How can you make more sustainable food choices on a budget?
Hi I’m Ellie, a Dietetics student at Leeds Beckett. In this blog I’ll be sharing with you how you can shop sustainably and live a greener life with your food choices.
You may have seen a lot of attention in the media recently towards sustainable or environmentally friendly meals. When I moved to Leeds to start my course, I used the change to try to reduce my impact on the planet through what I ate, but I needed to keep it in line with my student budget. As a result, I’ve learnt, and listed, some of my best tips on eating more sustainably, while keeping the price down.
Why shop for more sustainable groceries?
For an individual, one of the most efficient ways to reduce your carbon footprint is to move to a more plant-based and locally sourced diet. By addressing how you eat, you can reduce your overall emissions, and help support your local producers and shops, as well as decreasing the amount of one-use plastic you buy too.
Many conglomerate companies use the terms ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ to demonstrate their awareness, advertise their credentials, and sometimes to increase the product’s price. But, if you stray away from supermarket shopping, there are many good alternatives providing more variety and a cheaper price.
I love writing and learning about this topic because I think it’s important, and I find it fascinating how one person can have a worldwide impact. This is one aspect I took into consideration when applying for university, and it eventually led me to choose Dietetics, where I can explore these ideas in more detail.
Leeds Kirkgate Market
Kirkgate Market is a large indoor trading market, particularly for food. The building is full of small concession shops, providing a huge variety of products. The benefit of shopping here is the competitive rates, as there are many stands selling similar things. Fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, butchers and bakers. There are a surprising number of traders who solely offer exotic foods too. What I’ve found by doing a weekly shop here is the sheer quantity of quality ingredients, without the excessive packaging. And it’s open Monday to Saturday!
I’ve also found that websites like Eventbrite also offer many different events, such as outdoor markets and food fairs. Last year I went to Kirkgate’s Vegan Market – which was a fab day out, where I particularly enjoyed trying a mix of different culture’s plant-based versions of traditional cuisine. Kirkgate has a great reputation for street food too, so you can always pick up a meal for the journey home.
It’s all in the name– there are many shops in Leeds that focus on products without packaging. EcoTopia, Panda Refills and Leeds Refills Zero Waste Shop all provide dry and liquid products to takeaway in your own containers therefore reducing plastic waste. Consequently, because they sell in large batches, their prices are often really competitive.
I love going to zero-waste shops, as I always find some handy product for the kitchen or bathroom – that will save money in the long term.
Sometimes it saves a whole lot of hassle by just going into your local supermarket. There are still lots of things worth thinking about in order to make sustainable choices when shopping at them though. Often there are loose fruits and vegetables for sale rather than packaged ones, there are larger varieties of pre-made plant-based meals and there are more branded plant-based ingredients (Richmond’s Meat Free Sausages are amazing!). If you’re a dedicated carnivore, swopping out meat for chickpeas, lentils, or Quorn even a few times a week will save money – which can always be used to buy a better quality, or better sourced cut of meat.
There are some other small considerations to make, alternatively to places to shop. Reusable coffee cups have been trending recently and are often made out recycled materials. Using them can count towards money off an order at a coffee shop as well as helping reduce waste. I get 25p off my coffee order at Starbucks when using my own reusable cup, so the investment eventually pays off, if you’re a coffee addict like me.
Buying a reusable shopping bag removes the waste of a one-use bag, saving 10p per bag at the supermarket. I have additionally purchased unbleached cotton produce bags, which are perfect for taking home loose fruits and veggies and storing them in.
Making sustainable choices doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does take a learning curve if you haven’t thought about it before. Hopefully some of these tips help and give you great ideas of where to go for your next weekly shop.
Hi, I'm Ellie and I'm a first year Dietetics student and blogger from Dorset. Contrary to popular belief, my life doesn't revolve around salads! I enjoy baking, photography, pottery and I am particularly interested in all things sustainable.