Crystal CollinsIn my opinion, one of the biggest misconceptions about living a green lifestyle is that it's expensive, especially for families. Living an eco-conscious life doesn’t have to be a budget buster. Crystal Collins helps families go green and save money at the same time with her popular blog, The Thrifty Mama. Recently Collins shared her story with me. Read on to find out how Collins and her family live a green yet thrifty life.

MNN: Tell me a little about yourself and your family.  

Crystal Collins: I'm a mother of two children ages 3 and 5, a boy and a girl. My husband and I both lost our jobs at the beginning of the recession, so I turned to blogging as a business. My husband has his own business now as well and does the sound and lighting for a local theater and a church. We like to stay fit and healthy, and live naturally.

How did your 'going green' journey start?

When I was first pregnant with my son nearly six years ago, I went to get a pedicure to "pamper" myself. You know how it is with those swollen feet and the aching back. Unfortunately my toe got infected from the pedicure. This is very common at these types of places and is the main reason I don't do pedicures anymore. No matter what I did, the infection in my toe kept getting worse. Someone recommended to me that I put some colloidal silver on it. I did, and right before my very eyes the infection vanished. Of course my toe was still red and slightly swollen, but the next day my toe looked completely normal. 

This was such a shock to me that something so completely natural "miraculously" healed my toe. From that point I wondered what else I didn't know about natural ways. I signed up for a Bradley Childbirth class to learn about natural childbirth and then gave birth to my son without the use of drugs and medication. From there it was all downhill on my green and natural path. 

How did you merge an eco-friendly lifestyle with frugality?

In my first year of couponing, I shopped like anyone else. I brought home the junk food because it was free. But by the end of the year, I just became so disgusted with what we had been eating that I threw it all out (or rather donated it), and decided to take a different approach to our grocery shopping. 

I then started buying healthier options in bulk, used coupons at places like Whole Foods and switched to a nearly all vinegar and baking soda cleaning regimen. Instead of getting paper towels and napkins for cheap, I switched to using cloth which was even cheaper. That was the year we also bought a push lawn mower, and I learned how to grow vegetables.

What have been the most rewarding and most difficult parts of the eco-conscious frugal lifestyle?

For me it has been most rewarding to see my kids learning how to take care of a garden, eat healthier and respect our environment. Not only am I impacting my life and theirs, but also the future generations that they will impact with their good habits. 

The most difficult part of it all isn't even really that difficult. It's the looks and questions that I get from people. People are either curious and intrigued or completely disgusted by some of my green habits. For instance, I recently went on a trip and stayed in a hotel with some fellow blogging friends. They were completely flabbergasted, but intrigued by the fact that I moisturized myself with coconut oil and actually put some in my hair as a leave-in conditioner. 

Many parents may incorrectly assume that raising an eco-friendly family is cost-prohibitive. What would you tell these parents?

I spend on average $200 a month for our family of four on groceries and household items. We are eating a mostly organic diet. That's about $50 a week that I spend on my grocery bill. Many people these days tell me that they spend $200 every week on groceries.  I used to be one of those people. If this used-to-be processed-food-loving-girl can do it, then so can you!

Tell me a little about The Thrifty Mama website.

I started as a resource for people to learn how to coupon and save money, but it has turned into so much more. Now it is a resource for people to learn how to live a more green, healthy and organic lifestyle while saving money. On there I share healthy store coupon match-ups for places like Whole Foods, Publix, Sprouts, Target and many more. Along with daily deals on healthy and organic items, I also share tips, recipes, tutorials, gardening help and other helpful posts to show people that they can eat and live healthier, and be eco-friendly while saving money. 

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Thank you, Crystal, for sharing your story. If you’d like to learn more about going green without breaking the bank, visit and sign up for the RSS feed.

Photo courtesy of Crystal Collins; tease photo by Robert Banh/Flickr

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