When shopping for food, there are certain strategies that are most definitely win-win. When you shop less but shop better, you can reduce waste AND save money. Here are a few tips to help you achieve both of these objectives – and perhaps improve your own health into the bargain:
Make Meal Plans Before You Shop
Reducing waste and saving money on a shopping trip most definitely starts before you leave home. Before you even begin to consider what you need to buy, you should take a full inventory of all the food you already have in the house. If you already grow your own food (which is a great strategy to save money and reduce waste), you should think about what's ready to harvest in your garden too.
We're not saying that you should use up absolutely everything before you head out shopping for food, of course. But knowing what you have before you go is essential.
Knowing what you have will help you avoid food waste by preventing you from buying in things you already have. More than this, however, knowing what you have can help you work out a meal plan for the following week or so.
Creating meal plans is one strategy that can definitely save you money and reduce waste. It will mean that you have a much, much clearer idea of what you really need to feed yourself and your family. So you'll buy less, and spend less, overall.
Make a List and Stick to It
Once you are armed with an inventory and a meal plan, it will be much easier for you to make your shopping list. Make a clear list of what you need (including quantities where this is relevant). You can go the old-fashioned pencil and paper route, or simply make a list on your smartphone or another device if you prefer. But whatever form your list takes, make sure it is readily accessible, so you can easily refer to it in the store.
Be determined and stick to your list. Impulse buying can be a common problem. But there are plenty of ways to curb your impulses and break the habit. For example, being aware of the tricks of the trade (music, smells, lighting, etc...) and never shopping hungry can help.
Shop at Sustainable Grocery Stores and Farmers' Markets
Many people imagine that it is far more expensive to shop for sustainable, local, eco-friendly, and organic food. But it is important to remember that while individual items are more expensive, you can often potentially save money overall by taking greater care over what you buy.
It is worthwhile considering the fact that sustainably grown, organic produce often has greater nutritional value, and you won't need to waste skins/ peels, etc. but can use the whole lot safely when it has not been treated with harmful chemicals.
The key to shopping sustainably is not finding the cheapest bargains but rather finding fresh, whole foods that you can use wisely at home. Buying fewer, more sustainable food items and cooking and preserving them wisely will often be a better economic choice than buying larger quantities of junk food. And of course, it is the best way to live more ethically and sustainably and to move closer to a truly zero-waste lifestyle.
Take Reusable Shopping Bags With You
One key way to reduce waste when shopping for food is, of course, to take reusable shopping bags with you. But what you might not see is how reusable shopping bags can save you money too. For one thing, of course, taking reusable shopping bags can help you to avoid the charges imposed for disposable bags in some stores.
More than this, however, it is also worth remembering that reusable shopping bags can also make it easier for you to avoid overbuying or impulse purchases. Take just enough bags to carry what you really need, and you may well be less tempted to add to your list and pick up more items as you head around a store. For example, you might take just a couple of produce bags, a linen bread bag, and a large canvas tote for other items. This can help you carry your items, whether you are at a market or at a larger store. And yet the relatively limited amount of space will set limits on your consumption.
Think About Expiry Dates and Shop Accordingly
Finally, when you are shopping, wherever your shopping excursion may be taking place, think about food waste and its avoidance. Choosing the right food storage and preservation items can help you make sure food stays fresher for longer. But there is always a limit. Think about expiry dates (or how long you can expect the food to stay fresh for) and never buy more than you think you can use within that time period. (Or make sure you have plans in place to preserve that food so it will last for longer.)
If you follow these suggestions, you should reduce the amount that you buy dramatically. You should be able to reduce a lot of waste – both plastic packaging waste and food waste. And you should also be able to save money to spend on other worthwhile things.