Can a zero waste lifestyle save you money?
A story in the Guardian last week revealed that shops selling expensive organic food have reported big loses as the credit crunch strikes.
While Aldi, which adopts a pile it high, sell it cheap approach to food was gaining 17% custom on last year. In addition, McDonald’s is creating 4,000 jobs to cope with the increasing demand for cheap fast food!
More heartening was that a survey for Sainsbury’s found that 62% of customers are concerned about wasted food and are more likely to use leftovers and cook food from scratch, rather than buy expensive, energy-intensive and over-packaged ready meals.
I know that we have some faithful readers who like to combine doing their bit for the planet with a frugal lifestyle.
There is even a dedicated forum to Green and Ethical money saving over on the hugely popular Martin Lewis’ Money saving Expert forum.
Our friend Tracy Smith, author of ‘Book of Rubbish ideas‘ combines her passion for a sustainable way of life with downshifting choices which rely less on money.
So green and frugal are kinda in, and sexy and even better, they’re doable; in fact I think they are great bed partners.
If we think solely to the food issue. There has been a lot of coverage about this in the press recently. A few months ago I was reading about food riots and numerous deaths in some countries from lack of food.
Here in the UK, some people were forced to choose whether to heat their homes or eat a decent meal as prices soared almost overnight.
But maybe it’s time to rethink our ways so that we can still feast like Kings AND put the central heating on.
We are terribly wasteful in this country. According to WRAP’s Love food hate waste campaign, we dump 6.7 million tonnes or £8bn of food in the landfill every year.
There are around 60 million of us living in this country, so that’s a lot of food per head that is being bought home and thrown away. Apparently this equates to one bag in three being thrown away. I want you to stop and think about that next time you come home loaded with your groceries.
I dare you to choose one bag in three and just put it straight into the bin. Do it and see how it feels – it might just give you a bit of a reality check………… It sounds a crazy stunt to pull, but sometimes we need to look at these statistics and somehow get them to bring about meaning to us.
I’m not asking you to actually leave it there and waste it; I just want you to go through the action to see how it feels and if it brings up any thoughts for you.
Anyway, looking at food, I’ve brain stormed a list of ways in which you can go zero waste AND save money.
1- Pack a lunch
Take a packed lunch to work instead of buying take out. By using a reusable box (you can get stainless steel ones if you want to be free of plastic) you can dramatically reduce the amount of waste you produce AND save money.
Sandwiches can be kept fresh in a box like the laptop lunchboxes (we have one to give away in a competition in the future, so stay tuned for details) and you can take your own drinks in a reusable bottle. join in with our pledge and win competition to win a fabulous reusable bottle from WeWantTap.
2-Make friends with leftovers.
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it, because this one small change of mindset can bring about astonishing results: View your leftovers as ingredients.
Even if you don’t have a creative bone in your body when it comes to the kitchen, the Love Food Hate Waste website will help you turn a lonely sausage into a delicious meal or a spoon full of pasta into tomorrow’s lunch.
Dry bread can be made into croutons or bread and butter pudding. With a sprinkle of water it can be bought back to life in the oven, or slathered with garlic butter you’ve got yourself a nice side dish of garlic bread. Failing that, do as our friend John does and at least feed it to our feathered friends.
3- Batch cook and freeze.
If you find something on offer such as tomatoes in season then batch cook some pasta sauce and freeze it. In autumn, when apples are falling off the trees, grab them and cook them down for instant apple pies throughout the winter.
If your butcher is selling off some mince then buy it (in your reusable container of course) and make a load of bolognase sauce, chilli or shepherds pies and put it in the freezer.
This means you can have ‘convenience’ food as a cheap price with no excess packaging.
4- Make your own yogurt
Do as I don’t and make your own yogurt. Honestly, this is a no brainer as I keep struggling to tell myself. I’ve done the maths and the price of yogurt has gone through the roof recently. You’ll be able to make it for less than shop bought price, you know exactly what has gone into it and a yogurt maker won’t even cost you a penny to run.
if you make it in a flask the savings are even more.
Plastic yogurt pots are a real bugbear for many people to get rid of, so do yourself and the planet a favour and learn from my procrastination.
5- Bake bread (and cakes and biscuits)
Most bread, cakes and biscuits arrive in some monstrous plastic packaging. Making your own will usually save you money and will certainly reduce your waste, but alas, not your waist.
Bread can be wrapped in a tea towel and placed in an airtight container to keep it fresh. Or use an old carrier bag if you have them lying around your home.
Home made cakes and biscuits taste a gazillion times better than shop bought and I’m yet to find biscuits that do not come in some kind of plasticised wrap.
Again, batch bake and freeze. We eat shortbread that has been in the freezer over a year and it still tastes as good
When it comes to using chocolate chips, buy a large 100g bar of chocolate that comes in paper and foil and just get a knife out. Honestly, chocolate chips to me are like shop bought grated cheese or potatoes that come with a knob of butter and a sprig of parsley. A total rip off………..
You can make BIG chocolate chips this way, plus you can steal a few while you’re cooking and no one will notice.
I hear that granola is really easy to make too. We’re not museli eaters (see, I can’t even spell it, let alone eat it) but all it is is a few grain flakes, some nuts, seeds, a blob of honey and some dried fruits. Why pay someone else to mix it for you. I bet you wish you had less of one ingredient and more of another anyway, so now’s your chance.
6- Do a spot of gardening.
Here’s something else I’ll keep saying until it becomes a mantra for you as well. You don’t need a plot of land to grow things.
You can grow tomatoes in a hanging basket, peppers in a large windowsill, salad leaves in a window box and virtually everything except large root crops in a container of some sort.
In addition, the kitchen windowsill is the perfect place to grow pots of herbs and sprouted seeds. Instant food, no waste and a minimum outlay. You’ll find people desperate to give away seeds and seedlings on Freecycle during the spring, so keep your eyes peeled and you’ll be able to grab a zero waste bargain.
7- Use a farmers market or sign up for a vegetable box scheme.
This means you can buy fruit and vegetables loose rather than in plastic wrap and you can buy exactly the quantity you want. What use is a ‘value’ pack of apples if half of them are wasted through not eating them in time? or as Frugal girl says on her fabulous blog “Buying cheap food isn’t such a fabulous bargain when you end up throwing a bunch of it away”
Herbs are a prime example; how often have you bought those lovely looking pots of herbs in the supermarket only to have them dead in a few days? When you get them home be realistic about how much you will use fresh and then freeze the rest. Either chop, place in an ice cube tray and cover with water or mix up with softened butter and freeze.
You can use the herby ice cubes to add to soups and stock and use the butter direct onto vegetables. If you have a glut of something like corriander or basil, then make them into pesto or pasta sauce and freeze that.
Riverford, which delivers 47,000 boxes of organic fruit and vegetables to households in the south-west of England every week, compared its prices with the equivalent organic vegetables from the supermarkets and found its box was cheaper.
Yay for Riverford!
8-Make a cuppa
Herbal teas are kind of fashionable now. Most people buy something like mint herbal teabags on a regular basis and you’ll find them next to the regular teas in all supermarkets.
These pesky things although in a cardboard box, usually come wrapped in cellophane and often have a tiny staple attaching the string to the bag.
Mint grows like a weed in this country! So save yourself the money and the packaging by growing your own mint. It grows better in a pot anyway, so you don’t need a garden. In addition, you might save yourself a fortune on over the counter medication if you take a cup of mint tea after your meals to aid digestion instead of renees (or whatever they are called) or Gaviscon.
Other herbs for tea include lemonbalm (excellent for stress and to promote sleep), sage (brilliant for sore throats and menopausal hot flushes), thyme (invaluable if you’re going down with an infection), and chamomile (soothing and relaxing).
9- Buy fruit and vegetables in season.
It’s cheaper, healthier and if you patronise your farmers market, farm shop or local orchard is all available sans packaging. Use seasonal shopping wisely by preserving things when they are at their peak and prices are knock down.
Two of my favourite kitchen gadgets are my blender for making smoothies from fruit that would otherwise be past its best and my dehydrator for taking advantage of produce that is in season. But freezing, preserving and canning can be done too – just ask for empty jam jars on Freecycle.
10- Ditch the bottled water and drink tap.
You’ll save a lot of money and the planet will breathe a sigh of relief. It isn’t just the plastic bottles (ok, they can be recycled) but the massive carbon footprint that comes attached to a slurp of the bottled stuff.
Yes, I’m being hypocritical again, *I* am a bottled water drinker, but I’m aware that I could do better and have bought myself a britta filter ready for that day when I’m ready to give things a go…..
Why don’t you try it first and let me know how you get on
According to WeWAntTap, if I was to do a blind taste test, they’re pretty confident I wouldn’t know the difference between tap and bottled anyway, so I’m willing to accept psychology has a huge part to play.
11- finally, I want to mention something I’ve discovered about using our local butcher for meat.
I mentioned it to Richard in our interview.
As regular readers will know, we now take our own reusable containers to the butchers and he uses them for our purchases. I’ve been buying fresh chicken for the cat which means she can enjoy a zero waste meal.
What I’ve noticed is this. Not only do I have zero packaging (supermarket chickens used to come on a polystyrene tray with a thick piece of some non recyclable in the bottom and shrink wrapped in plastic), but chickens from the butcher last longer.
They cost me about 50p more, but I only have to travel 2 miles to get it and last week’s chicken stayed fresh for a whopping 10 days! Before, with ones I bought from the supermarket, I was throwing them away after 5 because they were going off.
So I would leave you with this thought. Don’t just assume that the price you pay out is the full cost. Start looking at the overall ‘cost’ and put your wastage into the final total.
You remember the comment I put on the post about the nectarines I bought in a plastic punnet in Lidls the other week? The entire lot went off. They suffered from that ‘gone off before they are ripe’ syndrome that some cheap fruit does.
Let that be a lesson to me!
One nectarine for 59p would have worked out far cheaper
What about you? I’m sure I’ve missed loads of ideas out? Please add them in the comments!