ePantry keeps getting better!

ePantry, a convenient subscription service for environmentally-friendly supplies delivered to your home, has become more energy-efficient for customers living in the eastern United States by adding a distribution center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  They’ve also expanded the product line to include more of the products I recommend, and I’ve tried something new that I like a lot!

I previously explained how to decide whether a subscription service is right for you and described my experience with the ePantry service and 11 specific products they carry. Six months ago, I noted one of the downsides of ePantry:

They are located in California.  I live in Pennsylvania.  This means that my order is being shipped across the continent.  It would be more eco-friendly to order from a company closer to home.  (But if you live in or near California, this is a plus!)

I knew that ePantry staff read my post, because after seeing it they offered me an affiliate arrangement.  But I didn’t expect them to respond to my concern about shipping mileage by opening a second warehouse right here in my state!  Wow.

The Earthling’s Handbook does not carry advertising and rarely partners with businesses because we have very high standards for consumer products.  Read more of this post

If you’d like to join ePantry…

…then click here to get $10 off your first order and a free organic soy candle!  This link will also show ePantry that I referred you so that I’ll get a credit with them–this week (May 24-31) I get double credit.  ePantry is a company that sells plant-based and recycled cleaning and hygiene products in a “subscription” format designed to deliver things just when you need them.  Consider whether a subscription service for buying environmentally friendly products is right for you, and learn more about ePantry and selected products from my review. I got one of those soy candles as a bonus in my last order.  It’s nice: smells good, not too smoky, and it’s in a glass jar so it doesn’t drip and doesn’t burn off too fast.  It’s made in USA of organic soybeans.  If you like candles but have been using the petroleum kind, try a soy candle!  They last a long time: This one says its 8 ounces of wax will burn for 70 hours, and the two smaller soy candles (different brand) that I got as baby shower gifts more than a year ago, and have used extensively, still have some wax left.

If you read my earlier articles when they were first published, you missed this update: ePantry responded to my concern about their office dogs:

I couldn’t help but notice your concern over the dogs in our office.
I want to let you know that there is no need to worry about dogs being near
your shipments 🙂 Though we do have dogs in the office, 100% of our order
fulfillment is done in our warehouse, 20 minutes away from the office.

This is good news for me because my dog allergy is sometimes severe enough to be triggered by something that spent time near a dog a few days ago.  I hadn’t had any problem with my ePantry items, but it’s good to be reassured that this will not be an issue.

Visit the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop and Works-for-Me Wednesday and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday for more great household tips!

ePantry and Earth-friendly Cleaning Product Reviews

UPDATE: If you decide to join ePantry, click here to save $10 on your first order and get a free soy candle! This is an affiliate link that will give me a discount, too–at no cost to you.  As noted below, this was NOT a sponsored post; ePantry encouraged me to sign up as an affiliate after they read this post.

Last week, I explained some things to consider before subscribing to household product deliveries.  Now I’m going to tell you about my experience with one particular subscription service and the specific products I bought from them.  This is not a sponsored post.  Aside from the special offer of $10 discount plus a free bottle of dish detergent, I received no special consideration from ePantry or any of the product manufacturers, and I did not tell them I was going to write a review.  After evaluating each product, I’ll tell you what else I recommend in this category–not all products are available through ePantry. I have been using Earth-friendly cleaning products since 1997, so I’ve tried a lot of them.  If you’re just starting to switch from conventional cleaning products to plant-based ones, I hope to help you choose cleaners you’ll like!

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This is my second ePantry order. Left to right: Method foaming hand wash, Yes To hand soap, Seventh Generation dishwasher detergent, Seventh Generation toilet bowl cleaner, Method antibacterial cleaner, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day multi-surface cleaner. In the jar in front is a soy candle that was my free bonus item.

I first heard of ePantry from a blog that was raving about it and offering a special introductory offer.  My first thought was that I don’t need to subscribe to green products because I’m able to buy them by the case to save money or to buy them in my local stores when I’m there buying groceries anyway.  Still, I spent some time looking around ePantry’s site.  Most of the products they carry are just a few brands–Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, and Method–all of which I can buy at Target, for gosh sakes; they didn’t have the more interesting brands that my local crunchy hippie store sells, let alone anything I’d have to buy by mail.  Prices were okay but not all that exciting.  Oh well.  I decided it wasn’t for me, but I was glad that other households who don’t shop in crunchy hippie stores would be using green products for more of their cleaning because they could get them so conveniently (which seemed to be the gist of the comments on that blog).

Four months later, I saw the same special offer on Jaimie Ramsey’s blog, and this time I took it.  Why?  Well, our springtime calendar was beginning to fill up with special events, and when that happens, I have to scale back the grocery shopping, planning menus based on what we have in the pantry supplemented with strategic forays to stores when Daniel or I have time to get there–it’s not possible to time our shopping as well as we normally do, and that can mean running out of something.  Also, I realized that although we can buy Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day and Method products at Target, we hadn’t actually gotten around to trying any of those products except Method foaming hand soap.  (Seventh Generation, on the other hand, is a brand we’ve bought frequently since 1997; we’ve tried most of their products.)  I decided to use ePantry’s special offer as an affordable way to motivate myself to write some product reviews!

First, here are the pros and cons of the ePantry service, in my opinion. Read more of this post

Save Money on Earth-Friendly Products!

Earth Day is coming up in less than a month!  What will be your Earth Day resolution?

One easy thing to do is to switch to a more earth-friendly version of something you use regularly–like toilet paper.  There are many brands of toilet paper on the market now that are made from post-consumer recycled paper (that’s paper that good citizens put into recycling bins) and either not whitened or bleached with oxygen instead of chlorine bleach–and they are not all scratchy!  In fact, I haven’t encountered a scratchy recycled-paper toilet tissue in about 15 years.  If you’re really particular about texture, buy a small amount of a brand before you try my money-saving tip.

One objection to switching to a better product may be that it costs more or it isn’t sold at your usual store.  Of course, nobody wants to make a special trip every time they run out of toilet paper or wants to spend a lot of money on it.  There’s a simple solution to both problems, and it will make your life more convenient, too! Read more…

Two Affordable GMO-Free Cereals

I don’t trust genetically modified food to be safe for our health or environment.  About five years ago, I realized that several of our favorite breakfast cereals contained corn, and I’d been reading that most corn grown in the United States that isn’t organically grown is now GMO.  We gave up buying those cereals routinely…but it was hard to resist the best sales!  We love eating cereal, and the mainstream brands are inexpensive, especially on sale, whereas the organic brands are priced so much higher that we’re rarely willing to pay for them (except for this delicious, low-sugar granola from Costco).  We wound up getting most of our cereals from Trader Joe’s, where all house-brand products are GMO-free and the prices aren’t too bad.

Did you know that Cheerios contain corn?  You probably think that’s an oat cereal.  But if you compare Cheerios to most of the store-brand imitators, the flavor is a bit different: The generic ones taste more plain, while Cheerios have a particular roasty-toastiness.  The difference in ingredients is that Cheerios contain a small amount of corn.  Therefore, no more Cheerios for my family.

We were still buying Post Grape Nuts, though.  No corn in those!  But one day I noticed that the box said, “Now with more protein!” and read the ingredients for the first time in years: They now contained soy protein.  Most non-organic soybeans grown in the United States are now GMO, too.  Sigh.  No more Grape Nuts.

Then, one wonderful day last year, I noticed a sign above the enormous pile of yellow boxes that were on special at Costco: GMO-free Cheerios.  Really?!  I examined the box excitedly but saw nothing there about GMOs one way or another.  Warily, I bought one of the big double packs at the bargain price, and when I got home I searched for information online.  I learned that General Mills decided to put in a little effort to use non-GMO corn and sugar in original flavor Cheerios because the recipe is so simple (compared to flavored Cheerios) that this was easy to do.  Hooray!

Not long afterward, I was craving Grape Nuts, saw them on sale, and noticed the Non-GMO Project logo on the box!  Right next to it was a circle saying Soy Free, and sure enough, isolated soy protein is no longer in the ingredient list.  Post took the soy out of Grape Nuts to make them GMO-free to appeal to certain target markets–like me!

I’m so glad that my family can have convenient snacks of affordable Cheerios and Grape Nuts again!  Our nine-month-old daughter can practice her pincer grip on crunchy little circles without being exposed to weird untested ingredients, and when she accidentally scatters some of them on the floor I don’t freak out about wasting expensive food.  (I do eat Cheerios that have been on the floor, sometimes….)

I know that some of the most serious healthy eaters these days won’t eat any ready-made packaged cereals or won’t eat any grain foods at all.  I’ve heard the arguments against them–but I feel that my family is thriving on grains as a part of our diet, and some of the simpler and less sweetened cereals are some of the grain foods we eat.  It’s great that some of the major brands are responding to consumer pressure to sell foods free of GMOs.

These two nutritious cereals that I’ve been enjoying since childhood work for me now that they are GMO-free!  Visit Real Food Friday for more articles on healthy eating!  Visit the Hearth & Soul Hop for more great food ideas!

This regular bra works as a nursing bra!

I bought all my nursing bras from Target, and I hate them all.  Target makes great nursing camisoles (with shelf bra) which I was wearing all the time on maternity leave earlier this summer and will wear as undershirts when the weather gets colder; if you are small-busted, they have adequate support and are very comfortable.  But Target’s nursing bras, all 3 different styles I bought, are uncomfortable, stiff in the wrong places, and oddly proportioned, at least compared to my body.  One style looks really lumpy under clothes, while the others are so padded that it’s difficult to get the cup out of the way for nursing.

While I was pregnant, I bought a few bras of the same style I had been wearing for a few years before, but in a larger size.  I am thrilled to discover that they work as nursing bras!!

UPDATE: That brand stopped being made within a year after I recommended it (why does that always happen??) but I have now found essentially identical bras made under a different name!  They are Hanes Ultimate Invisible Look Wirefree Convertible T-shirt bras, sold at Kohl’s and other stores.

They have “convertible straps” which means the front end of the strap detaches from the cup so that you can crisscross the straps if you want.  The fastener is a snap kind of thing that stays together really well (never comes undone in the washing machine, even) but can be quickly undone with one hand when you want to, with a little practice.  Here I am holding it with two hands just so you can get a good look at what kind of fastener I mean. Read more…

5 Tips for Green Lunch Packing

It’s back-to-school season!  If your child brings a lunch to school, now is the time to think about how to pack that lunch.  If you bring your lunch to work, this is a great time of year to rethink what you’re packing, too.

Choosing the right lunch-packing habits can make a big difference in how much garbage you create.  Reducing waste often saves money, too. If you shift from eating out of plastic wrappers to eating out of washable containers made of glass, metal, or other safe materials, you’ll be taking in fewer harmful chemicals.  So it’s a win all around, not just for the environment!

Here are a few main ways my family makes our school and workplace lunches more environmentally friendly.  This is not a sponsored post.  All of the specific products mentioned here were chosen by my family and purchased at full price, and all opinions are our own.  These tips are written as if you, the reader, are the lunch eater, but they all apply to packing kids’ lunches, too!

1. Use what you have.

The greenest type of reusable item is one that you don’t buy new, because even the most ecologically-produced objects take resources and energy to make.  Here are some things I’ve repurposed for packing my lunch: Read more…

Buying Bulk Food in Reused Containers

Many of the foods my family eats most are purchased from the bulk section of the East End Food Co-op, our local health-food supermarket in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You do not have to buy a membership to shop at this co-op, but members get a discount in exchange for a one-time payment, which is a pretty sweet deal. (If you don’t live here, search for a similar store in your area.)

“Bulk” here does not mean buying an enormous package. In this wonderful section of the store, you get to scoop your own food into your own container, buying exactly the amount you want. First you weigh your empty container and write its weight on the co-op label that you stick on your container. You also write the Price Look Up number, which tells the cash register the price per pound for that food. At checkout, the cashier subtracts the weight of the container from the total weight, and you pay for the food only.

I love this system! Instead of paying for a bunch of packaging that we’d throw away or recycle, we use the same containers over and over again. Most of these containers are better than disposable packaging at keeping the food fresh, and they’re at least as easy to open and close. The co-op sells a few types of containers in the bulk section, but we use mostly containers that we saved from packaged foods. Here are some randomly selected examples, neatly photographed by my eight-year-old Nicholas.
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Read more…

Multiple Shopping Lists: Key to Grocery-Shopping Sanity!

My grocery-shopping strategy attempts to maximize the quality of food we get for our money, and one key tactic is shopping at multiple stores. Since I have limited time and don’t like to waste gasoline, I want to make sure that in each shopping trip I get all the things we need that are best-priced or best-quality at that store, but I don’t want to be stocking up on stuff “just in case we need it” only to find that we already have several of those in the pantry. Over the years, Daniel and I have worked out a system that makes it easy to keep track of our grocery purchasing plans.

We keep a separate shopping list for each store. The moment we open up the last package of a staple food, use up something we’d like to have more of as soon as possible, are notified of a sale, or think of a food we haven’t had in a while and would like, we write it on the appropriate list. Any coupons for that store (or for a specific product on that list) are stored with the list. I keep an eye on the lists and decide when it’s time to visit a particular store, and then I take that list and coupons and put them in the outer pocket of one of the cloth tote bags I am taking to the store.

It’s easy for me to remember which store is the best place to get a particular thing, because I am the primary grocery shopper and have a great memory. Daniel isn’t so good at this, but a large proportion of our foods give him clues by being store-brand products or in reusable containers labeled for refilling with bulk foods at the East End Food Co-op. Other things, though, he would sometimes write on the wrong list or, worse, decide that when I was around he would tell me what we needed so I could write it on the correct list–and then he might forget. Recently, he thought of a solution: Read more of this post

Thrifty Tips

Today is the Frugal Tips Edition of Works-for-Me Wednesday, so check out the money-saving ideas there!  I happen to prefer the word “thrifty” myself.  This is my big anthology of ways to save money!

I have to start off by responding to Kristen (hostess of Works-for-Me Wednesday)’s first tip, which is to print your own gift tags instead of buying greeting cards.  That does save money, but you know what will save even more?  Making your own tags (or full-size cards) out of free materials.  If you print things, you’re paying for printer ink/toner, paper, and electricity to run your computer and printer.  Some ideas for virtually-free homemade gift tags are in my article on saving money at Christmas.  Here are a few more options:

  • Cut up old file folders (bright-colored ones are especially nice) and use the stiff paper for gift tags or cards.  You can punch a hole in one corner with a standard paper punch and use a bit of ribbon to tie it onto the package.
  • Grab an unwanted sheet of paper that has a lot of text printed on one side but is blank on the other side.  Hand it to your child along with a large set of colored pencils or markers.  (Crayons won’t work unless they’re very new because their tips are too large–unless the text is printed at a largish size.)  Tell him to choose a color for each letter or number and color on all of them: make all the A’s red, all the B’s blue, etc.  This is educational and makes a beautiful pattern!  (It also keeps the kid busy while you are wrapping gifts.)  Then fold the paper in half and write your message on the blank side.
  • Use your sticker collection.  I still have mine in the shoebox where I started it in third grade, when sticker collecting was all the rage; I toss in whatever stickers come my way from junk mail, and once in a while I buy a packet of stickers at a good price, and I’m still using up all those stickers I bought with my allowance (or traded for) in elementary school!  Decorate paper with stickers to make a unique card.  I have made some very surreal ones in a sort of mad-lib style by putting together stickers with words on them.  Other times I set up animal or character stickers in a scene and draw word bubbles.
  • Clip silly or pretty pictures from magazines as you come across them.  Glue them onto paper in a collage to make a card, or glue just one very neatly on the front of the card and maybe draw a fancy border around it or give it fancy edges with pinking shears or scallop scissors.
  • Use those greeting cards that come free in the mail from various charities.  If they aren’t your style, draw in extra bits or add stickers for ironic humor.

Now for some other thrifty tips I don’t think I have mentioned before . . .  Read more…

Grocery Spending for a Family of 3 in 2010

Toward the end of 2009, I read something about the increasing cost of food that said the average American family of 3 was now spending $400 a month on groceries.  That sounded high to me, but I immediately reminded myself that I’d stopped tracking expenses years ago (after taking my own advice for a decade, I became good enough at spending within my means that I decided not to spend the time on tracking anymore) so I didn’t really know how much we were spending on groceries.  We often stock up at sales, and we make 3 payments for our farm share every year, so our monthly grocery spending can be much higher than the cost of food we ate that month.  Maybe the total was larger than I thought!
Read more…