While I don't believe being frugal/on a tight budget and organic, healthy living necessarily go hand in hand - I do think it is a possibility. I have made it my personal mission this year to find a way to make it truly work for my family.
As I mentioned in the previous budget post, a large amount of our money goes towards groceries. The cost of living here in Idaho is nothing compared to Portland, Oregon but the grocery prices are pretty much the same. We think that is due to the organic produce having to travel so far to get to us in the middle of nowhere as well as a low demand for it. I am not ready to give up on healthy eating for my family due to these issues. This means that we really have to make our money stretch.
I know the garden we have been planning and preparing the earth for will be a tremendous help, but we have quite awhile until that takes effect (Assuming that we can even get a garden up and running here in the desert). In the meantime we are growing some herbs in C's AquaFarm as well as growing more celery and scallions from the leftovers of ones we bought at the store. On a side note: If you haven't tried this, go do it now! Just trim the bunch of celery about 3" above its base and place in a shallow dish of water. Leaves start growing out of the center in as little as a week. The transplant it to soil (indoors for us right now) and it will grow a whole new plant. For the scallions, just place your scallions in a cup of water and the will quickly regrow. I had the one pictured above cut down to the roots and in just three days it already nearly doubled in size. Not only does it help the budget but it's also a fun experiment for the children!
This brings me to the book I mentioned last week that has already begun to help us out - Wildly Affordable Organic. It seems to me that a lot of books, blogs and articles on eating better and spending less assume that you eat out all the time and cook convenience foods the rest of the time. So their directions on how to cook and advice to eat out less doesn't really help me. I have been making our food from scratch for years and we rarely eat out (thanks in part to there only being one restaurant within an hour's drive that has vegan options). Thankfully, while Wildly Affordable Organic does cover these things, the content of the entire book doesn't revolve around them. The author Linda Watson created her wildly affordable cooking plans after being inspired by Michael Pollan and a national challenge to eat on a food-stamp budget. Reading about her journey on the challenge (no more than $1 a meal per person), especially her first shopping trip on a tight budget, really hit home for me. The emotions and exhaustion she experienced that first shopping trip described how I feel every shopping trip.
Linda has some well thought out seasonal meal plans in her book with detailed shopping lists. I have just started incorporating them into our monthly meal plans. So far, so good! She talks about doing a lot of your cooking or at least preparing one day of the week. She mentioned Sunday as being a good day to do this but I wanted to keep Sunday as our day of rest. Honestly, the whole idea just seemed too labor intensive for me at first but now that I have started doing it, I am loving the results. It worked out really well, too, as we just adjusted our homeschooling schedule. We used to do school Monday through Thursday and take Fridays off but K has her religious education classes on Monday and I found myself getting stressed trying to cram all of our day's work into a shorter amount of time. So now we take Mondays off and do school Tuesday - Friday. Monday has now become the girls' "wash day" (they do their laundry then) and my "making day". I go ahead and make anything we might need for the week in bulk which ends up saving us money and time. Some examples of things I make this day are: dishwasher detergent, some WAO bread dough, soaking beans and nuts needed for meals during the week, almond butter, hummus, yogurt, shampoo and any other necessities we are running low on.
Now that bring me to another way I am trying to help our budget, our health and the environment is by making as many of our everyday items myself. This applies to food (Some examples are almond butter, yogurt, bread, hummus) as well as household cleaners (like the all purpose citrus vinegar spray I shared last week, dishwasher detergent, furniture polish) and personal items (such as shampoo, toothpaste, lotion, deodorant, etc. ) I have experienced some major failures with some of my experiments (like the lemon almond yogurt you see pictured that never set) but instead of stressing out over the money lost I am trying to make do (we ended up making smoothies with the failed yogurt attempt), learn from my mistakes and carry on.
I have written more detailed posts about healthy living and food budgets before. This post in particular has some great advice and ideas in the comments. I was inspired all over again as I reread them today. I am also working on a budget wise, healthy living resources widget over on the sidebar. I will add more items as I think of them. If you have any that you think should be included, please do tell!
You guys left some incredibly helpful comments in my last post about budgeting and now I would love to hear what advice, hints, tricks and tips you might have on eating well while on a budget. I will continue to post more thoughts and ideas I have, as well as recipes as I move forward. In the meantime I do have another recipe to share with you;
Lets just ignore my chicken scratch writing in the picture above, shall we? I was in quit a hurry when I wrote that.
3/4 cup citric acid
3 cups borax
3 cups baking soda
30 drops orange essential oil
45 drops lemon essential oil
Place all ingredients in a large jar. Place the lid on and shake until mixed. Use two tablespoons per load of dishes.
This recipe has been working well for us, but I do have to say you can not overload your dishwasher when using it.
ETA: I just found the recipe for the Wildly Affordable Organic bread (that we are loving) online! You can find it here.