It's not a typical sight for an urban backyard, but pet chickens are just one eco-friendly way the Tetreault family is saving money - to the tune of $5,000 a year.
"We wanted to really know where our eggs came from and to buy organic eggs in the grocery store is a lot of money," says Sara Tetreault, mother and blogger at GoGingham.com. "We probably now have broken even on having hens in our backyard, but there's nothing better than going out to the chicken coop and getting a fresh, warm egg." She says the family likes to call them their "pets with benefits."
In addition to raising hens, mom Sara doesn't machine dry their clothes, the family generates only one barrel of trash per month, and they bicycle as often as they can -- all eco-friendly measures that provide more breathing room in the family's budget. "I love saving money. And it just so happens that what's good for my wallet equals good for the environment," Sara says.
Along with their backyard chicken coup, the Tetreaults keep a small kitchen garden that yields most of their produce needs during the summer. "We grow green beans, Swiss chard, spinach, arugula and a lot of tomatoes," Sara says. "Every summer we go berry picking. We pick over 50 pounds of berries and then we freeze them. We're saving over a dollar per pound on the berries."
Sure, all this takes a little extra work, but the Tetreaults estimate they shave a couple hundred dollars off their annual food budget this way and, with all that cultivated food to use up, Sara makes sure to plan ahead.
"Once a week, I sit down and make out a meal plan so I know exactly what I'm going to buy and that way I'm not wasting any food," she says. To further avoid waste, they buy almost exclusively from the supermarket bulk bins. "Buying dried beans alone, we've saved over $500 a year. This helps with our sanitation bill because we're only generating one trashcan full of garbage a month." Husband Brad says while the sanitation bill is only around $6 per month, it all adds up.
Energy is another expenditure the family watches very closely. They signed up for a "time of use" program with their utility company, meaning they only use their washer, dryer and dishwasher only at night to save about 10%. And, thanks to a decision to hang dry all their laundry, they've recently reduced their drying costs by 50%. "We realized how much we were saving on our electric bill by hanging laundry," Sara says. "So then we thought we should probably figure out a way to hang dry our laundry year round. We've cut our electric bill by about a third."
When the Tetreaults drive, they do so in older, more reliable vehicles, which they choose to repair instead of trading in for new. But mostly, Sara says, the family gets around by foot or biking - whether it's to school, the grocery store or the library.
Buying used is actually a savings theme for the Tetreaults -- whether for cars, clothes or furniture. And, most cost-effectively, they buy used building supplies. Sara says they installed second-hand kitchen cabinets themselves and saved nearly $8,000 on labor and materials. In addition the Tetreaults have repaired their bathtub, installed a sink and redid their garage - all with salvaged materials. If you count these one-time renovations, along with their monthly ongoing savings, the Tetreaults figure they've saved well over $100,000 so far.
Sara and Brad say what began with an effort to be more environmentally responsible turned into an incredible savings opportunity. "We're not giving up anything by going green," Sara says. "We travel. We enjoy good food, including meat. By doing smart things with our money, we've found a way to live well on less."
And, as always, we want to hear from you. In what ways are you saving green? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh, and use the hashtag #FinFit.