Organic & Green Savings: “Green” Household Cleaners

July 26th, 2008

A reader comment from a “surprised Mama” has been weighing on my mind. “Surprised Mama” wrote in regarding this post about using green cleaners (or spider webs!) as a way to get kids involved in housework.

“I just found this article today while looking for ways to get my kids involved in helping me clean the house. I did not know that there were organic cleaners and not
having a lot of money to start with I normally buy the cheaper cleaners on the market. The toxic ones. I just went and read the bottles and was just thrown.
I need to ask though. Are organic cleaners comparatively priced to the cheap ‘dollar store’ variety? I’d love to be green but I don’t have a lot of money. I technically live below the poverty line and I am a full time college student, single mom of two.”

I responded to Surprised Mama’s comment and emailed her as well, but decided that this question was important enough to warrant a post. After all, if Surprised Mama wondered about how to afford “green cleaners,” no doubt there are other Moms out there wondering the same thing.

The good news is, you can actually make non-toxic cleaning supplies for less than you’d pay for those nasty toxic ones as the Dollar Store!

All you need is some baking soda, white vinegar, a spray bottle and some rags. Here are some great “recipes” for cleaning solutions for just about anything you can think of: tubs, floors, toilet bowl, windows, drains, countertops, oven, even copper.

And if looking at a link and printing it out is too complicated, check the back of the baking soda boxes. Some, like the 365 brand from Whole Foods, even carry easy “cleaning recipes” on the label. What could be easier, cheaper, or greener?

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Organic Food Savings: Buying in Bulk and Watch those Price Labels!

June 30th, 2008


The notion of bulk purchases often conjures up images of huge warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club. While the savings there are great, the huge quantities you’re normally required to purchase and the far-flung suburban and exurban locations are turn-offs for many people.

Too often in our rush to pick up the weekly groceries we forget that bulk options exist in conventional grocery stores and organic markets alike. Back in April, OrganicMania posted 10 Tips for Saving Money on Organic Food from one of DC’s top organic grocers, Scott Nash. Despite my near-weekly trips to My Organic Market, until that interview with Scott, I never realized that MOM’s offers 10% case discounts on foods including 3 pound wheels of cheese, nuts, grains, granolas, beans, and more. Those discounts can really help you to save money on organic food.

Similarly, sometimes we forget the old rule of thumb to buy in bulk when our favorite foods are on sale. And frankly, the signage in some stores doesn’t help get the message across very clearly either. Take this sign for a sale on Horizon organic cheese. (Horizon cheese is not my personal favorite, but when it comes to kiddie lunches and snacks – particularly on those long car trips when it’s A Dilemma to be Organic & On the Road – those little individually wrapped cheese slices are a godsend.)
A quick first look at this sign had me thinking that it was a decent sale, 2 for $5.00, a savings of $1.49 off the regular price. After all, that’s what the sign says, as you can see. But that sign doesn’t clearly illustrate the savings. Think about it. The $1.49 savings is on each package of cheese, now on sale 2 for $5. So when you buy 2, you’re actually saving $2.98, not $1.49. A better way to think about it? Horizon organic cheese: 40% off. You don’t normally think of Whole Foods as a bulk purchase store, but we certainly stocked up on this incredible savings at DC’s Tenleytown Whole Foods. But hurry – this sale ends tomorrow, July 1.

Other great deals? There are some terrific non-organic savings from Whole Foods private label Whole Pantry collection, on sale at $3 per package, a savings of .99 per package. These easy-to-prepare couscous and veggies and other entrée frozen vegetable meals are great as compliments to simple salads. While they’re not organic, they’re imported from France, so they’re non-GMO, which is one key reason many people buy organic foods. And they’re delicious. Try the goat cheese and eggplant dish. Too big a carbon footprint? Well, some of the 365 Brand frozen organic vegetables are imported from China! That’s even further from this East Coast store. But ya gotta love Whole Foods – organic, conventional, local, domestic, imported, and any combination of those – there’s something for everyone.

And yes, it’s still a great time to buy organic strawberries. The incredible sale we discussed last week is still on – and so these delicious organic strawberries are still cheaper than conventional strawberries. And now the organic raspberries are finally on sale too, at $2.99 per pint, a reduction of $1.00 per package.

And finally, given that it’s summer time, what a great excuse to try some organic iced tea, now on sale. Can’t wait to try the new Rishi Organic Artisan Iced Tea I picked up on sale. Remember, as Seth Goldman of Honest Tea told us in this OrganicMania interview, those nasty pesticides aren’t washed off conventional tea leaves until they hit your hot water!

Did you find any good deals this week? Leave a comment and share! And if you want to hear about these deals – and more – live, sign up here to follow me on Twitter. It’s micro-blogging about organics, green living, kids and more. It’s fun!

Happy Shopping!


Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Looking for Organic Food Savings Friday?

June 29th, 2008

Sorry I’m late with this…this Friday turned into “Welcome Back, DH” Friday instead of Organic Savings Friday. Lots of great finds and observations to share, but they’ll be coming tonight or tomorrow….In the meantime, you can get organic food savings updates by following me on Twitter.

OrganicMania tweets Live! What the heck does that mean? I’m taking my mobile phone with me on my shopping rounds and blasting out “microblogging” updates on all my finds – like this one on Horizon organic cheese 40% off or this morning’s warning about incorrect signage or this great find on organic strawberries – cheaper than conventional. You can register here to follow-me on Twitter and get all these updates as they happen. I’m normally in the stores twice weekly. Plus, I send out updates about all kinds of other “green” things – everything from Bethesda Green updates to Montgomery County’s new carbon reduction plan to discovering a new organic café! Check it out and come join me! Plus, Twitter is two-way, so you can message me and I can easily get back to you!

And in the meantime, I promise to get this week’s post up soon – thanks for bearing with me. Single parenthood was rough this week – I have no idea how people do it on a regular basis (and I say that as someone who was raised by a single Mom!)


Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

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!


Copyright OrganicMania 2008

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

Green and Organic Savings Friday: Organic Milk, Bread & Tea

May 2nd, 2008

Rising food prices are all over the news these days. I was actually afraid to set foot in the store this week, nervous about just how high prices were going. Yes, I keep thinking about how blessed I am to even have the choice of organic food vs. conventional, but it still doesn’t help when you hit the check-out line.

So let’s go back to basics, and focus on some savings opportunities with organic milk, organic bread, and organic tea.

While I’ve always loved the taste of Honest Tea iced tea, I must confess I was not buying organic tea leaves for hot tea. Until the OrganicMania interview with Seth Goldman, CEO of Honest Tea, I considered organic tea “nice to do” but not a necessary organic expenditure. But when I asked Seth how he became so interested in organics, he explained that it was his interest in tea that led him to discover organics. It turns out that tea is one of the most pesticide-laden products out there, and in some countries, really nasty pesticides like atrazine are used on tea plantations. Did it ever occur to you that tea leaves are not rinsed off until they hit the hot water of your tea kettle? (You can read the OrganicMania interview with Honest Tea’s Seth Goldman here).

With some great savings opportunities this week, now’s a good time to make the switch to organic tea. Allegro organic tea is on sale at Whole Foods, 2 packs for $7.00, a significant savings off the regular price of $4.99 a pack. And the Mambo Sprouts coupon book, available at the customer service desk or the check-out registers, includes a coupon for 55 cents off Good Earth organic tea. With the coupon, Good Earth tea is $3.44 at Whole Foods. Good Earth looks like a really sustainable green company – in addition to being organic, the tea bags are unbleached, and the packaging is 100% recyclable with soy based inks. Plus the tea bags are not wrapped in plastic overwrap, as so many tea bags are.

Now that you can relax with a good cuppa tea, what about the kids’ lunch bags? Lots of school kids pack organic milk in their lunch bags. My son drinks regular white milk – not chocolate, not vanilla, not strawberry – but I could never find the money-saving bulk containers of Horizon white milk. Finally, at the Tenleytown, DC, Whole Foods, I found a carton of 18 Horizon organic milk boxes for $13.79 – or 76 cents per package. This is quite a savings over the 3-pack packages which sell for close to $4. More savings on organic milk? Check out this link where you can register for Stonyfield Farm coupons, including fifty cents off a half gallon of organic milk.

As for bread, who can resist home baked bread? I was indulging that weakness with the delicious breads at the Spring Mill Bread Company located in my local MOM’s. Yet with the price of a loaf of fresh baked organic oatmeal bread hitting nearly $5 a loaf, and many loaves well past the $5 mark, I decided it was time to call it quits on this little luxury. Instead, I picked up some basics – organic whole wheat flour, yeast, salt, and white organic flour. For about $1 a loaf, we now have freshly baked organic bread that is even better than the bakery’s bread. And it’s not at all hard to bake. More on that in another post!

Happy shopping! Do you have any great organic or green savings to share? Please leave a comment!

Carnival/Mr. Linky Update – Still working those darn MIS issues to get Mr. Linky working properly. Hopefully we’ll have everything ready to go next Friday to start our own mini-carnival on Green and Organic Savings!

In the meantime, OrganicMania is participating in the Festival of Frugality for the first time.

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania