Organic coupons, limited $50 offer, and anti-plastic bloggers – Friday wrap-up

** NOTE – Apparently, WordPress didn’t feel like publishing this post as scheduled last Friday. 😦

BUT I called ING Direct this morning, and they can’t say that the $50 offer below DID expire, so if you are interested, give it a shot online, or call them at 1-800-ING-DIRECT and see what they can do for you. **

I have seen so much great info in the blogosphere this week. Hopefully some of it will make your life a little more easier (and more lucrative).

Catalog of organic coupons

First off, Focus Organic blogged about coupons for natural and organic products. She came up with quite a list — check it out and save some cash.

Get $50 if you open an Electric Orange checking account

Next up, Five Cent Nickel announced that ING Direct is offering a $50 bounty if you open an Electric Orange checking account linked to your ING Direct savings account. You’ll have to use your Electric Orange debit card three times within 45 days to get the bonus.

SIGN UP NOW — offer expires today, Oct. 31. (NOTE: As mentioned above … this might not have expired. if you are interested, give it a shot online, or call them at 1-800-ING-DIRECT and see what they can do for you. ) If you don’t already have a savings account with ING Direct, you’ll need to set one up first. If you don’t have an ING savings account, you can ask a friend who does have one for a referral code, and you will receive $25 and your friend will earn $10. (And if you don’t have a friend with an account, e-mail me at cheaplikeme [at] gmail [dot] com, and I’d be happy to e-mail you a referral code.)

When you complete the checking account sign-up process, don’t forget to enter the relevant reference code so you get your bonus! Five Cent Nickel offers the code and sign-up link. He notes that he had problems with the site, but it worked perfectly for me. However, I thought I might want two accounts (an individual and a joint checking account) and it won’t let me do that — at least not from the bonus link. Just a word to the wise — choose your account type carefully.

All other details are at Five Cent Nickel’s site.

Get fired up about eliminating plastic

Finally, Fake Plastic Fish (an awesome blog about living plastic-free … as much as possible, and she does mean that) published a list and survey of several other plastic-free bloggers. It is excellent reading, and might inspire you to take another step away from plastic.

I know she’s made me more conscious about plastic, and one of her bloggers’ “easy steps” is the one I keep intending to take — that of avoiding restaurant take-out containers in favor of bringing your own.

Quick tip: Save 15% on toilet paper by subscribing

The other day, I was doing some comparison shopping on Amazon.com for some of our regular household purchases (like Ecover dishwashing liquid and 100% recycled toilet paper).

I found that the toilet paper we buy costs the same at Amazon as it does at our local store, but the dish soap will cost 4 cents per ounce less if I buy it online in bulk.

The most intriguing thing I spotted was Amazon’s subscription program. For purchases (like toilet paper) that you make again and again, Amazon now will let you subscribe. If you sign up to receive automatic shipments of your order every one to six months, you’ll get a 15 percent discount.

In the case of my toilet paper, that would bring the roll price down to 85 cents per roll — significantly less than the $1.10 per roll it was last year when I put together my toilet paper cost comparison chart.

But too bad for me … we use little enough toilet paper that we wouldn’t go through a case in six months, their maximum subscription time frame. Maybe I could go in with a friend …

Has anyone tried this program?

Talkin’ turkey

It’s a few weeks before Thanksgiving, and for the consciously grateful celebrant, it’s time for one thing: Thinking about your main dish.

Somehow, turkey has become synonymous with Thanksgiving. As children, we made our handprints into turkey centerpieces. Heck, even in college, my friends and I won a free pizza by crafting the best turkey in the dorm.

The Thanksgiving turkey has spawned all sorts of spinoffs, from the tofurky to the turducken. The best option for those wanting to low on the hog TVP is to skip the meat entirely — you could serve a Thanksgiving dinner composed solely of side dishes, and honestly, most of us would hardly notice.

Go free-range or better

But if you want to go traditional, consider a free-range, organic or heritage turkey. Traditional poultry often is raised with very little space in closed warehouses. Farmers must declaw or debeak birds to prevent them from hurting each other because of their stress from living in such close quarters. You can learn more about that and the confusing standards for free-range birds here. Even the Humane Society gets in on the act with information to help consumers learn about factory farming and how to lower our impact on the food chain by eating more vegetarian meals.

Be forewarned that if you do choose a free-range bird, you might need to plan ahead. In our area, it’s wise to pre-order from a natural foods store to ensure you get a turkey. And it doesn’t have to be that expensive — while you won’t find any offers for a free bird with a cartload of groceries (what does it say about the animals that they can give them away free?), prices start at not much more than a traditional bird.

What about us?

My family is big on tradition, so we will be cooking a turkey. Mr. Cheap loves the ritual and the rigmarole of brining the turkey the night before so it is moist and delicious.

Last year, while en route to a business meeting in a rural area, we took a wrong turn and saw a warehouse full of turkeys housed in wire boxes barely bigger than their bodies, stacked 12 high. My companions clenched their jaws and tried to pretend they hadn’t seen it. When I mentioned it to my family, Little Cheap burst into tears. So we are sticking to our values (and our promise to Little Cheap to eat only meat that has been raised kindly) and special ordering our bird.

What about you? Grocery-store turkey, free-range bird, tofurky, terducken or fleeing the whole scene?

Worth it: A food mill for tomatoes

Can I just say I love, Love, LOVE my food mill?

We finally got the big batches of Roma tomatoes rolling in a week or so ago, just in time for everything to be killed by a frost.

I spent one afternoon making a batch of tomato sauce. In years past, this involved peeling the tomatoes, cooking them in a pot, pureeing them … and suffering through seeds in the sauce, which give it a bitter flavor.

Then last spring, I found an almost-new food mill for sale on Craigslist. I got the seller to give me the mill and a dehydrator for $50.

I followed L’An’s suggestion to throw the tomatoes into boiling water for a couple minutes to lightly cook them before milling. I figured this would also make the peels come off more easily.

Then I ran the tomatoes through the mill. I think I had about 7 pounds of tomatoes, which filled up the hopper about twice. I kept on cranking until I had those tomatoes all sauced, with the sauce in one bowl …

… and the skins and seeds in another.

I came out with about 4 quarts of tomato sauce, ready to freeze and later turn into pasta sauce or something else delicious, and the whole process only took half an hour or so.

How much easier does a mill make life? A million times? I’ll be using it again soon to polish off the last batch of tomatoes. If only our CSA hadn’t been hit by a hailstorm (eliminating our anticipated bushel of tomatoes), we’d be all set for much of the winter …

What are you wearing NOW?

This week’s post on eco-fashion has generated some fun comments. I loved Erin‘s response (I added the links):

What I am wearing right now…sweater bought on sale at Patagonia – a company I love because of its commitment to the environment. A skirt I bought at Goodwill. A AWESOME shirt I got for my birthday that I have worn approximately 57,000 times since the end of August. ) Organic t-shirt material scarf that was a gift. And Keen shoes – another company I admire [Cheap here: I admire this company too — they made the ONLY pair of shoes I bought for the summer] plus they have a big toe box and I hate when my feet are scrunched. I try to be eco-conscious in my clothing but I think the best thing I could do would be to buy clothes used which I don’t do enough of cause it is hard…

Check out her awesome PC outfit! Wow, she’s so green!

So I thought a survey would be a lot of fun on a Friday (or Saturday, Sunday, Monday, whenever you read this). Quick! Take a look at yourself and post what you are wearing!

No fair changing into your Goodwill outfit just to earn brownie points.

It is acceptable to comment about whether your outfit is typical.

What am I wearing?

To prove my honesty, my outfit today is not so eco at all. I am wearing …

– The sweater from the post linked above.

– A T-shirt bought at J. Jill with a gift card.

– Some jeans from Ann Taylor Loft bought on a friends-and-family coupon my friend sent me before the chain laid off said sister.

– Socks bought at Target (I can knit socks, but until someone buys me a circular sock knitting machine so I can literally crank them out, it hasn’t been happening).

– Rocket Dog sneakers bought a couple of years ago at Famous Footwear … for the coupon benefits.

Is this typical?

Most likely,  yes. I’m choosy about my clothes, but that’s because I’m a Virgo. (What is funny is that that horoscope says “your favorite label is Calvin Klein — which is about right, and I just bought a CK parka … at Ross, of course.) So I do try to thrift shop — and I have some thrift-store clothes — but often I don’t find things I like at thrift stores.

My goals: Choose more basics that are higher quality and longer lasting, even if more expensive. Choose more basics that are organic, recycled and/or recyclable. Make more of my own clothes. And I have on my to-do list to visit some more upscale consignment/resale shops and see if I have better luck than at the thrift store.

But (she said, justifying herself) my daughter’s clothes are largely pre-loved.

Extra credit – What does your family wear?

My daughter is wearing a shirt I made her with some pants from Savers, plus sneakers made partially with recycled materials (from Wal-Mart … Not really our first choice (in fact, she tried on shoes at many other stores first), but just about the only store where the shoes fit her feet!). Later she’ll head out to soccer practice in cleats from the consignment shop.

As for Mr. Cheap … he is wearing his school’s Friday spirit T-shirt, a pair of jeans most likely from Costco, and a jacket probably also from Costco.

Now … What are YOU wearing?

Eco-fashion — from local to organic to recycled

This weekend, I attended a fashion show organized by Fashion Denver. I was there to help out my friend Ivy, the brains (and fingers) behind Girl With the Curl jewelry in her first big show (whoo!). Her portion of the show went great, and it was lots of fun. And I was inspired to spruce up my own wardrobe with some eco-friendly goods.

The next day, I visited a local used/vintage/crafty/unique stuff store called On a Lark to snap up a bamboo T-shirt. They carry T-shirts from ONNO, made sustainably, fair trade, from bamboo and organic cotton. (Their tag reminds us that conventional cotton consumes 25 percent of the world’s pesticides! In fact, some Buddhist meditation practices ask people to practice compassion by imagining everything that went into articles we use … including the birds and insects harmed by pesticide use in places like cotton fields.) ONNO has a great Web site here with a lot more information. (And if you click on the link in my sidebar at the right to visit, they just might send me a free T-shirt!)

The T-shirt is super soft and the bamboo reportedly inhibits BO. Here’s what the T-shirt looks like:

At the show, I thought the most exciting (and thoughtful) styles by a local designer were from Francis Roces of Kimono Dragons. He creates “disconstructed” garments and adjustable styles inspired by kimonos … like dresses with waistband/belts that can fit different-sized women.

I did not strain my pride by testing his theory with one of the dresses modeled by the size 0 models, but I did pick up this groovy sweater. It’s a thick cotton sweater from Japan, remodeled with some zippers that can be adjusted to give the neckline whatever look you like. For the price of a generic Old Navy sweater, I was proud to support a local designer:

Kimono Dragons sweater

Kimono Dragons sweater

And to top it all off, the current edition of Fiberarts magazine has an article about DIY fashion — remaking used or old clothing to suit your own style and express your unique fashion personality. I tend to be more conservative than a lot of the DIY chicks (and guys), but I admire their pluck (chicken pun intended).

Is your wardrobe eco-friendly?

Quick tip: Cleaner compost bin

OK, you are all virtuous and you compost your waste. Bravo! But if you’re like me, you just might be a little bit of a slacker when it comes to thoroughly washing out the bin that sits on your counter or under your sink collecting scraps.

Then one day, when you open that bin, a giant furry mold-creature reaches out and grabs you by the nose.

Ewww!!!

Leah Ingram at the Lean Green Family blog had the brilliant idea of putting a (recycled) paper towel or coffee filter into the bottom of the inside bin. Then, she wrote, when she dumps it out, all the goo goes along — so it’s rinse and you’re on your way again.

I tried her method and it works beautifully. But I am too cheap to use a perfectly good paper towel or coffee filter. Mr. Cheap suggested a little square of newspaper, and that works fantastically well. I rip off a rectangle of newspaper, fold it approximately the right size and drop it into the bottom.

“Now …” (the announcer would say if this were a compost-horror-movie commercial) “… mold and slime have NOWHERE TO HIDE!”

At least not in my kitchen.