Tuesday, April 22, 2014

8 Painless Ways to Go Green and Save Money in the Kitchen

Happy Earth Day!

Some folks think it more expensive to live the more environmentally friendly kind of life. Just like anything, it depends upon what your concerns are and how you want to do it. 

8easyandecofriendlywaystosavemoneyinthekitchen
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Many of the Early Marriage waste not and reuse that things we still do to stay healthy and save money is now called green. Since it is Earth Day, I want to share some of them with you. A few things first:

  • Many eco friendly things will clash with other eco-friendly concerns, practices, desires, or budget. In my experience, there aren’t any 100% perfect green solutions. So doing what you can or don’t like to do is perfectly fine in Lazy Budget Chef Land.

  • No Guilt. This isn’t a list of green or frugal absolutes to make you feel bad. If you don’t like or want to do something – don’t. Every deep dark blogger I know (including myself) has some non-green things they use and do. It’s OK if you do too. Really.


  • Everyone and their situation is different and there is more than one way to do things. Some things we do are one time only, some are seasonal, some depend upon where we are in life. This is a list of options, not absolutes.


8 Ways to Go Green and Save Green in the Kitchen


We are a normal family of two adults and the world’s most snuggly dog. We live in a regular house, on the grid, and love the advantages of modern life like electricity, indoor plumbing, and city sewer service. Neither of us want to live like Little House on the Prairie, except as the occasional historical entertainment on weekends (afterward we go home and enjoy long, hot showers. Sometimes history is dirtier than modern life!)

Green Habits


1. Consider a week long plastic trash, food waste, or household trash challenge to see where your money is going. Save or write down on a list, what you throw away/recycle during the week. Review your list to see what you might like to change, if you are buying too much or too little of something, or what you are to keep on keeping on like Husband’s energy bar wrappers.

Don’t feel bad if you produce more waste than what we have shown here. Reducing waste is Husband’s tent pole, we know we have some times of the year we are trashier than others, are a small family, and didn’t get this way overnight. It helps to keep things lower waste because I’m too lazy to remember when the city schedules our rotating trash days until they change the day.

2. Clean out or reorganize a kitchen cupboard. I thought my kitchen was organized. Then I reorganized a cupboard during an Eat from the Pantry (AKA eat this and give me back some space) month and found we aren’t as organized as I thought. We have Out of Sight Out of Mind Disease and more lentils than I thought possible because I had them stashed in three different spots in the kitchen – oops.

We’ve been tossing lentils into dishes where they normally don’t belong just to use them and guess what? The lentils accidently stretched some of those meals, leading to savings and reclaimed cupboard space. Will we go nuts with adding lentils to a lot of meals in the future? Probably not. It is a good and healthy option to have when we don’t have time to go grocery shopping and need to do so.

3. Ditch the disposables (or try to use them less often.) This one may cost a little money up front, but it will pay for itself in the end. I still have some disposables for emergencies/rare occasions. They last a very long time since we try to grab the reusables first. Some suggestions:

  • Wash and reuse plastic zipper bags. Husband insisted on us using zipper bags for lunches and to store leftover cheese, lunch meat, etc. because plastic wrap never seems to stick and the food ends up drying out. My comprise was to wash and reuse the bags that did not hold meat.

  • Replace the plastic wrap and zipper bags with reusable containers. We switched from zipper bags to using containers to store open food packages as well as leftovers to keep the growing repurposed container population from taking over the kitchen. It cuts down how many bags and the occasional sheets of plastic wrap we got through. I haven't spent money on plastic wrap or zippered baggies for at least two years. I think reusable containers keep food fresher too.

  • Consider glass containers over plastic. We resisted this one for years because we had a bunch of BPA free plastic containers (the greenest thing is what you already own!) and I excel at dropping and breaking things. Eventually the plastic containers stained and got icky. I bought a set of Pryex containers as an experiment since Husband wasn’t keen on glass. Turns out we like the glass containers better (except for travel) because they don't eventually get icky and you don’t have to be concerned if you stick it in the microwave.

Oopsie, I’m now a jaraholic. I store the empties in a fake vintage crate on top of my refrigerator. Read the fake vintage crate tutorial on my DIY blog Condo Blues.

  • Consider cloth napkins. I never understood how two people could go through a package of 100 count paper napkins every week. Then I caught Husband on more than one occasion by passing the kitchen counter sponge (color coded for counters and dishes and sterilized in the dishwasher every time I run it) and paper towels for a wad of paper napkins and used them to clean a spill. Luckily I already had a set of cloth napkins I didn’t use and stuck them in the napkin basket. I saved myself at least $10 a month in paper napkins and that many more trees. If you don’t want to buy cloth napkins, learn how to make cloth napkins on Condo Blues.

  • Replace paper towels with designed wash clothes, sponges, etc. I color code my kitchen sponges – one color for counters and one color for dishes. I wash them in the dishwasher to prolong their life. For bigger messes I cut and hemmed old bath towels to the size of a paper towel.  I keep them under the kitchen sink. I use them once and pop them in the laundry hamper. When I run out, I don’t run to the store I do laundry. I have a roll of emergency paper towels for anything involving bodily fluids because I’m squeamish. I have had the same roll for almost three years.


Making cleaning towel was a one time project and a good reuse for my worn bathroom towels. Buying a stack of designated washcloths works too.


  • Try a reusable shopping bag or find a reuse for the disposable bags you get. We do both. I carry a fold up Chicobag shopping bag (learn about it here) in my purse because some stores charge for disposable bags and others will give you a small credit if you bring you own.  It helps keep our plastic bag population in check too.




When we end up with a plastic bag (including produce, frozen peas, etc.) I put them in a plastic bag holder similar to this one and reuse them as kitchen trash bags (we have to bag our city trash.) We use them for doggies duty (we close the smaller bags with a bread tie) since Lacey’s payloads are small enough for a ‘designer’ frozen spinach bag. Lacey lives large!


  • Try using rechargeable batteries and try to find a place to recycle them. Why when you want to use something, the batteries are always dead? Or is it just me? That’s when we bought a couple of sets of AA batteries and a charger. We set the dead set of batteries with a recharged set and pop the dead batteries in the charger for the next time. We don’t use rechargeables for everything, but works for us when it comes to things like my milk frothing wand and remote controls. 



  • Coffee filters – I use a reusable coffee filter. It’s supposed to make a better cup of coffee. I don’t know about that because I never used the disposables so I can’t compare. They have cone and basket reusable coffee filters> and they even have reusable K cups.

4. Unplug small electrical appliances after you use them. Do you see that little glowing light or clock on your appliance? That means it is is drawing electricity from the outlet even when it is not in use. This may not be practical for everything (hi stove, microwave, and refrigerator! I’m talking to you!) but unplugging most of our electronics after each use helped us reduce our electric bill by 32% in a year long project.

5. Try to shop seasonally – you’ll save money! Seasonal items are fresher and often taste better, often local(ish), and in the case of produce, a whole lot cheaper. I don’t have year round farm markets, but shopping according to what is growing nationally is one of the tricks I wrote about in How to Shop Seasonally and Save Money when Nothing is Growing Locally. This doesn’t just apply to food either!

6. Consider shopping consignment and thrift stores, on Craigslist, eBay, Freecycle, etc. Almost everything I had in my first kitchen came my mom buying it from yard sales as she saw them and put them aside for when I moved out. If you sell your old stuff or donate it to a charity thrift store, this tip makes you money too!

7. Find a reuse instead of recycling or throwing it out. You don’t need gobs of time or mad DIY skillz to repurpose something you throw away into something you need or want. Here are a few ideas to get you going:


Water jug storage bins







8. Fix it before replacing it. We have a little saying around here: Momma Fix. Tinkering and making is a family trait and keeps me out of trouble (mostly.) Not to mention, it keeps the stuff we use and like around a lot longer like replacing the broken handle on my crockpot. I don’t have the skillz or time to fix everything that breaks, that’s why we have plumbers and repair people who do.


What are you tips?

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