3 Tips for Eating More Sustainably and Saving Money

One of the hang-ups that many people have about changing their habits to live more sustainably is that there is sometimes a financial cost. Indeed, boosting your sustainability sometimes means paying a little more up front, and this seems especially true when you are trying to eat in a way that is more sustainable and healthy.

The good news is that you don’t have to break the bank to eat more sustainably. Here are 3 tips that can help you reduce the impact your food has on the environment and save money to boot:

1. Look for Community Supported Agriculture

If possible, find out if there is a community program for local farms. It might be possible to buy shares in a local farm, or buy into a program that delivers local produce right to your door, or you pick it up at a local drop-off. In some cases, you get this produce for less than you would pay at the grocery store — and you know that it comes from a local source, so it wasn’t trucked across continents to get to your dinner table.

This option also works for meat (if you can’t quite make yourself go vegetarian). Find out if there is a local source for meat. You can go in with friends or family on beef. My parents did this successfully for years, splitting the cost of a whole cow with neighbors. Everyone got beef for less per-pound, overall, than they could at the store. This works for fish, poultry and other meat products.

2. Grow Your Own Food

The ultimate way to save money while eating local is to grow food in your own backyard. We have a garden that provides us with fresh, low-cost produce all summer. And, since we use sustainable practices with our gardening, we know that we are keeping the carbon footprint relatively low. It’s also possible for us to preserve the excess for winter months. We often turn our apples into applesauce, and dry our herbs for use year-round. Many vegetables can be efficiently bottled for eating during the winter months. If you have the time and the inclination, this is a great way to save money and eat more sustainably.

3. Reduce Your Consumption of Processed Foods

Processed foods require resources to prepare, as well as to package. By reducing your consumption of processed foods, you can improve your health, help the environment, and possibly save money. You can get bulk nuts, peanut butter (fresh), dried fruits, legumes, and other items relatively inexpensively, and you don’t have to worry about the packaging and processing. You might be surprised at what you can get in bulk. My son recently learned how to make his own granola trail mix, and he loves visiting the bulk aisle for the ingredients. It costs less per ounce than buying pre-made and pre-packaged trail mix, it’s fun to make, and it doesn’t harm the environment as much.

You don’t have to pay a lot to eat healthy and reduce your food-related carbon footprint. A little extra thought, and a willingness to prepare some of your food is likely to do the trick.

What are your tips for saving money while eating sustainably?

How to Limit Materialism During the Holidays

This time of year, it seems as though materialism is ratcheted up a notch. Kids see toys everywhere, and they are encouraged to ask Santa Claus and just about everyone else for more things — things that they probably don’t need.

If you are concerned about how materialism is creeping into your family life during this time of year, here are a few strategies to limit the manifestation of the “gimmies” during the holiday season:

Start Holiday Traditions that Don’t Focus on Things

Consider family activities like shopping for a tree, putting up decorations, baking cookies, or going ice skating. Ask your parents and grandparents what they did during the holiday season, and consider adopting some of those traditions and practices. From creating ornaments for the tree to singing holiday songs, consider ways that you can enjoy the holidays while emphasizing family togetherness and making memories. There’s no need to make it about the stuff.

Encourage Community Service and Giving

Consider age-appropriate community service activities and giving opportunities. Have your children help you gather up canned food to take to the food pantry. If there is an Angel tree or giving tree in your community, have your child pick something off the tree and then help you provide a needed item for someone else. Encourage your children to go through their toys and clothes during the holiday season and choose some to donate to the local charity thrift shop. There are a number of ways that your children can get involved in giving to others and focusing on helping, even if its encouraging him or her to take a dollar out of his or her piggy bank and put it in a collection bucket.

Have a Homemade Holiday

Rather than buy everything, put together a homemade holiday in which your family members give gifts they make themselves. This doesn’t have to be things, either. Children can give “coupons” that allow others to ask them for help with chores, or for some other purpose. There are a number of fun, thoughtful, homemade crafts and ideas online. Encourage your children to personalize their gifts to others, and put some thought into the giving part of the holiday season.

Express Gratitude

One of the best ways to take the focus of material things is to express gratitude for what you already have. Getting in the habit of being thankful for the things you already enjoy is a good way to take the focus off of stuff during the holiday season. Make it a point to express gratitude during the holiday season. Tell your kids in the morning to think about something they are thankful for during the day. Tell them to watch for it, and then be ready to share it around the table. Being able to look for things to be glad of can put your child in a mindset to be contented, and to not always be thinking about things he or she wants.

What are some of your best ideas for limiting materialism during the holiday season?