farmers market

photo by Natalie Maynor
Eco-frugality can be confusing. Maybe there are things you'd like to change to do your part, but it seems complicated, time-consuming or too expensive to start. One example is switching to organic food or vegetarianism. It can sometimes cost more, so it doesn't seem frugal. The key is to take it one step at a time. Start small, and venture out from there. Your savings from being frugal in some areas can be applied toward the key green-living areas you want to improve that might cost more.

One reader, Donna in California, shares: "We, as a society, drive the market. If enough of us choose to do something more time-consuming, complicated or expensive as opposed to the 'easy' way, then big business will find a way to make that something less time-consuming, complicated or expensive, and less bad for the environment, to get us to do it again, because they want our money. Even something as simple as recycling takes more effort than just throwing things into a landfill. As a society, we tend to take the easy way out. It is difficult, and sometimes time-consuming, complicated or expensive, as an individual, to start swimming against the current when you feel that you don't make a difference. But if enough people do it, then we DO make a difference."

You'll discover many frugal practices are also green, and each small, frugal decision you make will piggyback onto another step. For example, frugality can lead to gardening, which can lead to composting, which can lead to increased recycling, etc. It all comes down to priorities and choices. Consumers have a say every single day with their wallets. Everyone has different objectives. If you're leaning toward frugality as a path toward natural, green living, here's a starting point to get you actively thinking about it.

SHOPPING: Introduce yourself to organic foods through sales at local grocery stores and co-ops. Visit and to check for a co-op or CSA (community-supported agriculture) in your area. If there isn't a co-op, start one. Visit to learn how. Group with friends and family, and buy direct from a distributor. Shop seasonal foods at local farm stands or farmers' markets, or grow your own organic produce. Cutting back on meat provides money for increased food options. You'll discover with the current economy that many organic-food companies will be issuing more coupons. Look on their Web sites or give them a call and ask if they have any. And while you're shopping, say no to plastic grocery bags. You don't have to make a complete change overnight. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Pick the organic foods that are most important to you.

NATURAL CLEANERS: Replace some of your cleaners with baking soda, vinegar, borax, castile soap, essential oils and salt. Line-drying laundry even part of the time can free up money to be applied toward organic food, too.

Scouring Powder

1 cup baking soda
1 cup borax
1 cup regular salt

Combine all ingredients, and store in a container with tight-fitting lid. Label.

Glass Cleaner

1-1/2 cups vinegar
1/2 cup water
8 drops essential oil

Combine in a spray bottle. Label. Shake before using.

Counter Cleaner

1 teaspoon liquid castile soap
1/8 cup vinegar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups water
6 drops citrus essential oil
1 teaspoon borax

Combine in a spray bottle. Label. Shake before using.

Dish Soap (not dishwasher)

1/4 cup soap flakes (grated ivory)
2 cups hot water
1/4 cup glycerin
1/2 teaspoon lemon essential oil

Dissolve soap flakes in hot water. Stir in glycerin and lemon oil. Let cool. Pour into squeeze bottle. Label.

DECREASE WASTE: Choose cloth over paper. Bring your own reusable containers such as bags, bottles, cups, dishes and flatware. Do a home-energy audit. Look for ways to conserve water and electricity. Buy items with less packaging.