How to Shop at Whole Foods (or any other Organic grocery store) without Breaking The Bank

Making the switch to organic foods doesn’t necessarily double (or triple) a food budget. In some cases, buying the right food at the right time can actually be cheaper. There are many ways to save money at Whole Foods and there are even more ways to save on eating in general when you look at the big food picture. It’s not as easy as comparing apples to apples, but it paves the path to a healthy and happy relationship with food.

whole foods

10 Simple Steps to Save Money on Wholesome Food

1. Drink Water – Right off the bat, swap any sugary beverages for water and you will instantly cut down on your bill. Start with one glass per day for a week, then add another each week after that until you get to 8 full glasses of refreshing water each day. Not only will you feel better, but your wallet and your back will thank you! Plus, you can use the small carts in the store.

2. Dilute your own Juice – Instead of buying children’s juice or juice boxes, dilute it yourself by adding water in a 1:4 or 1:2 ratio depending on the age of the child. Even I like to dilute my juice now that I drink water most of the time.

3. Limit or Skip the Snack Aisles – The best way to save money is to avoid the interior aisles of the store altogether, but I also think that an important part of healthy eating is having an indulgence in moderation. Stock up with these items go on sale.

4. Follow the Stores on Social Media to find out about FLASH Sales – The weekly flash sales feature a product at 1/3 the regular cost, which is huge savings. Stock up and find ways to use every last bite of the feast. Did you see how I used every last mango during Mango Madness?

5. Don’t Throw Anything Away – If the average family throws away 1/2 their food, that’s a ton of money going into the trash. Why not buy only what you will surely eat, learn how to use food efficiently, and make leftovers the best part of the meal to get every dollar’s worth of the money you spend on your food?

6. Grab the Flyer – Online and at the front of the stores, you can find a flyer with money-saving coupons.

7. Listen to the Experts – Money Saving Mom and many other coupon blogs show how to match coupons with store sales for big savings.

8. BYO – Some stores encourage shoppers to bring bags by offering a small discount or prize. Don’t forget to bring a mesh tote for produce and jars for the bulk market, too. If you can weigh your own bulk goodies, put your container on the scale and then hit “TARE” to zero the weight so you don’t pay for anything more than your food. Otherwise, bring an extra so that the clerk can use the empty to determine the weight when you checkout.

9. Shop in Season – This is the tricky part. If you truly want to save money on food, you might have to eat boring food at times. The summer and fall are the best times to go wild with your food choices. Load up and freeze extra portions. Make soups with leftovers or experiment with canning. Learn your seasonal fruits and veggies and eat those at the right times. Chances are, the sales will match up with the seasons. (http://americanfood.about.com/od/resourcesadditionalinfo/a/seasonalprolist.htm)

10. Buy Local Produce – Join a CSA or Shop the Farmer’s Market for Produce. Supporting local farms is worth it in the long term.

If you’re looking to fill your cart with organic versions of everything you normally eat, it will definitely cost a lot more. But, a few healthy diet shifts can lead to an incredible opportunity to get your money’s worth on every bite.

Bonus tip: Grow your own! What better way to save money than to reap what you sow from seeds in your own backyard? You’ll save on transportation costs, packaging, fuel and benefit from a healthy dose of Vitamin D.

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Cloth Diaper Problem Solving

bumgenius, diaper, baby, toddlerI had just about had it with cloth diapers. Nearly every diaper that I fastened to my spirited toddler leaked as she trolled around the playroom. I desperately wanted to keep her in cloth diapers because they were a big investment up front. Even though they save a lot of money over time, they can be a headache. It just wasn’t working. I don’t know why it took me so long to arrive at the solution of using wool. Just like everything else in the green spectrum, I had to turn it down several times before giving it a shot.

Everything about cloth diapering has been foreign to me since day one. I went from turning up my nose about cloth diapering, to diving full fledged into green living all to save a few thousand bucks. I was SO BLIND to eco friendliness that I couldn’t even fathom simple household solutions like cloth towels or reusable storage containers saving money. After all, they cost so much more than the disposable counterparts. It took me a long time to realize that I could save money by investing more up front and even longer to realize that I could save the most money by using what I already have.

I’ll admit, 85% of the reason why I agreed to give cloth diapering a shot was because they were CUTE. I’m a sucker for great clothes, so I looked for the most fashionable cloth diapers. I quickly found out that I hated them after trying desperately to make them work. When I had the chance to reuse all the diapers for a second time and avoid most of* the mistakes of the first time, I opted for Thirsties Covers and prefolds. They have worked like a dream for Audrey. My second baby is the reason why I’ve kept at cloth diapering for so long. It’s why I had to become a super sleuth about fluff.

There is a reason why there are so many blogs, books, and shops for cloth diapers. It’s like gardening. They come in all different shapes and sizes and the fulfill a huge range of problems. It helped me to start thinking of diapering as a problem to solve instead of as a cute accessory. Once I washed away all my pre-conceived notions about washing poop, it got a whole lot easier. Then, I read four words on www.theclothdiaperwhisperer.com that changed everything for me:

It’s all just cloth.

Once I saw that, my entire attitude changed. Did I worry when the diapers got frayed around the edges? No, they’re just cloth. What happened when we were out and I didn’t have my large wetbag? I used the wipes wetbag. I started looking at the clothes pile I was antsy to donate and I suddenly found so many hidden gems within. Poplin shirts can easily become handkerchiefs. Pajama bottoms make great wipes. I’ll fashion a mini baby-sling for the girls’ dolls out of my outgrown tshirts.

There I was with a mountain of cloth solutions and a big, wet problem that I couldn’t piece together. I even had two sweaters of my own in that pile! I’d love to tell you that I got out my sewing machine, felted the wool and stitched my own soaker, but I’ve been too afraid to set up my sewing machine for fear of Todzilla battling the presser foot. Instead, I used a coupon and ordered a new solution. It’s a little awkward to put a wool soaker over top of an all-in-one diaper, but it works and that’s what’s important.

Some day I’ll look back at all this with the wisdom of an experienced Mom and laugh at what I went through. Cloth diapering didn’t have to be hard. I made it that way because I wanted it to be fashionable. It’s almost like I forgot what kids DO in diapers. I’ve realized that’s no big deal either. After all, it’s all just cloth.

Quit Throwing Out the Most Expensive Ingredient in the Kitchen

Think.Eat.Save – Reduce your foodprint!

Food waste doesn’t start in your fridge and it doesn’t end in your trash can. I’ve seen estimates that Americans as a whole discard at least 40% of the food they purchase. That is a sad fact because if only one in five people are hungry, we clearly have more than enough to go around. I think the biggest problem is too much diversity in food choices. By attempting to please everyone, we make it easier to discard something unappetizing. Here’s my plan to cut down on food waste.

leftoversAt home, we’re keeping our meals simple, especially during the winter. This is one of my favorite ways to be green while saving green. First of all, I’m using the same ingredients over and over so I can save by purchasing the larger quantities. I also don’t balk at buying organic because the prices are closer to the small, non-organic counterparts. We’ve cut back on buying processed foods and I am still campaigning to get my husband on board with drinking more water instead of other beverages. At around $60 per week, our grocery bill is completely manageable even when we factor in $125 at the butcher each season.

It was easy for me to accept the idea of eating chicken noodle soup 4 out of 7 days per week because I grew up eating PB&J nearly every day for years at a time. I’m used to repetition of favorites and I’ve found that my daughter likes it, too. By having this one simple meal as our staple, I can splurge a little on other things. We make a great spread for each Holiday and we like to have a hearty breakfast every weekend. Whether we make french toast or pancakes, our Saturday breakfasts can’t be beat. No matter how small, the leftovers are great for my toddler in a pinch so I save everything.

My microwave is my biggest ally in the kitchen. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to put a healthy meal on the table so quickly for my daughter. My own version of ‘fast food’ generally consists of leftovers. Often, I use 2 oz jars to freeze small portions, but old spaghetti sauce jars also make great storage vessels for anything in the freezer as long as they aren’t filled to the brim.

We finally began composting late last year and I am thrilled that we’re off to such a great start with the practice. I love discarding our leftover peels and kitchen scraps knowing that in a few months they will feed our garden healthy soil. I’ve seen a huge drop in the amount of trash my family produces from the time when my husband and I were just a new couple. Because I changed, I know that others can, too. Taking on a new habit is a challenge, but living with a new habit like being mindful about food consumption is so easy.

There are a lot of additional costs to factor beyond just the price of any food that ends up in the trash. Think about the cost of your trip to the store or the transportation of the food throughout the production process. How much did the packaging cost? When you throw food away, how much are you paying for garbage bags? Your county may even be raising the cost of garbage pickup because of the volume of trash in town is so high. These changes need to start at home because the big companies are even more wasteful. I have seen few fast food restaurants or grocery stores with recycling programs in action. For me, that is inspiration to stay at home and cook a healthy meal.

I value my time at home with my family above all other things. I enjoy taking fewer trips to the grocery store in favor of lazy afternoons reading book after book with my girls. Going to the grocery store with two under two is a huge challenge, even when I wear the baby. By keeping our shopping list consistent and slim, I can get in and out of the store in under an hour. What I’ve noticed so far is that my toddler is very receptive to eating healthy foods when I keep them readily available to her. In fact, I’m going to grab her a carrot right now. We’ll peel it together, compost the peelings and then split the healthy snack. The same foods that used to end up in my trash after being forgotten are now our favorite staples.

I am so happy I made these changes and I invite you to change your food mindset as well. What is one thing that you can do to minimize food waste in your house?

I wrote this post to enter to win an amazing  trip to blog for United Nations Environmental Program’s World Environment Day 2013. If it inspired you to reduce your foodprint, please comment, like, share, tweet, pin and help me get the word out about this important message. Thank you for your support! Learn more: http://unep.org/wed/blog-competition/howto/

BabyGap VIP Reading Event with Diapered Daze and Knights

toddler with bunnyTo celebrate the new Peter Rabbit- inspired clothing line, BabyGap hosted reading parties at 30 US locations fit for a VIT (Very Important Toddler.) The girls and I went to watch my friend Heather, who writes the blog Diapered Daze and Knights (www.diaperedknights.com) read a story. Starting outside, my toddler found lots of rabbity excitement. We had no idea that the Gap at King of Prussia Mall was throwing such a swanky event!

carrot potsThey cleared a special section on the floor so that the kids had room to color, meet Peter Rabbit, hear a story, and then sample some sweet and savory goodies. First of all, I have to show you the food table. How cute are those little carrot pots? They had a small portion of hummus or ranch dressing that all the kiddos loved. They also served mini PB&J’s cut into bunnies and a ton of garden-themed cupcakes.

Baby Gap's Peter Rabbit lineAll the clothes are swoon-worthy. If I didn’t have a budget, I could easily purchase two of each item for my little girls! I loved the boy’s polo with rabbit-print, too. Heather and I both agreed that we love Gap’s clothes because they are generally made from cotton so they’re soft on kid’s skin. Plus, we can always find coupons for a deal. Recently, I’ve made an effort to shop at the end of the season for next year to catch the best deals. When it comes to our wardrobe, I like to keep it small. By having less items total, we can purchase higher quality goods on the same budget. Lucky for us, we get to use everything twice!

Eliminate the Top 5 Budget Busters for Financial Freedom

Last year my family cut costs and stocked our home with useful goods for promoting financial freedom. I finally realized that eliminating wasteful costs could open opportunities that would have taken us much longer to attain. We bought a home, paid for a home birth out of pocket, and completed a myriad of household repairs. This financial windfall would be difficult on any budget, but it was even harder to attack as a single-income family. We did it by leveraging responsible debt and substituting the biggest budget busters for sensible alternatives.

budget busterWhat are the Top 5 Budget Busters?

1. Diapers

2. Paper towels

3. Ziplock bags

4. Food and Beverage Waste

5. Cleaning Supplies

By purchasing these items month after month, we were literally throwing out money. Although it may seem like disposable products save time through convenience, when you factor in the need to purchase them repeatedly and the time spent earning the money to pay for them, they are not nearly as great as they seem. Attacking these parts of your budget first can free up funds for entertainment and experiential rewards. As a new family, it’s easy to literally throw away TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS in the first two years of your baby’s life. Spending money on diapers, wipes, trash bags, and gasoline for trips to the store doesn’t make sense compared to the simple alternative of using cloth diapers and washing them at home.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m standing on a soapbox here, but I really think it is important to put this in perspective. For all the Moms I meet that are burnt out, that $2000 could easily be spent on a maid, a relaxing getaway, or multiple spa visits. I suggest spending this money directly on yourself as opposed to initiating a college fund or adding toys to the playroom. You deserve a reward for your hard (and downright dirty) work! Whether you use a disposable or reusable diaper, you will still be handling poop. I guarantee that a bright fluffy cloth diaper will soften the experience and open your eyes to a great green world of savings. Plus, when it is time for Baby #2 (no pun intended) you will relish the savings even more!

At first, establishing a family budget was an uphill battle with my husband. No matter how much we talked through plans, we would always go overboard and add unnecessary stress to our marriage. Ask Mr. Eco Incognito about the 3 months we spent without cable and he will tell you that it practically led to a divorce. Even though I would eagerly ditch cable again at a whim, I recognize the importance for him and have worked around that. Bending other budget lines to accomodate that made me realize that entertainment should be one of the first line items to fill, not cut! Why else should we work so hard?

Here’s my suggested breakdown for a well-rounded budget that will suit your needs and fulfill your wants at the same time no matter your income bracket:

25% – Home

15% – Food

15% – Auto

15% – Entertainment

10% – Outdoor Experience

12% – Clothing

5% – Garden

3% – Cleaning Supplies

Why Bother Being Resourceful?

Even more important than saving money for today is teaching our children how to be resourceful in the future. We are constantly hearing that our resources are dwindling, so we must all take the time to educate the next generation on how to live in an eco-conscious fashion. If you ever question the value of going green, look at a young child’s reaction to practices that aren’t green. Her fascination with trash isn’t merely intended to annoy you. In fact, she may just be searching for a way to repurpose those goods!

Which of the top 5 budget busters would you like to eliminate from your household?

Happy New Year!

Greetings Friends! I hope you had an eventful Christmas, restful break, and exciting New Year celebration. Recently, I gave my suggestions for the best resolutions for 2013, but now I’m ready to tell you my personal resolution.

I am going to eat great food.

eat great food

There are a lot of ways that I’m going to make this plan a reality. First of all, I’m planning to put food in the spotlight on this blog. This family is going to grow it, cook it, and eat with a greater passion for food than ever before. I’m finally ready to give my relationship with food the attention it deserves and allow it to be a part of my health. However, I’m also on a budget and I have four mouths to feed, so I’m going to have to be creative and efficient in the kitchen. I’m excited about pursuing this goal because it is the best way that I can have a positive impact on my family right now.

Why should you care what I eat?

If you live in the tri-state area and want to set limits on the time and money you’re spending on food, I can help. I’m setting an intention to eat real food that makes sense right here. I’ll be shopping for food that’s grown locally and in season in an effort to have a better impact on my personal food community. This year, I’m committing to finding a balance in the kitchen that suits an active and frugal lifestyle.

I’ve learned a lot about food in the past four years thanks to a variety of trusty sources and I’m constantly seeking to learn more. I grew up on a steady diet of pb&j and eggs that left a lot to be desired for energy and physical strength. When I finally joined the dinner table and began consuming wholesome food, I noticed a myriad of changes. Most notably, my mood improved and I started achieving my goals.

But, I’m also realistic about what’s for dinner. I’ve got a critical husband who would eagerly accept a diet of milk, pizza, and M&Ms. No matter how much I am affected by cautionary tales about GMOs, hormones, non-organic foods, and meat horror stories, I have to respect that I can’t reinvent the wheel overnight. However, we’ve both come to the goal that we would like to have at least one meal each year that we fully procure. With that as our guide, it’s easier to navigate the aisles of the supermarket to fill in the blanks.

My toddler, thankfully, has a terrific appetite. She also needs a lot of attention at this age and has no patience to wait for food. Watching how and what she actively consumes is a great guide for me. Do you want to know what meal she likes best? Chicken, potatoes, and carrots. It is quickly becoming the most frequently served meal on my table. When I make extra portions and freeze them, it’s my own simple version of fast food. Since she wants this healthy meal, I’m going to do everything that I can to make it available for her.

Why should you care what YOU eat?

The food landscape has changed tremendously in the last decade. There are more unhealthy options than ever before and food marketing makes the challenge of deciphering the traits of good food nearly impossible. I can’t help but feel that our nation is at a crossroads that will determine if we end up in a slow, zoftig march towards the milk-shake future predicted in Wall-E, or can we grow into a healthy and inspiring group of smart eaters? The only thing that is certain is that you must speak up if you care about the future of our food.

A green mindset throughout the house can save a lot of green.

In our kitchen, we seek to use every bit of food that we can since the most expensive ingredient is the one that’s wasted. We just started composting to cut back on our trash, too. Having a second refrigerator allows ample space for less frequent trips to the store and freezing bulk purchases. By making these significant changes, we can divert more of our food budget to the actual purchase of food.

By shifting my main goal from saving as much money as possible to spending as effectively as possible, we are finally balancing our wants and needs. From my table to yours, I hope you have a year of satisfying meals ahead.

Grow a Humanity Garden

There are many hearts that want to inspire change. From our next actions, we will grow.

We are all conflicted by the tragedy at Sandyhook Elementary School on Friday. If you’re like me, you spent your weekend thinking about the roots of the problem in our nation that is causing people to act out with such hatred against innocent victims. I do not think that a sweeping legislation will help us. However, I strongly believe that we can turn our nation around by returning to the same wholesome roots that rebuilt our nation during World War II.

Humanity Garden

In 1944, our president called on every citizen of the United States to grow Victory Gardens. He stated that home based gardens “made the difference between scarcity and abundance.”

We are still at war. We still do not have enough food to meet the demands of our growing population. We still need gardens to solve the basic needs of the next generation.

Hear these immortal words and join the charge. Let’s make 2013 the year of the green with HUMANITY GARDENS.

Because of the greatly increased demands in 1944, we will need all the food we can grow. Food still remains a first essential to winning the war. Victory gardens are of direct benefit in helping relieve manpower, transportation, and living costs as well as the food problem.

-Franklin D. Roosevelt

We, as a country, have all the resources we need to accomplish this goal in 2013. Don’t spend another second wondering what you can do to improve legislature for future generations. Begin planning your Humanity Garden now so that you can take charge of the situation this Spring! Involve your children, involve your friends, and involve your community.

We all need to participate in gardening for 6 basic reasons. The simple act of gardening:

Provides healthier food

Prevents idle behavior

Offers opportunity for physical activity

Allows access to sunlight

Builds community by sharing

Facilitates sleep through accomplishing work during the day

[Adapted from this list of 6 ways to combat depression: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/6-ways-to-combat-depression.html?page=1]

Ready to get involved?

I want to do everything I can to help you grow a bountiful harvest in 2013. First, take the pledge here and leave a comment with your commitment to grow a garden in 2013. Next, join the community on Facebook, where we will support one another with our plans for a Green 2013. Finally, use Twitter to share photos or quick snippets of your gardening activities with #HumanityGarden. Throughout the year we will recognize our star gardeners with Green Thumb Awards from Eco Incognito. We can’t wait to see what you grow inside, outside, on the roof, downtown, or as a group.

Keep it simple, keep it fresh, keep it hearty.