Are you a cheapskate? Living green can be thrifty too!

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Around the country, times are tough. The US economy is losing more jobs than it’s creating, and retail sales are down sharply from last year. There’s been a run on piggy banks and belts are getting tight. If you’re looking for ways to be frugal without sacrificing hard earned comfort, here are a couple of ways to help the earth while trimming your budget at the same time:

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1) Shop local!

Have you ever looked at the labels in your pantry and tried to figure out where your groceries came from? With high gas prices, we’re starting to see transport costs reflected in the cost of food. Vegetables that travel across the country (or across the planet) often cost far more than local produce, and that cost reflects the carbon footprint of transporting the goods. If you drink less Fiji water and eat fewer bars of Belgian chocolate, you can save some serious green. Local foods are often fresher, free of dangerous pesticides, and more connected to our roots. As a bonus, local foods are often grown by our friends and neighbors, so buying local helps build community and food independence.

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2) Shop at salvage stores

Did you know that stores throw out millions of pounds of food, cleaning supplies, and seasonal items every year? When a can gets bent or a product is discontinued, grocery stores often take these ‘less desirable’ items off of their shelf to make room. While some of these supplies really are junk, there are times where the blemishes are purely cosmetic.

Surplus items often end up at charity or salvage stores where you can get amazing deals. When was the last time you went to a Goodwill, Salvation Army, Dollar Store, or other business with a grocery list in hand? You my be surprised by the savings – imagine paying 5 cents for a family sized can of soup where the only problem is a torn label, or $5 for a new and unused cooking pan that someone got for their birthday. Just keep an eye out for your own safety – there’s no law against selling expired foods, and if cans are crushed enough that the metal comes in contact with other metal, that can pose a health risk.

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3) Re-use items to get the most life out of them

Before you throw something into the recycle bin, have you tried thinking outside of the box? For example, plastic bottles can easily be turned into bird feeders, and you can cut down on ziplock bags by reusing airtight food containers. Just because a manufacturer claims that an item is single use, that doesn’t mean it should be thrown away. Some common items that can be used more than once include dryer sheets, rubber bands, shoe laces (when you throw out one pair of shoes, save the laces!), and even car oil!

Try finding new uses for packaging and other trash. Popsicle sticks are great for craft projects, and twist-ties from bread bags are a great way to organize your computer cables. Those junk mail envelopes can be saved from the trash too – just put a label over the barcodes and you’ll never have to buy letter envelopes again!

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