Keeping Cool with Ice Cream: How to Save, What to Buy (Part 1)

July 24th, 2010

It’s one of the most frequent questions I’m asked. “If  I can’t afford to buy everything organic, what should I buy organic?” My response:  it depends on what you eat most often.

And in summer, when I declare ice cream “the divine right of children,” ice cream becomes a basic food group. (Particularly on days like today, when my car’s therometer hit 106 degrees.)

Boo with Aldens Organic Ice Cream Con

But the $5.69 price tag on a half gallon of organic ice cream can cause the most devoted organic fan to pause. I wondered if I was really spending my money wisely, so I decided to take a closer look at the prices and ingredients of some popular ice cream brands.

My neighbor is a big fan of Edy’s. It’s what she served at a recent Cub Scout picnic (you remember –  the one where the parents covertly drank wine from water bottles). I wondered if I was a fool for shelling out $5.69 for Alden’s organic ice cream, when the kids seemed perfectly happy with the $2.69 per gallon Edy’s (And they do have a really cool spumanti flavor). So I took a closer look at Edy’s ice cream ingredients, and in addition to  the usual milk, cream, and sugar,  here’s what I found:

Ick. Corn syrup’s bad enough, but artificial flavors and trans-fats are on nearly every Mom’s “avoid” list – organic fanatic or not.

And think about it. That’s just what they’re required by law to list. No where will you see that the milk came from cows treated with hormones or the corn from pesticide laden fields – we can just infer that, because it’s not organic.

When I went to Edy’s web site to double check the ingredients list, I found another fun fact: Edy’s (along with Dreyer’s) is owned by Nestle, a company whose products many of us try to avoid.

What’s in the organic ice cream I love? Nothing I can’t pronounce. Just simple, wholesome ingredients that are organic – which means there’s no hormones, no pesticides, and no Genetically Modified Organisms.

And a bonus discovery was learning that instead of being owned by a controversial global conglomerate, Alden’s is family owned. It’s part of the Oregon Ice Cream Company, which has been making ice cream for 80 years.

Now here’s the really good news. When I was at Whole Foods River Road in Bethesda on Friday, Aiden’s was on sale for $5.19 a gallon, until July 27th. So now’s the time to try.

Alden's organic ice cream on sale at Whole Foods

Alden's organic ice cream on sale at Whole Foods

Of course I’m not a total zealot. My kids buy ice cream from the Good Humor man. And I do buy other brands of ice cream from time to time. But let’s talk about that in my next post, when we’ll look at how organic ice cream stacks up to my childhood favorite, Breyer’s, and cult favorite Ben and Jerry’s.

Stack em up: Alden's Organic vs. Breyer's All Natural vs. Ben & Jerry's rGBH free ice cream

Stack em up: Alden's Organic vs. Breyer's All Natural vs. Ben & Jerry's rGBH free ice cream

Meanwhile, stay cool in this heat wave!

– Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

Disclosures: I am one of those endangered species of bloggers that actually blogs about things I buy with my own money. No one sent me ice cream. A PR rep didn’t pitch this story.   I’m not consulting for any of these companies. I just love ice cream, love organics, and love blogging about both and thought I’d share with you!

Organic and Green Savings: Gardening Edition!

April 11th, 2010

The next Green Moms’ Carnival, to be hosted on Monday, by the lovely Anna of Green-Talk, is all about gardening.  Last spring, inspired by Anna and her great gardening posts I decided to try raising plants from seed for the first time. It was fun in the beginning.

recycled seed pots

But unfortunately the plants never took.

Fact is, I’m not much for gardening. I can’t even keep an “indestructible” bamboo plant alive on my desk.

deadbamboo

The only plants that survive in my garden are the really natural ones – you know, the ones that come up no matter what you do. (And the ones that our house’s former owner, a Master Gardener, planted and left for us!)

So my bad luck with gardening presented a dilemma for this carnival. What to write? What could I possibly contribute?

For the past few years, I’ve blogged on a semi-regular basis about organic and green savings. Most of the time I’ve focused on food. Never on gardening. So here you go – if I can’t pass along sage gardening advice, at least I can pass along a few tips on good gardening values.

Organic Gardening Soil & Other Organic Accoutrements

In the past few years, the organic gardening trend has really taken off. And frankly, it’s puzzled me a bit. For unless you live on soil that was previously treated with chemicals, herbicides and pesticides, odds are your soil is already organic! There’s no need for fancy “organic” soils and supplies. Save your money for more important organic supplies…plants and seeds.

Which Organic Seeds?  Which Organic Plants?

It’s pretty cool to find all of the grocery stores stocking seed these days – even organic seed. But there’s a price differential – as with most things organic. At the  local Giant and Safeway grocery stores in Bethesda, Maryland, you’ll pay .90 cents more per packet for organic seed versus conventional. Funny how it seems like a lot of money at the time – until you think of how much produce those seeds should yield!

organicseed_Giantphoto

What are you really buying?  For the home gardener, the most important thing about organic seed is that it guarantees that the plants you are growing will not be from genetically modified stock. So which plants are most likely to be genetically modified?  In the US, the vast majority of corn, soy, and tomato crops are genetically modified. Concerns have been raised about what the ramifications may be of ingesting GMOs – a practice that has been banned in Japan and the EU.  There may be some genetic modification of other crops, but it’s not as common as with corn, soy and tomato – so those are the plants and seedlings you should definitely buy organic. By all means, buy everything organic if you can  – just to be on the safe side. But if not, spring for the big 3: tomatoes, corn and soy.

Gardening is Not Necessarily Green

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on this blogging journey is this: organic does not necessarily mean green. Green does not necessarily mean organic. Organic doesn’t mean fair trade. And the list goes on…..

Same with gardening. If you’re trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, does buying plants in plastic containers make sense?

plantsmixedphoto

Not only is plastic made from petrochemicals (increasing our carbon footprints and contributing to global warming), but it doesn’t degrade in a landfill or compost heap. The manufacturing process is also highly toxic, often causing health problems for the people unfortunate enough to live nearby the manufacturing facilities. (For more on this, watch Tapped, The Movie).

Sometimes, the choice is easy, like it was at this Giant store. A wooden basket or plastic? For the same price? What an easy choice.

bushelphoto

Other times, you may think you have no choice – just row after row of plastic seedling containers.

But there’s always a better way.  Cardboard, egg crate, and other paper-based materials can all be re-used (and later composted) to make seedling pots.

Talk to your store’s manager. Ask if they can talk to their suppliers about more sustainable packaging.  Even if they can’t change the packaging, surely they can start a take-back program for the little plastic pots.  Write a letter. Ask your friends to do the same. You’d be amazed  at what a little bit of consumer input can do!

Garden. Do it Organically or Not. But  be Green.  Don’t contribute more to the plastic waste stream in your quest to “be green” by planting a bit of garden space in your backyard.

For more tips on gardening, head on over to Green-Talk to hear what the rest of the Green Moms Carnival members have to say about gardening. And for more tips on living life with less plastic, check out Fake Plastic Fish.

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2010

Walmart Knows What’s Best for Us Green Moms. Right?

October 14th, 2009

As a child, my mother used to drag me out to endless open houses. It was fun to look at the gorgeous new homes for sale and to dream. But invariably, we would laugh. She’d point to a kitchen door that was too far from a countertop, or a window that was ill placed, or a closet that was too small, and say with a loud HUMPPH, “Must have been a man that designed this house. They have no idea how we women live.”

My mother’s  words came back to me when I learned from my friend, the green blogger  Mary Hunt of In Women We Trust that  Walmart is developing its new sustainability index without ANY consumer input.    What’s more, they’re charging companies $250,000 to participate in the process of setting the standards. They’re even charging to attend webinars to learn how the index works!

sams-choice-fair-trade-organic-coffee

Pictured: Sam’s Club Fair Trade Coffee for sale at Walmart.  Cheapest price I’ve ever seen for Fair Trade coffee!

Some of you might be thinking, “Who cares?” Most of my friends don’t shop at Walmart. In fact, most actively avoid the place. I recall a “Green Moms” dinner once where only two of us had even tread foot inside a Walmart.  But as I’ve blogged herehere, and here, I actually do shop in Walmart from time to time, and I’ve eagerly cheered them on as they’ve stocked more fair trade, USDA organic, and eco-friendly items.   After all, as Walmart goes, in large part, so goes Middle America. And this is why Walmart’s Sustainability Index is so critical to all of us.

A large selection of Clorox GreenWorks products at a Walmart -- all for $2.98 per bottle.

A large selection of Clorox GreenWorks products at a Walmart -- all for $2.98 per bottle.

By virtue of its sheer size, Walmart’s standards will become the de-facto standards for all products. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying at Walmart or your local corner store. If your favorite products are carried at Walmart – and this includes green favorites like Clorox GreenWorks, Horizon USDA Organic milk, most major organic jarred baby food brands,  and many other household brands – your product will be designed to meet Walmart’s standards. Their standard will of necessity become our standard, because the manufacturers will (rightly so) insist that they can’t meet multiple standards. They’ll choose one standard to meet, and if Walmart insists on a Sustainability Index before the US Government mandates one, well….you can guess whose standard will become the de-facto standard of the land.

Others who pooh pooh the need for consumer input might reason, “Well,  the companies know what consumers want, don’t they?”  Hmm…if all companies knew what mattered most to consumers, all companies would be fabulously successful with amazing, defect-free, safe, functional products.

So Walmart, if you decide you do want consumer input, we’re happy to give it. Just don’t charge us for the privilege, please.

And to hear what other members of the Green Moms Carnival are saying about Walmart’s Sustainability Index and its impact on consumers, please check out Mary Hunt’s blog, In Women We Trust, where she hosts this month’s Green Moms Carnival on Sustainable Standards: What’s the Consumer’s Opinion?

– Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Update – 10/28/11  Since I wrote this post, Walmart has updated its site with links to both the Sustainability Index webinar (which you can watch for free) and a PDF of the Supplier Sustainability Index. — Lynn

Green Moms Carnival Is Up!

July 14th, 2009

ayrshire-farm

This month’s Green Moms Carnival is about Food. Food Matters. Of course it does. We all depend on a steady supply of healthy, nutritious foods. I wish all of our food could come from places like the beautiful, certified-humane organic Ayrshire Farm, pictured above. I snapped this photo on Monday while touring the picturesque 1,000 acre farm in Upperville, Virginia.

Check out the posts over at A Passion for Green Business. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot about why Food Matters.

– Lynn

In MoCo? Hit the WholeFoods Kentlands Tuesday/Wednesday for Huge Savings

June 16th, 2009

I have no idea what’s going on at the Whole Foods Kentlands. I normally don’t shop there – not worth the hike from Bethesda. I guess a lot of people feel that way, because they’re cutting prices to drum up business.

Check out these amazing deals:

-    Today (Tuesday) you can get buy one, get one free deals. Unfortunately, there’s no way to know what’s on sale until you get to the store…so if you live a distance, better wait till
-    Wednesday, June 17th and June 24th, when you spend $100 or more you get 20% OFF
-    They also have a sale on Thursday – spend $50 and get a FREE 24-pack of 365 Everyday Value 16.9 oz water bottles.  (I dislike plastic  water bottles, but with summer birthdays coming, they’re not a bad option!)

If you make it to the Kentlands Whole Foods,   let me know!

Happy Shopping!

Lynn

Organic & Green Savings: CVS, Whole Foods & Bethesda’s Giant Food

May 31st, 2009

It’s been a while since the last Green and Organic Savings feature. With all this child advocacy, green activism, and taking care of clients, I’ve not had time for long, leisurely shopping trips. Mr. OrganicMania has picked up the slack, but that’s going to change.

Anyway, this week, you didn’t even need to make it to the stores to see some fabulous deals at Whole Foods, Safeway and CVS, thanks in part to some old-fashioned direct mail pieces and newspaper inserts.

CVS has an incredible deal running on Physician’s Formula make-up. With your CVS card, you can buy one, get 50% off one Physicians Formula cosmetic. And check your newspaper coupon insert today. The Sunday Washington Post has a $1 off coupon for Physicians Formula. As I blogged here, not all of their products score the best ratings in the Cosmetics Safety database, but five of their 185 products score “low hazard” ratings, so OrganicMania recommends you try these Physicians Formula products: liquid eyeliner, finishing veil, pressed powder, concealer stick, and extra sensitive skin sunblock. If you have questions, you can check out their ratings at the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database here.

Next time you’re in Whole Foods, be sure to use the Green & Black’s $1 off coupon from the Whole Foods Whole Deal newsletter (good through July). I’ve raved before about Green & Black’s delicious organic chocolate here at OrganicMania, over at Big Green Purse, and at The Daily Green, but since it’s nearly summer I decided to try their ice cream. Wow. It’s fantastic! Thanks again to my bloggy friend Wrekehavoc for turning me on to Green & Blacks Organic!

If you’re anywhere near Bethesda, be sure to check out the Arlington Road Giant, which is running a triple coupon deal through June 4th.  You can find the triple savings coupons in a newsprint mailer sent to area homes. Now of course you don’t want to use those coupons for junk food, so I decided to scour the net to look for organic coupons for under $1 each that could be used at Giant to qualify for triple savings. The Giant deal means you can save up to $2.97 on each of five items, for $14.85 in savings! After looking at national organic brands with distribution at Giant including Stonyfield, Ian’s, Newman’s Own, Green & Black’s, Amy’s Organic, Annie’s Naturals and Earthbound Farm, incredibly I could only find valid online coupons (those under $1) at Stonyfield Farm. (Disclosure: Stonyfield is a sponsor of OrganicMania’s trip to BlogHER, but honestly I couldn’t find valid under $1 coupons anywhere else! Leave a comment some if you happen to find them!)

Stonyfield has 14 different online coupons available including .50 off their new Oikos organic Greek yogurt, as well as organic milk, Yo Baby, Smoothies and more. You need to register here before accessing the e-coupons.

Did you find any other great deals on organic and green products? Leave a comment and share!

Note: I’m looking for two additional sponsors to help defray the cost of my BlogHER trip. If you represent a sustainable brand that you think may be a good fit with OrganicMania, please email me at organicmania at gmail dot com.

Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Organic and Green Savings: Is Bigger Always Better? No!

March 7th, 2009

I felt the sisterhood of Moms everywhere as I dashed into Whole Foods, desparately looking for a reasonably priced, healthy snack for more than 30 kiddos. Yes, I was “Snack Mom,” and I had all of 10 minutes to figure out what to serve the after-school crowd waiting for me down the street.

That’s when I spied this display of Apple & Eve organic juice boxes, 27 for $13.99. Of course, I hate juice boxes – they rarely get recycled at kids’ events. But when I looked for paper cups to go with the large glass jugs of juice, I couldn’t find any. So boxes it was. How else are you going to feed a group that large?

Before heading to the register, I looked at the smaller packs of Apple & Eve juice – 8 for $3.69. I whipped out my calculator, just to make sure I was getting the best deal with the 27-pack, and much to my surprise discovered that it was actually less expensive to buy the smaller 8-packs, at 46 cents for each box versus 52 cents each in the large 27-pack.

How annoying. How can that be? Finding the best deal for a large group shouldn’t involve arithmetic problems in the shopping aisle.

But it does. So if you’re shopping, make sure to bring along a calculator – or use the one in your mobile phone – to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Big displays and large signs touting prices don’t always mean you’re getting the best price.

Of course, most green consumers will also consider packaging, which definitely points you to the larger, more efficient package (which is what I ended up buying – it helped that with 35 kids to feed, the numbers worked in my favor). But I’d like to know why producers would price products this way in the first place, especially companies like Whole Foods and Apple & Eve, that are making a play for the “green” consumer.

Other deals that are easier to spot?
Grapefruits – 10 for $10 are a great buy, on sale now at Whole Foods and other grocers. They’re satisfying, refreshing, and packed full of nutrients like Vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene. And no, you don’t need to buy them organic for health reasons. Any pesticides used don’t penetrate the thick skin. But do be sure to wash the skin and knives carefully before eating. Try feeding them to your little tykes. Two-year-old Boo loves them, but my six-year-old Big Boy won’t touch them.

Organic Apples – Organic apples are now cheaper than conventional in many stores. Check them out at Giant, Whole Foods, and Trader Joes, and you may find great deals.

Happy Shopping!

– Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Great Deals on Recycled Toilet Paper & Why TP Shouldn’t Be at the Bottom of Your Green List

March 2nd, 2009

Perhaps you saw the news a few days ago: reports from Greenpeace, publicized in The New York Times, Fast Company, and the UK newspaper The Guardian, which emphasized the importance of choosing recycled toilet paper over “squeezably soft” brands, which get that softness from wood pulp found only in virgin forests.

Going green involves huge changes in buying behaviors: everything from food to clothing to houses, cars, and even toilet paper gets looked at with increased awareness of its ecological impact.

And for many of us — well, swapping out our favorite toilet paper brand is at the bottom of the list. I’ll admit it: I didn’t give much thought to recycled toilet paper, figuring that I’d just wait until the prices came down and the quality came up. Memories of scratchy paper from overseas didn’t do anything to encourage me to check out recycled toilet paper, and frankly, I didn’t realize the extent to which premium toilet paper is taken from old growth forests. (Read more of this disturbing news here).

So I took a fresh look at recycled toilet paper versus conventional, and found big changes in the marketplace. Did you realize you can buy recycled paper for less money than conventional toilet paper?

CVS recently introduced CVS Earth Essentials, recycled content napkins, toilet paper, and paper towels. I decided that at .89 cents a roll, I could spring for one, and put it to the test versus Scott bathroom tissues, available on the same drugstore shelf for $1.29 per roll, and Seventh Generation, available at Whole Foods for $1.39 per roll.

The verdict? Recycled toilet paper has come a long way. Yes, from the perspective of “The Princess and the Pea,” you do notice a bit of a difference, but it is very slight and not nearly enough to merit being called “scratchy.” The quality is equivalent to the type of toilet paper you find in most public buildings. It’s fine.

And it’s really cheap in bulk. After the successful home test, I returned to CVS to stock up. They’re running a sale on four packs of Earth Essentials, now $3.49, on sale from $4.69 through April 30th. That’s a $1.20 savings per 4-pack. But the savings really add up when you buy a 12-pack for $8.99. That’s less than 75 cents per roll. And if you have a CVS “ExtraCare card,” you may reap even more savings. My initial .89 cent purchase yielded a $5 off any $15 purchase, so when I returned to pick up the 12-pack, I added a few other things in my cart and saved even more.

The CVS Earth Essentials toilet paper rated a “Green Tree” stamp of approval from Greenpeace. (Unfortunately the other Earth Essentials products didn’t rank quite as highly as their toilet paper). Check out the Greenpeace guide here. Other good bets for best buys include the Trader Joe’s house brand and Whole Foods 365 brand. And don’t forget, you can often get 10% off a case of goods such as toilet paper at your local market – just ask! My Organic Market offers this discount plus a “best price” guarantee. Other good sources include CSAs, which often stock paper goods too.

So what are you waiting for? Take the switch to recycled toilet paper off the bottom of your list today!

– Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Organic and Green Savings: A Great Time to Try Organic Kids Food

January 6th, 2009

Just wanted to pass along the news that my client Mom Made Foods is offering a great deal to celebrate the new year. Now when you buy any 4 Mom Made Meals or Munchies at SuperTarget by January 19th, you can redeem your UPC codes for a $9 SuperTarget gift card plus special savings codes from GDiapers and Bebe au Lait! Grab your rebate form and all the details here.

The MomMade Team! (L to R, Laura Waldron, Marketing Manager; Jennifer Mulchandani, Marketing Director; Heather Stouffer, Mom Made Founder; and Lynn Miller, Miller Strategic Marketing and OrganicMania).

The MomMade Team! (L to R, Laura Waldron, Marketing Manager; Jennifer Mulchandani, Marketing Director; Heather Stouffer, Mom Made Founder; and Lynn Miller, Miller Strategic Marketing and OrganicMania).

This $9 rebate offer is a great excuse not only to try Mom Made organic frozen foods, but to visit a SuperTarget! I tweeted a while back about the surprises I found on my “roadtrip” to a SuperTarget with the Mom Made team. I had no idea that SuperTargets had such an expansive organics section – including fresh organic produce, all at great prices, of course!

For more than a year now, I’ve been blogging about the need for more healthy, organic and natural products at prices that make sense. During this time, we’ve discussed money savings tips such as the expansion of Giant’s organic lines, great savings on Archer Farms house brand organics at Target, coupons from Whole Foods, and more. And now we see SuperTarget, recently named one of the top 10 healthiest grocery stores by Health Magazine, as another high quality option for organic foods at a good price.

Take a look – and let me know what you think!

And as for the Mom Made? Well, there are four options to choose from, but I’d be holding out if I didn’t tell you that Baby Boo and Big Boy prefer the Cheesy Mac (with peas!) and the Cheese Pizza. As for me? After a long day, I’ve been known to kick back with a Mom Made Bean Burrito and a beer!

Looking for more savings tips? Check these out over at Thrifty Thursday on greenbabyguide.com and these at Frugal Friday!

Bon Appetit!

– Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Last Day to Use the Whole Foods $5 off Coupon!

October 22nd, 2008

Don’t fret if you missed the great organic food bargains I blogged about at Target this weekend. There are always more organic food savings to be found – like this $5 off coupon deal at Whole Foods. But act quickly today, or you will miss the opportunity to use the Whole Foods $5 off coupon.

This is an e-coupon worth $5 off a purchase of $25 or more. I’ve not seen a coupon like this from Whole Foods previously. Hopefully it’s the start of a regular coupon promotion. Apparently the redemption rate has been quite high – at least at my local Whole Foods!

Tip: You’ll save even more if you remember to set your printer to “black and white only” before printing!

Happy Shopping!

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania