Sustainable, Organic Food on a Budget: 7 Ways to Save Money
by Eden Canon
How to save money in the kitchen that you can use towards buying clean, sustainably produced foods.
On our Ethical Foods on a Budget page we list numerous ways in which you can lower your grocery bill. Often, however, it isn’t very easy to get around the expense of buying sustainably produced foods. For instance I am an omnivore and although I have greatly reduced my consumption of meat by supplementing my diet with other nutritious, high protein foods, well, sometimes I just have a craving for a local, grass fed steak. By following these seven tips I have been able to reduce my expenses in other areas of my life, allowing me not only to lead a more sustainable lifestyle but also to put the money I have saved towards eating ethically.
1. Switch to non-toxic cleaners
Why is it that we have a specific cleaner for every little thing in our house? When I walk down the cleaning isle at the market I see cleaners for my toilet bowl, stainless steel sink, hardwood floors, windows, dishes, dishwasher, bath tub and so on, all of which are laden with hazardous chemicals.
What if cleaning your house is so simple that all you need are four essential, inexpensive ingredients that are neither harmful to your family nor the environment? I am here to tell you that it is.
What you will need:
- Baking soda
- White vinegar
- Liquid castile soap such as Dr. Bronner’s
To find out how easy it is to clean your house using these ingredients read our article on creating your own non-toxic cleaners.
2. Put an end to waste
When you consider how much you spend on food, take into account how much money you throw away. Three fundamental rules for wasting less are buy what you need, store it properly, and find innovative ways to use what you don’t eat.
Planning meals ahead of time allows you to shop accordingly. For instance, if you are going to buy something bulky such as a whole head of cabbage, cauliflower, or a watermelon think of several different ways in which you can use it.
Properly store your food. This is imperative when dealing with highly perishable goods such as leafy greens, herbs, dairy, fruit and meat. If you aren’t going to use an ingredient for today’s meals or the next, you better be prepared to store it in a way in which it will keep.
Get creative! Learn to incorporate left overs into your next meal. Made too much rice? How about adding some vegetables and an egg to make fried rice? Store usable trimmings from vegetables or meat in the freezer to make a veggie or meat stock later once you have accumulated enough. Learn to preserve, pickle, or even freeze foods that you can use later.
3. Invest in reusable storage containers and kitchen supplies
Purchasing reusable storage containers and kitchen supplies require some initial investment but will save you money in the long run. These containers will be essential to storing your food properly. You can start with the basic glass jars, stainless steel containers, and even sturdy linen towels (great for storing leafy greens!), all of which are fairly inexpensive, and perhaps eventually move on to silicone zip lock bags. Also, you can bring these to the store to fill with goods that are less expensive to buy from the bulk section, such as olive oil, rice, flour, honey, etc.
Why would you buy paper towels ever again?
Washable towels, sponges and cloths have eradicated my need for paper towels. Admittedly, at first this was weird. I was used to wiping something up and then throwing it away, not washing and reusing. But post-consumer recycled paper towels aren’t cheap and rarely ever found in bulk. A change in mindset can save you so much in the long run.
Items such as these can be used in your kitchen for a long time so that you are not constantly shelling out money to replenish your store of plastic wrap, sandwich bags or paper towels.
4. Recycle and compost
Diligently recycling and composting benefit your wallet in at least two ways. By adhering to these simple forms of waste disposal you will cut down the expense of buying trash bags which can be especially pricey when you are buying eco-friendly trash bags. The second way this can benefit you financially is if you have the space outside to make your own compost. Whether your compost is put to use by growing your own food or growing flowers in your garden, your kitchen waste will turn into a rich fertilizer. Which brings me to our next tip.
5. Grow your own food
Buying organic seeds can add up, particularly when it comes to heirloom variety fruits and vegetables. But consider the long term gain on your investment. The seeds that you have bought replenish themselves. Simply look into the proper methods of harvesting seeds from this season’s crop and you will never have to buy seeds again! Combine this seed harvesting with cultivating your own fertilizer from compost and you have established your own source of organic, sustainably produced food.
6. Discover other proteins
As I’ve mentioned, sustainably raised meat and animal products are expensive. But they aren’t the only source of nutrients and protein. Try supplementing your diet with nuts, grains, seeds and beans which, when you sprout at home, are less expensive and filled with vitamins, fiber and nutrients.
Find out what kind of health benefits sprouts have in store for you and how easy it is to sprout at home.
7. Reusable lunch containers and bottles
Eating out is pricey and more often than not, not the healthiest choice. You don’t know what kind of cooking oil they are using in the kitchen, how their produce or meat was produced, or how much salt or sugar is tossed into your dish. Buying reusable lunch and beverage containers may not be the cheapest thing at first but if you commit to filling them with healthy home cooked food and drinks, in the end both your pocket book and your body will be thanking you. For coffee and tea lovers such as myself, consider your cafe bill alone. One well insulated Thermos later and you have already greatly reduced a daily expenditure by making your own cuppa at home.
All of these small lifestyle changes make a difference both financially and physically. Saving money here or there means that we have more money to spend on high quality food. To some, these tips may seem daunting. However, it is important to realize that we have grown up in a culture that promotes throwing things away but this wasn’t always so. Our parents, grandparents or great-grandparents never used paper towels, they used cloth; they used reusable containers and made their own necessities. What these changes call for is to adopt a new mindset. A lot of what we buy is just out of habit and we don’t ever question it. And that can be expensive.
The America’s Test Kitchen DIY Cookbook
Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces
Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too