It’s no secret that following a healthy diet and eating sustainably can be expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of simple and cost-effective ways to save money on food that are also kinder to the environment
In this article, we’ll look at 12 tips to help you eat sustainably on a budget. From shopping more smartly to meal prepping, each tip will help you reduce food waste, support your local economy, and save money. Let’s get started.
1. Shop at local farmers’ markets
Farmer’s markets are a great resource to access local and seasonal produce that is often much fresher and higher quality than what you can find at your local grocery store.
Most farmers’ markets also tend to offer more organic options and their prices are usually quite reasonable, helping to save you money compared to buying the same items from a grocery store. Many times, farmers will give discounts for buying in bulk or if you buy multiple things from them. This is an excellent way to get more bang while still enjoying quality produce.
Additionally, many small-scale vendors sell value-added products like jams, sauces, and baked goods that you won’t find in a grocery store. This can be a great way to add variety to your meals at an affordable price.
Farmer’s markets are also an excellent opportunity to get to know the people behind the food you eat. You can ask questions about how they grow their produce and even get tips on preparing it, all while supporting local farmers and sustainable agriculture practices.
Finally, shopping at farmer’s markets is an excellent way to reduce your environmental impact by cutting out transportation costs associated with buying groceries from faraway places and reducing packaging waste. Shopping locally reduces carbon emissions associated with shipping goods across long distances while bringing your bags and produce containers to the market cuts down on single-use packaging.
Overall, shopping at a farmer’s market is an excellent way to eat sustainably on a budget. You’ll get access to fresher, healthier food that supports local farmers and reduces your environmental impact – all while saving money. So next time you’re looking for sustainable meals, head to your nearest farmer’s market and see what treasures you can find.
2. Eat seasonally
Eating sustainably on a budget doesn’t mean giving up your favorite fruits and vegetables. Shopping in season is one of the best ways to get fresh produce at an affordable cost and experience new flavors. Knowing what grows each season can help you maximize your budget and reduce waste. Seasonal produce tends to be more plentiful, costing less than off-season items shipped from faraway locations.
Not only does shopping for seasonal produce minimize costs, but it also supports local farmers and minimizes your carbon footprint due to fewer transportation costs. Additionally, seasonal produce tastes better since it has had longer to ripen on the vine or tree compared to its out-of-season counterpart.
So next time you’re grocery shopping, check out what’s in season and incorporate those items into your weekly meal plan. Your wallet and taste buds will thank you.
3. Try vegetarian meals
Eating a vegetarian diet can be a sustainable and budget-friendly option, as plant-based foods are generally less expensive than animal-based products. Additionally, plant-based diets are often more environmentally sustainable because they require fewer natural resources and have a lower carbon footprint. For example, the production of meat and other animal products requires large amounts of land, water, and energy, whereas the production of plant-based foods has a lower environmental impact.
However, it’s important to note that vegetarian diets are not created equal. Some plant-based foods, such as processed vegetarian meals or those that are imported from far away, may be less sustainable or more expensive than locally-grown, whole plant foods. So, if you are considering a vegetarian diet as a way to eat sustainably on a budget, it may be helpful to focus on whole, unprocessed plant foods that are grown locally and in season. This can help you reduce your diet’s environmental impact, as well as food costs.
4. Grow your own fruits and vegetables
Growing your own food can be a sustainable and budget-friendly way to eat, as it allows you to have control over the types of food you produce and how they are grown. Homegrown fruits and vegetables are often fresher and more flavorful than those purchased from a store, and they can be grown using sustainable practices such as composting and water conservation. Additionally, growing your own food can save you money on your grocery bill, as you will not have to pay for the cost of transporting the food from a farm or distributor.
However, it’s important to note that growing your own food can be time-consuming and may require a significant investment in resources such as seeds, soil, and equipment. Additionally, depending on where you live and the climate, it may not be possible to grow certain types of food. If you do decide to grow your own food, it can be helpful to start small (think herbs and veggies) and gradually expand your garden as you become more experienced. This can help to reduce the workload and costs involved in maintaining a garden.
Once you’re comfortable with basic gardening, you can start experimenting with more ambitious projects like aquaponics or mushroom farming.
5. Plan your meals
Meal planning is one of the most effective ways to save money and eat sustainably on a budget. Planning meals ahead of time enable you to purchase ingredients in bulk or on sale, creating the opportunity to reduce food waste and save money. Additionally, meal planning helps ensure that your meals are balanced and nutritious two essential elements for living sustainably.
Creating a meal plan can be daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. The first step is to create a list of all the meals you enjoy eating that are both nutritious and affordable. This could include veggie stir-fry, beans and rice bowls, lentil soup, etc. Once you have created this list, consider how often each dish can be rotated into a meal plan. You should focus on eating meals from this list at least 3-4 times per week.
Create a weekly meal plan with your meal list that includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner options for each day of the week. Be sure to include vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes in your meal plan and snacks if you feel inclined. It’ also helpful to add budget information next to each item, indicating how much each dish will cost to stay within your budget.
When shopping, buy local produce whenever possible and look for items with minimal packaging. Additionally, consider purchasing bulk items such as beans or grains instead of pre-packaged items. This will enable you to reduce waste and save money in the long run.
Creating a meal plan is one of the best ways to eat sustainably on a budget. With a bit of creativity, you’ll be able to enjoy delicious meals while staying within your budget and reducing food waste.
6. Buy in bulk
Buying food in larger quantities can be a great way to save money and eat sustainably on a budget. Bulk buying is becoming increasingly popular as it reduces the amount of packaging used while still allowing you to purchase enough food to last an extended period. It’s easy to find bulk sections at most grocery stores nowadays, where you can buy large amounts of grains, nuts, dried fruit, and more.
Buying in bulk also allows you to experiment with different recipes that require various ingredients – saving both time and money. Try stocking up on staples like oats or quinoa for an affordable source of sustainable nutrition. You can even buy items such as beans or lentils in the bulk section, which are inexpensive, extremely healthy, and packed with plant-based protein.
Another way to buy in bulk is by joining a food co-op. Food co-ops are communal stores where members can collectively purchase organic produce at wholesale prices, reducing individual costs significantly. Being part of a food co-op allows you to find local and seasonal products cheaper than what you would find at your regular grocery store. And since many of these items are grown organically and ethically, you’ll support sustainable agriculture while still sticking to your budget.
7. Avoid pre-packaged foods
Avoiding pre-packaged foods is one of the best ways to eat sustainbly on a budget since these types of foods often have a higher environmental impact and cost more than whole, unprocessed foods. Packaging materials such as plastic, paper, and metal can generate a large amount of waste and contribute to environmental pollution. In addition, the production and transportation of pre-packaged foods often requires more energy and resources than the production of whole, unprocessed foods.
Furthermore, pre-packaged foods tend to be more expensive than whole foods due to the added cost of packaging and processing. By avoiding these types of foods and opting for whole, unprocessed foods instead, you can save money on your grocery bill and reduce your environmental impact.
But pre-packaged foods come in different forms–some better than others. Pre-packaged foods, such as frozen fruits and vegetables, can be more convenient and have a longer shelf life than fresh produce, which can be beneficial for people with busy schedules. Additionally, some pre-packaged foods, such as those that are packaged in environmentally-friendly materials or those that are locally-produced, may be more sustainable than others. It can be helpful to pay attention to the packaging and sourcing of pre-packaged foods and choose those that align with your sustainability and budget goals.
8. Buy frozen produce
Frozen produce can be a great option if you want to eat sustainably on a budget. Frozen fruits and vegetables are often picked at their peak ripeness and flash-frozen within hours of harvest, locking in maximum nutritional value.
In comparison to fresh produce, frozen produce is usually cheaper as it has already been processed, which saves both time and money. Furthermore, frozen produce is less likely to spoil before you can use it, thereby reducing food waste.
When buying frozen fruits and vegetables, it’s essential to check the label for added ingredients like sugar or salt. It’s best to opt for products with just one ingredient—the fruit or vegetable. And while we’re on frozen produce, pre-packaged items (pretty sure you know why by now).
Eating sustainably on a budget is possible, and buying frozen produce can help. Whether looking for affordable fruits and vegetables or just trying to reduce food waste, shopping for frozen produce can be an excellent option.
9. Cook from scratch, at home
Cooking from scratch is not only cheaper than buying pre-packaged, processed foods, but it’s also more nutritious and environmentally friendly (although a lot of pre-packaged products are convenient, they often contain high amounts of sodium and other unhealthy additives). For example, you can reduce your carbon foodprint by forgoing the packaging and processing.
When cooking at home, remember your leftovers.
Anyone for a black bean burger? Black beans are a great source of protein and are very inexpensive. You can also freeze them for later use. Simply combine them with breadcrumbs, an egg, and your favorite spices, shape them into patties, and cook until crispy. A veggie stir fry is another simple, low-cost recipe that makes use of leftover vegetables in your fridge. Simply save the scraps from your vegetables and place them in a freezer bag. When you’ve collected enough, toss them in a pan with some oil and your favorite seasonings.
This is not to say that you can’t go out sometimes, but let’s face it, eating out can be pretty expensive. Cooking at home regularly is a great way to save money and enjoy some healthy, wholesome, nutritious food.
10. Join a CSA
(Community Supported Agriculture) program to buy produce directly from farmers and eat sustainably on a budget. CSA programs are designed so that members purchase shares of the crops harvested at a farm and, in return, receive a weekly box filled with fresh seasonal fruits, vegetables, and herbs when available.
This gives you more control over your grocery budget since you know exactly how much product you will get each month or season. It also allows you to support local farmers and build relationships with them, which can benefit both parties. Many CSAs offer additional products such as eggs, dairy, meat, flowers, and honey. Additionally, some farms offer discount prices for members who pay upfront for an entire season’s worth of produce instead of paying month-by-month.
Before joining a CSA, research and read through the program details to know what product will be available throughout the season and how much it will cost. It’s also important to understand that many CSAs have limited availability and can fill up quickly, so sign up as early as possible if you want to join.
Eating sustainably on a budget can be challenging, but joining a CSA is one way you can help support local farmers and get access to fresh produce for an affordable price. With careful planning, you can ensure that your produce box stays within your budget while still eating healthily and sustainably.
11. Process food
Preserving food can be a sustainable and budget-friendly way to eat for several reasons:
- It allows you to make the most of seasonal produce and reduce food waste
- You can extend its shelf life and enjoy it at a later time, which can save you money on your grocery bill
There are several methods of preserving food, including freezing, canning, drying, and pickling. Each method has its own benefits and drawbacks, and the best method will depend on the type of food you are preserving and your personal preferences. However, it’s important to follow proper food safety guidelines when preserving food to ensure that it is safe to eat.
12. Bring your own bags when you go grocery shopping
Finally, here’s a quick question: What is the cost of the shopping bags you get in-store?
BYOB (bring your own bag) is one habit that can save you a lot of money in the long run.
13. Avoid grocery shopping when hungry
Okay, so this may seem a bit odd, but hear us out: there is science behind this.
Shopping when you’re hungry leads to impulse purchases and over-purchasing, which can lead to food waste. And we’re all aware of how unsustainable food waste is.
Eat sustainably on a budget: Why saving money is important
Saving money on food is crucial. Not only does it help you stay within your budget, but it’s also a great way to reduce your environmental impact.
Think about it: food is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it’s responsible for nearly a third of all human-caused emissions. So, anything you do to reduce the amount of food you waste can make a big difference.
Want to learn more about sustainable living? Check out this information-packed guide to living more sustainably.