How to eat (almost) plastic-free on a budget

Want to cut down on your plastic use without paying a higher price? Read on for our advice on how to save both your money and the planet as we answer the question:

How can I boycott plastic in my shopping and still stay within my budget?

Buy in bulk

‘Bulk buying’ means buying in large quantities, reducing the amount of packaging used. ‘Bulk stores’ are increasingly common, but often these ‘trendy’ sustainable shops cost quite a bit more. Finding prices that are similar to those of supermarkets may be difficult and they may fluctuate wildly between shops. We recommend asking for a price list from the shop to allow you to compare prices.

Check out this website for a handy list of bulk stores or zero waste shops in the UK: https://thezerowaster.com/zero-waste-near-you/

Adjust what you eat

The types of food that you can find plastic free, at reasonable prices, will vary from shop to shop. To stay within your budget and reduce plastic usage you may have to rethink the proportions of certain foods that you eat.

Vegetables are the one food group we can reliably buy unpackaged (depending on your local store), so you’ll probably see veggies featuring highly on your weekly menu. We use them a lot. Lentils and rice? Bulk prices tend to be very similar to commercial, packaged varieties. Nut butters? Sadly, these tend to be more expensive, so maybe only pile peanut butter on your toast for breakfast.

What tends to happen, not intentionally, is that your diet streamlines towards the better end of the health spectrum. Not a bad side-effect, right?

Get creative

Who doesn’t love a herbal tea after dinner? We do, but we don’t love all the packaging tea usually comes in. So instead, get creative: chop up an orange, squeeze the juice of a few pieces into a cup, then pour in boiling water. Cheap, low-waste teas. You can even get a couple of weeks out of a single orange! You can use any fruits that you can juice, and there are also rumours that dandelion and peppermint are nice if you can grow them.

Another common food item difficult to find zero-waste is stock (or broth, depending on your lingo). So, we found a way to make it on the cheap: keep a jar in the fridge with all your food scraps in. When it’s full, boil it for an hour or so, drain the liquid into another container, and toss the scraps into the compost. Ta-dah, vegetable stock. You can do the same with chicken or beef trimmings.

Reuse what you can’t reduce

Got some spare packaging from an item you didn’t manage to source plastic-free? Think about how you could turn it from single-use to multi-use. Perhaps you could use it to wrap your sandwiches in, line a bin, or as a container.

Recycle what you can’t reuse

Yes, there comes a point when items are just to broken or dirty to reuse. At that point, recycle them. It is often difficult to know what you can and can’t recycle – in the UK alone there are 39 different rules for recycling depending on where you live. This system needs to change. But in the meantime, how can we make sure we are recycling properly?

Check out these links which give a simple explanation of what can and can’t be recycled:

https://www.fya.org.au/2017/12/12/recycling-confusing-shouldnt-heres-simple-guide/

https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/recycling/article/how-to-recycle-in-the-uk

And this site which shows you your local recycling options and what to do if you have something specific to recycle:

https://www.recyclenow.com/

Sustainable spending? Piece of cake!

You can dispel the misconception that buying sustainably means spending twice as much. In some instances, this may be the case, but by doing some research and getting creative you could actually reduce your spending. Bulk stores are popping up all over the place, getting more competitive every year, and YouTubers and Instagrammers are making it much easier to find DIY recipes that work for you. Creativity is your friend in this situation – even if it’s only so you have the budget for all the peanut butter you desire.

By Tallis Baker

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