10 Ways to Save Money and the Environment

homemade bread

Since I have a little more time on my hands, I’ve been trying to find ways to save money in order to stretch our funds and savings. Here are a few of the things I’ve been working on.

Baking bread
Cost: around $0.50 cents a loaf
My mother in law gifted me a breadmaker a few years ago. I have been making a medium white loaf for sandwiches and toast once a week, and it is enough for two people. I keep the loaf in a white cotton produce bag I purchased years ago from EcoBags, and then in a wooden breadbox. The baker at the local farmer’s market commented on my bag once and said it was perfect for keeping bread fresh. The bread tastes amazing, and is as fresh as it comes.

Hanging clothes to dry
Savings: $0.36
Though it doesn’t save that much money (about $0.36 a load, according to Trent at the Simple Dollar), I love the smell of line-dried clothes. I grew up with a clothesline, and when we moved into our home, my husband installed one for us as well, hooking from the house to a nearby maple tree. My grandmother would bring in her clothes from outside and say the clothing smelled of fresh air and sunshine. I quite agree.

Cooking from scratch
Savings: Lots of $$ saving potential!
Much like the bread, I try to make my meals and condiments as close to nature intended. Purchasing ingredients, like dried beans and whole chickens, is much cheaper than buying more convenience-based foods in general. I simply Google a recipe and try to make it myself. Here are some ideas:
Half Sour Pickles
Ranch Dressing
Beans and Ham
Barbeque Sauce
Crockpot applesauce
Homemade granola – coming soon in a later post
Strawberry jam

Watering plants with rainwater and dehumidifier water
Savings: $0.014 a gallon
Each morning, I empty our basement dehumidifier and water outside planters with the water rather than filling up water on tap. It’s perfectly safe, and gives me free water to use. Clean water is one of the most scarce resources in the world, and though it may feel plentiful and available in abundance to us in North America (save for those in areas of drought, which are becoming more frequent), I still feel we have a responsibility to keep our water usage down.

Buy used
Savings: Between 50-90%
Whenever possible, I try to buy used goods when I need somethings. It could be sheets, a new appliance or kitchen tool, and clothing. I can often find 80% savings of buying new retail goods.

Using tap water
Savings: Between $0.73 and $5.00 for 100 oz.
I have a stainless steel water bottle that goes with me everywhere. At the amusement park the other day, I brought my empty bottle in and filled it up at water fountains throughout the park. When traveling, I bring my empty bottle with me, and once passed security, I fill it up at the nearest water fountain for the trip. I also use only tap water at home, though we prefer to filter it first (using a used Brita filter pitcher, of course). I am constantly surprised when offered a bottle of water as a guest in homes, and instead ask for a glass and fill up my own water from their tap. They are equally surprised, for different reasons. It’s amazing what a few decades of marketing by soft drink companies can do. Most water sold in bottles are typically tap water anyway, so why spend your hard-earned money on them? The last time I had to buy water at a gas station, 24 ounces cost me $1.50. I will never forget my water bottle at home again!

Cloth napkins and cleaning rags
Savings: $1.50 a roll for paper towels
For years, my husband and I have not purchased paper towels for our own use (we do buy them for our pet/house sitters). Instead, we have a stash of cloth napkins that we use (purchased at yard sales and thrift shops), cloth rags made from old towels and tee shirts, and linen towels for kitchen cleanups. The towels do not add too much space in the laundry, and we save time and money from having to purchase, store, and dispose of paper towels and napkins.

Menstrual cup
$50 a year
I purchased my first menstrual cup in 2006, when they were relatively little known and not available at my local stores, not even my local cooperative. Now, you can even find the Diva Cup at the local drugstore and health food store. There are typically two sizes, and though they take up to a few cycles to get used to, they have been the easiest, most eco-friendly alternative I have been able to use, and allow me to displace a lot of landfill waste with one personal choice.

Growing food
Savings: At least 50%
Even if you have only a little space, you can grow some easy items for eating fairly easily and cheaply. Some of the best items to grow: chives come back year after year and can be used in lots of different recipes and dried for future use, lettuce can be cut about three times before it gets too bitter and should be pulled out, basil is very easy to grow and takes up little space in a pot, tomatoes are great to grow in the summer and very expensive to purchase fresh, garlic is very easy to grow, and fresh snap peas are some of the easiest to grow in the spring.

Meatless meals
Savings: Between $4 and $10 a meal
Meat is very expensive, especially when feeding a larger family. Besides just trying to stretch out meat on a regular basis, I’ve also begun emphasizing some meatless meals each week. Here are some of my favorite meal ideas. I don’t typically follow any recipes with the following, as I make them with ingredients from what I have on hand in the pantry and fridge, which tends to change.
egg & vegetable frittata – this uses up any vegetables in the fridge, reducing food waste. Some vegetables I include are zucchini, mushroom, onion, bell pepper, asparagus, tomato, and broccoli.
onion soup – though I do use beef consomme or broth, this meal does not have any other meat in it, and is a hearty soup for all seasons.
minestrone soup – another favorite of my husband’s, I often pair this with a hearty loaf of bread.
rice and beans – this is a meal staple in our house, and we pair it with salsa, sour cream, and cheese.
vegetable stirfry over rice – a very easy meal, especially if you use pre-packaged frozen vegetables.
vegetarian chili with squash – a tasty meal, especially when you add some diced butternut or acorn squash.
quinoa with vegetables – I fry up some vegetables, like winter squash and kale and onion, then mix together with cooked quinoa, and call it a day.
tomato-braised lentils with broccoli rabe – I loosely follow this recipe, and it’s such a comforting, tasty dish that I had to share.
zucchini-potato latkes with tzatziki sauce – Just reading the recipe again makes my mouth water – the tzatziki sauce is homemade and quite easy to make, as well as the zucchini-potato fritters.

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