12 Ways to Be Frugally Sustainable in the Kitchen

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If you’re interested in learning how you can have a frugal kitchen that is also a sustainable kitchen, you’re in the right place!

Frugality and sustainability have a great deal of overlap. But sometimes it can be difficult to come up with new ideas to try.

That’s why I’ve decided to start a new series of posts, The Frugally Sustainable Series. This is the first post in the series, but you can find the rest here:
5 Ways to be Frugally Sustainable On the Go
5 High-Impact Ways to Make Your Wardrobe Frugal and Eco-Friendly

I have always found the kitchen to be the easiest place to start. Unlike bills, which are usually pretty set in stone, there is a lot of customization that can happen within the grocery budget.

I hope this list will help you. I encourage you to pick just one or two items that you’re not already doing, and add it to your regular routines.

Even the smallest changes make a huge difference!

1. Use Cloth Towels instead of Paper Towels

Cutting out (or cutting down on) your paper towel usage is one of the best places to start making your kitchen more frugal and sustainable.

You likely already have some cloth dishtowels in your kitchen, so this is a pretty simple switch to make.

For the gross jobs that you would typically use paper towel for, you can buy shop rags, floursack towels, or even upcycle worn-out textiles into cleaning rags.

You can get about 8-10 cleaning rags out of an old towel, and old white t-shirts also make great cleaning rags for mopping up spills.

But ultimately, you save so much money (and avoid so much trash!) by not relying on paper towel to clean up messes.

Plus, it really isn’t that much extra laundry–for my family of 4, we wash our kitchen towels every week and a half to two weeks.

My household has been paper towel free for about 3 years now, and I still believe it was one of the best and most painless switches I made for a more frugal and sustainable kitchen.

2. Use an Eco-Friendly Dish Scrubber

I used to get so frustrated with the dish sponges that we would use for a few months and then had to throw away. I tried so many different brands and so many strategies to prolong the life of our dish sponge.

Finally I learned about reusable options. I personally use the Scrub-It sponges below, but you might prefer a different option for washing your dishes.

I love that I can just throw it in the dishwasher or washing machine when it starts to get gross! And I save so much money by not buying new dish sponges every few months.

3. Make Homemade Snacks Instead of Buying Pre-Packaged

Even just making half of your snack options at home can help out your grocery budget! Hummus, hard-boiled eggs, no-bake energy bites, and overnight oats are all popular homemade snacks in my house.

Every time you make a homemade snack, you are choosing to not buy packaging that would then end up in the garbage. It may seem small, but it’s small choices like this that help the planet!

Besides, homemade always tastes better!

4. Start a Garden

Gardening is a great way to cut your grocery budget, help your local ecosystem, and eat food that is package-free.

There are so many creative gardening solutions out there so that you can grow your own food even if you’re in a small space. And if you’re new to gardening, start small!

You can start with a couple potted plants and add a few every year, or try your hand at an herb garden before you move to a vegetable garden. No matter what you decide, every little bit of food you grow will shave some money off of your grocery bill!

5. Compost

There are so many reasons to compost.

Did you know that landfills were designed so that nothing inside breaks down, including all the banana peels, apple cores, and any other organic matter that you throw away? None of it breaks down in a landfill because it isn’t exposed to two key elements–oxygen and sunlight.

If you plan to start a garden or have one already, homemade compost is the most frugal way to provide your plants with fertilizer. Finished compost provides plants with rich nutrition, which completes the cycle–food that doesn’t get eaten turns into compost, which in turn, nourishes food that does get eaten, and the cycle continues.

Of course, even if you don’t have any plants, you can still compost. I’m willing to bet you know at least one person who gardens and would be more than happy to take some compost off your hands, or add your food scraps to their own compost pile.

You can also reach out online, or even sell finished compost to make a few extra dollars.

6. Use Your Veggie Scraps to Make Bone Broth

I love making bone broth. It tickles my frugal bone–I mean, I make good food out of what would normally be composted or even thrown away. I get the same thrill when I use aquafaba as an egg substitute in my baking.

Making bone broth is so simple and easy to do. Freeze your veggie scraps and chicken bones until you have enough to fill your CrockPot three quarters full.

Simply cover with cold water, and turn on low for up to 24 hours. When it’s done, strain it and you have bone broth!

7. Get Your Produce from the Farmer’s Market

Getting your produce at the Farmer’s Market can be a super frugal and a very sustainable way to shop.

Shopping at a Farmer’s Market naturally means you will incur less plastic packaging than you would at the grocery store. And by choosing to buy from local growers, you keep that money in your local economy.

One of the things I love most about the Farmer’s Market, though, is the end. Often, if you go at the end or stay until the end, you’ll catch everyone as they are packing up to leave.

This is a prime time to get a good deal. Many sellers do not want to haul everything back–they often just want to get rid of what they have left. So they are often open to giving you a better price and are more receptive to haggling.

8. Bring Reusable Shopping Bags

This is easily one of the simplest ways to get started with sustainable living. Many places already have bag bans in place.

I lived in a community that had a bag ban for two years, so bringing my own bags just became habit.

Now, you can get reuseable bags that are made out of a plastic-y canvas material–they are cheap and plentiful, but they are not washable.

I highly recommend that you spend a little money on rip-stop bags or cotton canvas bags–believe me, you’ll want to be able to wash them. I love rip-stop bags in particular because they fold up so small and are so easy to carry.

9. Bring Reusable Produce Bags

As long as we’re talking about shopping bags, we might as well also discuss produce bags.

One of the most common arguments against reuseable produce bags is that you’ll end up paying more for your produce because of the added weight. However, I haven’t found that to be true.

Reusable produce bags are usually made of mesh, thin cotton, or rip-stop fabric, which are all very light. It might add a cent or two to your price for produce, but the difference is negligible when compared to the benefits of less plastic in the landfills.

Another alternative is to just not use produce bags at all. As long as your produce is grouped together on the belt (and you only have a few of each kind), going freeform shouldn’t be an issue.

10. Buy Your Pantry Staples in Bulk

This is one of my favorite methods for saving money and having a more sustainable pantry. I love always having flour and sugar on hand in bulk. With my other baking supplies, the possibilities are endless.

To me, it’s like an insurance policy. I spend a little extra money one month to buy bulk pantry staples. If, a few months later, I ended up in the position of not having any food in my fridge, I could still make meals with what I have in my pantry.

In fact, I can make good meals! Pancakes, waffles, homemade bread, muffins, and oatmeal are all breakfast options when you have bulk pantry staples. Chickpea curry, black bean mexican skillet, or a simple rice pilaf with canned vegetables are all possibilities.

Buying bulk pantry staples is one of the best moves you can make to give yourself added food security, especially now that we’re officially in a recession.

Even an extra $20 a month would go a long way towards stocking the pantry with bulk goods. If you can’t afford fancy containers to store your pantry staples in, use recycled jars and containers!

In a post-Covid world, I honestly believe it’s a move you can’t afford not to make.

Related: How to Buy Bulk Foods for the First Time

11. Buy Bulk Spices

If you have a grocery store nearby that has bulk bins, use it! Even if you don’t get anything else from the bulk bins, buy your spices from them.

Buying spices from the bulk bins is so much cheaper and produces so much less waste. I can refill a spice jar for $0.25-$0.75 (depending on the spice). That’s a huge savings! Plus, when I refill the jars I already have, they stay functional. No need to toss them!

12. Freeze Fruit that’s About to Go Bad

It can be difficult to keep track of the shelf life for all the differnt types of produce in your fridge. It’s understandable that you might find a container of strawberries or an apple that doesn’t quite look good enough to eat.

When it gets to that point, freeze it! Fruit that is just on the edge of going bad is great for smoothies, popsicles, or jam (when you have enough).

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