5 Ways Going Green Can Help You Stay on Budget

Photo: Yuri Arcurs
Environmentally conscious grocery shopping can actually help you SAVE money - here's how!

Adopting an eco-friendly approach to living is something more and more of us are aspiring to do, but the common misconception that going green requires throwing down extra cash might have — up until this point, anyway — kept you from truly making sustainable lifestyle changes. But what if we told you that making the switch over to the greener side could actually save you a few bucks every month (with better health thrown in to boot)? This is not a drill. All you have to do are follow a few of the eco tips below.

Buy local.

Farmers' markets are your friends. Beyond boosting the local economy and bonding with your fellow farmer (which is totally rad – when else do you actually get the opportunity to ask how your food was grown), skipping the checkout line and heading straight to the source is a great way to save a bit of that hard-earned paycheck.

A recent study by the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets compared the prices of produce sold at farmers' markets and those sold in retail stores and found that “the majority of the time, the farmers' market was comparable or competitive [that is, within a 10% range] with retail prices — [prices were] equal to or less than at the grocery store, especially organic products," Elanor Starmer, the administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service told Food52.

While you won't always be able to find everything on your shopping list, it's a great place to scoop up perishable items. Taking the farmers' market route is also a great way to expand your culinary repertoire and eat seasonally — you'll likely find produce you've never heard of and you certainly won't be seeing things like strawberries in the dead of winter. And while organics are awesome, don't totally rule out those without the organic designation — lack of a label doesn't necessarily mean they don't employ sustainable practices.

Quick tip: If you're looking to save as much as possible, hit up the market towards closing time when many vendors are looking to unload as much of their merchandise as possible and often offer deals. Don't forget to bring your own produce and shopping bags!

Buy in bulk.

It's a bit of a no-brainer, but most of us don't do it: buy in bulk. And no, we're not talking about bringing home the family size box of Lucky Charms or a jumbo pack of toilet paper. Dry ingredients like nuts, beans, tea, spices, flour and even almond butter can all be purchased in bulk — and by bulk we mean you can purchase as much or as little as you need — no boxes, plastic packaging or paper necessary. Purchasing non-perishable (or less perishable) items this way can save you upwards of 30% of what you'd pay if you bought them the traditional way. The next time you need to go grocery shopping, check out what on your list can be purchased in bulk, then head to the supermarket or a local health food store with your own bags or jars. It's that simple.

Send food waste packin' with proper storage and prep.

We're all guilty of wasting food from time to time (Americans on average throw out 40% of their food every year — eek) especially in the produce department. But it's nothing a bit of planning and proper storage can't fix. When you take food home, take the time to prep it before putting it away. While we wouldn't advise washing the majority of your fruit and veg before refrigeration (unless you allow ample time to dry, it can speed up decay), we would recommend chopping up and portioning your perishables — you'll be more likely to reach for them if they're already ready and raring to go.

Quick tip: Glass storage containers with tight lids won't just maintain freshness longer, they'll also allow you to see what is taking up residence in your refrigerator (and the state it's in).

Get in touch with your inner Ina Garten.

Cooking your meals at home — both lunch and dinner — isn't just healthier (you have more control over what and how much is on your plate), it's better for your wallet and the planet (sayonara to-go containers). If you take the time to prep your food, as noted above, putting together a killer lunch or dinner should be easy breezy. And potentially save you over $100 a month depending on how often you eat out.

Make Meatless Mondays an actual thing.

We're not going to tell you to adopt a vegan lifestyle or totally nix meat from the equation, but incorporating a few more vegetarian meals into your weekly routine will help up your intake of good-for-you ingredients (unless you jump on the mac 'n' cheese bandwagon). The production of meat also uses more resources than produce, which is why climate scientists recommend plant-based diets. Meat, poultry and fish can also be pricey and reducing the amount you buy every week will likely lower your grocery bill.