Having a sustainable approach to food could help you save money, live healthier and help the environment in the long run. It doesn’t have to be complicated – often a small change in your routine is enough to make a difference. From how you shop to what you eat, here are some sustainable, money saving food tips to get you started.
Tips for saving money on food
- Make your own food
- Change the way you cook
- Buy in bulk
- Buy in season
- Make your food last longer
- Embrace frozen foods
- Plan ahead to reduce food waste
- Use money saving apps for food
- Change what you eat
1. Make your own food
Making your own food can be cheaper and healthier than buying a ready meal. There might environmental benefits too, like avoiding packaging that could end up in landfills. You also have the option to choose items that don’t contain ingredients known to have negative environmental impacts, such as palm oil.
2. Change the way you cook
Batch cooking and freezing in portions can be time and cost-effective. And if you use a microwave to reheat your pre-prepared meal, it could be more energy efficient than using a hob or the oven.
With a portioned meal ready to heat up, you might also be less tempted to order a costly takeaway or grab an off-the-shelf product from the supermarket when you’re short of time or are feeling too tired to cook. At the end of 2021, the average weekly household spend on takeaway meals was £5.30.1 This is likely to have changed due to inflation, but cutting down to just one a month in favour of home-cooking could save you £212 a year.1
3. Buy in bulk
Buying things in bulk could save you money as items usually work out cheaper per gram or per litre. At time of writing, a supermarket search online for penne pasta shows a 500g bag that costs 95p would be £1.90 per kg, while purchasing a 3kg bag for £4 – even though it costs more upfront – is only £1.33 per kg.2
Bulk buying could also help the environment in a small way, as it can mean less packaging waste than smaller individual packages. Zero-waste and packaging-free food shops are available in many cities, giving you an option to bulk-buy goods like pasta, pulses and more – completely package-free.
4. Buy in season
Fresh ingredients are often cheaper when they’re in season. Eating with the seasons means you can buy more local produce, potentially reducing your carbon footprint rather than buying products shipped halfway across the world.
5. Make your food last longer
It’s often possible to extend the shelf life of your fruit and vegetables by storing them properly and thereby reducing food waste. The best way to do this would depend on the type of produce. For herbs for example, you can usually keep them fresh by keeping them in airtight containers, or you can even freeze them. Potatoes can be stored for months if you keep them somewhere cool and dry. Even delicate lettuce could benefit – simply wash them, shake off the excess water and store them in a plastic container or bag with a damp paper towel at the bottom to keep them crisp.
6. Embrace frozen foods
Frozen ingredients are often much cheaper per gram than fresh ones, without losing any of the nutritional value. This is because they’re almost always frozen as soon as they’re picked. Commercial flash freezing means there’s significantly less food waste, as products aren’t going off while they’re waiting to be shipped.
By freezing immediately, frozen food suppliers can use less carbon intensive methods of transport to ship their goods. For example, using cargo ships instead of planes, which emit less carbon emissions.
7. Plan ahead to reduce food waste
You could save up to £437 a year by reducing their food waste.3 Meal planning can be a good way to achieve this. By knowing what you’re going to cook ahead of time, you can shop for the right amount of ingredients you need and not lose money by buying unnecessary items or throwing away food you haven’t used. To that end, doing a stock check before you shop could help cut down on unnecessary purchases.
8. Use money saving apps for food
Using apps such as Too Good To Go and OLIO could also help your bank balance while saving food from landfill. Too Good To Go allows retailers such as supermarkets, cafes and restaurants to package up food that would otherwise go to waste and sell it at a discount. OLIO, meanwhile, allows people to share surplus food from their own cupboards, whether it’s a surplus of vegetables or extra bread. You can use it to request free food from other people or use it to list any food that is nearing its sell by date too.
9. Change what you eat
When cooking at home, processed meat such as bacon and sausages can add significant cost to our budget – and to our carbon footprint. Processed meats cost households an average of £416 a year (compared with £260 on vegetables). 1 So, even going meat-free once a week could make a difference to your bank balance. Going fully meat-free could save you even more – an Oxford study found that in high-income countries like the UK, a fully vegan diet reduced food costs up to one-third, with vegetarian diets a close second.4
Meat and dairy production also emit significantly more greenhouse gases such as methane, compared to vegetables. Producing just one quarter-pound beef burger uses enough energy to power an iPhone for 6 months and enough water to fill 10 bathtubs.5 Swapping out that burger for a meat-free option one day a week could save the equivalent emissions of driving 348 miles in a car.5
Lifestyle changes can save you money and help the environment
Sometimes a small change in lifestyle choices is all it takes to make significant savings to our finances over time. The changes we make could also have a bigger collective impact on the environment, and so it’s important we all play our part towards shaping a more sustainable future.
Outside of food choices, there are other steps you could consider to reduce your environmental impact. From recycling more and using your car less – to exploring how your pension and other savings could make a positive environmental influence.
All figures included throughout this article are correct at time of publication.