Eating sustainably while saving: 10 tips

You don’t have to live off the grid or lobby Congress for green initiatives to take care of the Earth. In fact, sustainable initiatives can start in a surprisingly simple place: on your plate.

Sustainable food can reduce your carbon footprint, save valuable resources and support more ethical food systems.

Plus, it can even save you money. Contrary to what you might believe about buying all organic ingredients, expensive vegan products, or only grass-fed meats, eco-friendly eating doesn’t have to drain your bank account. .

Here are 10 ways to eat green and save green too.

Share on Pinterest
Blue Collectors/Stocksy United,Photo,Grocery,Nutrition,Stocksy,Healthy Food

The local food movement is booming in the United States as people become interested in supporting the local economy, getting to know farmers, and trying regional foods.

Food grown near you takes less transportation to get to you, reducing emissions and the use of fossil fuels. In turn, this reduces costs.

Plus, the more you invest in local food, the more likely you’ll find yourself exploring new flavors and exciting new foods. For example, you can cook with nopales or bake with mesquite flour if you’re in the southwest or try puppets if you’re in the northwest.

If you’ve ever tasted a perfectly ripe strawberry in June or a crisp stalk of asparagus in April, you’ve tasted the delicious rewards of seasonal eating.

Foods harvested in season tend to be at their peak of ripeness and taste – and sometimes they’re even richer in nutrients. For example, one study found that broccoli grown in season was higher in vitamin C than broccoli grown out of season (1).

Foods that are in season also tend to be less expensive than those purchased out of season. (When a farm or food retailer has a bountiful crop on hand, they often price it down to get it into consumers’ hands before it spoils.)

Grab a cartload of fresh corn in the summer or a crate of oranges in the winter and you’ll likely pay bargain prices rather than the hefty amounts you’ll shell out out of season.

From an environmental perspective, seasonal food supports the natural growth cycles of food (2).

To grow crops year-round – as required by the industrial food system – food producers sometimes have to use more inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides or water, thus consuming additional resources. (Using gas or electricity to create heat to grow fresh herbs is one example.)

Eating seasonal also goes hand in hand with eating local. When nearby crops are harvested through their natural cycles, it takes them less time — and therefore fewer resources — to get to your plate.

Meal planning can help you follow a healthier diet by giving you control over exactly what you eat and allowing you to make intentional, nutritious food choices that align with your health goals.

Creating a detailed list of what you need at the store helps keep food spending on track, preventing impulse purchases.

Plus, when you plan your groceries, you waste less food.

Food waste has major effects on the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, one-third of the food produced in the United States is never consumed, and food waste is the most common item in landfills (3).

Since minimizing wasted food is a great way to help the planet, it’s better to save — and eat — your leftovers than throw them away. If you’re not sure how long leftovers stay good, check out this article.

In addition to reducing food waste, eating leftovers saves you spending on takeout or new groceries you don’t really need.

If you don’t like leftovers, try creative approaches like reusing some leftover meat as a pizza topping, adding extra fruits and vegetables to a salad, or adding extra pasta or rice to a soup.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) allows farms to sell their surplus seasonal produce directly to their community. For a small fee, you can pick up a box – usually filled with a cornucopia of seasonal local produce – at a specified drop-off point.

CSAs reduce food waste from farms by putting their fruits and vegetables directly into your hands without the need for transport or storage.

Plus, they’re often competitively priced — some CSAs start at around $10 per box — and offer delicious fruits and vegetables like turnips, chayote squash, and unique melon varieties.

To find a CSA near you, visit Local Harvest.

If you’ve decided to join a CSA (or stock up on seasonal foods in some other way), your next step will likely be figuring out how to keep your produce from spoiling. After all, most of us can’t use bunches of grapes or a palette of squash in a few days.

Luckily, you don’t have to be a homesteader to try your hand at food preservation. Freezing, canning, and drying are all easy and accessible ways to preserve food at home.

Freezing is the easiest method, and many foods freeze well (although it’s best to do your research before putting any item in the freezer). Canning and drying takes a little more effort, but can help you keep food on hand for weeks or even months.

The bulk aisle of your local grocery store doesn’t just exist for its colorful visual of Willy Wonka-style food dispensers. It’s also a treasure trove of cost savings and environmental benefits.

Buying dry goods in bulk often cuts costs significantly, especially when it comes to more expensive items like nuts, dried fruits, or specialty flours. Plus, when you get the exact amount you need (rather than the amount in a package), you’re less likely to waste food.

Buying in bulk can also reduce plastic usage. You can bring your own clean, reusable food-grade bags so you don’t have to use plastic bags every time.

Choosing more plant foods than animal foods can save you money, help the environment, and improve your health.

Indeed, animal products contribute to excess greenhouse gases, water consumption and land degradation (4, 56).

Plant-based proteins such as beans, lentils, and tofu often cost less than half the price of meat, ounce for ounce. For example, the average price for dry beans in February 2022 was $1.55 per pound, while the average price for ground beef was $4.63 per pound (7).

Of course, that’s not true of all vegetarian options — nut milks tend to cost a lot more than cow’s milk, for example — but, when done right, replacing plants with of animal origin can help reduce expenses.

During World Wars I and II, the Victory Garden initiative encouraged people to grow their own food to cut costs and relieve pressure on the industrial food system. Nowadays, planting a garden can still provide these benefits (8).

Depending on how much food you grow, the fruits of your labor can supplement your meals at minimal cost.

Meanwhile, the food doesn’t get much more local (or seasonal) than when it’s grown in your own backyard.

Not surprisingly, one study found that home gardening can significantly reduce a household’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, if you compost food scraps for your garden, you’ll send less waste to the landfill (9).

Although gardening can be time-consuming, you should also consider it a method of stress relief. One study found that going into the garden just twice a week boosted people’s feelings of health and well-being while reducing feelings of stress (10).

Ultra-processed foods have gone through several industrial processes and typically contain many added flavors, sugars, fats, and chemical preservatives. Examples include cheese-flavored corn chips, snack bars, and artificially flavored cereals.

Diets high in these foods are linked to many health problems, such as obesity, diabetes and certain cancers (11, 12).

Additionally, ultra-processed foods harm the environment because their many ingredients mean that their overall carbon footprint is quite large (13).

Therefore, it’s a good idea to replace them with nutritious whole foods whenever possible. It might even save you money, as some snacks, like apples or cheese, are often cheaper than a bag of chips or candy.

Doing your bit for the planet doesn’t have to start big. Even a few small changes, like occasionally choosing plant-based protein instead of meat or buying staple foods in bulk, can put you on the path to significant environmental impact.

You may even find that green choices save money. Getting fresh produce from a CSA or your own vegetable garden is often cheaper than stocking up at the grocery store. When you go to the store, seasonal products are usually at low prices.

Try these dietary tweaks for a pro-planet, pro-budget lifestyle and see if they inspire you to expand your environmental efforts.

Comments are closed.