"Fine," I mutter as I get off the phone. "Pick any two: fast, cheap, or good."
It is a fact of small business life that the entrepreneur must enforce these hard choices with the client; a successful business owner typically must keep a full queue of work just to survive, and those clients who would like a rush job or some extra attention given their project must be willing to pay for the late nights and the need to turn down other potential projects. And until someone is able to fix that pesky "24 hours in a day" thing, entrepreneurs will need to make smart decisions about how they sell their time and service.
However, I think things are a bit different when the topic switches to sustainable living. I'm not the first to break the news that the U.S. economy is in a mess, and more of us are recognizing the need to make changes in how we run our homes that increase our independence, decrease our need to rely on outside sources (whether that be business or government), and respect local providers as well as our planet. We want to do these things for our health, for our pocketbook, and because they just feel good.
But, see the time problem above. None of us has unlimited time, and a program of sustainability in which we have to quit our jobs, master complicated techniques, or give up the pleasures of life is, well, unsustainable.
Hence, "Fast, Cheap, and Good."
In the weeks that follow, I will be detailing the steps you can take to save money and time in your housekeeping endeavors -- shopping, cooking, food provision, cleaning, sewing, and the like -- all with the following goals in mind. Tips must be:
Fast: If a project takes up an entire day, you are unlikely to undertake it more than occasionally. Therefore, most of these tips will be quick to institute and complete, with little start-up effort involved. For projects that actually do eat up some time, most of that time will allow for multitasking. (Think bread baking; it takes a couple of hours, but you don't actually have to stand there and watch the stuff rise.)
Cheap: At no time will I be asking you to run to the store for caviar and foie gras to complete a recipe or project. These projects will help your budget, either immediately or in the long run. The results of these projects should either cost less than the store-bought versions, or ultimately result in savings for you, your family, or your community and environment.
Good: Good is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but these projects are intended to improve your life, not diminish it. No cardboard cuisine or sloppy rags masquerading as frugal clothing. Each project should be tasty, attractive, or of better quality than a mass-produced version, and each should increase enjoyment and/or health for you and your family and be responsible for your community and environment.
I'll try to make an honest assessment of each project along these lines and see how close I can get to helping you make your life "fast, cheap, and good." I appreciate your assessment and feedback too!
Let's get started; we'll make it a fast, cheap, and good New Year!