Frugal and Healthy?

Frugality comes in a number of flavors: those interested in reducing expenses, those interested in simplicity, recycling, anti-consumerism, and to some degree the green movement. No matter what your motives, the increased focus on health and the environment has created some challenges. Organic foods and other higher quality foods with healthier ingredients are almost always more expensive than the lower quality equivalents. So those interested in frugality together with health and the environment must get creative to solve this potential conflict.

There are many strategies to frugality, coupon clipping being perhaps the most popular. Products promoted by coupon are simply those products the companies offering them wish to promote for various reasons. These products tend not to be the healthy or green choices. When leading a green and/or healthy lifestyle, one does not want to be subject to the whims of chain stores with their coupons or discounts for things they'd like to promote.

I scoured the web to find solutions to this conflict, and some that I found were quite legitimate - I already do many of these: cook and eat at home, prepare from fresh foods, buy in bulk, buy directly from the farmer or at a farmer's market, grow your own, compost, buy less and eat less, make your own beverages, cleaning products, etc.

But in terms of direct savings on specific items, only buying in bulk has the potential to save big. The problem is that buying in sufficient bulk for big savings means lots of freezing and lots of clutter and waste. Bags and sacks and bins take up space, and often the food goes bad before you can use it. And we all know what freezing does to most foods, especially the fresh stuff.

My solution, and that of my neighborhood, is to pool our money with neighbors and friends and order the things we need in huge bulk, then split it up when it arrives. We buy directly from suppliers, distrubutors and farms. We get the healthiest and freshest foods for prices far under what most pay at the grocery store for the common equivalents. We order only what we need for the near term to reduce clutter, waste and freezing, and we make orders fairly often. We do this for fresh foods, packaged foods, and non-food items.

The only hurdle is that you have to be willing to communicate with your neighbors and local friends and coordinate the order. My neighborhood was already having regular meetings when somebody first mentioned this idea. For most neighborhoods this is not so easy, and the community hurdle is the biggest one. Many don't know their neighbors and would feel uncomfortable calling them or knocking on doors. This is a sad fact of life in most of the Western world.

A friend of ours is reducing this hurdle by creating a free web tool that lets people indicate the types of things they'd like to order in bulk, and then shows them other people near them who are interested in the similar things. The logistics of the order are discussed and the "split" happens. Suppliers must be found that will agree to sell in huge bulk to you, but there are many that are willing. This can require a bit of research, but the rewards are well worth it, and you can order from the same supplier again and again if you like.

This web tool is operational but in "beta testing" mode - meaning you must get an invitation and must be willing to provide feedback. Let's give him some good feedback and start splitting stuff by going to Enjoy.