Many of us are becoming more environmentally aware and looking for ways to be more sustainable. Whether it’s reducing our waste, using less plastic, or minimising pollution, there are lots of ways we can all do our bit at home. Being more sustainable not only helps the planet but can save you money and simplify life at the same time!
In this article – guest author and co-founder of Wandercooks, Sarah Lawrie, shares her top sustainability tips to save money and reduce food waste in the kitchen.
Being sustainable is not just good for the environment, it can also help to save money and prevent food waste. These 9 ways are easy to implement into your lifestyle with minimal fuss and are here to get you thinking differently about the way you mindfully use food.
#1 – Buying local and in bulk
Work out what places near you have the best prices and produce for the type of food you buy. It might be a local market or Costco around the corner, or both!
Once you know what places offer the best deals, the savings can really start to add up. The small bag of carrots at the supermarket might be $4 a bag or only 99c for double the amount at the Farmer’s market.
Buying in bulk can also help you batch cook meals, with the amount of extra produce on hand enabling you to double or even triple a recipe.
One thing to remember before buying more food than usual: If you’re buying just to save money, ask yourself if your family will be able to eat the extra amount. Don’t buy bulk if half the food ends up in the bin – always have a meal plan.
#2 – Cooking & freezing in batches
A favourite activity of many home cooks, batch cooking saves on cooking time and money. A great way to tackle batch cooking is to assign an afternoon, evening, or weekend to cook up a few big meals.
Once you’ve cooked your recipes, portion them out into containers and refrigerate or freeze as needed. That way, when you get home from a busy day with the kids or work, you can head to the fridge and have dinner on the table in 5 minutes instead of 50.
When cooking in batches, you’ll usually be able to buy produce in bulk and save on food costs too.
#3 – Meal planning
Meal planning essentially gives all your fresh food a home. If your carrots and broccoli are assigned a dish throughout the week, they won’t end up getting thrown out after sitting at the back of the fridge with nowhere to go.
Although meal planning can take a little dedicated time to plan out, once it’s done, you don’t have to think for the rest of the week. As a result, you’ll reduce wasting food and spend less time trying to think up what to cook at the last minute.
#4 – Cooking different dishes with same base ingredients
When planning your meals, look for recipes that have a few overlapping ingredients. This will allow you to buy more in bulk for a cheaper price OR it will mean you get to use up that half an onion. It’s essentially giving what would be leftovers a home before you’ve even cooked them.
For example, if you have a smoothie for breakfast every day, you could still have a base of coconut water and frozen banana each day but change it up with the remaining ingredients. On Monday you might add some milk, oats, and honey for a creamy version. On Tuesday, you might decide to pop in frozen mango, kale, green apple, and slices of pineapple for a tropical blitz.
This not only stops flavour boredom but makes sure everything is used up too!
Learn how to make a week’s worth of smoothies for $5/£3 in our guide to budget smoothies.
#5 – Use your scraps
A quick Google of any leftover food can usually help you discover some extraordinary ways to use up what would have gone in the trash.
Did you know you can make crispy chips from potato skins? Slather a little olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pop them in the oven and you’ll have some tasty chips in no time.
Hate eating the end slices of bread? Make them into anything from a bread pudding dessert or crumble them down into croutons or breadcrumbs.
Or, another favourite, chop up and use any excess fruit and veggies to make ‘surprise smoothies’. You never know what flavours you’re going to end up with and they’re always so tasty!
Whether you’re making soup stock with less fresh veggies or transforming your leftovers into a brand new meal, you’ll be saving the earth and your wallet with all the extra meals.
#6 – Compost what you can’t reuse
Those leftovers on your plate don’t have to go straight in the bin. If you have food past the point of no return – it’s time to compost. There’s a variety of ways to home compost; you can have a simple pile in a shady corner out the back, feed a worm farm, or get yourself a Bokashi bin.
Having your own compost can then help feed your garden, reducing your need to water as often and increasing the health and hopefully crops of any fruit or vegetables. Even if you’re in an apartment, you can still compost and donate it to a community garden or friends and family.
#7 – Regrow your vegetables
Next time your garlic or potato sprouts, pop it in the ground instead of the bin. The amount of vegetables used in the kitchen every day that can be planted and regrown is crazy, but unless we’re shown otherwise, most of us are quick to throw them out.
We’ve found the easiest vegetables to regrow are onions, potatoes, lettuce, and celery. Before you know it, you’ll have your own mini-food crops in the backyard! If you don’t have a yard, no problem – pop them in pots in the windowsill or out on a balcony.
#8 – Learn to make what you usually buy for take-out
This can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll invest your time into. Starting with the simple, if your everyday coffee costs $4 and you learn to make one at home that tastes just as good for 30c a serve, that’s $25 back in your pocket after just one week!
Move that up to your typical green smoothie, which can cost around $8 at a local cafe. You can blend them up for around $1 a serve at home using Farmer’s market or bulk produce, a saving of almost $50 a week.
Then we come to food. The day you learn to cook your favourite takeaway curry and realise how easy it is, is an absolute game changer! Not only can you tweak the recipe to your own personal taste, but you can also cook it in batches to enjoy again and again.
#9 – Host a potluck party
One of the best ways to discover new food is to host a potluck party. Gather a group of friends and request each person to bring a dish (assign entrees, mains, and desserts for the perfect mix) for everyone to try.
Ask them to share the recipe too, so you not only get to try something new, but you also get to add it to your repertoire!
It’s a great cost-effective way to have a lavish dinner without breaking the bank, and the next morning you’ll have all sorts of leftovers to enjoy throughout the week. Win, win!
Guest Author – Sarah Lawrie, Owner @Wandercooks
Writer, Photographer and Traveller. Sarah has eaten her way through 100+ cities in 35 countries (and counting) to bring edible adventures to curious foodies through her global food blog, Wandercooks. Wandercooks has been featured on The Chopped Podcast, Lonely Planet, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and People.