7 Ways Being a Sustainable Eater Can Save You Money

With Earth Day this month and Tax Day less than a week away, many of us surely have both sustainability and budgeting on the brain. Did you know that going green in the kitchen can also save you some green in the long-run? That's right! You can save the planet while saving some cash... oh, and did we mention there's food involved?!

"Going green" with your eating habits can go way beyond that kale salad you ate for lunch today. While it's clear that what you put on your plate has an impact on your wallet, it also has an impact on the environment, whether that be from food miles or food waste. Fortunately, it just so happens that many eco-friendly habits and sustainable practices also save you lots of money, and voting with your fork for a healthier, happier planet often means tastier (and more nutritious!) food for all. Now that's what we call a win-win-win!


1) Cook at Home & Brown Bag It to Work

This doesn't have to mean boring, simple meals, or slaving over the stove for hours as a pile of dirty pots and dishes clutter the sink. We live busy lives, and taking valuable time and energy to create a meal after work every night can feel intimidating and daunting. Don't fret! With proper meal prep habits and some good Quick Fix recipes in your back pocket, getting a homemade dinner on the table can not only save you time, but also make your financial and health goals easier to attain. It's also better for the planet, especially since you'll be cutting down on the amount of takeout containers and plastic silverware you use per week. Committing to a weekly meal prep (between 1-3 hours is all you'll need) is a good place to start; making bulk amounts of brown rice or quinoa, beans, or roasted veggies means your meals can be grab-and-go and nourishing, whether you dine at home or pack in your lunchbox for work.

2) Buy Seasonally & Locally

Resolving to visit your local farmers market on a weekly basis or committing to a monthly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share are great ways to learn and experience new foods and to meet the farmers dedicated to growing them. Acting as stewards of the earth, small-scale farmers grow food without harmful chemicals while exercising water conservation techniques and fostering good soil health. When you put your money directly into the hands of the small-scale, local farmers in your area rather than massive distributors, not only do you support your community and local economy, but also transparency and sustainability. In exchange, you'll receive produce that's grown with love and harvested at the peak of its season, which means it's also at its peak in flavor and nutrition. Furthermore, fruits and veggies that are in season are in abundance, and that means they're more affordable!

3) Go Meatless

Whether you've committed to Meatless Mondays or a completely plant-based, vegan lifestyle , reducing the amount of meat and animal products you consume is not only an act of sustainability for the planet, but also one that will likely save you money while improving your health. Our modern meat industry takes a huge toll on the planet; in fact, over half of all global greenhouse-gas emissions can be attributed to animal agriculture. In terms of your grocery bill, the cost-savings is simple: pound for pound, many fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes cost far less than animal proteins. Making a variety of plant-based foods the foundation of your diet is critical to your health; it ensures that your body gets the proper amount of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and various phytonutrient compounds you need to survive and thrive. Trust, neither you nor your checking account will miss those extra sick days!

4) Ditch the Processed Foods

...or at least try not to make processed foods the staples of your diet. As opposed to whole foods, processed foods are extensively manipulated into something vastly different than the individual parts it's made from, which costs more energy, and are often packaged in materials that end up in landfills or in the environment. Processed food is typically of lower nutritional quality than whole foods, too; they're denser in salt and sugar rather than actual nutrients, which leaves you unsatisfied and prone to overeating, and many ingredient lists reveal artificial colors and preservatives and other questionable materials that are probably no better for the planet than they are for your body. Snacks that are designed to keep you snacking are designed to keep you buying, which is a only slight monetary loss compared to the potential health outcomes of a longterm diet based on chips, soda and the dollar menu. Try a fiber-rich banana or an orange next time - they're yummy, inexpensive, and they come in their own biodegradable wrapper!

Urban Sprouts Farm in Atlanta

5) Grow Your Own Food

You don't need a green thumb to save some green. Start small with a few herbs in the kitchen windowsill - above the sink, if you can, for easy watering - and you've already saved yourself a few bucks by not having to make a trip to the store to buy packaged bunches that you only need a few leaves from. Herbs are extremely low maintenance, and it's always a treat to pluck off some fresh basil to elevate your flatbread or some mint to freshen up your water. Once you're comfortable with that, you may be interested in growing some tomatoes, peppers or other plants in your backyard. It's a small investment in money and time, and you may be surprised at how easy it is to maintain a garden with just a little love will reward you with an abundance of fresh produce to enjoy and share. To keep the savings going full-circle, compost some scraps leftover for next season's soil!

6) Repurpose Your Food Scraps

Think those onion skins, collard stems, and leafy carrot tops have no use past feeding the microbes and insects thriving in your compost bin? There are several ways to revive your spare bits and those vegetal odds and ends, like pickling, grinding them into fresh pesto, and simmering until a rich broth or stock is formed. Infused citrus peels and herb stems into your water make staying hydrated feel extra fancy... though it's worth noting that you can infuse liquor in this way too!

7) Store Your Food Properly

It's no fun finding mushy, smelly foods in your fridge. Neither is food waste. Luckily, it's totally avoidable, and a few general tips to success are to keep your foods organized, buy what only you need, and be mindful of what you should cook first or stash in the freezer for later. In the fridge, dairy stays the top shelf towards the back of the fridge because that's where the temperature is most constant, meat and fish live the bottom shelf (or in the freezer if you're not planning on cooking within a few days), and eggs stay freshest on the middle shelf - not the nifty egg compartment in the fridge door. Produce varies, but do your research as to which should live in the crisper drawer and which are fine to leave on the counter. Not only will you save money on your grocery bill, but you also won't have to take out the trash so often!