We’re constantly, consistently implored to live in a more ethical, mindful way, and that’s great. After all, who doesn’t want to live in a manner more kind to the world? The problem for many is this; living in such a way just ain’t cheap. This is never truer than when thinking about diet, because in all honesty, organic, free range and free-from all come at a cost. There are ways, however, to shop, cook and eat responsibly which aren’t going to break the bank. These are those; our 6 IDEAL ways to eat ethically on a budget.

GROW YOUR OWN

For the food savvy, financially aware shopper, the positives of growing your own produce at home are myriad. You can exercise control over the pesticides, growth hormones and other chemicals used in crop production. What’s more, you can eliminate plastic use by simply strolling into your back garden and picking what you need with your hands. And that’s before we mention the therapeutic and physical benefits, of which there are many. Moreover, you could dig the savings as a plot as small as 4ft x 4ft (1.2m x 1.2m) could potentially, with a lot of time, effort, supply vegetables all year round for as little as £50.

That said, vegetables like onions and potatoes are already super cheap and factoring in start-up and maintenance costs, will likely cost you more to grow them at home. The trick is to pick your vegetables strategically and opt for ones that can easily be preserved like tomatoes, carrots and courgettes. Growing your own food will also mean you live in a way which is more in tune and time with the seasons, which brings us to our next point…

EAT SEASONALLY

If you want to eat ethically, then eat seasonally and shop locally. It’s not only better for the environment, it’s also better for your health and bank balance. Ingredients at their best are plump and pound-for-pound better value for money.  When we eat with the seasons we’re not having to fork out extra money for food that’s grown thousands of miles away and off season. Shipping, which for obvious reasons takes its toll on the environment, tacks on extra cost to our food and moreover, shopping with thoughtfulness to seasonality (and better yet locally)  will mean you don’t buy a glut of unripe, tasteless tomatoes in early spring that you can’t bring yourself to eat, or a plaice in winter that lacks sufficient yield for a satisfying meal.

EAT LESS MEAT

We’re not saying cut it out completely, though of course that would be great. But the amount of meat we eat is unsustainable and irresponsible, and something’s got to give. Recent reports have suggested that avoiding meat and dairy is the single best thing you can do for the planet and for your purse (to the tune of $750 a year, according to recent research).

Go further than simply initiating an occasional observation of meat free Monday; we can do better than this, surely? If you’re not going to go full vegan, how about a little compromise? Rather than one in seven, why not try to have three or four days a week of a plant-based diet, and three or four including meat, fish and dairy? Things need to change in our eating habits, and a manageable, mindful, meat-free(ish) approach is the best place to start. A more mindful approach to eating in general will go some way to a heightened, ethical approach to your consumption.

VOTE WITH YOUR PURSE ON PLASTIC

If anyone can make us listen, then it’s David Attenborough. And the recent news that the ‘Attenborough effect’ has led to a 53% drop in single use plastic is heartening indeed. But we can do so much more. It’s crucial that we all get more clued up on which companies are genuinely committed to plastic reduction and which are simply making pledges of platitudes to give a green, clean brand impression. Greenpeace recently published this list of the ten worst offending companies, so a good start would be to boycott their products. In doing so, you’ll also be making cutbacks financially.

Fortunately, on the flipside, many companies have started to use environmental packaging. This means that instead of harmful plastic, packaging is made from natural resources like wood, paper and even the residue from sugar canes. Many takeaway companies have adopted this type of packaging, among the big chains is Nando’s, Pizza express and TGI Friday’s. So next time you have food to go, make sure it’s with a company that puts environmentally friendly packaging first.

BE PART OF THE ZERO WASTE REVOLUTION

Speaking of using less plastic, zero waste bulk stores, which are fast becoming a worldwide phenomenon,  are one of the best ways to eat ethically on a budget. We’ve all bought a massive plastic packet of carrots in Sainsbury’s just for one, letting the rest rot in the bottom of the veg basket, which is both wasteful and costly. However, zero waste stores are helping us to live a less wasteful lifestyle by eliminating unnecessary packaging, mitigating the amount of food waste going into landfill and subsequently reducing the carbon footprint of people who use these stores.

Moreover, shopping in bulk food stores can be much more cost effective than shopping in supermarkets. Customers bring their own containers from home to the stores and weigh the goods they want to buy ,which means you can buy in smaller quantities.  If a recipe calls for only 10 grams of a spice, then you can buy the exact amount instead of having to buy a whole jar, the contents of which will inevitably go stale and then in the bin.

MAKE GOOD USE OF WASTE

It’s truly shocking just how much perfectly edible food ends up the bin (not even the compost either…grrr). With the rise in food banks and child poverty brought about by our farcical, feckless government, this is something we should all feel deeply ashamed of. It’s imperative then that our attitude to food waste and wasting food changes. Start by changing the way you shop, buying in bulk with a careful meal plan for the week, rather than shopping and eating on impulse, and deploy a first in, first out fridge policy with the food you buy. Go deeper by shifting your attitude to leftovers, offcuts, even peel and the bits you’d normally throw away; they are now a challenge to create another delicious meal. And if you’re really devoted to the cause, do some reading on the amazing world of preserving, fermenting, pickling and curing; the perfect route to a zero waste, spendthrift home kitchen.

 

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Rachel is the beauty and fashion director at IDEAL. She loves trying new products and is an avid fan of London's fashion, from the high end to the high street.