Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Low Cost of Local and Low Waste

I continue to be amazed at how much simpler everything gets the more local and low-waste we go. Beo had a great post on his blog a while back about how much we've been able to reduce our waste. As he mentioned in that and another post, besides the environmental impact of reducing our waste, our cost of food has gone down as well. Eating whole foods in-season is not just environmentally responsible, it's healthier, supports local farmers and saves money. For example, organic squash was 99 cents a pound ($1/pound off) at Good Harvest today, because it's so plentiful here right now. The butternuts we bought were grown about 30 miles from our home. At the height of summer, organic zucchini was going for a song there. There's no extra cost from importing it across the country, so the bounty is passed on to us not just as food but in savings.

Reducing our packaging has helped immensely. When we made the switch from packaged cereals to steel-cut oats, it was initially because we wanted to save on packaging. A box of organic cereal is $3-$4 minimum, and we're paying 89 cents a pound for steel cut oats. We eat a lot of breakfast foods in this house, and I estimate we were spending at least $10 a week on cereal before. Now it's about $2. There again, the steel cut oats are healthier for us, and we save the cardboard box and the plastic liner. Today we asked for larger containers of raisins, wheat germ, and other items that the store normally has packaged in small deli containers. Not only did we save the packaging, but the store manager offered us a discount because we were saving them on the cost of that packaging. We're still saving about $50 a month on our groceries since we went low-packaging. (By the way, this won't save you money, but: we were simply reusing bulk bags, but they do wear out, so we recently decided to go ahead and purchase these very affordable organic cotton bags. They are lightweight and fabulously sturdy. Check out to order them, as well as many other waste-saving products.) Many thanks to NCFarmGirl of the WW Veggie Board for starting the bagging contest that inspired us to reduce our waste! I think this is the second week in a row we've "missed" garbage collection day, and it really didn't matter.

Then there are the savings from our garden. We've had a fresh salad for dinner every night this week, at a cost of at most a few cents per serving. We didn't buy tomato sauce all summer. Instead of frozen organic veggies we had fresh green beans and peas for months. All this for a family of 4 on a small suburban garden! We had a cold front move through this week. It was 48 yesterday and only 35 today, but it looks like our cold frame/hot house is going to work great and allow us to continue saving in this manner.

There are definitely some things that cost more in their organic or sustainable forms, but eating the whole foods way at least balances out and if you really try, actually saves you money. Amazing.
Here's what's on the table locally this week: Grocery: Milk, cheese, yogurt, onions, potatoes, cauliflower, squash. Garden: Lettuce, Peppers, Carrots.


Blogger Maddy Avena said...

I hear you on the garbage. Many weeks we only have one grocery sized bag of garbage in the can. Sometimes two.
The recycle can, which goes out every two weeks has lots of horrid circulars and junk mail in it and that's usually the main denizen of that can.
We separate out our glass, plastic and cans for the CRV return and my cringe/consumer spot is the bottled water we drink. Essentia water is crucial for my gastro health and it only comes in 1 1/2 liter bottles, which we consume by the case. I've talked to them about water delivery service, but they're just too small to make that happen.
I keep thinking about an alkalizing filtration system, but the water just doesn't taste as good.

7:53 AM  

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