Think a sustainable lifestyle will break the bank? Think again. These frugal sustainable living tips will have you saving money and jump-start a low waste lifestyle in no time! Heck, you’re probably already living more sustainably than you think!
Are these zero waste tips?
Sustainable living means that you’re trying to live in such a way that if every single human lived like you, the earth would be able to keep up with the demand for resources.
Basically, it means you’re living in a way that the earth can sustain.
The big goal is that we can reverse climate change and switch to an alternate way of living that allows for future generations to thrive.
Can sustainable living save you money?
Oh my goodness, YES! Really, living sustainably is almost the exact same thing your great-grandparents would call being “resourceful.”
You’re simply trying to make the most of what you have. This means eating the food you already bought, caring for the products you currently own, and simplifying the amounts & type of stuff you bring in your home. Caring for what you already have reduces your consumption and is a huge way to save money!
Sustainable living is kind of like minimalism in that it pumps the brakes on typical consumer shopping habits & asks you to reconsider what you really need.
Our Favorite Frugal Sustainable Living Tips
1. Eating leftovers
Food waste is an enormous problem! About 30-40% of all food grown in the US is wasted (source). That’s not just on individual consumers, but we have some work to do here, too. Approximately 40% of all food is wasted at the home level. This adds up to $1,500 per year of money thrown in the trash per year for the average family!
Eating leftovers is the easiest way to avoid food waste & make the most of the money you’ve already spent. Just eat the food!
2. Cooking dinner
Yep, you get a big pat on the back just for cooking dinner! When you cook instead of dining out, you reduce a lot of packaging waste. You’re also able to cook with ingredients with minimal or no packaging.
Plus, homemade meals often cost a fraction of food from a restaurant.
Meal planning is a huge help, too!
If you feel like what you’re currently doing isn’t quite working, check out our free meal planning template!
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3. Stick to your grocery list
Imagine only buying exactly what you need at the store, and not the extra things that catch your eye (I’m talking 100% to you, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups). This is a great habit to live more sustainably and frugally!
P.S. My free printable pantry staples list above makes it easy to know what to keep on hand at all times! Lots of people use it as their weekly grocery list.
4. Pack a lunch
We know this is a great frugal living tip, but it’s also sustainable! Bring leftovers, make a big pot of soup that uses up veggies scraps, or use up food from your pantry & freezer.
5. Freeze items that go stale quickly
Does anyone else keep a backup loaf of bread in their freezer? This is an easy way to keep the bread fresh before you really need it.
Once again, this saves you money because you’re ensuring the food you already bought stays fresh!
6. Use one cleaning spray throughout the house
Instead of buying a different product for every cleaning issue, many of us frugal, eco-minded folks have one trusty cleaning product we use over and over again.
To make an all-purpose cleaning spray from Sal Suds, you simply add 1.5 tbs to 16 oz of water (the size of a standard glass spray bottle). One bottle cost me $12 several YEARS ago and we still have a ton left. Easy!
Ready to up your cleaning game? Here are 12 zero-waste cleaning swaps to save you time and money.
7. Use drain covers
Instead of pouring gallons of Drano down your sinks and shower, you can use a drain cover! If you live in a house with long-haired people, you might already do this to avoid clogs & pricy calls to the plumber.
We have a simple grate over our shower drain to catch hair and even a sink mushroom in our bathroom sink. In the kitchen, we catch food debris with a strainer that we then compost.
8. Carry a reusable water bottle on the go
Hydroflasks & Klean Kanteens are popular EVERYWHERE and are a wonderful way to reduce single-use plastics. We love to look for these secondhand to save even more money and resources.
One upgrade you could make: start carrying a container for leftovers and/or your own eating utensils!
P.S. This is the day 1 task of my 30 Day Sustainable Living challenge! Learn a new habit each day to start living a frugally sustainable life.
9. Shop at the thrift store
This is one of my favorite hobbies and is a zero-waste strategy! Buying secondhand reduces the materials, energy, and fuel you’d use from buying something brand new. You’re also keeping something from the landfill and likely saving some money!
10. Cluster your errands together
Instead of running to the store for this and then going out later to do something else, plan to tackle all of your errands at once.
11. Wipe up spills with a cloth
Disposable products like paper towels aren’t really necessary. They require raw or recycled materials to be harvested, processed, and shipped at great distances.
Plus, a 12-pack of generic paper towels is $15 at Target! No thanks. I’d rather spend $20 on cotton cleaning towels that will last forever or even make my own from old fabrics.
This is an easy place to save money, too, because one good stack of cleaning rags is about the same as one big container of paper towels!
12. Borrow things from your neighbors and family
There’s no reason to spend money to own something you’ll only use once or twice. Instead of hitting Amazon or Walmart for every whim, try borrowing items you only need temporarily from a friend or family.
13. Live on a budget
When you’re mindful of your spending, you tend to be more intentional with the purchases you make. Budgeting puts some brakes on your buying and asks you to rethink or avoid some items.
With budgeting, you’re also able to save up for higher-quality products that will outlast the cheap stuff at the store.
14. Gift secondhand items or time together
You can definitely give physical items for birthdays and special occasions. It’s also nice to give gently used items or antiques. We love to gift one-on-one time together with family we don’t see as often.
See our favorite low waste gift ideas here!
15. Refill your soap bottle
Instead of getting a new bottle of soap, fill up your old one! You can even dilute liquid castile soap to make liquid soap. One bottle goes a long way!
16. Use bar soap
Because bar soap is so concentrated, one bar goes a long way! We like to buy simple castile soap for general handwashing and body wash. It’s inexpensive and we use up all the ends in our homemade soap saver bags.
17. Only flush when needed
Remember the phrase: “if it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down?” I first heard that in Meet the Fockers!
But really, this is a good practice to reduce your water waste!
Not into that? Turn any toilet into a low-flow toilet by adding a closed half gallon water bottle to your toilet tank. It will drop your water usage by half a gallon right away!
18. Cut open your toothpaste tube to use it all up
Are you throwing away perfectly good toothpaste? Cut open your toothpaste tubes to get it all out.
19. Rewear clothes before washing
Many items, especially pants and jackets, can be worn a couple of times before they actually need to be cleaned. I often wear shirts 2-3 times before they get washed unless I wore them exercising or doing something that would make them dirty.
20. Line dry clothes
Especially if you’re trying to live sustainably in suburbia or an urban area, you might not have access to a clothesline outside. You can still put out some items to air dry!
Lay them over the washer, hang them over a door or a railing, etc.
21. Add a layer to stay warm
When the temperature drops, frugal folks know to put on an extra layer instead of cranking up the heat.
22. Drop the temperature when you’re away or asleep
You can save on your heating bill & reduce your carbon emissions by dropping your home’s temperature 10-12 degrees. Many devices allow you to set this as a daily timer.
23. Shop at a farmstand or farmers’ market
By buying food made closer to home, you’re reducing tons of shipping waste and packaging. You’re also able to support local businesses and great fresher, more nutritious produce.
Even if some of the food at your farmers market is more expensive, you’ll likely still find plenty of inexpensive options. Look for seconds produce (imperfect condition), bulk discounts, or even try to barter.
24. Hit the bargain grocery store
If you’re lucky enough to have a bargain grocery store near you, like Grocery Outlet, take advantage of it! These stores buy surplus foods and goods at a discount and sell them to you cheaper.
We especially like to source perishable items that would be trashed otherwise. Sometimes foods that “expire” in a day or two will be marked down to ridiculously low prices.
This does mean that we produce more waste, but we feel like it’s worth it to keep fresh food out of the landfill.
25. Stretch meats with meats & veggies
If you’re cooking a pound of ground beans, you can easily stretch it by adding lentils or black beans. Sneak in even more nutrition by adding diced vegetables like onions, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.
Making the most of all the food you eat is a step toward a zero waste kitchen!
26. Judge freshness by the sniff test
There’s definitely something to be said about learning to tell when food is still good enough to eat. Give your milk a sniff. Peel away gross pieces of lettuce to save the rest. Cut the mold off cheese.
Learn more strategies to tell when food is fresh here.
27. Buy bulk foods
Okay, so bulk foods are not always a better deal especially if they go bad before you can use them all up. However, simple pantry staples like grains, dried beans, and flours are great for buying in bulk!
You can reduce your packaging waste, save money, and eat better, too.
28. Shop your pantry
You already have food at home…and you’re determined to use it all up! Check your pantry first before shopping to save money.
Learn how to set up a zero waste pantry using my favorite tips!
29. Bake your own birthday cakes
Those grocery store or bakery cakes add up! It can be pretty inexpensive to bake at home. You’ll avoid those plastic cookie boxes, too.
Become a better baker with our list of baking essentials for beginners.
30. Fix things that need repair
Ever noticed how your grandparents used to say things like “they don’t make things like they used to?” Well, they don’t. Companies literally design products to break down over time and not be repaired.
It’s called planned obsolesence and it’s bad for our wallets and the environment.
There’s power in fixing something broken, even if it’s not perfect. Also, sometimes, it’s okay if something is broken. Be safe, of course, but a few chips and dings are perfectly okay.
31. Give things a second life
Butter tubs for leftovers? Old pasta jars full of dried noodles? No one says you have to use products the way they were intended. It’s more fun, you keep stuff out of the landfill, and you save some cash.
32. Keep the same old cell phone
Electronics waste is a big issue! When thrown away, they can release harmful chemicals and contaminate water supplies. Plus, phones require precious metals and many of those are mined by workers in terrible conditions, many of whom are children, around the world.
Yikes! Keep your old phone going to save money and shrink your carbon footprint.
33. Adopt a “good enough” mentality
From home decor to clothing to cars, let something just be good enough. Find a way to be comfortable with items that aren’t trendy or cool. If they are useful items and they still work, they are good enough!
If you really can’t stand the one you have, see if you can paint it or refinish it someway.
34. Save up for big expenses
Now in the days of AfterPay and digital layaway, saving up before you buy something sounds like an old-fashioned living tip.
Think beyond cars, houses, and weddings. It’s okay to slow down and save up to be higher quality items that will outlast the cheaper stuff. Even sending $5 to $10 per month to a special savings account will add up in the long run!
35. Pass things on to friends or family
There’s something beautiful in sharing generously with the people we love. It’s also a way of existing outside of the consumer cycle – you’re giving someone something that they won’t need to buy new. It’s a gift!
36. Barter or trade with your community
We are huge fans of our local Buy Nothing Group. It’s a huge ace in your sleeve for your sustainable frugal lifestyle!
Basically, you post things you no longer need or request specific items from your community. Other people do the same. There’s no money exchanged; the whole process is totally free.
I’ve received dog supplies, a hose, some lamps, home decor, a weighted blanket, and more. I’ve also given away lots o things that no longer work for me, like the first round of zero waste shampoo bars I tried.
Want to add a frugal sustainable living tip to this list? Tell us how you live an inexpensive green life below!