“Going green” with your eating habits goes 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 the number of miles your food traveled to get to you or food waste.
Fortunately, many eco-friendly habits and sustainable practices also save you money as well.
Ditch the Processed 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.
They are also designed to keep you snacking…keep you buying. Next time swap in a piece of fruit for those processed chips when you’re ready for a snack.
Old school: ½ Can Pringles Original Potato Crisps (2.6 oz) ~350 calories, $1.50
Instead try: Fiber-rich banana or an orange ~100 calories, $1
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.
The modern meat industry takes a huge toll on the planet; in fact, agriculture is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. 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.
Old school: 1 pound of lean ground beef $2.50
Instead try: 1 pound of rice $0.70
Cook at home and take food with you
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 (it’s about one to three hours of prep) 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.
Old school: Lunch at Chipotle with a side of chips and beverage (~$12-15)
Instead try: Homemade roasted veggie sandwich, carrot sticks, and a piece of fruit (~$8)
Buy seasonally and locally
Resolving to visit your local farmers market on a weekly basis or committing to a monthly farm share (CSA) are great ways to learn and experience new foods and to meet the farmers dedicated to growing them. You may need to Google your local green market schedule.
Local farms often act as stewards of the earth, growing food without harmful chemicals while practicing water conservation 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 therefore more affordable!
Old school: Out of season, imported peaches for $2/lb
Instead try: Local, seasonal peaches for $1/lb
Store your food better
It’s no fun finding mushy, smelly foods in your fridge. Neither is food waste. Luckily, it’s totally avoidable.
For starters, try to buy what only you need, and be mindful of what you should cook first or stash in the freezer for later. Also, it’s worthwhile investing in good airtight storage containers—the less exposure to air, the longer a leftover will keep. As a general rule of thumb, cooked food can last 3-4 days when well-stored.
However, how you store your food will also have an impact. In the fridge, keep your dairy on the top shelf towards the back of the fridge because that’s where the temperature is most constant. Put your meat and fish on 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!
Old school: 1,600 lbs of trash per year per person
Instead try: Zero-waste lifestyle
This post was contributed by Kathryn Kriner, a writer for PeachDish, a fresh-food delivery service based in Atlanta, GA.