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Cutting Household Costs, the Sustainable Way

Updated on January 23, 2011

In line with my series on eco-friendly budgeting, I’ve collected 7 more tips that will help cut household costs while supporting health and sustainability.

home grown broccoli
home grown broccoli

Self-Sufficiency

First, allow me to rant about consumerism, as I like to do. Americans need to be prepped about these topics because we are often tricked into believing that every necessity must be purchased at a store. Whether it be Ralph’s, Walmart, Walgreens, or otherwise, we treat our supermarket as the nexus of vital necessities. But in reality we can obtain these essentials ourselves with a bit of effort. Its expensive to package, freeze, ship, and market food and other products. To avoid consumerist slavery, you must open your mind to new ways of living, be resourceful in your home environment, and embrace your creative instincts. Here are a few ideas that can add up to hundreds of dollars of savings on household costs in no time:

1. Reduce your meat consumption. This is about economics, health, and sustainability, not morality. Food prices are continuing to rise, and meat is often the most expensive part of a meal. In 2010, the price of a Thanksgiving turkey was 30% higher than in 2009. Remember that there are many healthier alternatives to meat. In fact vegetarians enjoy significantly better health than those who eat a regular diet of chicken, beef, or pork. Since producing vegetables take less energy and resources than raising animals, vegetarians save lots of money on food costs! Try focusing more of your everyday diet on foods such as peas, broccoli, spinach, beans, and nuts They will provide essential nutrients including calcium, protein, fiber, and iron. The recent rise in factory farm safety issues, such as salmonella, is related to the fact that sustainably-raised meat is inherently expensive to produce. Few of us can afford to eat quality meat on a regular basis.

2. Re-use stuff. This is not an innovative concept, but it takes an innovative mind. Rather than mindlessly tossing out trash, take a moment to think about how items can be re-used. The most common items we toss out- especially those made out of paper or plastic- can be reused in numerous ways. Here are a few ideas we've come up with in my house for things to make out of trash:

a. Vegetable seedling pots from frozen juice containers

b. Flower vases from wine bottles

c. Cat litter from newspaper and mailers

3. Avoid wasting food. Store food and leftovers properly to avoid spoiling. Reuse the plastic containers from products like sour cream or yogurt as food storage containers for your leftovers. Feed leftovers to your dog, or compost for your garden.

4. Filter your water instead of buying bottled water. You can buy filters at the store or simply refill a large water jug at local water stores. While bottled water can demand $20 a month for a family, Brita filters are less than $5 a month and water stores charge around 75 cents a fill.

5. Buy used goods. You might be amazed at the treasures you find at garage sales, thrift stores, flea markets, and estate sales with a little time and effort. If you are in need of quality clothing, shoes, or housewares, then thrift stores like Goodwill can be promising. Also, many used items can be resold for higher prices on Ebay or other auctions. The second-hand market is still a viable source of income for many collectors in this recession era.

6. Build a raised garden bed and grow your own food. This method of gardening promises a vast harvest while demanding minimal space or investment. The process involves turning the soil deeply and raising it up above the established soil line so that the roots of the plants have plenty of room to thrive in nutrient-filled environment. A wooden frame is helpful, but not necessary. By maximizing space in this way, you can produce a garden that is naturally productive and can feed your family throughout the grow season.

7. Use a reel mower to mow your own lawn, instead of gas-powered. Reel mowers are relatively cheap, simple, and effective, requiring no fuel besides a little muscle power. If you do it yourself, you will save money and get exercise, and maybe think about cancelling your gym membership! Not to mention, the EPA claims that gas-powered mowers are responsible for 5% of air pollution. If you’re worried about putting your gardeners out of the job, have them plant your vegetable garden for you!

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