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Tread lightly

How to save on groceries and help the planet

It may not be easy to be green, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Whether you’re motivated to save the planet, or you want to save some cash, I’ve pulled together a list of things that can help you save money and lower your environmental impact.

It may not be easy to be green, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Whether you’re motivated to save the planet, or you want to save some cash, I’ve pulled together a list of things that can help you save money on groceries and lower your environmental impact. 

Focus on food

Around 20% to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food production. When it comes to your environmental impact, food matters. 

1. Only buy what you need

Making comparisons on a product by product basis, the more sustainable option is nearly always the more expensive. It’s more helpful to look at your shopping cart as a whole and your approach to shopping, cooking and eating. By making a few simple tweaks, you can reduce your impact and save money. 

For those of us fortunate enough to have the basics in life covered, it’s easy to over buy food. Food shopping becomes a bit of guilt-free over-indulgence, justified on that basis that food is essential – a “need” rather than a “want”. You might be surprised at just how much you can go without. I sure was. I undertook a $21 challenge, drastically reducing my grocery shopping for a week. It highlighted to me just how much more than I really needed I bought each time I shopped. To help rein it in, I make a meal plan and shop from a list. Changing my ways led to ongoing savings of at least $20 per week. These days, rather than buying more, I spend the same to buy better. 

2. Eat all you buy

Households waste a stunning amount of food. None of us want to waste food, but most of us do. Start by keeping a food waste diary to identify your trouble spots. I’ve been doing this for over five years and it really helps. I share my diary on Facebook and Instagram, along with food waste reduction tips. Love Food Hate Waste has fantastic information about how to store your food so it lasts longer as well as ideas and recipes for using up foods we commonly waste. 

The great thing about focusing on food waste is that no one is likely to call you a crazy hippie for not wanting to waste food. This is an easy one to get the rest of the household on board with (at least in principle).

3. Make meat a treat

Meat and animal products tend to have the highest environmental impact of all foods, they’re also not cheap – especially the organic and higher welfare varieties. 

While I’ve been vegetarian for almost 20 years, my son and husband are not. In our house, eating meat isn’t demonised, it’s something that is wholeheartedly enjoyed, just occasionally. 

Avoid highly processed and packaged meat substitutes and instead embrace inexpensive, nutrient dense whole foods like lentils, beans and chickpeas. These ingredients can be a bit intimidating to start with, but they’re actually easy to use and the cleanup is generally less work than when cooking with meat.

For some easy vegan recipes to get you started exploring new ingredients try:

If you want meatless versions of family classics try:

If you’re after more recipe inspiration I have a pinboard with all our family favourites

It may not be easy to be green, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Whether you’re motivated to save the planet, or you want to save some cash, I’ve pulled together a list of things that can help you save money and lower your environmental impact.

What are your favourite vegetarian recipes? Please share, as I’m always after something new to try. 

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