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I recently read an article on how to cut your grocery bill. Here, I will share some tips from that article and some of my own that will help you save money and save the environment. Let’s get started:

1) Don’t buy a product (especially a food product) for the “cool” factor. Products made to be more convenient or to look “cool” will cost you unnecessarily more. Additionally, many of these products use extra packaging. So, you’re mostly paying for the appearance of the product and its packaging. Extra packaging means more waste in our landfills.

Here are a couple of examples of what I think is the “cool” factor:

          

2) Don’t shop when you’re hungry! My husband and I have fallen prey to this one before, and it’s true: you buy more when you’re hungry. Not only that, but you buy extra processed, junk foods that are not good for you when you’re hungry. And more than that, when you buy more (especially perishables) than  you can eat, it typically goes to waste.

3) Don’t go to the grocery store every time you need something. Throughout the week, make a list of what you’ll need for the next week. Plan out your meals and include all of the ingredients you don’t already have on next week’s list. Then, hit the store ONCE. This will save you time, stress, gas and probably money since you’ll be tempted to buy extra less often since you’ll be in the store less often.

I have an app on my iPad called Grocery IQ that allows me to make a really convenient grocery list. The app is FREE and is also available for iPhone. Check it out!

I’m sure this is not a comprehensive list. How have you changed your shopping habits to save money and to be “greener”? Add your thoughts here!

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Summer is coming and if you live in Wisconsin like me, you’ve already experienced some summer heat this spring. Here are several tips for how to stay cool this summer while staying green and without going broke.

1) Keep your shades closed. Thermal curtains or light-blocking curtains are relatively inexpensive and can be bought at Shopko. These curtains will keep the light and/or heat out in the summer, reducing your need to artificially cool your home.

A storm took out one of our trees last summer and unfortunately, it was the tree on the west side of the house that produced nice shade for our home. So, now on warmer days, the sun beats in through our living room windows in the evening, heating up the whole lower level of the house. To make up for the loss of shade and natural cooling feature of our tree, I recently bought some curtains to block out the light:

2) Use fans. Fans still use electricity, but they use less energy than air conditioners. When possible, use fans rather than central air or an air conditioning unit to cool your home. On the especially hot and humid days when you do need to artificially cool your home, keep your thermostat set higher (in the mid-70s) and turn on some fans to cool you down.

3) Keep the cool air in! Caulk around windows and use weather-stripping on doors to keep the cool air in and the heat out. Also, add insulation with a high “R” rating to your attic. This is initially an expensive purchase, but will pay off in energy savings all year every year.

For more tips on how to keep your home cool without breaking the bank this summer, visit the All You blog.

How do you cool your home in green ways? Has much money have you saved?

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Many college students are eco-minded individuals who want to lead sustainable lives. But the challenge to live sustainably can be daunting, especially for those on limited incomes.

As a college student myself, I have been faced with this challenge for the past four years. Let me share some tips with you for how I made sustainable choices that also saved me money. Couponing.about.com has some great additional ideas that I will also share.

1) Buy used textbooks whenever possible. Used textbooks can be found at your campus bookstore, Amazon, Ebay or Half Price Books. Also check out Facebook to see if there is a specific page set up by students at your university to buy and sell textbooks from their classmates.

Renting is also another viable, green option.

And be sure to sell your books back to your campus bookstore or to Amazon at the end of the semester if you don’t intend to use the book again.

2) Walk to campus if you can. Save yourself the money for an on-campus parking permit (which typically runs about $100 per semester) and give yourself the exercise you need by walking to campus. If you’re like me and don’t live close enough to campus to walk, park your car in a parking zone on a city street off campus and walk a couple of blocks to campus.

3) Buy basic clothing rather than what’s trendy. It will cost you less, and you can wear it for more than one season. You can find lots of great stuff at secondhand stores such as Goodwill, such as these two shirts:

4) Shop Craigslist or Goodwill for furniture and other household items needed for your dorm, apartment or house.

5) Another blog, called Just Ask Asa, suggests using reusable plates, cups and shopping bags, rather than disposable paper and plastic ones, to reduce waste and to save money in the long run.

These are some of the ways I and many others have tried to live a frugal and green life in college.

How have you saved money while living green in college or as a young adult?

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Beyond reducing what we consume, or buy, we can also reduce how much energy we use on a daily basis.

There are tons of great articles and blogs out there with tips for making your homes more energy-efficient and learning to save money by cutting back on energy consumption. Here are the top seven practical tips I’ve found for reducing the energy you use:

1) Conserve heat in your home by adding insulation to your home, filling in cracks around windows and doors and using weather-stripping.

2) Conserve energy by air-drying laundry. Walmart sells drying racks that you can put up inside your house. To hang your shirts inside, use something like this, which my husband built for me. During the warmer seasons, a clothesline can also be used outside.

3) Wash all of your laundry in cold water to save energy. The blog Strive to Simplify suggests that switching to cold water when doing laundry saves 25 cents per load, which adds up to about $65 in savings per year for the average household.

4) When you are asleep or not home, program your thermostat to hold the temperature five degrees cooler than when you’re home.

5) Frugal Living suggests that you keep your fridge and freezer full. The food acts as an insulator and keeps the food cooler without requiring your refrigerator to run.

6) Drive the speed limit! According to The Bargainlist blog, driving faster is less fuel-efficient. Using cruise control can also save energy because it reduces the amount of heavy accelerating and heavy braking required when your cruise is not set.

7) Have a professional conduct a home energy audit, which will show you where you’re wasting the most energy and offer the best solutions to your specific problems. Green Living Ideas offers some great advice for having a home energy audit done.

For more great energy and money-saving tips, visit Frugal Living‘s blog.

I’d love to hear your suggestions for reducing energy on a daily basis! Please share your comments here!

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Consuming less is difficult. We live in a society that is bombarded by advertising and driven by fads and trends, which all encourage us to buy more.

Saying “no” to consumerism requires a lot of self-control. Reducing what we consume becomes easier when we adopt a mindset to save money, preserve resources, or lead a simpler life with less “stuff.”

Here are a few tips to get started on living an anti-consumerist lifestyle:

1) Bring a list of what you need to the store and stick to the list. This will prevent impulse and unnecessary purchases.

2) Use your library. Not only is it free, but borrowing is also environmentally-friendly. One book being used by 20 people is much more “green” than each of those 20 people purchasing the same book (or magazine, DVD, CD, etc.), using more energy and other resources to make each copy.

3) Sell things you don’t need any more or haven’t used recently. Have your own rummage sale or sell items online through Amazon, Ebay, or Craigslist. Not only will you make money by selling these items, but someone else can make use of them, too.

4) Use items you already own for multiple purposes whenever possible. For example, my husband and I connect our TV screen to our desktop so that our TV screen also functions as our computer monitor and our computer also functions as our DVD player.

5) Buy quality items. Sometimes, paying more up front for an item will save you money in the long run. For example, I bought this belt at Target three years ago for $23. To me, that seems like a lot for a belt, but it’s made of genuine leather and has lasted me twice as long already as a synthetic belt which costs $15.

Consuming less isn’t easy. But hopefully these tips will get you started on an anti-consumerist lifestyle that will save you money and help you live greener.

How do you fight the tide of consumerism? Feel free to share your thoughts here!

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Think Thrifty

We’ve all heard the advice “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Turns out this advice is not just good for our environment, but it can help save us some money, too.

Let’s focus on the second “R”: Reuse.

One of the best ways I’ve found to save money and “be green” is to shop for secondhand items whenever possible. What’s great about buying secondhand is that it reuses items, which saves resources compared to buying new products, which uses additional resources. This is great for the environment and, with the exception of antiques, can save consumers a lot of money, too.

There are SO many great stores out there such as St. Vincent De Paul, Goodwill and on a local level, Fox Valley Thrift Shoppe, among others, that sell secondhand items.

Additionally, there are awesome sites out there such as Craigslist, which is essentially a sold-by-owner type of online thrift store.

Most thrift stores sell a variety of products from clothes and shoes to furniture, kitchen utensils and books, making it easy to get what you need all in one place.

Here are a few photos of some of my more recent purchases from thrift stores:

A set of nearly new clothes for my god-daughter, which I recently purchased from Goodwill for under $5.

A chair I bought at Goodwill for about $15.

And a pair of shorts for myself for about $6.

Another benefit of shopping at thrift stores is many of them exist to do philanthropic work with the money they make. For example, Goodwill served more than 2.4 million people through its employment and training programs in 2010.

Goodwill also supports sustainable initiatives including training its staff to adopt green practices.

Still don’t believe shopping for secondhand items is worth it? Check out this blog post on Helium for more reasons and tips for going thrift shopping!

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Not only is living “green” good for the environment, but it can be really good for your pocketbook, too! As @do something said, “Being green saves you money. Being green saves you green.” That’s what this blog is all about.

For now, let’s start with food.

I am not strictly a vegetarian, but I do choose to eat some meatless meals. In addition to the health benefits and savings in cost, there are some huge environmental benefits to eating less meat. According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blog, eating vegetarian creates 1.5 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide per year than diets that contain meat. This has the same environmental impact as switching from driving a Chevrolet Suburban to a Toyota Camry!

The article also suggests that eating only 2 oz. of meat per day may actually be better for the environment than eating more than 2 oz. of meat per day and is also better than going vegetarian completely.

If you have a hard time thinking of ways to reduce the amount of meat in your diet here are some cheap, but tasty, meatless recipes to try!

Baked Potato Soup

1 garlic clove
1/2 t. pepper
2 large baked potatoes
1 c. half and half
1 small onion, chopped
3 T. flour
1 t. basil
3 c. chicken broth
1/4 t. hot pepper sauce
shredded cheddar cheese

Saute onion and garlic and half of potatoes in a saucepan with olive oil. Stir in flour, pepper and basil. Gradually add broth, bring to a boil stir for 2 minutes. Add rest of potatoes, cream and sauce. Heat through. Do not boil. Garnish with shredded cheese.

Berry Mandarin Salad

Dressing

1/4 c. sugar
2 T. honey
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. onion
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 T. vinegar
1 1/4 t. lemon juice
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/4 t. celery seed or poppy seed
dash salt

Salad

1 bag or tub of spinach
sliced strawberries
chopped onions
toasted almonds
1 can mandarin oranges

Combine dressing ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve salad. Combine salad ingredients. Toss with dressing just before serving.

Bean and Cheese Quesadillas

1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 can black beans, drained and lightly mashed
1/2 c. salsa
1/2 t. chili powder
1 pkg. wheat flour tortillas
8 oz. pepper jack cheese, shredded
1/2 c. cilantro leaves

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion. Cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans, salsa and chili powder. Cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spray hot griddle or clean, heated skillet with cooking spray. Place one tortilla on griddle or skillet and cook 1 minute. Spread 1/3 c. bean mixture and 1/3 c. cheese over tortilla. Sprinkle some cilantro over top. Place another tortilla on top and cook 1 minute. Press gently with a spatula and turn. Cook 1 minute. Remove from griddle or skillet. Spray griddle or skillet with cooking spray. Repeat rest of steps to make a total of three quesadillas.

Very Veggie Frittata

5 eggs
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 c. sour cream
2 sliced green onions
salt
pepper
1 c. mushrooms, chopped
1/2 c. red peppers, chopped
1/2 c. green peppers, chopped
1/2 c. yellow peppers, chopped
1/4 c. onion, chopped
1 T. butter

Beat eggs, 3/4 c. cheese, sour cream, onions, salt and pepper together. In a 9-in. skillet, cook mushrooms, peppers and onion in butter until tender. Pour egg mixture over vegetables. Cover and cook 4-6 minutes or until nearly set. Uncover, sprinkle with 1/4 c. cheese. Broil 2-3 minutes or until eggs are set. Makes 4 servings.

Margherita Pizzas

2 store-bought wheat pizza crusts
2 t. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
3 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 t. garlic powder
1 t. italian seasoning
basil to taste

Place one pizza crust on ungreased pizza pan. Brush with oil. Top with half the toppings. Bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes. Repeat with other pizza crust. Makes two pizzas.

Note: each pizza can be made for under $5 using a prepared pizza crust.

For more meatless recipes for under $5, check out the 5 Dollar Dinners Blog or share your own here!

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