vegetable garden

Earth Day is Every Day When You Strive for Zero Waste

In light our annual Fairfield, CT Earth Day Celebration, I have updated this post I wrote.

Hey, Fairfield, Reduce Your Waste! It’s Frugal and Sustainable!  Continue reading “Earth Day is Every Day When You Strive for Zero Waste”

A Goodwill Store Even a Teen Could Love

Last Friday, the new Goodwill Store opened in Westport. It looks like a mini department store…all fresh and new… all the old-clothing odors gone…and all the really fantastic prices seem to be gone, too. But, if it was a choice between having a new and improved store with slightly higher prices, or having the old Goodwill shut down, of course anyone in their right mind who lives in Fairfield County would opt for the new building.

new Goodwill
A history of the Goodwill buildings in Westport. This year, the newest building opened to a crowd hungering for bargains.

The Goodwill is in a new building built on the site of the old Peppermill Restaurant at 1700 Post Road East in Westport. This particular Goodwill is known for its unique , and its tony selection of clothing and goods, be it that it’s in….Westport. On any given day in the old building, you’d find a handful of well-heeled women searching the racks for their next black-tie ensemble. From an old BMW to the newest leased Lexus model, the parking lot was always a mix of cars, and TFF believes that will continue with the new building.

While milling around on opening day, I heard a patron complaining about the prices. This was a young-ish, well-kept kind of man, mind you. I asked him…”So, do you think the prices went up?” He replied, “Yes, they sure did, but they’ll get away with it because everyone shops here because of the economy.”

Okay, well, smart shoppers shopped there before the economy soured, too. And on Friday, I was happy to get a just-about-brand-new stainless Cuisinart frying pan for $8 that I desperately needed. Would I have preferred it to be $5, yes, but I’m not complaining.

You’ll have the complainers and the thankful patrons, but I have to say, my 13-year-old daughter just loves the new store when we went (again) on Saturday. She would barely be able to step into the old building even though I’d explain “You’ll get five items here for the price of one item at Kohl’s,” but it fell on deaf ears. The older building wasn’t “new” enough for her, and I certainly did not raise a spoiled child! But being 13 years old….and in middle school…well, it warps your mind, I guess. But she did not want to leave the new store on Saturday. Although we left with only one hoodie (brand new for $3.99) for her, she said she thinks the new Goodwill is her new shopping hangout. To me, those are golden words. Thank you, Goodwill!

~Marilyn, TFF

Inspiration for a Simple Lifestyle — The Zero Waste Challenge in Fairfield, CT

The Zero Waste Challenge – Fairfield, Reduce Your Waste and Health and Wealth Will Follow

We are a family of five, including three growing children.  Our ranch style house is 1,100 square feet, with a 600 sq. ft. finished basement that has a full bathroom (thank goodness!).  We have been a one-modest-income family for nearly nine years.  We live debt-free in one of the most expensive counties in the United States.  Little did I realize that it all began with cutting down on waste – literally, garbage.

The first expense we cut was our garbage service.  (If you are reading this from out of town, you read that correctly.  Garbage service is not covered by city tax.)  At that time, we had two in diapers and a town dump run four times a month.  So for the first couple of years, it was only a savings of about $100 per year.  However, a couple of years later, after our third child was born, we did two things that affected our garbage disposal: established a compost bin and discovered Freecycle.

Compost Bin
Image via Wikipedia

With a compost bin and worms from the backyard, our vegetable scraps turned to soil.  Composting eventually led to the start of a modest 4’ x 8’ ft. raised bed garden, which in two years lowered our food bill and raised our health quotient. Freecycling decreased our need to purchase items.  I’ve gotten great toys and games, arts and crafts, winter boots and clothing –in great condition- for our family.  Conversely, by offering items Freecycle, I began the long, on-going process of de-cluttering our house.  With composting and Freecycling, our trips to the dump and our spending began to decrease even more.  Bonus: the environment benefited, too.

Other ways we began to cut down on waste and spending:  for the last five years, since my daughter started 1st grade, we have been using cloth napkins, and much to my husband’s dismay, stopped using paper towels.  Instead, we reuse rags, wash with cold water and hang clothes on outdoor- and/or indoor- laundry lines.  Also, for the last eight years, we have belonged to an organic and natural food buying club and buy food items such as the “dirty dozen” organic produce, grains, flour, sugar, and dried herbs, and non-food items, such as detergent in bulk at much lower prices than stores such as Mrs. Green’s, Whole Foods, and even Trader Joe’s.

Today, with composting, single-stream recycling (as of last summer – #1 – 7 plastics and paperboard boxes (cereal and tissue boxes) can now be recycled), and just buying less, we go to the town dump once every three weeks!

Several months ago, an online news video story about the “Zero Waste Home” caught my eye.  Bea and Scott Johnson and their two growing boys downsized from a 3,000 square foot home to a 1,400 square foot home.  They went from filling two large rolling garbage cans per week to holding four months worth of garbage in two hands.

Their grocery bills have been cut by 25% by shopping locally and carefully planning meals.  Their utility bills have gone down even more.  “Zero Waste is good for your wallet,” Bea says.  But most of all, they have achieved a well-being of health and happiness they did not enjoy with having more stuff.  This family is a living example of “LESS IS MORE” and “HEALTH IS WEALTH.”

Living in Fairfield, CT, in Fairfield County, one of the most expensive and affluent counties in the United States, is being surrounded by a majority who believe that success is defined by having the most square footage, the most luxurious cars, and the latest “stuff”.  I challenge you, dear reader, especially Fairfielders, to help turn this definition around.  Let’s teach our children that success is defined by the ability to put people before things, and to refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle.  Less IS more.  Health IS wealth.

Click here for The Zero Waste Home video news story I stumbled upon.

Here’s The Zero Waste Home Blog that inspires me.

The “Dirty Dozen” Organic Produce list helps make eating organic fruits and veggies affordable.  Download the app or print the wallet-sized shopping guide here.

One of many resources on cooking and eating on a budget here AND here for budget food ideas.

Our organic and natural food buying club is open to new members.  Send me your email address to learn more.

—Aimee, TFF

Do Your Kids Think You’re Poor Because You’re Frugal?

Lexus Luxury Utility Vehicles
If you don't drive a luxury car in Fairfield, CT., your kid may think you're poor. Image via Wikipedia

Why is it that kids equate being frugal with being poor? Maybe it’s just the kids that live in affluent towns, like Fairfield, who think this way.

My 13-year-old daughter asked if we were poor last week just because I said “no” to her a few dozen times when she suddenly announced that she “needed” a new this and a new that. My 12-year-old son thinks people living in 5,000 square-foot homes must be “zillionaires” (uh, not always, dear child!). Why is it so difficult to teach children to equate being frugal with being financially at peace?

So, where did we go wrong? Since day one, we’ve taught our kids lesson after lesson about how bigger doesn’t always mean better, people who have so much “stuff” often have credit card debt, and on and on. Did they hear us? I’m concerned. It seems that every other day we have to have another “teaching moment” because some random kid at school says “my house is bigger than yours” or “we are going to pick-a-warm-state for vacation,” or “why don’t you have an insert-name-of-luxury-SUV?” On and on and on. It doesn’t seem to matter much to my kids (yet) that we outright own our cars. Maybe it’s time to make “The Millionaire Next Door” required summer vacation reading.

I remember a friend who lives in another more normalized part of Connecticut saying she’s lucky she doesn’t have to address these issues with her young son because no one where they live has the bigger-is-better syndrome. Listen, I love living in Fairfield thanks to the beach and the decent schooling, so perhaps I’m turning lemons into lemonade here; But could it be a good thing that we live in an affluent town where there are so many teachable moments? Maybe, just maybe, when my kids are older, some of our advice will have rubbed off on them and they will think twice about the futility of keeping up appearances while the kids who live in towns with normal-sized homes will become adults who stand in awe of 5,000-square-foot houses. Time will only tell…

~Marilyn from TFF


Find Savings at the Service Desk

If you spot a coupon booklet at the service desk of any store, grab a few before they’re gone.

(Back and at it slowly after a week of what may have been the flu…)

If you poke around the service desks of any given Stop & Shop, you are bound to find some hidden gems–meaning, booklets with coupons in them. The courtesy desk workers barely know about them (as a Frugal Fairfielder found out). So, ask. It doesn’t hurt. And, the coupons in the booklets are pretty good–stack them with manufacturers’ coupons to create big bargains. This particular booklet shown above was found at the courtesy desk of the Stop & Shop on the Post Road in Fairfield near the circle (near the McDonald’s).

One booklet is called the “Meal Makers Savings Book” — inside you’ll find $15 in store coupons (save $1 on a number of things, such as sausage, rolls, muffins…).

There’s another hidden gem from Stop & Shop that I’ll post tomorrow. Inside, there are coupons for free veggies, etc. Be on the lookout for that Monday…

By the way, in case anyone was wondering, we do not work at all for any of the stores mentioned on this blog! We just shop there!