging to a CSA is an incredible experience. You gain exposure to produce that you might normally never buy – and certainly would never find at your local market. I’ve posted here about CSA biodynamic and organic treasures such as Jerusalem artichokes, persimmons, celeriac, black radish, salsify, purple top turnips, passionfruit, kabocha squash and sweet white turnips.

But sometimes, trying to expose a kindergartner to nature’s bounty has its challenges.

Just imagine you were 5-years-old. Would you eat stinging nettles? You’d have to be brave, wouldn’t you? After all, “stinging nettles” sound like scary creatures from Harry Potter! They might sting your tongue, don’t you think? And in fact, they really do sting before they are cooked. You saw this warning sign with your own eyes.

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But after nettles are sautéed in olive oil with leeks and onions, they are quite delicious, thank you very much. Try telling that to a skeptical boy, eyeing you and the stinging nettles warily!

Fortunately, this kid is well aware of Organic Kid Marketing. So Mom tried to explain that since the stinging nettles come directly from a farm to the CSA, they haven’t been marketed and packaged properly by Organic Kid Marketers. Perhaps he had some ideas?

Yes! Organic Cobra Stinging Nettles, packaged with free stickers of cobras and drawings of cobras all over the box.

Great idea! Cobras are way cool! We love cobras!

Just imagine these nettles came in that cool cobra box. Now eat your nettles!

Not a chance….

Sigh…

Check out some other cool CSA and farmers market fare recipes here at Beth Bader’s Farmers Market Fare and some make-your-own concoctions at Surely You Nest.

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

The $5 Loaf of Bread: Will You Keep Buying Organic Foods?

May 13th, 2008

With food prices on the rise, it seems nearly everyone is reconsidering their organic purchases. And of course it’s all over the media – in  Newsweek and even in local newspapers like this one. That’s one reason why OrganicMania is tracking some of the few remaining “good deals” on organic foods every Friday, and why we’re even gathering tips like these from organic grocers themselves.

I’m not the only one who has resorted to buying the ingredients to bake bread, instead of shelling out $5 a loaf. Fact is, I’ve heard from several people who have started baking their own bread. And these are busy parents who have better things to do than to bake bread! If that’s not a sign that people are changing their buying patterns, what is?

But what about those items that you can’t simply replace with home made? Will you keep buying organic?

Most people who go organic do it out of health concerns for their children. Increasingly, women go organic during pregnancy. That’s not going to change. OrganicMania’s prediction is that USDA certified organic foods targeted at pregnant women and children will continue to sell well.

And of course, the main reasons – Organics’ Four Factors – haven’t changed. Buying organic is still the best bet for people concerned about avoiding chemical pesticides, protecting the environment and farm workers, animal rights and taste.

But with home values shrinking and gas and food prices up, for most folks, something has to give. And that something will include some organic foods. But as any parent knows, we’ll sacrifice something for ourselves before we deprive our kids. OrganicMania is betting that cut-backs in organic spending will not affect foods purchased for pregnant women and children. If anything, there’s more and more focus among women on going green and organic – which will offset any cutbacks on organic food spending for pregnant women and young children.

What do you think? Have your buying habits changed recently? Leave a comment and share!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Are You “Just” a Mom?

May 13th, 2008

Have you ever heard a woman say she was “just a Mom?” I not only hear it, but see it all the time all over the blogosphere. I can’t count the number of times I’ve stumbled across a beautifully designed, well written site, and clicked to read more about the author of this wonderful work, only to read her words… “I’m just a Mom.”

Really?

Do you ever hear anyone say the following?

I’m just a doctor.

I’m just a teacher.

I’m just a salesperson.

Of course not. So why are we “just” Moms? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Moms start calling themselves ‘Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.’

But I am suggesting that putting “just” in front of any title – be it doctor, lawyer, or mother – diminishes the worth of that person. God knows we Moms struggle enough – we don’t need to make it any harder on ourselves!

There are some really inspiring books out there about Motherhood. Some of my favorites are “Birth of a Mother” by Dr. Daniel N. Stern, M.D. and “The Price of Motherhood” by Ann  Crittenden. In those books you’ll find so much food for thought and reflection that maybe, just maybe, you’ll never say “just” again.

Can you tell I’m still on a Mother’s Day high?

That’s just how we Moms are.

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania