Archive | save money

Great Deal on Vitacost Organic Coconut Oil


Vitacost is having an amazing sale on their organic extra virgin coconut oil – $16.99 for 54 oz.

You can save even more:

1)  Use Ebates – If you shop Vitacost through your ebates account, you will get 4% back from ebates – that’s $0.68. 

2)  Don’t have an ebates account?  Get one!  For signing up here, you can choose to receive  a $10 gift card from Macy’s, Walmart, Target or Kohl’s or $5 in ebates cash.    Then get your $0.68.  Hey, it adds up.  (This is an Affliate link which means I will get some $ if you use it)

3)  New to Vitacost?  Sign up here and receive a $10 credit to use toward a purchase of $30 or more.  You might even be able to use it on this order!  (This is an Affliate link which means I will get some $ if you use it)

If you use all 3 of these money savers, it’s practically free!

Vitacost has loads of great products at great prices.  Free shipping on overs over $49.   I get all my shampoo and coconut flakes from here.


Easy Foaming Hand Soap

{The Greening Of Westford} Easy Foaming Handsoap

There was a time when you would place a bar of soap next to the bathroom sink for washing hands.  Somewhere along the way, that became a disgusting thought – “Use the same soap someone else has used??”  Ewww!”  Honestly, if it’s my own house I don’t mind so much but do feel a little weird elsewhere and forget that concept in a public restroom!  Plus that bar can get pretty slimy and gross – think kids playing with the bar of soap while washing their hands.

In comes liquid foaming soap.  Convenient, not as messy, and scents that can make you feel like you are on vacation.  On the other hand, there is the wasteful packaging, those scents contain Phthalates, anti-bacterial liquid soap most likely contains triclosan, and they are expensive!

So pick your reason for wanting to rid your bathroom of these liquid foaming soaps:

  1. Wasteful
  2. Potentially dangerous chemicals
  3. Expense

I’m not going to suggest we go back to the bar of soap, although that is an option.  I’m going to say,

Make your own!  
It is so easy.  The most difficult part, is finding a container you like.

Foaming Soap

It’s not special foaming soap, its the container does the foaming action  I tried ordering empty foaming soap dispensers.  They were difficult to find and expensive.  Buy one already filled with soap and refill that one when it becomes empty.  Whole Foods carries their 365 brand foaming hand soap for about $5.  Or if you have those pretty smelling ones lying around, keep them!


liquid soap of your choice (Castile or anything unscented and without triclosan)

Fill your container about a 3/4 with water, then fill the rest with your liquid soap.  (You might need to play with this ratio.)
Mix gently

That’s it!  You can add essential oils if you like for fragrance or extra cleaning properties.  Teat Tree oil and lavender work nicely.  Vitamin E or glycerin can be added for softening qualities.  It’s up to you.

Cost Savings:
This method costs a fraction of what it would cost to buy new foaming dispensers filled with soap each time. Plus don’t forget your other savings in terms of health and resources.

32 oz of Castile soap (at Bed, Bath and Beyond) is about $9.  You can make 128 oz of foaming soap from this.

Pretty smelling scented ones, on sale, are 5 for $15.  Even at this great price it would cost $45 for the same amount of soap*.

Do you make your own foaming hand soap?  Will you now?

*The math:

Each pretty smelling bottle contains 8.75 oz. and costs $3 (on sale)

128oz/8.75oz  =  15 bottles (rounded up to whole bottles)
15 * $3 = $45

This post has been shared at Simply Natural Saturdays, Your Green Resource, From the Farm, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways


Nashua NH Costco Price List

Costco Price List {The Greening Of Westford}

The array of organic and “natural” food products at Costco is amazing and growing.  I have been doing price comparisons for a while to save money.  I hadn’t updated my prices in quite some time.  So it was time!

Here are prices for Organic and other “natural” items found at the Nashua, New Hampshire Costco.  There are other price lists like this on the internet, but many of them neglect to tell you which store (or at least region) the prices were gathered from.  Many of them, I found, did not apply at my Costco – either the products were not available or the prices were not the same.  And of course the price difference was not in my favor.

Prices were checked on February 27, 2013.

Unit prices are for units stated in the “Size” column.

Item Size/Count Units Price Unit Price
Kirkland Organic Eggs 24 eggs 6.99 0.29
Silk Organic Vanilla Soy Milk 3 half gallon 7.39 2.46
Kirkland Organic Milk – Lowfat 3 half gallon 10.99 3.66
Kirkland Organic Milk – Whole 3 half gallon 11.99 4.00
Parmesan Reggiano 1 lb 10.99 10.99
Pantry Staples
Unit Price 
Kirkland/Starbucks Fair Trade Coffee Beans
2 lbs
Organic Mayorca Coffee Beans
2 lbs
Kirkland Natural Peanut Butter (2/40oz)
80 oz
Maranatha Natural Almond Butter
26 oz
Kirkland Organic Strawberry Spread
42 oz
Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Sugar
10 lbs
Dutch Gold Pure Clover  Honey
5 lbs
Kirkland 100% Maple Syrup
32 oz
Organic Blue Agave Nectar (2/36 oz)
72 oz
Filippo Berio Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1.5 liter
Carrington Farms Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (unrefined, cold pressed)
54 oz
King Arthur unbleached all purpose flour
25 lbs
Kirkland Almonds
3 lbs
Kirkland Pine Nuts
24 oz
Kirkland Walnuts
3 lbs
Kirkland Pecans
2 lbs
Unit Price 
Kirkland Organic chicken Stock
6 quarts
Pacific Organic free range chicken broth
6 quarts
Better Than Boullion Organic Chicken Base (low sodium)
16 oz
Better Than Boullion Organic Beef Base (low sodium)
16 oz
Unit Price 
Nature’s Earthly Choice Organic Quinoa
4 lbs
Nature’s Earthly Choice Chia Seeds
2 lbs
Della Organic Long Grain Brown Rice
12 lbs
Nature’s Earthly Choice Black Rice
4 lbs
Quaker Old Fashioned Oatmeal
10 lbs
Nature’s Path Organic Pumpkin Flax Plus Granola
35.3 oz
Unit Price 
Earthbound Organic Table Carrots
10 lbs
Earthbound Organic Baby Peeled Carrots
5 lbs
Organic Spring Mix Greens
Canned Tomato Products
Note:  According to an email response from Costco, their tomato product cans are BPA-free.  
Unit Price 
Kirkland Organic Tomato Paste
12 (6oz cans)
Kirkland Organic Tomato Sauce
12 (15 oz cans)
Kirkland Organic diced tomatoes
8 (14.5 oz cans)
Del Monte Organic diced tomatoes (canned)
8 (14.5 oz cans)
Price per lb 
Coleman Organic Boneless Skinless chicken breasts
4 lbs
Coleman Organic Chicken Thighs
4 lbs
Coleman Organic whole chicken
2 ~3 lb chickens
Organic Ground Beef
4 lbs
Unit Price 
Kirkland Environmentally Responsible Laundry Detergent
120 loads
Kirkland Dish Soap
135 oz
Arm and Hammer Baking Soda
13.5 lbs

Did I miss anything?


Yummy Nutty Homemade Granola

homemade nutty granola

I am a recent lover of granola!  I am by no means an expert or connoisseur.   But I love this simple recipe.  It doesn’t get super crunchy.  It’s more like cereal, but I like that I can mix it with yogurt or eat it with milk.

Yummy Nutty Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup assorted nuts (I like a mixture of almonds and walnuts)
3/4 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup real maple syrup (could use honey as well)
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F .
  2. Melt coconut oil and mix with maple syrup.
  3. Combine all of the ingredients, mixing well to coat.
  4. Spread on a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 30 minutes.
I have also baked this at a lower temperature of 300 F. It doesn’t get as brown and is way more like a cereal. 
I love eating it with my homemade yogurt and a drizzle of honey!
Do You Like Granola?  What’s Your Favorite?

This post is shared at Your Green Resource


Thieves Oil Concentrate: What a Steal!



Homemade Thieves Oil Concentrate

Cold and flu season is upon us.  Runny noses, germs, viruses…  It’s not enough for me to pull out the bleach, but I do like a little extra protection.
Have you heard of Thieves Oil?   Legend has it that back in the 15th century, 4 thieves used a secret formula to protect themselves from the plague so they could rob the dying and dead.
And of course, you can make this yourself with simple, inexpensive, easy to find ingredients.  Recipes vary, but the common mixture is cinnamon, cloves, lemon, eucalyptus and rosemary.  We can’t be sure that thieves actually used this mixture to protect themselves from the plague, but these ingredients are antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial and anti-infectious. So give it a go!  It smells great.

Thieves Oil Concentrate (Cost: approximately $1.25 per batch)

Zest of 1 large lemon (cut the peel off to make it easier to use again)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 cinnamon sticks (buy in bulk at Whole Foods)
¼ cup whole cloves (buy in bulk at Whole Foods)
5 drops eucalyptus essential oil (GNC or online)


Homemade Thieves Oil Concentrate {}

  1. Fill a pot with a quart of water and add the first four ingredients.
  2. Heat on the stove top to boiling, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Or, once the mixture has boiled, turn off the heat and let it sit for 2 hours.
  3. Strain the mixture and pour the remaining liquid into a glass jar.  Glass is better than plastic for many reasons!  But in this case, the essential oils can react with plastic.
  4. Add the five drops of eucalyptus oil.


You can re-use the ingredients for another 2-3 batches. I store mine in the freezer for later use.
This concentrate can be mixed with equal parts of water and kept in a spray bottle.  I use mine as a quick disinfectant for the bathroom.  I really like the smell too.

A Quick Note On The Ingredients

Whole cloves can be super expensive in grocery stores.  Anywhere from $3 – 4 for a small bottle.  Here is where the bulk spices at Whole Foods comes in.  I purchased 2 cups of whole cloves for $6.65.  Which comes out to be about $0.83 for the ¼ cup you’ll need for this recipe.
Cinnamon sticks can be expensive too – I bought 10 good quality cinnamon sticks for $0.99 at Whole foods.  That would have cost me $5 prepackaged – maybe more.

Make sure to cut your lemon peel and not zest (grate it).  I learned this the hard way!   See my lemon zest in the picture?  It’s really difficult to get the zest back after straining to use again.


How To Use Your Thieves Oil Concentrate

Fill a spray bottle with equal amounts of Thieves Of Concentrate and water.
Spray on surfaces or in the air as a disinfectant.
It love the smell as it simmers on the stove. 
This quart of concentrate will cost you about $1.25.  From this you can make 2 quarts or 2 full sized bottles of disinfectant!  Talk about saving money!  And you can trust these ingredients.

Do You Use Any Homemade Cleaners?

This post is shared at Tiny Tip Tuesday, Your Green Resource, Simple Lives Thursday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Penny Pinching Party, Simply Natural Saturdays, Seasonal Celebration Sunday


Massachusetts Residents Get Your FREE Home Energy Audit

Massachusetts free home energy audit
Energy efficient light bulbs for free

Did you know that as a Massachusetts customer of any of the major electric or gas companies, you are eligible for a FREE home energy audit?

Through the Mass Save program, sponsored by Massachusetts’ gas and electric utilities, residents are able to have a free energy audit. Energy efficiency can save loads of energy and is a necessary and important first step before considering alternate energy sources.
I’m sure you are thinking, who pays for this?  Nothing is free.  You know it.  Guess who pays: You and every other customer of the utility companies contributes to the program.*  Ever wonder what an “Energy Efficiency Charge” on your electric bill is for?  There is a similar charge on your gas bill too.  It’s included in the Minimum Charge.
Do I have your attention now?  Take advantage of it!  You are paying for it anyway. 
I talked about the program in an earlier article.  The program has changed slightly again so here is an update.
You still want to start with making an appointment for the energy audit through Next Step Living*. Next Step Living’s association with the program is new since my last article.  I had another audit a few weeks ago and was very impressed with the auditor’s knowledge.  Once again, he changed a few more light bulbs   I thought we had changed all of ours to CFLs, but a few more types are now available – including dimmable flood lights and candle based bulbs.
I had taken advantage of several of the improvements during the last audit (like adding more insulation to my attic) so there wasn’t much more available to me.  But it was nice to make sure and to have the attic work looked at by someone with some knowledge.  The auditor was very impressed with our contractor’s work on the attic insulation.
One new item for the program is solar.  As part of the audit, your house is evaluated for solar.  Next Step Living has partnered with SunRun for solar installation.  Unfortunately, our house is facing the wrong direction so solar isn’t a viable option for us.  However, my parents house was perfect for solar panels, which were installed last spring.  More to come on that….
Another “addition” to the program:  you are no longer eligible for an audit every year.  If your last audit was before August 2011, you are eligible, but will not be eligible again until significant changes are made to the program.  It makes sense.  Since my last audit, not much had been added to the program, so there wasn’t much more that could be done.
Have you had your FREE home energy audit?
*The link to Next Step Living is an affiliate link.  I will receive $25 if you sign up for an audit using this link.  Please consider supporting this website.  The money will be used to further the information here.
Photo credit:  Top photo used under Creative Commons taken by Anton Fomkin/Flickr


How To Cook Dry Beans

how to cook dry beans
“Why in the world would she want to cook her own beans?  Canned are cheap as “beans” 😉 to begin with!”

Well, yes, beans are a fairly inexpensive protein in the can, but here are many reasons why I cook my own.

  1.  Avoid the BPA.   Most cans contain BPA in the lining.  Until a suitable alternative is available, cooking your own reduces this exposure.
  2. Save Money.  Dry beans are anywhere from 1/2 to 1/3 the price of canned beans.  I did a comparison in my area and this is what I found – You can buy a pound of dry Goya black beans at Market Basket for $1.49 which cooks up to at least 6 cups of beans.  This is the equivalent of 3 cans which will cost you about $2.40.  You have saved $0.91.  Now you could take that savings and run.  Or use the savings to buy organic dry beans.  Dry organic black beans in bulk at Hannaford are $2.99 per lb  For some reason I couldn’t find organic canned beans at Hannaford or Market Basket, so from amazon a can of Eden Organic black beans is $1.66.  Again, a little more than 1/2 the price.
  3. I control the ingredients.  There is usually a lot of salt added to canned beans.
  4. Taste and texture.  I can control how soft the beans are by cooking them more or less.  The taste also seems fresher to me.
  5. Reduce packaging waste.  I have been trying to reduce whatever waste I can.  By buying beans in bulk, in my own container, there is another package eliminated!

I know.  It seems difficult and not worth it.  It really isn’t that tough.  Yes it takes a little more planning on the cooking and using (defrosting) end.  When I need beans for a recipe, I cook up at least a pound of beans, use what I need then freeze the rest.  To defrost them quicker, I place the glass jar in a bowl of cool water.  Again, it is not as fast as popping the lid off a can, but close.

I will let you in on a little secret.  Years ago, before marriage and kids, I lived with my cousin.  We tried a few times to cook dry beans and they never got soft, so we gave up.  Well, years later I discovered that you have to soak AND cook them.  We only ever soaked them!  Ah to be young!  

How To Cook Dried Beans

This applies to beans that need to be soaked and cooked.   This method does not apply to lentils or split peas since they don’t need to be soaked and cook very quickly.

Step 1: Prep   Dry beans often have small stones or clumps of dirt in them.  This is normal, but you need to get those out before you cook them.  Sort through the beans, picking out the undesirables then rinse in cold water.

Step 2: Soak   Most beans need to be soaked before cooking.  The larger the bean, the longer the soaking, the longer the soaking the shorter the cooking time. 

Black eyed peas and Adzuki beans do not require soaking – skip this step.

Overnight method:  Put beans in a bowl (I use the pot I will be cooking them in) add enough cold water to cover the beans completely with a few inches of water.  They will absorb the water as they soak.  Let sit overnight (6 -8 hours).

Quick soak:  Place in a pot with enough water covering the beans.  Bring to a boil and boil for 2 mins.  Take pot off the heat, cover and let sit for 2 hours.

Step 3: Cook   Remove any beans that are floating.  Drain and rinse the beans.  Place them in a pot.  Add enough cold water to cover the beans by one inch.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.  If cooking kidney beans, boil for 10 mins. before lowering the heat to destroy a toxin in the beans .  Simmer until beans are tender (see table below for approximate cooking times).  When checking for doneness, test a few beans to make sure they have all cooked.  You can add seasoning while cooking, but do not add salt or anything acidic.  Your beans will never cook.

These times are a rough guide.  Depending on the age of your beans and the length of time you soaked them, the times may vary.



Cooking Time

Black Beans


1 hour
Black-eyed peas

1 hour

Cannellini beans

1 ¼ hours

Chick peas/Garbanzo beans


1 – 1 ½ hours

Great Northern Beans


1 hour

Kidney Beans


1 ¼ hours

Peas -split


1 hour

Pinto Beans


1– 1 ½ hours


SAVE the cooking liquid!   Often you will want some cooking liquid when using the beans.  Definitely for chick peas – I always add some cooking liquid when making hummus.  Just add some of the liquid to your storage container.  It will also help the beans from getting dried out.

Beans will keep in the refrigerator for about 4 days.

For longer storage (up to 6 months), freeze them.  Baggies, plastic containers, or glass – whatever works for you!  I freeze mine in 2 cup portions (just like the cans) in pint mason jars with some of the cooking liquid.

Easy peasy right!?  Apparently, you can also cook them in a slow cooker.  That will have to be another post since I haven’t tried it yet.

Do you cook your own beans?

Top photo take by CIAT/Flickr used under Creative Commons.


Save BIG on Amazing Dishwasher Detergent!

Savings on green dishwasher detergent

I have recently found a couple of online stores that have great deals on organic and natural products like essential oils, castille soap, chia seeds and more.  I had to tell you about this offer!

BioKleen Automatic Dish Washing Detergent with Grapefruit Seed and Orange Peel Extract
Great product!   And is on sale right now at for $5.09.  This product is normally anywhere from $7.99 to $8.99 anywhere else.  ($8.49 at, so this is 40% off).  I have tried making my own dishwasher detergent a few times and have not liked the results.  I think the hard water around here makes it tough.

Then get free shipping. gives free shipping for orders over $25.

Are you a member of  You can save another 12% by shopping through their link.  I think this is a temporary doubling of the cash back so act quickly, not sure when it runs out.

If you do not currently have an ebates account, sign up for one.  You are eligible to receive a $10 gift card to your choice of Target, Home Depot, or $5 from ebates when you first sign up. Plus then you’ll get the 12%.  Ebates is a shopping site.  If you shop online through their links, you will receive a certain % of your purchase back in cash quarterly.  I have only been a member for a few months and have already earned almost $25 shopping the same stores I always do – vitacost,, Groupon, Land’s End, and many more!

Are you a members?  No.  GREAT!  New customers are getting a $50 gift certificate with a $25 purchase!  I wasn’t able to confirm this since I already have an account with them but I saw it on the home page of

Plus, right now at, there is a BUY ONE, GET ONE 50% off deal for NOW essential oils.  I stocked up on lemon and rosemary!  Make sure you get the deal, I had to call customer support to get mine.

I ordered 4 of the dishwasher detergents, wondering if I should have gotten more…..

[Disclosure: If you sign up for ebates or vitacost through the links above, I will get a few dollars in my accounts.  I am planning on using this money to buy new “green” products to review on this site.]

This post has been shared at Monday ManiaFrugally Sustainable and Green Living and Giveaways.


Eco-Friendly Laundry Series Coming

Crunchy Farm Baby Laundry Series

I am happy to be participating in an Eco-Friendly Laundry Series hosted by Crunchy Farm Baby.  Lots of product info, giveaways, and laundry tips and tricks!  

I’ll remind you August 5th and throughout the series.  Here are some of the topics:

  • Natural stain removal
  • Cloth diaper care
  • Energy saving tips
  • Homemade laundry deteregent
  • Organization tips

See you there!


Thrift Store Treasures

Over the past few years, yard sales and thrift stores have become favorites of mine.  You just never know what you will find!  The prices can’t be beat and I love knowing that I saved something from getting tossed.  

When my daughter was about 18 months old, I filled our backyard with loads of fun outdoor toys for her.  All from yard sales.  I don’t think I spent more than $20 total.   We had more than she could ever play with – a play kitchen complete with fake food and dishes, riding toys, a Cozy Coupe (we ended up with 3 of these when her twin brother and sister came along), sand toys, a rocking horse, you name it.  

One year for Christmas, all of my son’s gifts were purchased at yard sales.  I would have gotten some for the girls too, but everyone seemed to be selling boys’ toys that year.  Again, you never know what you are going to get.   And I have to mention, that the one item I purchased from the store (because I couldn’t find it on Craig’s list or yard sales), he rarely played with.  

Kitchen items are plentiful also.  Here are a few of my favorites.

I found several of these glasses.  I think I bought 12 of them for about $2.  We use them for pudding mostly. I also found a set of ice cream sundae glasses.  Those are fun!  I am still on the lookout for long spoons.

yard sale finds

This was a great discovery.  A set of 4 Pyrex Amish Butterprint nesting “Cinderella” bowls.  At the time I had no idea what pattern they were or anything.  I just thought they were pretty!  I debated because I really didn’t need any more bowls.  The woman selling them wanted $5, so I bought them.  They are by far my favorite bowls!

yard sale treasures

Several of my glass storage containers came from yard sales and thrift stores.  

thrift store findsthrift store treasures

Now, the piece d’resistance, my whip cream dispenser!  I found this, again, by chance at Savers last week.  Savers is a huge thrift store that donates a portion of their sales to charity.   I had seen one of these in a kitchen store a few years ago, but couldn’t justify the cost.  They sell for at least $50 new.  I took a gamble on this, since I couldn’t be sure if it still worked.  But for $3.99 (less my 20% off) I took the risk.  You need NO2 chargers to make the cream whip.  Found those at Bed, Bath and Beyond (10 for $7.50).

thrift store whipped cream dispenser

We tried it out that night and Voila!  Homemade whipped cream in about 30 seconds!!!!!  I can’t wait to try out different flavors.

The real fun now is going with my daughters.   They are learning that they can get cool stuff for very little money and that just because something is old, doesn’t mean it isn’t any good.

Do you go to yard sales and thrift stores?  What is your favorite find?


No Sew Reusable Swiffer Pads

Long ago I bought a Swiffer Wet Jet.  I absolutely loved it!  It was great for quickly cleaning up small spills.  With kids and a dog, that makes life very easy. 
As my green journey continued though, I became less and less in love with the disposable cleaning pads that go along with the Swiffer.  I changed them less frequently and used the Swiffer less and less.
There has to be a way to make a reusable pad.  I do not sew!  But my mom does.  So I started prototyping so I could tell her what to sew.
I have seen really cute ones that you slip onto the Swiffer head.  I thought those might come loose as I was scrubbing, so I thought Velcro might help keep it in place.  Well, this did the trick, without any sewing!

What you will need:

Self-Stick Hook and Loop (Velcro with a sticky backing)
Microfiber cloth 

What to do:

Step 1:  Take the “hook” part (the stiffer side) of the hook and loop and stick it on the Swiffer head.  


Step 2: I took a microfiber cloth and wrapped it around the head.  
Step 3:  The final product looks like this.
I started testing it out and the cloth stuck!  It doesn’t look as pretty as the ones you can buy on Etsy, but it works!  I just remove the cloth and wash it. 
I did leave one of my last disposable pads on the Swiffer for extra cushioning.  I use this mostly on hardwood floors with very little water, so the disposable pad does not get very wet.  I think I’ve had the same one for quite a while.  I’m sure there are other things I could use if needed.
I never bought the replacement cleaning solution.  I just use a spray bottle with a mixture of vinegar and water.  I squirt the floor then mop.  If you like the cleaning solution dispenser on the Swiffer, there are plenty of DIY solutions for that out there too.

What other disposables have you ditched?

This post is being shared at Frugal Days Sustainable WaysFrugal FridaysTeach Me Tuesdays and Simple Lives Thursday.


Change The World Wednesday – Lemons


This past week’s Change the World Wednesday challenge was:

This week make a conscious effort to waste no food. If you need some ideas on how to accomplish this, please read the article referenced in the previous paragraph.
I really try to do this on a regular basis, but it doesn’t always happen.  Reduce Footprints had a related challenge a few months back.  The challenge was to use up whatever food you have before buying anything more.  I made some really great meals out of my leftovers.  In order to reduce your food waste, you really need to start upfront – planning before you go buy food.  For me this means making a menu for the week and looking ahead at what will be leftover and what I can do with them.
When I started thinking about this challenge, I saw it in in a different light than the first challenge.  Let’s see if I can use parts of food that I would normally compost or throw out.  I found so many things that Americans (especially) throw out that could be used.  Too many for one post!  So this post will concentrate on uses for lemons, especially the peels which are often composted or tossed out.  Don’t toss those lemon peels – or any other citrus peel.
Citrus zest/peel (the colorful part of the outside of citrus) has many health benefits and shouldn’t be tossed.  Before you squeeze your lemon, lime, or any other citrus, zest it.  The zest is great for you – high in antioxidants, killing cancer cells and inhibiting tumor growth.  It’s where the essential oils of the citrus are.
For Cleaning
  • Use to clean the microwave – Add lemon rinds to a bowl half filled with water and cook on high for 5 mins.  The steam created will loosen any crud making it easy to wipe away.
  • Freshen the Garbage disposal – Send spent lemons down the garbage disposal to freshen them.
  • Use to scrub greasy messes – Use a juiced lemon, add some salt if you need more of a scouring action – be careful with Granite or Marble.
  • Infused Vinegar – use the peels to infuse plain white distilled vinegar with lemons awesome scent and cleaning power.  Fill a glass jar with lemon peels then fill the jar with white vinegar.  Let this sit for 2 weeks.  Strain and use as a cleaner.
For Eating
  •  Make Limoncello – This is an Italian lemon flavored alcohol.  There are many recipes on the internet.  This would make a great gift.
  •  Make zest – You can zest a lemon, dry the zest on a towel then store in a jar.  You can also freeze the zest.  Use any where you would use fresh zest or lemon.
  • Make  Lemon Powder – Make the zest above, dry it thoroughly, then grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestal.  You can also peel the zest with a vegetable peeler and roast the peels lightly, then crush into a powder.  Use the powder anywhere you would lemon juice. 
  • Preserved lemons –  Preserved lemons are whole lemons preserved with salt.  Preserved lemons are used in many Moroccan dishes.  This can also be done with limes.
  •  Candied lemon peels – These sound really yummy!  They can be eaten like candy or used as a garnish.
  •  Lemon infused Olive Oil – Lemon infused oils are delicious and a great way to use lemon peels. 
  • Freeze the used halves, then use when roasting fish or chicken.  I always place lemons inside the cavity of a chicken.  It just gives such a good flavor.
For Beautifying
  • Make a sugar scrub – Mix 1/2 sugar with finely chopped lemon peel.  Add enough olive oil to make a paste.  Use in the shower as a body scrub to soften your skin.
  • Soften Elbows – Add some salt or baking soda to a lemon half.  Scrub elbows to soften.
There are so many more out there.  Next step for me is to set an up easy way for me to save the zest so I can try some of these.  

*Top picture used under Creative Commons by Mowie Kay/Flickr.

This post is part of Frugal Days Sustainable Ways.



How To Keep Warm This Winter

Another Greene Westford column reprinted.

A home energy audit is a great place to start going green.   It can show you where to focus your attention to get the biggest bang for your buck.  It may take an initial investment, but will usually pay off in a short amount of time, then saving you money on your energy bills. 
As a customer of National Grid, you are eligible for a free Home Energy Assessment every year through a program called Mass Save.  Mass Save is sponsored by Massachusetts’ gas and electric utilities.  They work with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to “provide a wide range of services, incentives, trainings and information promoting energy efficiency that help residents and businesses manage energy use and related costs.”
Now you are probably wondering who pays for this program.  Guess who: You and every other customer of the utility companies contributes to the program.*  Ever wonder what an “Energy Efficiency Charge” on your electric bill is for?  There is a similar charge on your gas bill too.  It’s included in the Minimum Charge.
Do I have your attention now?  Take advantage of it!  You are paying for it anyway. 
The first step is to make an appointment for a Home Energy Assessment by calling 866-527-SAVE (7283).   This program is eligible to homeowners of standalone homes, residents of multi-family dwellings and landlords.  At this assessment, the auditor will test your gas appliances for safety, assess your home’s energy use and provide recommendations.  In the process, the auditor may install certain items that will start saving you money immediately such as CFLs, programmable thermostats and water savings devices as needed.
Before your audit, do some homework.  Based on the age of your home and heating source, investigate what might be worth doing before the auditor comes.  Also investigate what the program is offering at the time.  You will then be able to absorb and understand what they are telling you and ask questions.  The program changes from time to time, so be sure to ask.  Then ask some more.  Make sure you understand your options and what the next step should be.  Are you eligible for incentives or a loan? If you still don’t understand, call Mass Save and ask them. 
Our home was built a little over 10 years ago, so we thought we were in pretty good shape.  Our audit revealed several light bulbs that had not been changed to CFLs yet.  Those were changed to CFLs free of charge.  The insulation in our attic had settled to half the original thickness.  It also seems that the building codes have changed calling for more insulation in attics.  More insulation was needed to bring the attic insulation R-value to R-38. Our home also needed air sealing in the attic and a dome covering the access to the attic.
All of this work would normally cost about $3600.  The air sealing was free.  The dome on the attic access was free.  We also qualified for an incentive.  Mass Save paid for 75% of the cost of insulation, up to a maximum of $2000.  All of this brought our portion to about $600.  It is estimated that these improvements will save about $300 per year in heating and cooling costs.
This is only my experience which was very specific to what was found at my home and the program as it stood then.  This process took about 6 months from beginning to end.  I had to stay on top of things and keep asking questions when things didn’t make sense.  I was able to choose my own contractor from their list of approved vendors.  If you have a contractor in mind, call Mass Save to find out the correct process.  The program changed in July and this process is now different.
According to my auditor, it is a good idea to have an audit done every year or two.  The program changes, so does your house.  You are entitled to take advantage of the incentives and rebates once per year.  This year you might insulate your attic.  Maybe next year the program changes to include duct sealing and you can then take advantage of that.
*Note: I did not investigate completely how Mass Save is funded.  However, I was able to confirm that we, as utility customers, contribute to the fund.


Books: An Environmentalists Guilty Pleasure?

Here is a repost of my latest Greene Westford column from Westford Patch.

I have to admit that I still really like the feel of paper in my hands.  I love curling up on my couch to flip through a book, magazine or even a cookbook. 
Sometimes I love a book so much and find it so useful that I want to own a copy to use over and over again.  The environmentalist in me sees all that paper!  Do I really need to choose?  No.   
There are so many alternatives to new books – buy a used copy, download an electronic version, borrow it.  I can own books while reducing the amount of paper used. 
Use the library!  They have thousands of titles at the J.V Fletcher Library.  If you can’t find it here, search the entire Merrimack Valley consortium of libraries.  You can request a copy and it will be delivered to Westford.  You will be contacted by phone, email or both when it arrives.
Ask a friend or neighbor to borrow a copy. 
Borrowing works with magazines, newspapers and other print media as well.   If there are older magazine that you would be interested in, the library is clearing out 2008 and 2009 magazines.
Go Electronic
Download electronic books to your reader or smart phone for free.  This service is offered by the J.V. Fletcher library and works with Kindle, iPhone, Android, your computer and others.  
Purchase e-books from one of several online sources.
Don’t have a reader or want to check one out before purchasing?  The library now has 2 Nook and 2 Kindle readers available for check out.
Many magazines and newspapers can be found online as well.
Purchase Used Books
Friends of J.V Fletcher Library Book Sales are held 4 times per year at the library. We have purchased many books over the years for every member of the family.  All at a fraction of the cost.  As an added bonus, it benefits the library!    The next book sale is this weekend October 21 – 23.  
Used Book Superstore in Nashua, NH carries 100,000 used books DVDs, CDs and audio books in every category imaginable.
Savers is also located in Nashua, NH. Their used book section may be small, but I have always found something interesting.
When you are done, donate your books back to any one of these places to be enjoyed by someone else and start the cycle going again.  If your books are not suitable for donation to the locations above, they can be donated to the non-profit Reading Tree.  A self-serve drop off container is located in the Water Department parking lot at 63 Forge Village Road.
[photo taken by A Conant/]


Change The World Wednesday – Clean Out The Pantry

Last week, Reduce Footprints’ weekly challenge was this: 

This week, use what is in your cupboards, pantry, freezers, etc. before buying new food items.  

I am usually very good about making a menu for the week and shopping from that menu.   It really helps reduce food waste and we eat so much better.  I started this about 7 years ago when I had 3 children under the age of 3 and started dreading 4pm when I would need to start thinking about dinner.  We ended up eating horribly and I was stressed every day at the worst time of day!  So I started making up a menu for the week.  I’m not saying I spent hours on this.  In the beginning I spent maybe ½ hour.  When I had time and energy I would look for a new recipe to try.  It’s to the point now, where I could probably throw together a menu in about 10 mins, check for what ingredients we need and I’m out the door.  It makes the week go so much smoother too.  I can look ahead and plan an easy slow cooker meal for busy days or plan to use leftovers in another recipe.
This challenge could not have come at a more perfect time for me.  In the summer, my meal planning goes out the window.  So over the past few weeks, I have been shopping randomly without a plan.  We have lots of food, but nothing really to eat.  Know what I mean!
I went through the frig, freezer, pantry and other storage places and figured out what I could make from it all. 

What we ate this week

Roasted Chicken, potatoes, frozen peas – Night one was pretty easy.  I had a frozen chicken from my meat CSA that we hadn’t used yet.
Homemade BBQ chicken pizza with some of the leftover chicken.  I always have frozen pizza dough and mozzarella.  You can actually freeze shredded cheese with great results if you plan on using it in some sort of melted application – lasagna, mac ‘n cheese, pizza…  When I make this pizza, I use BBQ sauce instead of marinara and usually add caramelized onions.
Quinoa, black beans, corn and tomato salad – Used up some extra black beans I had from another recipe earlier in the week, leftover corn on the cob and one lonely tomato from the garden.   This was awesome!  I remember a friend of mine making something similar years ago.  I used this recipe loosely but improvised in some places.  I will definitely make this again!  Lime juice was the key.
My Fake Lasagna Bake – Think the ingredients of lasagna but all mixed together  instead of layered neatly.  Didn’t have ricotta, so I mixed together penne, the rest of a jar of spaghetti sauce, defrosted and drained spinach, pink beans I found in the freezer, 2 cans of diced tomatoes (about to expire), and mozzarella left from the pizza.  I also added sauteed onions and garlic for flavor.  My parents happened to stop by and I served it to them.  My Mom asked for the recipe!
Overnight French Toast – Loaf of cinnamon raisin bread from the freezer(honestly have no idea how long it was in there!) , last of the eggs, and some cream leftover from another dish.  Basically you layer the bread in a 9 x 13 buttered pan, mix the eggs and cream together and pour over the bread.  There needs to be enough egg and milk to cover the bread.  Let it sit overnight then baked for about 30 – 40 mins in a 350 degree oven.  The kids loved it and the bread tasted great soaked with the cream, eggs and covered in maple syrup.
Iced Tea – Apparently I have lots of tea!
Homemade “Chex” Snack mix – Used up some stale pretzels and cereal in this one.  Everything crisps up nicely.  I have been making this for a while.  Here is my basic recipe.  You can easily substitute with whatever you have on hand.  It’s a great way to use up stale cereal or other snacks.  Or things your kids didn’t like.
Quesadillas – No tortillas so I made them with some help from my friend Sally.  So good!  I also pulled out some salsa and a few veggies – lunch! 

To prevent leftovers

Although this challenge was a great opportunity to use up some things, I like to plan a little more so that I don’t end up with lots of leftovers.
Make a plan for the week – This one really works for me.  It makes shopping and making dinners so much easier.  I also found I was spending less on food.  Guess why?  I was thinking about how much we actually eat in a week instead of throwing a bunch of stuff into my grocery cart.  Some of which would get thrown away because I had no real plan for when to use them or I bought too much.  I can also think ahead and pick easy dinners (like in the crock pot) for busy days.   If I want to try a new recipe that means I need to buy something I normally don’t use (like fresh herbs) I can look for another recipe to make within the same week to use up that ingredient.
Plan for the leftovers – I don’t like leftovers.  Reheating the same meal to eat again, yuck!  This way I can think about how to use what is left in another recipe.  This is where the pizza and pasta recipes and other tips below come in handy.

What to do with leftovers

Pizza – I make homemade pizza almost once a week to use up leftovers.  Two of my favorites are:  1)  BBQ chicken with some caramelized onions 2) Turkey burgers with feta, Kalamata olives and  sun-dried tomatoes. 

Pasta – I got this recipe from my Italian hairdresser.  I mix eggs with some milk – maybe 4 eggs with about 1 cup of milk.  I have also used evaporated milk, cream and half and half.  Once the pasta is done, I drain it, reserving some cooking liquid, and put it back in the pot.  Over low heat I add the egg and milk mixture and cook it gently stirring constantly.  When it’s almost done I add tons of Parmesan cheese and whatever veggies I have.   It’s sort of like a pasta carbonara without the bacon – unless I have leftover bacon!  Or ham or anything else like it.
Search the Internet –  You can find recipes for almost anything.  I really like  It has an ingredient search feature so you can enter the items you have and recipes using those ingredients come up. 

Use Your Freezer – If you don’t use it by the next day, freeze it!  I do this with a lots of meats then use them on pizza or in soups later.  Here are some others to try:
  • Freeze bananas for smoothies or banana bread.
  • Fresh herbs – try drying or freezing them.  Freezing works well for most green herbs (rosemary, thyme, dill, parsley).  Basil can also be frozen but requires a little extra effort.  You can make pesto and freeze that.  Or chop the basil and add it to a little water and freeze in ice cube trays.  I have done this with Rosemary and it’s great!  The Rosemary isn’t as powerful as fresh, but not as mild as dried either.
  • Wine – Freeze for use in cookingI have not tried this myself, but I really should.   Tried it!  Love it!   I love cooking with wine, but when I open an entire bottle for that ½ cup, I almost never finish the bottle.
  • Greens – You can’t freeze greens, but you could add to smoothies and freeze those.


I am going to keep this challenge going a little longer.  I need to use up some odd things I have picked up along the way.  I have some curry paste, capers and hoisin sauce, among other things, that I have yet to open!  Anyone have recipes for those?

Update: Nov. 29, 2011 –Fried Rice is a new addition to my “Use up the leftovers” recipe collection.  I sautee whatever veggies I have left with some garlic.  Add to scrambled eggs, rice and soy sauce.



15 Ways to Save Green While Going Green

15 Ways to Save Green While Going Green

Since Earth Day this year, I have been trying to figure out what my next green step will be.  I decided that I need to concentrate more on my family’s health – eating more organic foods and less chemicals in our personal products to start.   Most of this will cost more money.  So, first I am taking another look at how going green can save me some green.

Below are changes you can make with no impact on your budget.  Well, not exactly no impact – some of these ideas will save you money, time or both!  Even though they do not have an initial cost, they are a change from your normal routine.  Pick a few at a time.  When you have mastered those, pick a couple more.
A note about the Average Annual Savings:  I tend to be on the conservative side with this.  
1. Pay Bills Electronically  Minimally this saves you the stamp.  If you set up automatic payments, it will save you the time of paying the bill each month.  I found a few more I could switch.  Average Annual Savings: 12 * 0.44 = $5.28 per bill
2. Switch to Simple Cleaners  Next time you need some all-purpose cleaner, refill the spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water and use that.  This will cost you about 30 cents per bottle instead of about $3-4  for the average all purpose cleaner.   Try some of these homemade cleaners for more savings.  Average Annual Savings: $7.40 
3. Stop Buying Anti-Bacterial or Disinfecting cleaners  Fill a spray bottle with vinegar and place a spray top on a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.  Spray one then the other on anything you wish to sanitize – counters, kitchen table, lunch bags, water bottles….  Do not use vinegar on granite counters.  Cost of 32 oz of vinegar =   40 cents, $1 for the hydrogen peroxide for a grand total of $1.40.  Average Annual Savings: $7.40
4. Plan Your Meals for the Week  Make a menu for the week and your grocery list BEFORE you go shopping – will curb those impulse buys and help not waste food by buying only what you need.  Americans throw away a lot of food – that’s money in the trash.  Estimates were all over the place, but let’s assume a conservative $10 per week.  Average Annual Savings: $520
5. Eat less Meat   Meat is expensive.  Learn a few meatless meals and cut your grocery budget and your fat intake!  If you can’t go completely meat free for a meal, reduce the meat and bulk up with more veggies or beans.  Let’s say you reduce your meat by 2 lbs a week at roughly $4 per pound and replace it with beans at $3.  Average Annual Savings: $250
6. Buy Dried Beans  Want to save even more, buy dry beans and cook them yourself.    Dry beans cost about 1/3 the price of canned.  This could increase your savings in#5 by:  Average Annual Savings: $104
7. Use Your Reusable Bags  They will save you 5 cents at Target (Make sure you ask, they tend to forget), Whole Foods, and you will be entered in a giveaway at Trader Joe’s.  Average Annual Savings: $1
8. Turn Your Hot Water Heater Down to 120  You may need to play with how low you can set your hot water heater.  How much you save depends on the temperature and the method of heating.  My Average Annual Savings: $50
9. Turn You hot Water Heater to VACATION when you are away   If you are going away for more than 3 days, turn your hot water heater to VACATION mode or way down.  Again, the savings will vary widely based on your hot water heater and how often you go away.  My Average Annual Savings: $20
10. Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water   Most of the energy used to wash your clothes goes into heating the water.  Take a look at this website to figure out how much you could save.  My Average Annual Savings: $70
11. Use Both Sides of the Paper for Printing   I rarely buy paper for my printer.  When I do, I use both sides.  I mostly use the backs of my children’s school papers for my printer.  Better yet, print less!  Need to keep an online receipt – save the page electronically.  Average Annual Savings: $15
12. Reduce Your Paper Towel Use   Try using reusable microfiber clothes or old towels or T-shirts instead.  They won’t take up much more room in your washing machine so you won’t be spending more on washing them.  Let’s say the average household uses 1 roll of paper towels per week.  If we cut that in half, Average Annual Savings: $24
13. Use Cloth Napkins   This is one of the first things I did to go green.  I couldn’t believe how easy it was.  I had some cloth napkins from a wedding present so I pulled them out.  I have not bought paper napkins in 4 years.   Average Annual Savings: $20
14. Buy Spices in Bulk at Whole Foods   I have mentioned this one several times.  I still can’t get over how inexpensive they are.  Obviously if you are making a special trip to Bedford or Andover for this, then the gas will negate any savings, but if you are in the area…. The spices cost pennies compared to $3-4 in a jar. Average Annual Savings: $20
15. Consolidate Your Errands   If you are a mom, you probably already do this.  You need to be efficient with your time so it makes sense.  I use my “To Do” lists to organize where and when I need to run errands.  I can then look at my list and plan my route accordingly to reduce the driving and the possibility I might forget something.  If you saved 10 miles of driving per week, 20 mpg for your mini-van, at $3 per gallon (I’m being optimistic!), Average Annual Savings: $78
How do you save money and the planet?

This post was shared at The Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways .  30 Days to Save Some Green


Libraries are Great and Green!

I have always loved libraries! I am such a geek – when I got my driver’s license, the first place I went to by myself…. Yes, the library! I can still hear the Pet Shop Boys playing on the radio. Although the book collections are impressive, the library has so much more to offer. Plus, it’s free and green!

I am not the huge casual reader, but I love learning about new things. What better way than to read a book! At the library, you get to borrow several books on the same subject – no need to decide which one to buy only to find it wasn’t quite what you thought, no need to store all those books you may never need again. When I want to learn about something new, I log in to the J.V. Fletcher library and start searching. If something catches my eye, I “request” it. You can request books from any Merrimack Valley library. When available, it will be sent to your local library and you will get an email to come pick it up. How cool! I have used this for several topics – cookbooks, green ideas, non-toxic cleaners, the list goes on. You can do this with music CDs too. Thinking about downloading a new CD, see if the library has it for you try out before you buy.

How about movies? The library’s got them too – kids, family, major movie titles, TV series. You can borrow them for 1 week for a small $1 fee. The entire list is online.

If you like to own books, or have a few favorites that you know you want around, check out the library book sales. The Friends of the J.V. Fletcher Library have 4 amazing book sales each year. This is where I get ALL of my kids’ books and a few titles for me too. Board books for babies, early reader books, series books, CDs, videos, it’s all there. We were able to get almost the complete collections of the Magic Tree House and Junie B. Jones. When we are done, I will donate them back to the library to be sold and enjoyed by the next family. If you have books that someone else may enjoy, consider donating them to the library book sales. There is a bin outside the library door in the back. 100% of the proceeds from each sale directly benefits the library. The next sale is coming up Feb 11 – 13.

If you have children, the library is a gold mine of activity and fun. Story times and book clubs, vacation drop in crafts, magic shows, and concerts for the kids. My children attended the book clubs this fall and loved them. Don’t forget about the museum passes. It’s a good idea to reserve these in advance. Boston Children’s museum, The Discovery Museums in Acton, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Science, and the New England Aquarium are just a few of the choices.

The library now has a subscription to Consumer Reports On-line. My husband and I have had this subscription for years. It’s nice to be able to access all of Consumer Reports information and ratings for the past few years when making a big or not so big purchase. They also have a subscription to severeal other online databases such as Boston Consumers’ Checkbook (a Nonprofit providing unbiased customer ratings and comments for local services), technology titles, and eBooks among many others.

Do you take advantage of all the library offers?


Designed by Clever Kiwi