Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Frugal... Or Not?

I met my mom for lunch today and we were talking about frugality and different idea on how to save money and better yet how to help the environment. My mom mentioned this post from MotherLoad about reusable grocery bags and it got me thinking... are reusable bags really frugal and better for the environment?

On the surface using canvas (or some other environmentally friendly material) for grocery shopping certainly sounds like a good idea. Cut back on waste, don't manufacture so many "disposable" plastic bags, etc. On top of that reusing and reducing are frugal activities which aslo sounds good... but lets look at the math.

Amy mentioned that she had purchased this set of reusable bags from

The set in question contained 3 bags plus some other things and cost $55.90 with shipping.

That equals (approx.) $18.64 per bag. [starting to sounds little expensive to me]

I go to the market once a month (so that is 12 times a year), if my supermarket gives me $.05 (so $.60 a year) back per bag I bring it would take me 31 years of using the bag to BREAK EVEN. It will, obviously take longer, to save money.

That doesn't sound frugal at all.

But what about the environment? Well I agree that not manufacturing plastic bags seems better for the environment, but buying canvas bags on the internet which have to be packaged, and shipped to you (which could be across the entire country) in trucks and planes that have internal combustion engines and pollute, doesn't sound that great for the environment either.

So what is a frugal, tree-hugging girl to do?

First of all, depending on what you are buying and where you are buying it, don;t take a bag if you don't need one.

If you do take a bag, either paper or plastic, reuse it (several times if possible) and then recycle it. Yes, plastic bags can be recycled, there is a bin outside of every supermarket I have ever been to, they are probably outside of yours too.

Once you have reused/recycled all of the bags you already have, scour thrift shop, Goodwill and Salvation Army to find canvas bags on the cheap ($1.99, $.99,) and use them instead.

At $2.00, getting .60 per year back from the market it will only take 3.33 years to break even and then start saving.

That makes more sense to me.

[Update: Amy, at MotherLoad, responded to a comment I made with pretty much the above question in it. Her response about wanting to reduce the number of plastic bags, and inspire others to do the same makes great sense to me. As does her comment about liking to use canvas bags with flat bottoms that are easier to use, much like regular grocery bags.

I UNDERSTAND that completely. I find it so easier to be frugal when I don't have to work so hard at it (does that sound lazy?). I was just saying the exact same thing to my mother about my Swiffer wet jet v. the sponge mop. I know the sponge mop is more frugal but I hate having to fill up the kitchen since, drip here and there, etc. So I find ways that make me happy (i.e. frugal and environmentally friendly) to use the products that I like and make my life easier. Thank you Amy for such a great post and response... YOU INSPIRE ME !]


Anonymous said...

I just read on another frugal blog that if you take your own coffee cup/travel mug to Starbucks you'll save about .10 a cup. Not bad and another way to help the environment!!

Molly said...

Great tip. Thanks! I am a Starbucks-a-holic... talk about not frugal! lol.

Amy said...

Thanks for the mention. That is so cool that you and your mom BOTH read my blog. That totally made my day!

Yes, I was talking about this scenario with my husband and how I am often compelled to buy things because they are cheaper and then we end up throwing them out or donating them. Often I should have just spent the few extra bucks to get what I really will use rather than fifty things that get the boot in our house. Which brings me to how the heck I spend so dang much at the Dollar Tree :)

Thanks, Molly!

Amy said...

Oh, and I meant to share that the particular set that you mentioned had four grocery bags and four canvas bags for produce. I was able to shove three weeks of groceries in those and used a plastic tote for my canned goods. I don't know if that set would be enough for you since your shopping trips are more spaced out....