Balancing Act

Lately, it feels as if two of my primary goals as runner-of-household-- namely saving money and living/eating in a natural, healthy, sustainable way-- seem to be at odds with each other. It's a constant balancing act, deciding where to spend money, where to cut back, where to put in extra effort and where to give up until I have the funds to do better. I know I'm not alone in this, so I thought I'd share a few tips and strategies that seem to be working for me.


First and foremost, produce your own food. Having a garden {even a small one!} is such a worthwhile investment. It's educational, nutritious, and connects you to the seasons in ways that supermarket food can't. Get chickens! Grow fruit trees! Do whatever you can to make your land {backyard} as edible as possible.

Second, plan meals. I've never been good at this, but as money gets tighter and tighter, planning out our meals, cooking everything from scratch, and wasting as little as possible not only saves money, but makes sense. I plan a week at a time, factoring in leftovers and food storage, then shop only for the items we need. I like this meal planning template, but there are plenty to choose from here.

When I shop, I try to use coupons. I'm new to couponing, so I generally shop only at our local store, where I've become familiar with their coupon policy and sale cycle. They have a substantial organic/natural food section, with many dry goods sold in bulk bins. Saving Naturally is a great resource for printable coupons on many of the brands that I favor when buying processed items, like Stonyfield, Cascadian Farms, and Newman's Own.

Buy local produce. There are so many great resources for local produce! Farmer's Markets, Community Supported Agriculture {CSA Farms}, and programs like The Backyard Farmer {which is what I use.} I've found that local produce is usually the most inexpensive way to purchase organic food, and I love supporting members of the community-- one of the little joys in my life is to buy peaches from our local farm during their Peach Festival, and gourmet olive oil {the best you've ever had, I guarantee it!} from our local Olive Mill.

By far, the most expensive portion of our food budget is meat. Ideally, we would only eat wild caught fish {not farmed}; grass-fed, organic beef; and humanely raised, organic chicken. I like the labeling policy at Whole Foods, and we buy frozen Wild Caught Atlantic Salmon at Costco, but it is costly. My solution? We eat far less meat than we used to. I am by no means a vegetarian, but it's cheaper to get our protein from nuts, beans and eggs than it is to have meat every day. Then, when we do have meat, we can afford to get the good stuff. {Don't know why it matters? Watch Food Inc!}


We don't use paper plates anymore, or paper towels. It means washing more dishes and cleaning windows with the newspaper inserts we get in the mail, and keeping plenty of rags on hand to mop up spills.

I'm experimenting with making our own cleaning products. I have a huge bag of baking powder and a jug of vinegar just for this purpose.

We use our chickens to 'compost' all our table scraps. I still wish I had one of these composters, but this works and doesn't cost anything.

Instead of paying for curbside recycling, we sort our recyclables with these totes and take them to the recycling center at the library once a week.

I bought one of these water bottles and LOVE it. I know most people like the Nalgene bottles, but this one is perfectly contoured to my hand and I like that it doesn't have a sports top. Plus, one handed operation! I'm saving up to get one for each member of the family. {It will save me from washing endless glasses this summer.}

Lastly, I'm thinking of getting a clothesline for the backyard. Not that I'd use it for all my laundry {I'm lazy and totally not a masochist} but it's so hot here, I can see line drying sheets and things.

What about you? Any tips for living well on a budget?

{image from The Family of Children via Flickr}


Apis Melliflora said...

Some great ideas here. I'm wondering how you clean windows with newspapers. I'm trying to figure that one out.

MelancholySmile said...

I grew up cleaning windows and mirrors with newspaper-- just use it like a paper towel. Spray on the cleaner, then wipe off with newspaper. Sometimes your hands end up a bit black, but the windows and mirrors are always streak-free. :)

Chelsea said...

Thanks for the links for cleaning tips!

I've been making my own laundry detergent for 2 years now and it's awesome. I might use a little more homemade stuff (I use an old portion cup and usually overfill it) but it's SO much cheaper and it lasts us about 3 months per half batch (for our family of 2 + one stinky dog).


That's the recipe I use and I always half it for storage reasons. I hear if your machines are HE to use half the recommended portion (which is 1/2 cup, so HE uses 1/4 cup per load) and a full batch should last you at least 3 months, too.

I don't add any essential oils to it. I use a dryer sheet still and find that adds plenty of fresh scent to our laundry.

Chelsea said...

Oh, but the main benefit of making my own laundry detergent is that it costs us $1.25 for 3 mos.

Camille said...

I am all about clotheslines. My dryer is so bottom of the line that it's ridiculous. I LOVE when summer finally arrives. It only takes around thirty minutes to dry most of our clothes. I would love to be amish in another life I suppose.

JeanetteH said...

Have you ever read Crunchy Betty's blog? She has fabulous ideas for homemade cleaning supplies and soaps (and the greatest tagline of "you have food on your face"). CrunchyBetty.com

Katharina said...

I've used and enjoyed the book "Talking Dirty With the Queen of Clean". The author, Linda Cobb, provides lots of tips on making your own cleaners and addressing tricky cleaning snags. Her concoction of a nontoxic drain cleaner made from baking soda, kosher salt, and boiling water cut all of the previous tenant's ickiness from our apartment's bathroom sink drain ( which was no small feat!). I highly recommend her tips.

Your library might have a copy, or Amazon usually has cheap copies.

Kelly Mo said...

We get our beef from Double Check Ranch. We usually order a tenth of a cow to fill our freezer. It takes us several months to go through it. Google them. You can find them at the downtown market on Saturday's. They are wonderful!

The Queen Vee said...

I'm running out of earth time and realize that at this point I'm not going to make huge changes in my lifestyle but I do admire all that you are doing for a healthier, cleaner, greener life.

Because of our HOA we can't have chickens or clotheslines....so sad. I grew up in family that canned hundreds of jars of fruit and veggies each year, grew veggies, hung all laundry on a cothes line, made everything at home from scratch and once a year butchered 50 chickens. My grown up life has been so different form my childhood upbringing. My mother moved once and I've moved 18 times since marrying. Early on, I found that moving wheat and jars of of canned fruit was just not doable. You just have to adjust and live as healthy as you can where ever you are.

PS....love the photo attached to this post!

nd said...

i use cloth diapers. if i use ziploc bags i wash them....sounds crazy but they have a lot of life in them. i don't use those plastic sandwich bags anymore....just use containers that i can wash rather than throwing away plastic sandwich baggies. thanks for the good tips.

hukolb said...

Yes, we're phasing out paper towels, plates and the like, it is a luxury:). My sister in law has home made baby wipes and diapers and the whole bit! Got to factor in the water and energy, too! Wish Nola had some good recycling around here but also have questions about that as my sister pointed out how much time/money and resources can be wasted if not done properly.
My biggest thing right now is being frugal yet getting rid of stuff. I hate to get rid of something only to find a use for it after the fact!
As always, do like the frugal living part of about.com blog

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