One of the great benefits of adopting a zero waste, minimalist lifestyle is that it frees us from the endless cycle of consumerism to which we have all fallen prey at some point in our lives. There are many ways in which going zero waste can lead to greater financial freedom, and adjusting our food choices to be less wasteful is one of the quickest and easiest ways to save money.
ADJUST YOUR GROCERY SHOPPING HABITS
The goal of zero waste is quite simple: adjust your lifestyle to help divert as much trash from landfills as possible. One of the easiest ways to do this is to stop buying food that is wrapped in plastic and fused materials like Tetra Packs. When you make the decision to quit buying food that comes in a package, your grocery bill will automatically shrink.
When we buy packaged foods, the packaging and marketing are baked into the cost, so the actual value of the food is much lower than its sticker price. Not only that, but the nutritional value of un-packaged foods like fruits and vegetables is significantly greater than the nutritional value of any packaged food you can buy. You’re getting more nutrition for your dollar by buying whole foods than you would by buying packaged foods.
You’re also avoiding putting mystery ingredients like preservatives and artificial flavorings into your body, and avoiding the risk of eating foods whose plastic packaging has leeched potentially harmful chemicals into them. Eating more natural foods leads to better health, and less-frequent unplanned visits to the doctor. Do you like spending your money on co-pays and medication? Neither do I.
Note: I do not mean to suggest that you shouldn’t see your doctor for routine wellness exams and screenings.
AVOID WASTING THE FOOD YOU BUY
When you make the decision to go zero-waste, you’re more aware of what you own, including items in your fridge. You’re more likely to cook and eat all the food you’ve purchased, and not let it go to rot. You’ll get in the habit of packing leftovers for your lunch, or reheating them for dinner the next day with a fresh salad. This can save a shocking amount of money. You can save your vegetable scraps and use them to make stock to flavor other dishes like risotto and lentils. You can even compost your food waste and create rich soil to use in your garden. Use that garden to grow your own veg, and you’ll save boatloads.
CUT DOWN ON TAKEOUT & FOOD DELIVERY
Have you ever ordered takeout or delivery that didn’t result in some sort of packaging going to a landfill? Think about it. Forget about plastic cutlery or paper napkins; even if you refuse those things, your food will likely still come in a Styrofoam or coated paper container, and will likely be given to you or delivered in a plastic bag. If you’re a frequent takeout and delivery customer like I used to be, you’re spending a lot more money than you realize. Learn how to make a few quick, easy, healthy dishes, and that money will go right back in your pocket. You’ll also save lots of plastic and Styrofoam packaging from ending up in a landfill.
SPEND LESS ON COFFEE
Your zero waste lifestyle may mean you cut back on your visits to the coffee shop. If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of coffee, you may start to be very discerning about the beans used to make your daily cup, where they come from, and how they’re produced. This may mean you order your own coffee beans from a source you trust, and make coffee at home more often, which will definitely save you pennies. Even if you do still frequent your corner shop, if you bring your own reusable coffee mug, they may be willing to give you a discount. Depending how many trips to the coffee shop you make in a given week, this can add up quickly to some substantial savings.
RE-THINK WHAT YOU SPEND ON MEAT & DAIRY
If your zero waste lifestyle does have you thinking about the environment, it’s probably caused you to consider the frequency with which you eat meat and dairy. Meat, especially beef, has a substantial environmental impact, and you may end up feeling that beef (which is expensive) is not a sustainable choice for you, or that you’d like to limit your intake to once a month or once a quarter. Whether you’re buying it at the market, from a farmer, or in a restaurant, meat is almost always more expensive than vegetarian alternatives. If you, like me, choose to cut back on meat, I guarantee your savings will be significant.
There are a lot of other ways in which going zero waste can save you money, but food is a great place to start. Not only will adjusting your habits save you money, they’ll likely make you healthier as well, and will definitely make the planet healthier!