Better Butter (Cheaper)

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Switching to organic butter is such an important step in reducing our toxic exposure. But the price difference can seem daunting when you are feeding a large family. Here are some ways I’ve found to buy it for less.

Baseline price: Costco is about $3.95 a pound, Trader Joes $4.79 a pound. These are actually both great prices; at specialty stores it can be up to $9 a pound (more in Hawaii says my tropical sister). Note that I find the TJs butter to be higher quality than the Costco at certain times of the year (sweeter, more yellow).

Direct from the farm: I prefer to buy 12 pound blocks of butter directly from an organic dairy, and cut and wrap it myself. This is the BEST golden butter from grass fed cows, and is the cheapest at $3.25 a pound. But it takes some planning and coordination.

On clearance: yes, although organic butter rarely goes on sale, it does go on clearance at our local Safeway (see photo above). I’m so glad this major supermarket has made a decision to stock organic products, however their customer base continues to buy mostly conventional, so often their organic dairy products reach their expiration date before they are purchased. I will occasionally drop in to see what has been reduced to 50% off, and if it’s freezable I’ll stock up. For the butter above I paid $2.50 a pound! You could even check the expiration date on the fresher packages, and mark on your calendar for three days prior to the sell by date. Then drop in on that day; you’ll get it for less than conventional butter, help the store to cut its losses, and save butter from the fate of the dumpster.

A Chinook Book Birthday

Last spring I purchased a Chinook Book* -a green version of an Entertainment Book- for my area (Portland) and realized that the coupons expired on Oct. 31. Since my birthday is the 30th, a plan immediately formed in my head: spend an entire day shopping at organic and eco-friendly shops, and redeem as many coupons as possible. Or least as many as affordable.

So the morning of my birthday, which fell on a Saturday this year, my husband and I set out for the city, baby in tow. (Our three older children were watched by our dear friends Keith and Sandy.) I had clipped out the coupons which I wanted to redeem and charted a course. My rule for the day (which I broke once) was that all the places we shopped would be with a coupon/discount.

1st Stop: Joann Fabrics

OK, so this wasn’t a Chinook Book coupon, but I happened to have two 40% off coupons, and took the opportunity without kids to stop in a choose 2 cuts of flannel to make into PJs for Christmas.

2nd Stop: EcoCarWash (SE Portland)

The coupon was for a free wash…I think their soaps are non-toxic, and water is recycled. Clean van, good to go.

3rd Stop: Bob’s Red Mill

Yes, the flagship store. Smells heavenly even before you walk inside…Heiko checked out the breakfast menu with a 1/2 price coupon, while I stocked up from their bulk section on a few baking items I needed: tapioca flour (for GF baking), baking powder, yeast (non GMO), etc. I used the Buy One Get One Free coupon on two 25 lb bags of tapioca flour, and a $.75 coupon on the yeast. Then I sat with Heiko (french toast and fried eggs) and had a gluten-free marionberry scone, while we showed off the baby to an elderly lady sitting near by.

4th Stop: The Healthy Bread Store (right across the street!)

I ran in while Heiko did a drive by (it was raining) and bought 2 loaves of day old Good Seed Bread (“say no to bread on drugs”) with a 2 for the price of 1 coupon.

5th Stop: Drive through Ladd’s Addition Neighborhood

Admired the rose gardens and gorgeous fall leaves.

6th Stop: Artichoke Music (Hawthorne)

Again a drive by for Heiko, while I went in a bought a rosin for my daughter’s violin practice; hers had broken. Used the 25% off coupon. Store with many beautiful folk instruments.

7th Stop: North Portland Wellness Center (North Portland)

It was now pouring, so we sat in the car for a bit while I fed the baby, then ducked into the Center, which is in a nicely restored Craftsman. I chose two scented handmade soaps with 2 coupons for free soap…mmm, the citrus scent smells so nice in my bathroom!

8th Stop: The Meadow

Here‘s where I broke my rule: I had no coupons for The Meadow. However, it had recently been recommended to me as a great place to get good sea salt. And what a selection!

The Meadow has over 150 different kinds of sea salt from around the world; this is the largest collection of salts in the world to their knowledge. We sampled several, chose an economical grey salt for multipurpose cooking, and splurged on a bar of dark chocolate and a small bottle of flake salt for sprinkling.

Besides salt and chocolate, The Meadow sells only two other wares: wine and flowers. Salt, Chocolate, Wine, Flowers…somehow it all goes together, doesn’t it? As we checked out, I asked if they give birthday discounts (perhaps I wouldn’t have to break my rule…). No, but she she gave me a flower instead. How sweet! Love this shop.

9th Stop: Laughing Planet

Hungry for lunch, we walked 2 doors down to Laughing Planet, where the staff was having a scary costume contest (ugh…the one thing I don’t like about this time of year). But the Draper Valley roasted chicken burrito (Heiko) and bowl (me) were delicious and hit the spot. We sat by the window and watch a friendly old dog in the courtyard while other patrons admired our baby. Oh yeah, we used the 20% off 2 entrees coupon, and left the coupon for 2 smoothies for another patron.

10th Stop: Pharmaca (NW Portland)

Heiko strolled the baby while I chose eyeliner and lipliner pencils to replace the ones I’ve used up. Jane Iradale and Dr. Haushka brands respectively were the colors I liked best (after much debate), and I used the $5 off $20 purchase coupon.

11th Stop: Pottery Barn

After a parking change to avoid being ticketed, we browsed through Pottery Barn, an icon of eclectic and cozy decorating. I didn’t have a coupon for this store, but I had a gift card, which is even more fun. However, after browsing, I decided I’d rather wait for the after Christmas sale to redeem my gift.

12th Stop: Restoration Hardware (across the street)

And of course we always have to stop in here when in NW Portland: Heiko loves to look at all their do-dads and stocking stuffers. However, this year was a disappointment, as they have seriously cut down on the kitsch. And their looks has changed too: the sage walls and cream trim have been replaced with grey walls, ceiling, everything. Cool at first, and then the drab begins to feel depressing.

13th Stop: Anna Bananas

Of course there are several coffee shops right on 23rd Ave, but we went a couple streets over to get our late afternoon lattes at this place, since we had a 2 for 1 coupon with them. The Milky Way has almond and caramel syrups…yum.

14th Stop: Estate Sale

Lattes in hand, we ventured back into a few 23rd Ave. boutiques, then followed the hand written sign half a block to an estate sale. Found a great flat basket for gathering herbs (was told it is called a trug) for a few bucks (OK, no coupon, but it was still a great deal).

15th Stop: What’s Upstairs

Nice resale shop with a boutique feel on the top level of shops. The lady was kind to stay open a little longer while I tried on a cute top (25% off coupon).

16th Stop: Wild Wood Restaurant

White-linen restaurant with food that’s too gourmet for my husband (we had that discussion). He had the steak and I the quail; lovely flavors in sauces, veggies, and meat, on plates too large for the food (part of the definition of gourmet). Of course we used the 2 for 1 coupon for our entrees.

17th Stop: New Seasons Market

Heiko dropped me at the door to collect our free organic french baguettes and hand stuffed sausages (apple chicken feta, which was good, and Bratwurst, which was also good but still nothing like a true Bratwurst in Germany). 4 coupons redeemed.

18th Stop: Home

Where 3 happy children in pajamas greeted me with birthday cards, and we all sat down to dark chocolate cake (GF) sprinkled with flake salt before sending the children to bed and playing pinochle with Keith and Sandy. Even though they beat us, it was still a fun ending to a great day!

*The Chinook Book offers some great money saving coupons. It costs $20, and I saved more than that in the first two purchases I made with coupons this spring (items I was purchasing anyway).

Iherb.com: Awesome Prices + $5 Off

OK, so this is totally just free advertising for iherb.com, but I love this site, so why shouldn’t I rave about it and share it with all of you?

I first found iherb.com when I was looking for better prices on supplements that my Doctor prescribed me, like Carlson’s Cod Liver Oil. But I soon found that they carried a lot of the personal care products and specialty foods (like Bob’s Red Mill flours, nuts, etc.) which I was purchasing at Whole Foods Market, and for discounts of 15-40%.

Also, I became very impressed with how well they wrapped each item in bubble wrap, and had a “no questions asked” customer service attitude. And the site is just really easy to use and find what you need.

It isn’t hard to meet the minimum for Free Shipping: $40 order (I order every other month to insure I’ll never pay shipping.) And if I order on Monday I have my stuff by Thursday (I live in the Northwest, and the iherb warehouse is in California).

If you’re making an order, use my coupon code RON268 and you’ll get an additional $5 off your order (first time customers). Woo hoo! I love a great deal!

And if you think you, or a group of your friends, would make larger orders, here’s how you can save more: after your first order, email iherb and ask them about a VIP Discount. I did this, and they told me that I would have to make an initial order of $500, which would be discounted by 15%. (So my first order was $500 – 15% = $425, and I pulled a bunch of friend orders together to do that.) After that, every order I make has an additional 10% off minimum (it goes up to 12% off for $120+, 14% off for 240+, 16% off for 480+). Since I’ve made an order every other month for the past several years, it has really been worth it.

OK, so what’s NOT to love about iherb? You still have to read the ingredient labels: in addition to great products, they stock lots of natural products with bad ingredients, like parabens, etc. This is the same as Whole Foods: you must read your labels. (Read my post How to Read an Ingredient Label.) Fortunately, iherb has the complete product label listed for each item, which makes this easier than any other online store I’ve seen.