TAGRO: Great for your garden, the earth, and Tacoma.

June 8th, 2009

Maybe you have used it.  

Maybe you have wondered if you should.  

Maybe the idea of using it makes you squeamish.

Maybe you have seen the name but have and wondered what it is.  

Maybe this is the first time that you are hearing of it.


TAGRO, short for Tacoma Grow, is a garden aid produced by the City of Tacoma.  TAGRO MIx is designed to enhance the soil in lawns, flower beds, trees and shrubs. TAGRO mix can be used the same as you would use steer manure. TARGO Potting soil is for the use of both indoor and outdoor flower and vegetable gardens.  TAGRO is a blend of “Tacoma Class A Biosolids” (sewer and drain waste), “screened sawdust”, and “other garden elements”.  The result is a very inexpensive (free when you shovel your own mix) source of nutrients for your plants.  TAGRO provides phosphorus, nitogen, magniseum, potassium, sulfur and more.  Studies at WSU and UW have shown that things planted in TAGRO grow “taller, faster, greener and produce more blooms then those in commercial or chemical products”.

In addition to helping the land in your yard, using TAGRO also helps the environment.  The city of Tacoma describes how:

  • TAGRO’s nutrients are released slowly. Plants use more of the nutrients and fewer are leached or run off into the environment.
  • Soil conditioned with TAGRO retains water better. The more water the soil retains, the less you have to pull out the hose or sprinkler. And that leaves more natural water flow in our rivers.
  • Plants and trees grow bigger and better in TAGRO. More vegetation means more shade and less soil erosion near creeks and rivers, making for healthy and clear water—for fish and people to enjoy. 

The City of Tacoma recycles 4,000 dry tons of biosolids each year.  

TAGRO and Tacoma:

TAGRO and Tacoma has been recognized Nationally as having the best biosolids program in the country.  Our support not only helps our gardens and the environment, it helps our city to maintain it’s status as a leader in inovative, environmental programs.  

Do you still have doubts about using biosolids?  

To learn more about TAGRO visit:  www.cityoftacoma.org/Page.aspx?hid=689, and join us for our tour of the TAGRO facilities on Saturday, July 11 2009.

Food Challenge Week 3 and 4

March 30th, 2009

March’s food challenge has been quite different then I had expected.  While having the flu for a week unexpectedly cut some cost from our grocery bill, it also emphasized the most important part of staying on a food budget: organization.  A week without it really made a difference.  While I dislike the effort it takes to map out all of our meals for the week, it saved both money and time.  Planning meals and making a grocery list on Sunday saved many shopping trips during the week.  With three children, that is a big time saver.  I was able to save money by maximizing on sale items by featuring them in our weekly menu, or cooking in bulk and freezing meals. I also learned to appreciate knowing what I had to prepare each day.  It saved a lot of time and energy – both physical and mental.  

Being frugal about things that I hadn’t in the past wound up saving my family quite a bit of money.  I eliminated (for the most part) prepackaged snacks and breakfast cereals.  Not only does this save money, but it is certainly a healthier option.   I took a closer look at what was actually in some of these foods. When I really looked at the amount of sugar and other garbage is in many super processed foods, I realized that we all would be a lot better indulging in things we previously rarely ate.  Although that meant starting from scratch, I often doubled recipes to save future time and money.  I found some great recipes and inspiration for snacks and breakfasts at www.vegweb.com

I found a balance in where I did my shopping too.  For the most part I our got produce and eggs from the SPUD delivery service.  I have found the quality and sources to be good and I feel very strongly about buying quality produce.  I look forward to shopping for fruits and veggies from the farmers markets and my own garden soon.  Trader Joe’s seems to be the best bet for dairy.  Their organic milk comes from Sunshine Dairy in Oregon.  It may not be my perfect choice, but for the price, I find it to be the best option.  This month I have also kept a closer eye on sale in more mainstream stores.  Often the brands that you find at Marlene’s, or Metroplitan Market are significantly cheaper at a store like Fred Meyer’s.  I have also been using Costco more then before.  But, I always keep a close watch not to get carried away.

I ended the month having spent $490.00.  It was satisfying to notice a significant drop in our recent credit card statement.  I had hoped to come out a little closer to $400…but there is always next month.

How did everyone else do?

Food Challenge Week #2

March 13th, 2009

I just finished logging my receipts and happily report that I am at $234.55 after the first two weeks. Unfortunately, my quest to limit my kitchen time has not gone so well.  While I have made some good, and very affordable meals.  Some days  I have paid for our food with my time.  Here is what we have been eating this week:

Sunday was a “kitchen” day.  In attempt to break my older two children of there “Annie Macaroni” preference, I tried, yet again to get them to eat the homemade version.  Using one bag of the six I purchased last week at Costco ($1.33) and $2.00 worth of pre-shredded cheese from Trader Joe’s I was able to make to meals worth for about $3.75.  With it I served organic California broccoli ($2.27) from last weeks SPUD delivery with homemade balsamic dressing. I spent roughly $4.40 for this dinner.  While the kids still prefer Annie, they did eat it and 2/3 of the children ate the other pan for lunch during the week. Not my personal favorite, but it was easy, affordable, fairly healthy and no one screamed when it was served.

I made up for my lack of kitchen time on Monday when I decided to make tamales.  These were fairly labor intensive (especially because I haven’t made them successfully before), but inexpensive.  Masa flour can be picked up inexpensively at most supermarkets.  Using Masa, olive oil, a washington onion ($.83) Earthbound Organic baby spinach from Costco, and the reminder of my shredded cheese from T.J.’s I made 25 tamales for under $5 or $.20 each.  I served our Tamales with Earthbound Organic salad greens (also from last weeks Costco purchase)  and black beans.  This meal cost under $5.00 and I put the many tamales that were left over in the freezer for a future meal.

On Tuesday, I made pieogi’s, another cheap but more labor intensive meal.  Using flour, organic potatoes from Trader Joes, more california onions, and organic tofu from T.J.’s( only $2.38 for 14oz.), I made two meals worth for under $5 as well.  Thanks to a tip from Allison I picked up $13lbs of organic apples from Fred Meyer for $13.  I used this to make stewed apples for the side paired with sauteed cabbage ($.50).


Tofu and Potato Pierogi with Savoy Cabbage and Stewed Apples

Tofu and Potato Pierogi with Savoy Cabbage and Stewed Apples


While making a good, healthy meal completely from scratch can be time consuming, it has been great to be able to put meals in the freezer for busy days.  Having those to fall back on at the end of a busy day will certainly save me time and money in the future.

March 2-6 (Food Challenge)

March 6th, 2009

My SPUD order did not come until the evening on Tuesday.  If I was almost completely out of fresh produce (among other things), this wouldn’t have been such a big deal.  But, by 5:00 pm I was worried that I would have to completely start my weekly shopping over.  Again, no big deal if I hadn’t spent many, many…many moments of my free time logging back in to the site to fine tune my order to get it near my budget goal.

I have gotten over my snobby ways this week.  I went to Safeway to buy Quaker Oats (on sale 2/$5) and to the Orowheat outlet on 6th for buns (8/$1.25) to accompany my homemade veggie burgers.  This week I am starting to learn when it makes sense to make my own from scratch (granola and veggie burgers) and when it doesn’t (buns for the burgers).  Being at home a good portion of the day helps too.  Waiting for bread to rise and bake takes some scheduling, but it isn’t such a big deal for me since I am often  home anyhow.  For those who work, it obviously is not so simple.

On Monday I spent about 1/2 hr. preparing two loaves of bread.   Since I would have bought high quality bread if I were to purchase it, I figure that it saved me about $8.  For me saving $8, serving hot bread with dinner and having quality bread for sandwiches was worth my 1/2 hr.  However, if I worked outside of the home, it would not have been possible

On Tuesday Jack and I made a big vat of granola.  This has been a fun activity for the two of us to do while his big sister is at school and the baby naps.  Jack gets to help create and name the recipe. For about $3.50 we made enough cereal to feed us all breakfast for two weeks (not that we care to eat it everyday for 2 weeks).  Actually, Jack and I send the bulk of it to work with my husband (who does care to eat it everyday for 2 weeks).  Jack, Amelia and I will use it for snacks with yogurt and for the occasional breakfast.  Granted, we would not have bought this much normally, but we would have spent money on cerealor other snacks instead. It should last us for a while.



Cost: $3.50 and 45 minutes (with a 4 year old)

Cost: $3.50 and 45 minutes (with a 4 year old)

On Thursday, I created 3+ meals worth of lentil and okra veggie burgers all for about $3.00.  If I would have bought them it would have probably cost about $12 for the same amount.  The added benefit was the lack of questionable or unrecognizable ingredients found in most mainstream versions.  The freshness doesn’t hurt either.
I am pleased to see that as I write this on Friday morning, I still have food in my refrigerator.  I am now optimistic that I can get through week 2 on $125.  Maybe even less???

Frugal Feeding Week #1, March 1

March 4th, 2009


By the end of the first day of the first week I have already used up $118.00 of my $125.00 goal.  While the goal is monthly, I was hoping to at least have a little wiggle room.  Things are already looking tight.  

Last month I began planning out a dinner menu for the week to help me stick to a strict grocery list. Although it was a pain to do this every Sunday, it was really nice to know what kind of preparation I would need to do each day.  It also eliminated multiple shopping trips to grab the last minute item….that often turned into more money spent on nonessentials.  This week I made my first order with SPUD (www.spud.com).   SPUD focuses on local and organic products.  I love that the miles traveled by each item is noted as well as links to all of the company/farm info.  I plan to buy my most eco-conscious purchases here and supplement with more affordable alternatives elsewhere.  I love that I can order everything online, and adjust my meals based on local availability and price.  It is nice to know exactly what I am spending before I get to the checkout.  I also made a tedious trip to Costco. It is always a challenge to get out of Costco without spending at least $100.  But I did!  Among other things,I picked up a giant bag of almonds (non-organic), NW blueberries (also non-organic), Earthbound organic salad greens and baby spinach and a box of cherry tomatoes (non-organic).  I left having spent only $65 on food.  Most of this should carry over at least until the second week, the almonds will last for more then the month.

March’s Frugal Feeding Challenge

March 2nd, 2009

Last month, in an attempt to get a better handle on our monthly budget, I began collecting and tallying all of our family’s grocery receipts.  I have never thought much about what I spend on food.  We very rarely eat out and don’t do take out,  I don’t buy prepackaged meals, and try to limit processed and convenience foods.  So, in looking at our monthly budget, $650 seemed like a more then generous allocation for food for one month.  By mid-February, I was nearing the $600 mark.  All of this while I was actually monitoring and tightening my spending.  I was stunned to think of how easy it would be spend over $1,000 on groceries every month.  I am sure that I have many times before.

Providing wholesome, quality food for my family is a priority for me.  However, I am certain that there has to be a way to do so without spending quite so much.  So, I have decided to see if I can feed my family of 2 adults, 3 children and 2 dogs for less then $500 a month.  If you have had similar thoughts or experiences, and would like to set a goal for your family, or simply start taking a closer look at your habits, please share them.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: February Discussion Notes

February 28th, 2009

I have yet to speak to anyone who was not impressed with Michael Pollan’s book.  To me, the reason we have been so affected by the information in his writings is largely due to the lack of access to such elsewhere.  A lifetime of corporate and government marketing informing us about what our food choices should be has left impaired our judgement.  We are left alienated from what producing and consuming food is really all about. Many thanks to Sandy and Kyle for sharing your thoughts and insights and inspirations.  Here are some major points and ideas that arose during our discussion this month:

Corn, corn, everywhere:

It was shocking to learn that on average 1/4 of all food sold in a super market contains corn.  Why?  The government has created, sustained and managed a surplus.  Sometimes the motives have been good, sometimes questionable (or worse).  Regardless, now our economy is tangled in it.  We all pay the price, farmers and consumers alike.

 In the United States, Pollan makes clear, we’re mostly fed by two things: corn and oil. We may not sit down to bowls of yummy petroleum, but almost everything we eat has used enormous amounts of fossil fuels to get to our tables. Oil products are part of the fertilizers that feed plants, the pesticides that keep insects away from them, the fuels used by the trains and trucks that transport them across the country, and the packaging in which they’re wrapped. We’re addicted to oil, and we really like to eat.

Oil underlines Pollan’s story about agribusiness, but corn is its focus. American cattle fatten on corn. Corn also feeds poultry, pigs and sheep, even farmed fish. But that’s just the beginning. In addition to dairy products from corn-fed cows and eggs from corn-fed chickens, corn starch, corn oil and corn syrup make up key ingredients in prepared foods. High-fructose corn syrup sweetens everything from juice to toothpaste. Even the alcohol in beer is corn-based. Corn is in everything from frozen yogurt to ketchup, from mayonnaise and mustard to hot dogs and bologna, from salad dressings to vitamin pills. “Tell me what you eat,” said the French gastronomist Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, “and I will tell you what you are.” We’re corn.

Each bushel of industrial corn grown, Pollan notes, uses the equivalent of up to a third of a gallon of oil. Some of the oil products evaporate and acidify rain; some seep into the water table; some wash into rivers, affecting drinking water and poisoning marine ecosystems. The industrial logic also means vast farms that grow only corn. When the price of corn drops, the solution, the farmer hopes, is to plant more corn for next year. The paradoxical result? While farmers earn less, there’s an over-supply of cheap corn, and that means finding ever more ways to use it up.(taken from wasingtonpost.com)

 What can we do?  Read labels, if there is no need for corn in the product that you are buying, don’t buy it.

 The American Feedlot:

In taking a closer look at where most meat comes from, one cannot look away unchanged.  Pollan purchases and follows the life of a feedlot cow.  In the process, he uncovers the environmental and ethical horrors of the process.

 What can we do?  Know where your meat comes from.  If cost is a factor, eat it less often, but buy the good stuff.  Buy from local, trustworthy sources such as Dave’s Meat and Produce on I St.  or The Meat Shop of Tacoma (www.meatshopoftacoma.com), or my personal favorite option: don’t eat meat.

Know Your Alternatives:

The picture isn’t entirely bleak.  There are farms and communities that are getting it right.  Call it the slow food revolution, the organic lifestyle or living locally, there are many names for bringing food back to the basics.  Pollan closely follows farmer Joel Salatin to see farming is it was meant to be.  At Polyface Farms in Virginia Salatin follows the Principle “All Flesh is Grass”.  Joel considers himself a grass farmer or even more appropriately a sun farmer.  Ultimately, this is where all energy and life that grows for consumption is created.   To learn more about these amazing, pure and commonsense practices visit their website at www.polyfacefarms.com.


For most of us, other then picking blackberries from the roadside during the summer, the idea of foraging for food isn’t practical.  However, Kyle came up with a great idea for urban foraging. During the warm weather months, we all pass homes in our neighborhood (or elsewhere), that have saturated fruit trees that appear to be unattended.  Why not approach these home owners?  Maybe even offer to harvest their crop in exchange for a share.  In addition, plan a swap or share with friends and neighbors that you already know.  To take it one step further, contact a local farm and offer a work for food exchange.  There is free food to be found!

Sustainable Tacoma

February 23rd, 2009

This month The University of Puget Sound has a fantastic line-up of events, lectures focusing on sustainabilty.  On February 21, UPS hosted a sustainability expo. featuring earth friendly community groups, vendors and more.  If you missed the event, I have highlighted some of the participants bellow.  I was reassusring to see that we live among people who are passionate about making possitive changes in the environment.  Whether you are considering volunteering in a community group, making changes on your home front, or becoming more informed of your options, please check out the links bellow.

This was a family outing for us.  While the kids loved having the opportunity to “drive” the city bus and collect tattoos,  it was hard to stop at all of the booths.  I am certain that I missed out on some great information.  Here is a very short list of who was there, please leave a comment or email me with any of the “holes” that you can fill.

People For Puget Sound www.pugetsound.org

We’re a citizens’ group established in 1991 by Kathy Fletcher to protect and restore the health of our land and waters through education and action. Our members, partners and volunteers are located throughout the Puget Sound basin. Our staff works out of offices in SeattleOlympia and Mount Vernon and our board of directors represents the communities we work in. 

Do you live in the South Sound?

Wet Wednesdays and South Sound Saturdays Restoration 

Want to get muddy, work hard and feel good? Dan Grosboll will have you whacking weeds, planting native species and mulching to your heart’s content.  He’ll provide the tools, training and snacks.

  • 10:00am – 3:00pm
  • For details and directions: Dan Grosboll


 Tacoma-Pierce County BUILT GREEN

For a list of members visit www.mbapierce.com/builtgreen

Parent Organization
Master Builders Association of Pierce County

Area Served
Pierce County – unincorporated areas and 23 cities within the County

To work in partnership to create safer, healthier and more efficient homes, reduce impacts of construction and development, and improve and protect the valuable community and natural resources of Tacoma and Pierce County. We will achieve this by:

Using a voluntary, market-driven approach

Delivering a credible standard for home construction that reflects the Master Builders Association’s commitment to building better communities through environmental responsibility

Providing information and education to enhance the capacity of our design and building professionals to employ effective technologies, products, and practices to achieve the standard

Actively promoting the features and benefits of these practices to homebuyers, making BUILT GREEN™ the preferred consumer standard.


E-Cycle Washington is a new program that provides responsible recycling of computers, monitors and TVs in our state. As of January 2009, electronics manufacturers in Washington will take responsibility for recycling these products.

Recycling is provided free of charge to households, small businesses, school districts, small governments and charities at authorized collection sites.

 Tacoma Power


From the fish in the streams to the kids in our schools – environmental stewardship is an important part of what we do at Tacoma Power.

Learn about our:

Formerly Pioneer organics, Spud is an online grocer that focuses on local and organic products.  The website makes it easy to research the food that you are buying and the farms and companies that produce them.  Anything that is produced in the NW is marked “local” and there are links to all of the company web pages.  Though the prices are more then conventional non-organics, I found them to be competitive with Marlene’s and often better the Metropolitan Market.  I just placed my first order and was really excited about the prospect of shopping for the bulk of my groceries online.  Delivery is free on orders over $35 orders. There is, however, a deposit on delivery bins (somewhere around $8, I think).
www.spud.com:  save $25 spread over the first 3 orders by using the promo code Local 9.

November 2008 News

November 12th, 2008

As we quickly approach the winter and all of its festivities it is easy to get carried away in the spirit (and spending) of giving. I hope that we can inspire and support each other in keeping our focus on those things we hold dear and creating less waste as we celebrate with our loved ones. I am in the process of compiling a list of experience and earth friendly gift giving ideas and internet sites. Please pass along any ideas or information that you can share with the group.

Things to check out this month:

If you are looking to get an early start on your Christmas shopping while supporting local artists and a worthy cause check out the following event at Kings Books (www.kingsbookstore.com) this Saturday:


November 15 * 12 – 4 pm. Artist Craft Fair and Fundraiser.

Tacoma is for Lovers presents the Artist Craft Fair with over 20 artist booths! Paintings & drawings, jewelry, letterpress prints, clothes, glass, and collectibles. A raffle and a silent auction further increase your chances to come home with something wicked.. The event is also a fundraiser for former Tacoman Colleen Malone. Part of Art at Work Month.


Omnivore’s Dilemma
by Michael Pollan


In this groundbreaking book, one of America’s most fascinating, original, and elegant writers turns his own omnivorous mind to the seemingly straightforward question of what we should have for dinner. To find out, Pollan follows each of the food chains that sustain us—industrial food, organic or alternative food, and food we forage ourselves—from the source to a final meal, and in the process develops a definitive account of the American way of eating.


Green Mama Jamie and I are eager to discuss this thought provoking book (I still need to read most of it first!). If you are interested in joining the discussion, even if you haven’t read it, I would love to schedule a kidless discussion and the Mandolin in late Novemeber or early December. Details to come….

Greenopia’s Energy Star Virtual House

Visit: www.greenopia.com/USA/resources_energystar.aspx and find suggestions on how to be more energy efficient in each room. Since this is sponsored by Energy Star, some of the recommendations are self-serving, but it is a fun little toy with some nice suggestions.

Healthy Meal Share

I would like to organize an organic and vegetarian “Dinner’s Ready” style cooking session. Everyone would be responsible for bringing one or two ingredients, and a container to bring there meal home in. If things are all measured out before hand, it can be quick and easy enough that we can get the kids involved. I would be happy to host this, however, if someone has a large kitchen that would work well for the event that would be ideal. Please let me know if you are interested.

Online Christmas shopping?

Check out the National Green Pages at

A Vegetarian Halloween

October 29th, 2008

On October 31 as we celebrate Halloween, we also celebrate the last day of world vegetarian month.  If you haven’t given the vegetarian diet a try yet this month, here are some festive recipes to give it a try.  After all, with all of the sweets floating around on the 31st, it wouldn’t hurt to make an effort to prepare some hearty, healthy, meat-free meals for your family.Here are a few idea’s…… Super Easy Pumpkin Soup from about.com

Cook Time: 15 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon margarine
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 16 oz can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable broth
  • 3 cups soy milk
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste


In a large saucepan, cook the onion in the margarine for 3-5 minutes, until onion turns clear. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Cook over medium heat for another 10-15 minutes. Enjoy!   A Little More elaborate (and Vegan Too!) From Vegan Lunch Box “Lunch Box of the DAMNED”



Cue the scary music and ghost sounds, because it’s time for theHalloween Lunch Box! It’s a ghastly Mummy Calzone on a bed of mummy wrappings (torn paper towel), with a bucket of blood(pizza sauce) .Two gruesome shrunken heads (a baked apple with clove eyes) rise up from a swamp of blackberry applesauce, and a little paper pumpkin holds dessert.




I saw this clever calzone in a Halloween recipe booklet at the grocery store. I veganized it by using my recipe for Broccoli Calzones inVegan Lunch Box. I divided the wholegrain pizza dough into five pieces instead of eight, in order to roll out each piece and trim them into triangle shapes. I used a pizza wheel to cut the sides into strips, then filled the center with broccoli and tofu “ricotta”. I rounded the top strip of dough into a head and overlapped the dough strips all the way down to form the mummy body. Bits of black olives are the eyes.For dessert, a little pumpkin filled with candy and confetti is a nice way to make a small amount of candy feel like a very special treat. Just wrap one or two pieces of candy and some Halloween confetti or toys in a circle of orange tissue paper. Twist the top and seal with a bit of green floral tape.