1) Buy non-perishables in bulk (and bring your own container if possible). Buying canned foods, and buying dry goods such as pasta, flour, sugar, spices in bulk can save a good deal of money and help eliminate waste from smaller packaged items. Another way to apply this principle is buying fresh foods and then freezing them or dehydrating them (if you’re really fancy). Some things that I know freeze well are bread, meats, hearty vegetables like bell peppers and broccoli, and berries (although their texture will be compromised when they thaw). Freezing food is a great way to help with keeping foods longer and preventing those nightly or weekly trips to the grocery store. It can also save you money if you buy produce when it is in season or on sale.
2) Meal planning is an important part of saving money, just like budgeting. Planning what to eat during which weeks will help you decide what non-perishables to buy and stock up on, and which foods you can wait to buy until they are a bit cheaper. This meal planning should revolve around your favorite fresh produce, and when it goes on sale. Pairing non-perishable staples with fresh produce will not only help save your wallet, but is also a great way to have balanced nutrition and avoid expensive processed and packaged food. This takes a bit of time but is worth it when you are satisfied with your food budget and delicious meals.
3) Buy local when you can. I know this can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be more expensive. Local food doesn’t have as many transportation costs as internationally sourced food and it can be fresher, making it more delicious, depending on the type of farm it was grown on or raised. My favorite way to do this is going to the farmer’s markets that occur in Seattle neighborhoods sometimes year round. Getting fresh asparagus directly from the source ensures that I’m not paying a markup, and I can ask questions about how it was grown directly to the person I am paying. Also, when you ask about growing, you can see if the farm follows organic practices. Some may skip the certification process for growing organic because of additional costs, but you never know until you ask. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) issues a list of fruits and veggies that are most important to buy organic – based on their absorption rate and the amount of pesticides typically found on them. This list is called the Dirty Dozen, and accompanying it is the Clean Fifteen (foods that are lowest in pesticides).
4) Making coffee at home is a great way to save money and resources. Buying a bag of beans that have been sourced responsibly (do your research!) is a great way to support growers around the globe and have some delicious coffee. Investing in a grinder and French press is personally the route I suggest, but reusable K-cups or traditional drip are also options. The important thing is not spending $4 on a latte everyday will save you a good chunk of change, and using a reusable mug at home saves the use of a paper cup. If you already bring your own cup to your barista, consider the home brew for your budget; a bag of beans is about 12-15 dollars and can make 65 cups of coffee (depending on the size and strength of your personal brew) saving you a lot of money. This doesn’t include milk or cream or equipment, but I’d say save the espresso for a treat and drink home brewed coffee most days, because drip coffee has more caffeine (depending on the roast) than espresso anyway!
5) Avoiding beef can be another option as well. Having a meatless Monday or some other way of reducing meat intake can save you some grief at the store and the planet some grief in the production of it. Beef is the highest agricultural contributor to greenhouse gases among beef poultry and pork, as well as being a bit expensive after the processing it goes through (trimming, deboning, and fat removal). This also provides an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen and learn to cook with cheaper ingredients that can be better for the planet.