Saving Money Through Green Means (My Top 20 Tips!)

November 18th, 2009

There was a time when I thought going green meant expensive, frou-frou organic and eco-chic “stuff.” Sure, that can be part of the picture, but for most people, going green actually saves money. I’ve been posting about how to find deals on green and organic items for the past few years now, so for this “Saving through Green Means” edition of the Green Moms Carnival, hosted by Condo Blues,  I’m sharing a round-up of my favorite tips for saving money while going green. I’ve linked to 10 posts below, and together they cover more than 20 tips for saving money! Now what are you going to do with all that money you save? Leave a comment and share!


1.  One of my favorite “savings posts”  – and honestly, not just for “green means” either. Here are the things to AVOID doing – My Top 10 Don’ts.   Follow these rules and I swear you’ll save money!

2.   Hate spending money on kids’ stickers? So do I! So much packaging waste and they’re a total rip-off! Here’s a post about what you can do instead.

3. Buying in Bulk and Watch Those Labels! You don’t have to trek to a big box store to buy in bulk. You can save by stocking up on discounted items at your regular grocer. Read this post for more info.

apple-juice-apple-eve14.  Bigger Isn’t Always Better – the “bulk savings bin” or “special deals” aren’t always the cheapest way to go. See this post for details – but check what you need and read labels and per ounce/per serving pricing carefully. If you waste something, you’re not really saving anything – and it’s not very green, is it?

5.  CSAs are a great way to save money on organic, local, farm-fresh and even biodynamic foods. Did you know you can save even more money by sampling a CSA? Read this post to learn how.

6. Disappointed by in-store expired coupons? Don’t be – take a few minutes to go to customer service to get the money you’re owed! Here’s my experience at Whole Foods.

7. Not finding what you want? Look up, look down, look all around. Did you know that most stores put the most expensive items at eye-level? That means you have to crane your neck to look up, look down, look all around and find what you want, as this post demonstrates!


8. Late Night Specials at Whole Foods: Perfect for tomorrow’s lunch or a late night snack, did you know you can grab the day’s freshly made gourmet sandwiches for half-off in the evening?  Read more here.

9.  Waste-free lunches are green, cheap and easy. Sure, you can buy some of the lovely waste-free lunch kits. But you don’t have to. You can make your own or brown-bag it. Here’s how.

10.    Green Household Cleansers: Make Your Own!  Vinegar, baking soda, castille soap, and maybe some lemon. That’s really all you need! Read more here, and check out The Smart Mama too. She’s a wealth of knowledge about green cleaning – she has some great “cleaning recipes” on her site to help you!

Hope you enjoyed all these “oldie but goodie” posts on saving through green means! Leave a comment and share your best tips!

How to Pack A Cheap and Easy Waste-Free Lunch

August 9th, 2009

There are many  eco-friendly options available for school lunch, but let’s face it: most of them are still pretty pricey. Shelling out  $21 for a Sigg water bottle or $37.95 for a Laptop lunch box adds up to big bucks quickly.

The very popular Sigg bottles range in price from $17.99 to $24.99 at this Bethesda Whole Foods.

The very popular Sigg bottles range in price from $17.99 to $24.99 at this Bethesda Whole Foods.

Here are five super cheap, easy ways you can send your kids back-to-school with an eco-friendly lunch bag.   If you’re fortunate enough to have what you need already, maybe you could take this post and send it to a school list serv or to others  who might find this information helpful.

There are really just five things you need for a waste-free lunch:

1.    Lunch box – or brown bag. While there are great eco-friendly lunch box options out there, most range from $14 on up. You can buy a pack  of 100 brown paper lunch bags for $1.99.    No, it’s not totally waste-free,  but most municipalities recycle paper – so you can toss the bag out with the newspapers to be recycled!     It’s a much more environmentally  friendly option than buying a conventional school lunch bag, which are often made of PVC plastic. Read here to learn why you want to avoid PVC, which is harmful to our health and to the environment.

As seen in a Bethesda Safeway, buy 2 packages for $3.98 and you'll have enough recyclable brown bags for the entire school year.

As seen in a Bethesda Safeway, buy 2 packages for $3.98 and you'll have enough recyclable brown bags for the entire school year.

2.    Water bottles. This is a biggie. Visit nearly any school cafeteria and you’ll see a staggering amount of waste from disposable juice boxes and milk containers.  Yet most stainless or non-PVC water bottles are $10 and up – some as high as $25 or more.  Before I invested in two Sigg Mr. Sharky’s  (pictured below), I used a good ole Honest Tea bottle. Made of durable glass, it was fine for drinks on the go.  I still use one in a pinch!

A durable glass bottle, such as this Honest Tea bottle, can be reused as an on-the-go water bottle.

A durable glass bottle, such as this Honest Tea bottle, can be reused as an on-the-go water bottle.

3.    Cloth napkin. No need to buy new here. Pretty much everyone has a spare dish rag or dish towel lying around the house, or some “good” cloth napkins that are only taken out for “special occasions.” These are perfect for school lunch. So far, my son hasn’t asked why he carries a linen dishcloth with a 1977 calendar on it, but I’m sure that day is coming soon…!

Yes, that's my mother's calendar dish towel from 1977, now doubling as a napkin in my son's lunch box. Do I get a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse award for this?

Yes, that's my mother's calendar dish towel from 1977, now doubling as a napkin in my son's lunch box. Do I get a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse award for this?

4.    Food containers. My how things have changed just in the past year. Now you can buy stainless steel containers for school lunch. But again, cost is an issue. If you don’t want to spend  $40 for an all-in-one lunch kit or $16 for a stainless steel food container, you can go the el cheapo route like I did.

Three of these glass Pyrex food storage units sell for just $4.99 at a Bethesda Giant Food store.

Three of these glass Pyrex food storage units sell for just $4.99 at a Bethesda Giant Food store.

Unfortunately there are no more of these nifty $4.99 glass pyrex containers at the Bethesda Giant, because I bought out their entire stock!

And here’s  a shot of Big Boy with his lunch bag, which contains some plastic (gasp) Gerber food containers. I love these.  They’re made in the good old USA, they’re  cheap (under $5 for 4 small dishes) and they’re made of #5 plastic, which does not contain BPA. Still, to be on the safe side (because all plastics can leach) I keep these plastic bowls out of the dishwasher and the microwave   I had to search high and low for these – they seem to sell out as soon as they’re in stock, but you can sometimes find them at Target or Buy Buy Baby.


He’s also carrying a more traditional “Green Mom”  accoutrement – a Wrap n’ Mat sandwich wrap, which is made of washable cloth and durable, low density polyethylene (LDPE). These sell for   $7.99 on the Internet, but I bought mine locally at My Organic Market.   When I hit the Wrap n’ Mat website as I was writing this post, I learned that they’ve just introduced little snack pouches, which sell for $8.99 each.

5.    Cutlery. This past school year I packed lunches with our regular cutlery, and unfortunately I regret it because some of our silverware never made it home.  This year I’m trying Sporks !

And I leave you with a picture of my boys’ trusty Crocodile Creek lunch bags being cleaned out. Because this frugal green Mom isn’t planning to buy new ones this year!


This post is for the Green Moms Carnival: Green Schools Edition, which runs tomorrow (Monday, August 10th) right here at OrganicMania.

— Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

Food Matters: The Response to that Post Article about the National Organic Program

July 12th, 2009


Nearly two years ago I started OrganicMania because I was going crazy trying to figure out when it made sense to go green and organic.

Once I finally understood the food labeling systems (USDA Organic, Made with Organic Ingredients, Green, Natural, etc), I felt a bit more sane.

But as I blogged here last week, the news that Organic Standards may not be all that they seem has turned my world upside down again. Two years later, and I’m still being driven crazy trying to sort out green and organic claims!

The  Washington Post ‘s coverage of the controversy surrounding the National Organic Program touched off interesting reactions from organics advocates and observers. I was barely digesting that story and the reaction to it when Whole Foods announced they’ve joined the non-GMO project, and Dean Foods announced  a move toward “natural” milk – two developments that will throw yet another wrinkle into the food shopping game.  I don’t typically do news summaries here at OrganicMania, but I think these developments are so significant that they merit a recap.

So this is News? Samuel Fromartz, author of “Organic, Inc,” blogged that “The tension discussed in the [Post] article, between those who have always sought to expand the industry and those who seek a more purist vision…. wasn’t particularly news…As for synthetics in processed food, there will always be two camps on this — and both present risks. If synthetics are taken out processed foods would fade off the shelves. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, but the organic industry would be a lot smaller. If, on the other hand, too many synthetics are let in, and we start getting more organic junk food with a long list of unpronounceable ingredients, that will spell the end of organics too.”

It’s So Unfair! The Organic Trade Association issued this press release taking issue with the criticisms aired by The Washington Post reporters. I wish I had seen more reaction from organics advocates, but this was the best response I could find after much online searching, so I’ve included the key points below.

o “The federal organic standards have not been ’relaxed.’ Rigorously enforced standards can and do go hand-in-hand with growth… Organic agriculture and products remain the most strictly regulated, as well as the fastest growing, food system in the United States today.”

“Organic agriculture protects the health of people and the environment by reducing the overall exposure to toxic chemicals from synthetic pesticides that can end up in the ground, air, water and food supply, and that are associated with health consequences from asthma to cancer. Extensive pesticide residue testing by the U.S.D.A. has found that conventionally produced fruits and vegetables are, on average, three to more than four times more likely to contain residues than organic produce, eight to eleven times more likely to contain multiple pesticide residues, and contain residues at levels three to ten times higher than corresponding residues in organic samples.”

o “..There is a very specific process that materials must go through before they are permitted for inclusion in organic products. In regards to fatty acids, the USDA regulators followed the recommendation of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)… Because the position of the reporters’ sources did not ‘carry the day’ in this public review by no means makes the process illegal, and to characterize it as such is a great disservice to the public.”

Also last week, Whole Foods announced it will begin certifying certain of its  private label 365 brand foods through the Non-GMO Project. I believe this will be the first major non-GMO labeling effort of its kind  – something we should all support. But I predict that Whole Foods’ move will drive more consumers away from organics and toward the new non-GMO label,  since many people buy organics primarily to avoid GMOs.

Perhaps USDA Organic is not the “be all and end all” that its most ardent supporters claim. But it’s one of the best indicators we have of quality food, particularly in the supermarket.  As consumers, we need to continue to push for strong organics standards, meaning no relaxation of the current  USDA Organic standard.  Check out this campaign promoted by Terressentials Organics to solicit consumer support for upholding organic standards.  You  have until August 31st to have your voice heard by the National Organics Program.

My bet is that the continued expansion of organics, the growth in the natural foods and green categories  and the new non-GMO label will continue to make food shopping a challenge – meaning I’ll still be going crazy! (At least it will give me plenty to blog about here at OrganicMania!)

Check out the other wonderful posts in this month’s  Green Moms Carnival, hosted by Alline at A Passion for Green Business.

What do you think? Are you still going crazy trying to sort this all out? Leave a comment and share!

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

My New Years Gift to You: Tip on the Best Value Sparkling Wine

December 31st, 2008

Well, I tried to take a blogging break over the holidays, but I can’t stand looking at that old Christmas gift post, so here I am sneaking in a post mid-afternoon on New Years Eve.

Most of us are looking to live a bit more frugally this year. (Of course, we’ve been sharing frugal and green savings tips on OrganicMania for more than a year now!)

So this year, instead of tipping back the Veuve Cliquot, I’ll be trying Graham Beck Brut, a fantastic bottle of sparking wine you can pick up at Whole Foods for $15, or perhaps find even cheaper at a local market. (Check here). As one expert put it, “It will be very difficult to find a sparkling wine this good at this price.”

All I know is, if you love Veuve, you’ll love this…and it’s a lot easier on the wallet!

Wishing you all the best for a Happy New Year!


Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Organic and Green Savings: In-Store Expired Coupons?

December 21st, 2008

Despite planning purchases ahead of time, you may find yourself, like I did, stuck in a store with a kid begging for a new toy from the “holiday shop.” As you can see from the pic above, Big Boy fell in love with the stuffed penguin at Whole Foods. Normally I would say no and move on, but I acquiesced when he found a coupon for 20% off in the Whole Foods holiday shop and calculated that he had just enough allowance money to cover the purchase.

Imagine my surprise when we hit the register only to hear the check-out clerk tell us that the coupon had expired the day prior. Sure enough, there it was printed clearly enough for all to see—except this harried Mom with two kids in tow.

When I asked him why the coupons were on display in the shop, he apologized but said the coupon would not ring through his register because it was expired. By this point, Big Boy’s smile had disappeared and he was sobbing. A happy occasion was ruined.

Never one to give up, I explained to Big Boy that this was an opportunity to learn about customer service and consumer rights. One of the many reasons I shop at Whole Foods is because their customer service is uniformly excellent. When I explained the situation to the customer service rep, she put the coupon through the register, and gladly offered Big Boy more than $5.00 off the purchase price.

Take our experience to heart, and remember this:
1) If a store is promoting in-store coupons next to a display, they owe you the reduction – even if the expiration date is past. It is their responsibility to end the promotion when it expires.
2) If a clerk cannot resolve your problem, take it to customer service, where the workers are typically more empowered to help frustrated shoppers. Yes, it will take a few minutes of your time, but you’ll be saving money and passing along important lessons in money management to your children.

Happy Shopping!


Copyright OrganicMania 2008

Slow Christmas: Fighting Holiday Commercialism

December 2nd, 2008

With the holiday season now in full swing, it seems parents everywhere are asking, “How can I make Christmas more meaningful?”

Taking away the focus on crass materialism has never seemed more important, especially now when so many families are suffering in the economic downturn.

For the next few weeks, in addition to posting periodically about alternative gifts, “green gifts” that help the planet and help green entrepreneurs, and experiential gifts, I’ll also post about rediscovering Christmas traditions that bring meaning back to the holiday season.

Take Advent. Yes, Advent. Did you know we’re in the first week of Advent? Advent is a season of waiting. And in our house, the mantra is not “hurry up, rush, shop,” it’s “Slow down. Be quiet. It’s Advent.”

One of my favorite ways of marking Advent is through an Advent calendar. And yes, although we’re technically in the first week of Advent already, it’s not too late to start observing the season of Advent.

Advent calendars mark each day in December up through Christmas Day. They typically tell the story of the Nativity. Some are “permanent” calendars with little doors through which you can hide chocolates or other treats. Others are boxes with the chocolates already hidden inside.

Last year, we made the mistake of buying just one Advent calendar. This year, there are three – one for each of the boys and one for DH and I to share. And yes – you can still find them. Just last night DH picked up the Advent calendars at Whole Foods. We love the the Divine Chocolate calendar – fair trade chocolate from Ghana. And it seems local too, since their corporate offices are right here in DC.

A few years ago, I established a family tradition of leaving the dinner table to read a Christmas story and then enjoy a piece of Advent chocolate.

And every year, I tell myself that we’ll continue the tradition of reading after dinner. Yet somehow by the time December rolls around, we’ve fallen out of the habit of reading after dinner. But it’s a great habit to pick up again each year. So join me – bring out the Christmas books, enjoy a piece of Advent chocolate (just 20 calories!) and Relax. Slow Down. It’s Advent.

– Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

10 Tips to Green Your Labor Day Weekend: Green & Organic Savings Friday

August 29th, 2008

It’s hard to believe that Labor Day is here already. I know so many folks who barely rested this summer. But summer’s nearly over. That’s why it’s so important to take a break – even a small one- this Labor Day weekend.

And with worries about the economy weighing on so many people’s minds, it’s good to know that going green can actually save money. “Green” items such as recycled and biodegradable items have dropped in price due to rising demand.

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 Labor 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? Big Green Purse author Diane MacEachern has some great tips on solar-powered and other “green grills” here.

3. 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, available at major stores including national supermarket chains, Target, and Walmart. Or save even more money by using a simple mix of vinegar and water. Want to cut the vinegar odor? Add parsley or lemon to your cleaning solution.

4. Thinking of showing off your patriotism with some red, white and blue party favors? Skip them. Be a true patriot and reduce your consumption of plastics and paper. Spend the money instead on compostable corn-based party plates and cutlery. But be sure to buy from a store like My Organic Market which will compost these items for you, since few municipalities offer composting and backyard systems won’t cut it.

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. And if you can’t give up the beef, check out Whole Foods, which has some great looking prepared burgers at just a buck a burger.

6. A hot Labor Day and kids? Whole Foods has Honest Kids Juice Quenchers are on sale for $7 for 2 boxes of 8 pouches, marked down from $4.69 each. And remember, at Whole Foods, even if it says “2 fer” you can actually get that price on just one item. Don’t forget to return the empty Honest Kids juice packs to Terracycle so they can make fabulous bags from them!

7. What’s a party without chips? Now’s a great time to try Snikiddy Snacks Grilled Cheese Puffs or Snikiddy Pizza Pie Puffs. They’re on sale at the Tenleytown DC Whole Foods for 2 bags for $6, down from $4.39 each.

8. Time to clean up? Whip out the biodegradable plastic trash bags, now as cheap as conventional bags at My Organic Market.

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 and 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.

Have a great holiday weekend!


— Copyright 2008 OrganicMania

Organic Food Savings: Tweeting at Trader Joes, Whole Foods & Giant

August 10th, 2008

Note: The post below was written before the launch of the Green Moms Carnival on Global Warming. I almost didn’t post this because frankly, my thoughts are not on organic finds right now. But I thought I owed it to everyone who does come here looking for organic savings tips. So stay tuned for my next post, which will cover the aftermath of the Green Moms Carnival on Global Warming – how do you go from vision to reality?


You’d think I had a family of eight, not four, with three trips to the market last week. I should be eating less, not more, with the great Tweet-2-Fit weight loss challenge underway this week!

But getting out to three different markets does give one a good perspective on pricing. It’s really tough to say which market has the best deals – it all depends on your family’s buying patterns. And of course, it makes no sense to drive around in search of great deals. Not only is it bad for the environment, but with gas prices hovering around $4 anyway, it’s unlikely you’ll save enough money to merit another trip. But, with some advance planning, you can take advantage of the bargain specialties of each store when you happen to be nearby. I live in an urban area – there are four Whole Foods close to my regular haunts, plus Trader Joes, Balduccis, Giant, Safeway, and numerous CSAs, co-ops and farmers markets.

If you haven’t signed up for Twitter yet, you can sign up here. I’m finding it so useful to send out live Twitter updates on my organic finds that I’m loathe to write-up everything again on OrganicMania, especially on a busy week like last week when I was working on the launch of the Green Moms Carnival on Global Warming (and closing new business for my consulting practice!)

C’mon, join in…you’ll learn where I found organic apples at 3 pounds for $5 (incredible deal when they’re usually more than $2.50 per pound), which “great deal” on bananas was really not a great deal and why, and even be on hand when Baby Boo says fish (or feesh!) for the first time. Plus, did you know you can give time-outs in Whole Foods?

Happy Shopping!


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: Are “Two-fers” A Good Deal? And More on those “Late Night” Specials at Whole Foods

July 12th, 2008

We’ve all been there: cruising the store aisles when suddenly, a great sale catches our eyes. Two for $1.50, Regularly $2 each, the sign reads. Sounds like a good deal! But is it?

Well, it’s a good deal if you are a huge fan of the canned organic beans or mustard or cereal or whatever it is that’s on sale. But what if you just want to try a new item, and figure a sale is a good time to try? Buying two may be overkill.

Did you know that many stores’ registers ring up each item at the “two-fer” sale price? So you really don’t need to buy two of the sale items…it’s just a suggestion. That’s what some of OrganicMania’s field research turned up this week as I prowled the store aisles.

The only time when the two-fer or three-fers really mean what they say? On flowers and live plants, you almost always need to buy the two or three items together to get the discounted savings. Or at least that’s what some of my anonymous grocery store sources told OrganicMania!

And those late night sandwich specials at Whole Foods that I blogged about here? If you were following OrganicMania live tweets this week, you already know that Whole Foods starts reducing those prepared food-case sandwiches a bit earlier now. So starting at around 9 p.m., you can pick up sandwiches at $2 off. Then, closer to closing, come the real deals – two for one.

While we’ve been talking about the great berries on sale – organic strawberries as cheap as conventional – unfortunately not all organic berries are great deals right now. Organic local New Jersey blueberries are still quite expensive compared to conventional, as I tweeted here.

And finally, yes rocks are organic, but not something I recommend. See this tweet. All’s well that ends well.

Did you find any good deals this week? Leave a comment and share!

Looking for more Organic Food Savings Tips? Check out OrganicMania’s extensive archive of organic and green savings tips posts here.

— Lynn

Copyright 2008 OrganicMania