Does grocery spending take up a large chunk of your budget? If so, you're not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the typical family of four spent between $559 and $1,279 on groceries each month in 2017. A GoBankingRates survey found that groceries ranked as America’s second largest expense, after mortgages.
Here's another number to consider: The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that food waste accounts for 21 percent of all the trash that ends up in landfills. Cutting food waste is not only good for the environment, it could also help your wallet. This Earth Day, try these tips for keeping your grocery spending in check while also helping our planet.
Become an amateur gardener
Growing some of your own food means that you can buy less at the grocery store. It can also be healthier for you and Earth if you grow fruits and veggies organically. According to the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems, organically grown food requires 30 to 50 percent less energy for production, compared to fruits and vegetables that are grown on large-scale industrial farms.
If you don't have the backyard space for a full-fledged garden, don't worry. You can still make a positive impact on Earth and your grocery budget while flexing your green thumb. Pick one or two items you can grow in a small space, like kale, lettuce, broccoli or cherry tomatoes. Even a windowsill herb garden can help you save money and cut down on waste if you're able to use herbs as you need them, rather than letting them go bad in the refrigerator.
Master meal planning
Planning your meals can be a huge time-saver, and it's also a great way to keep your grocery spending and food waste in check. Plan meals weekly, biweekly or monthly, based on your budget.
To keep your meal plans budget-conscious, start each by looking at what's on sale locally. Don't just focus on the grocery store either. Look for deals at drugstores, and go online to scout out savings. For instance, you can shop Amazon.com for deals on everything from baby food to wine.
Consider having meatless meals once or twice a week to save money. Eating less meat also helps the planet. Livestock accounts for 14.5 percent of the total global greenhouse emission, according to the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).
To minimize waste and maximize savings, pick low-cost ingredients that can be used in multiple meals. For example, a batch of black beans can be turned into burritos, black bean soup and black bean burgers. If you find a deal on pasta sauce and noodles, you can make two pans of lasagna, then freeze one for later.
Your menu should also include room for leftovers. You can use dinner leftovers to create lunches for the week or the month, depending on how far ahead you plan. Or, you can schedule a weekly leftovers-for-dinner night. Just remember to check how long it's safe to store foods in the refrigerator or freezer before digging in.
Eat seasonally and locally
Eating seasonally and locally can be a huge budget-saver if you're sticking to buying only fruits and vegetables that are in season. When you buy fresh foods that are grown locally, they tend to carry a much lower production cost than something that's been grown out of season and transported hundreds of miles to your local grocery store. The University of Michigan estimates that transportation of food accounts for 11 percent of the 8.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by U.S household food consumption each year.
Getting your food from local sources may also help reduce your carbon footprint. Your hometown farmer's market is a good place to check out seasonal fruits and veggies in the spring, summer and fall. These may shut down in the winter, so you'll have to be a little more discerning about what you buy from the grocery store.
According to the USDA, spring is the best time to buy broccoli, asparagus, cabbage and mushrooms in season, and winter is great for sweet potatoes, yams, turnips and winter squash. Summer is prime time to stock up on fresh fruit, including raspberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, cherries and apricots. Tomatoes and squash are also abundant in summer, while dark leafy greens like kale and Swiss chard are best purchased in fall.
Reuse and repurpose food containers
Buying more fresh fruits and vegetables can mean less waste, but chances are, you're still buying at least a few things that come prepackaged. Instead of throwing out glass jars or plastic containers, consider how you can reuse and repurpose them.
You can use plastic tubs for food storage, for example. If you're getting your indoor garden started, something like an old butter container can be perfect for getting your seedlings going. If you buy eggs from the farmers’ market or a local farmer instead of the grocery store, you can reuse the egg cartons each time you make a purchase.
Jars can hold craft supplies, screws or any other small odds and ends you've got hanging around in your junk drawer. If you have old jelly jars or Mason jars, those can do double-duty as drinking glasses. And if you need yet another way to save money on groceries, you can start canning your own jellies, preserves, fruits and vegetables.
Small changes can yield Big Savings
Slashing your grocery spending and being more mindful of the Earth won't necessarily require a complete lifestyle makeover. If following all these tips seems a little overwhelming, pick one and start there. Then work on adding more budget- and eco-friendly grocery spending habits to your routine over time.
*All content provided in this blog is supplied by Rebecca Lake and is for informational purposes only. Barclaycard makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.
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