Each Thursday, Ms. Moneypenny publishes 5 tips for living well on the cheap. If you have tips, please post them in the comments for use in a future edition of Thursday's Money Tips.
This week, I thought I'd work towards dispelling some of the myths around the costs of 'going green' for dinner (and breakfast, and lunch). Here's 5 simple things you can do to lower your food costs, while eating locally and organically.
1. Get to know your faucet
Water is cheap and healthy. Contrary to popular myth, bottled water is not safer. Tap water is actually subject to stricter guidelines. In addition, about 30% of bottled water (Dasani, anyone?) is actually tap water that's been sold to you when it could have been free. Buy yourself a Sigg bottle http://www.sigg.ch/ to drink it in, and you will be hip and healthy.
Don't believe me on the tap water? Check out:http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=87558&page=1
Also, there may be some of you who think your drinks have to have flavor. At least do yourself the favor of cutting out drinks with High Fructose Corn Syrup, which has been well documented to contribute to a variety of health issues, including obesity.
2. Seek out local farms
While local food may never be as cheap as discount grocery stores, it represents the true cost of growing and raising it. The most economical way to obtain this food is perhaps through a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture farm share, which is literally that - a share in the production of the farm for the season. You share the bounty - and the risk. Our CSA farm share costs about $28 a week for the two of us. Learn more and find resources in the links below.
3. Pot some herbs
Dried herbs in the little grocery store jars are pricey, especially the organic ones. Fresh ones are even more expensive. Consider planting a container herb garden this spring, and eat fresh basil and other culinary herbs all summer long. Even buying the little plants at the grocery store ends up being cheaper than buying those small jars.
If that doesn't work for you, consider buying quantities from Penzey's, a great herb and spice resource http://www.penzeys.com/.
4. Eat in season
This is a tough thing to do, in the winter, but it's easy and pleasurable in the summer. Incorporate a locally grown salad (even plant some lettuce, a few tomato plants and some cukes in patio planters) into your diet a couple times a week. Or pick your own strawberries this June and have lots of strawberry-related dishes. It tastes good, the environmental impact is lower, and it can be fun to grow or shop for local food. The local farm links above should help get you started.
5. Buy less packaging
If you have a choice between the head of lettuce on display and the bagged salad, pick the head of lettuce. Chopping it and rinsing it takes only a moment. And carry that forward. Explore the bulk bins. Buy larger packages of items and store them. The less packaging you use, the less trash and waste you encourage companies to use. And it's usually cheaper to buy the 'less prepared' item.
Saving the world isn't all about spending. Much of it is about not consuming, which is something all of us could do more of. M.P. Dunleavy recently wrote a great article on msn.com that speaks more to the 'less spending, more saving' approach to green living.