How to Go Grocery Shopping Sustainably

Going zero-waste might be the right thing to do for the planet, but it is certainly not the easiest to accomplish. Almost every grocery store you visit will have food packaged and stored behind layers and layers of plastic. Most foods are produced with high carbon emissions. It costs both your wallet and the planet way more than it should.

Practicing sustainable measures while grocery shopping is the only solution to this lifestyle problem that impacts Earth as much as it impacts us. To make your journey towards a sustainable life more accessible, there are 8 tips you can follow. Let’s dive in.

1. Bring Your Own Reusable Bags

Statistics suggest that nearly 40% of all the plastic produced every year is single-use plastic used for packaging. This kind of plastic is really difficult to recycle as it gets tangled in the machinery and interferes with robotic sensors used in the recycling process. Their obvious fate is ending up in landfills and water bodies where they have detrimental impacts on the environment.

Each time you purchase something that uses single-use plastics, you contribute to the growing plastic crisis. Bringing your own grocery shopping bags really pays off in this scenario. If you resolve to bring your own reusable bags and containers, you can say “no” to single-use plastic every time while grocery shopping. With a few storage and organization tips, incorporating reusable bags and containers into your life can be easy as pie.

2. Buy Loose Produce

While we’re on the topic of plastic packaging, you should know that using reusable bags only works when you buy loose produce. Putting a container of packaged vegetables or meat in your tote bag defeats the purpose. You are still creating significant plastic waste. To prevent this, visit stores that contain fresh, unwrapped foods.

Buying loose produce helps you control the amount you want to buy and save money in the process. In organic stores, you will find a wide range of loose products — fruits, vegetables, spices, pasta, cereals, rice, biscuits, and much more! In a supermarket, however, most of these products will be wrapped in plastic.

3. Steer Clear of Processed Food

How much do you pay for packets of chips, biscuits, or cookies per month? $20? $50? More? Try spending that amount on buying whole, raw ingredients. You’ll easily make twice as much food that’s thrice as healthy!

It’s called “shopping the perimeter”. When you shop the perimeter, you buy your cheese and pasta separately instead of buying a box of microwaveable mac and cheese. Better yet, make your own pasta from scratch!

Processed food comes with a lot of drawbacks: huge carbon footprint, higher costs, loss of nutrients, unhealthy additives, and excessive packaging, just to name a few. These impair your health, tarnish the environment, and snowball your grocery bill. You can live a much healthier life by sacrificing snacks and easy food options for more healthy recipes.

4. Opt for a Plant-Based Diet

Does making your own pasta sound like an odious task to you? Were you thinking of veering towards meat more? If so, think twice! Eating a predominantly animal-based diet can be even more detrimental than eating overly processed food.

Plant-based foods have a smaller carbon-footprint. Most animal-based foods are way more resource intensive and harmful for the environment. A study found that beef production requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gas than common plant-based protein sources such as beans, peas and lentils. Chicken and pork require thrice the amount of resources as plants.

5. Read the Labels

Labels can reveal so many secrets about how the food is produced and the impact it has on the environment. Not all processed food and meat out there hurts the planet. Some of it is responsibly and consciously produced. Certain food labels can certify that. Lookout for trustable certifications like Fair Trade, American Grassfed, Organic, Bird Friendly, Animal Welfare Approved, Safe Catch, BPI Compostable, Non-GMO, and so on. Eat responsibly!

6. Shop Local and In-Season

Food can have a high emission tag if it is transported from somewhere far away or exported from another part of the world. This is often the case when we try to eat fruits or vegetables that are not in season. This means more energy consumption, higher carbon emission, and outrageous prices.

If you eat what is locally grown around you, you consume food with negligible carbon emissions and low prices. Shopping from your local farmers’ market is a great way to start.

7. Know Your Plastics

Sometimes, purchasing items with plastic packaging is unavoidable if you do not have any plastic-free alternatives at your local grocery stores. In such dire scenarios, check the plastic resin identification number. It’ll be a small code inside of a triangle. This symbol reveals which type of plastic is used to make a packaging material.

Always go for HDPE (high-density polyethylene) and PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) plastics since they are more easily recyclable than other kinds of plastic. Learn more about recycling and upcycling to keep yourself updated about ways you can repurpose plastic containers.

8. Always Carry a List and Never Go In Hungry

Going grocery shopping without a list is how you get confused. Going in hungry is how you lose focus and self-control. The result is buying a bunch of stuff you don’t need. Overbuying leads to food wastage. Annually, Americans waste 30-40% of the US food supply. You sure don’t want to contribute to this number.

Happy Shopping!

If you’re already living a pretty sustainable lifestyle, the above tips will only add to it. And if your next grocery trip is going to be your first attempt at being sustainable, following these tips will make for an effortless transition into this lifestyle. Either way, more power to you!

Author Bio:

Carolyn Mitchell is a freelance writer and content strategist with a passion for home décor. She can often be found re-painting and updating the furnishings in her home, and she is also a dedicated cat mom to two adorable kitties.

Protect Your Finances in Hard Times

By Ann Lloyd, Student Savings Guide

It’s been almost a year since many of us have felt truly safe. We’ve been beset by a global pandemic, civil unrest, and, amidst it all, financial uncertainty.

We have limited control over those first two elements. We can wear masks and socially distance to shield ourselves from the coronavirus, and we can do our part to find common ground and exercise compassion when dealing with our fellow citizens. But somehow, things still feel largely out of hand.

We might feel overwhelmed by financial demands, too, and some factors may be beyond our immediate control. But we can still take steps to find firmer financial footing and work toward a more secure future — even in an unsettled present. 

Weather changes in your employment

For many, the employment picture has become a major source of stress and uncertainty during the past year. Many businesses have closed, and a survey of Yelp data showed that 60% — a majority — had closed down permanently. Unemployment claims hit a five-month high in January 2021.

You may have been laid off or furloughed as a result of the pandemic, and even if you weren’t, your job description may have changed. Maybe you started working from home or saw a reduction in hours. Or maybe you had to assume new duties as your company stretched its staff’s capacity amid downsizing.

In light of these changes, it’s important to expand your skill set to keep yourself relevant. Ask your employer about cross-training opportunities, and bolster your all-around proficiency by seeking out online courses and how-to videos. Look for side jobs and contracting work, too: The “gig economy” has grown by 15% since 2010.

If you’re in a traditional job, check in with human resources about changes in job status or duties that might be expected in the near future. And don’t be afraid to ask for information about financial assistance, wage investment programs, retirement options, and insurance packages that are available through your company.

Get proactive with your finances

Take stock of your overall financial picture with an inventory of everything from your budget to your retirement plan, from your insurance to your bank account.

There are plenty of financial management tools available to you, ranging from banking apps to budgeting software and beyond. For example, in uncertain times, managing and maintaining your credit is critical. You’ll need a credit cushion now more than ever. Under federal law, you’re entitled to a free credit report each year. Take advantage of this opportunity so you know where you stand.

If you find yourself in difficult straits, pursue opportunities for government aid. Two rounds of stimulus payments have gone out to qualified taxpayers. If you haven’t received yours, you can check its status and how to proceed via this IRS site online. 

Do some research and be aware of your options. There’s also other tax relief available, such as filing deferments and economic impact payments. Check into unemployment insurance and student loan relief, if they apply. 

If you’re a renter, know your rights, and whether you’re protected by a government moratorium on evictions. Check with lenders to see whether they’re willing to be flexible on your debt by allowing you to skip or delay scheduled payments. Ask your bank to waive ATM fees, late fees, and overdraft penalties.

Scrutinize your insurance

Insurance is important during the best of times, but it’s even more critical during times of crisis.

Take account of all your coverage, whether it’s home, health, or automobile insurance. Some insurers offer discounts for bundled coverage; see whether this might work for you. Study your policies to make sure they don’t overlap and you’re not paying too much as a result. Know what needs different types of policies serve, and how health and car insurance coverage differs by situation.

There are other types of backups you also might want to consider. If your livelihood depends on electricity, you can’t afford to lose power. A backup generator is a modest investment that can keep you operating in uncertain conditions.

Protect your retirement

When you need to tighten your belt, it’s tempting to stop paying into your 401(k) or other retirement account. But don’t let uncertainty in the present threaten your future. It’s never a good time to pull the plug on retirement savings — but you can take this opportunity to reassess the kind of saving you’re doing.

Check with your employer to see whether your company is offering, or planning to offer, new options that fit your situation better. Consult your financial adviser for expert advice, so you can be sure of your future, even if your present seems uncertain. If you’re nearing retirement, your adviser can tell you how feasible it would be to call it a career — and when.

The past year has strained our economy as a nation, and our individual finances, as well. But even amid the stress and sorrow of civil unrest and the spread of a deadly virus, there are things we can do to minimize the impact of national and global crises on our lives. 

As we look ahead, we can take action to keep our ship afloat as we right our course and sail toward a brighter future.

Layer Savings To Reach Long-Term Goals with Strategic Planning

Debt is something that everyone has these days. Some have less amount of it and find it well manageable while other carry large amounts in multiple loan accounts losing their sleep and money over it.

  • These people who have large amounts of debt cannot save money for their better future or even for an emergency situation.
  • On the contrary, people who have little debts can reach to both their savings for retirements as well as paying off debts quickly very easily.

It all depends on your current cash flow, in and out. If you earn well and have fewer amounts to repay, you will save. On the other hand, if your earning is less but your debt payments are more, you will have less or no savings but will surely stay in debt more a longer time, if not always and forever!

In such situations, on useful approach that you can take is to pay your debts off more aggressively. You may assume that your savings will increase in the future as and when your income increases. This will help you to pay off your debts as well.

Layering savings

Assume that you can save up to $30,000 per year for the next couple of years by paying off your debts continually. This same figure may increase to $40,000 per year when you pay off a second mortgage.Such savings layering can transform a marginally successful looking plan into one that has a high very rate of possibility of success.

The primary aspect of layering savings is to evade lifestyle sidle. This is a situation when you suddenly realize that you have more expensive tastes in you as and when your income increases.

However, paying off debt is a longterm project for most of the people. In order to achieve this, you will have to do two things namely:

  • Prioritize your debts to find out which needs to be paid down before and faster and
  • Strike a perfect balance between retiring in debt and saving.

This will help you to pay off your debts to achieve your financial goals within its longterm context.

However, both of these are not easy tasks. You will need to make a perfect decision to find out whether or not you should use any extra cash to pay off your debt or stick to the normal way of repaying it so that you can maintain steady and free cash follow. There are a few other things to consider for this such as:

  • How much of cash flow you have
  • How comfortable you are with your debt or debts and
  • How you weigh debt payments, savings and investments.

This will help you to see which best option will work for or against you. This will also help you to avoid debt stress and the hassles of looking for debt relief options at or any other for that matter.

Tips to make a choice

Especially, when you have enough money in hand left over and thing turn out to be going very well and as expected at the end of every month, it may be very difficult to make the right choice of options. To help you choose the right option, here are a few tips to follow:

  • First, you will need to have a general sense of the number that will determine your cash flow is good enough to pay your debt off and save.
  • Second, you will need to have design a detailed budget to arrive at the final number of your cash flow.
  • Third, you will need to prioritize your debts in order to manage it well as per your present economic situation.

Next up, you must find out your comfort level while carrying debt with you. Yes, it is true that most of the people in today’s society are comfortable in carrying debt but it may not be the case for you. It is all about the money you earn and have in hand for disposal.

You may be like the handful of people who simply do not like any debt amount against their name. Even if they incur any, such as while making a purchase using their credit card, they tend to pay it off as soon as possible regardless of what the numbers may imply.

Therefore, making a choice between saving and repaying debts off is a matter of:

  • Personal choice
  • Amount of money available at a particular moment to pay off the debt
  • The comfort level with or without debt and
  • The long term and short term benefits and consequences.

However, if you choose to pay your debts off quickly and then save, make sure that amount of decrease in savings associated with in in the short term is logical enough and will not threaten your ability with unbeatable challenges to meet your ultimate financial goals.

Concept of ‘carry’

You may have come across the term ‘carry’ when people speak about debt. You may have come across it a couple of times in this article as well but you may not know what ‘carry’ actually means.

The term ‘carry’ actually refers to the difference of the amount you pay in the form of interest on your loan and the amount that you could have earned as an interest on that amount saved if you invested on something else that yields. That is why debt is also considered as a ‘burden’ or ‘load.’

For example, if you have a credit card debt that charges 19.5% interest.You know that you will pay more as interest on the credit card debt than you can earn in a money market by investing the same amount. In such a case it is unwise to ‘carry’ the debt for inexplicable reasons.

Therefore, the last and probably the most important step for layering savings is to determine how much debt you should carry, and this is not a very difficult task. All you have to do is consider the rate of interest and the tenure of the loan.


Buying A House VS Renting It – Which One Is More Profitable?

There’s a widely held belief that buying a home is preferable to renting. You’ve probably heard your parents or even friends say that as long as you are renting, you just throw the money away, into a landlord’s pockets. Contrary to this popular belief, fewer and fewer Americans decide to own a house, claiming it is a liability at best, and a problem at worst.

Which one then is a better, safer, and more profitable option? This article examines the benefits of both buying and renting and tries to determine the answer to this question.

Benefits of Buying

You can Make Money from your Home

When you own your home, you can make money from it in a variety of ways. Renting out a room or even just car parking space could deliver a steady stream of income.

And if you have the right kind of mortgage, you can rent your house out whilst living somewhere else. Check out this rental property calculator to find out how much you’d stand to make.

House Value May Increase

When you buy a home, particularly if you have a considerable deposit, you can look at it as an investment. As long as you’re not planning to move any time soon, chances are its value will increase by the time you come to sell.

This, of course, depends upon the area in which you buy and the general economic climate. But if you sell your home 20 or 30 years down the line, you probably stand to make a profit.

Making Home Improvements Usually Reaps Rewards

When it comes to putting your home back on the market, you could find that improvements you’ve made to the property have increased your home’s value.

Often, well-executed home improvements pay for themselves and then some at the time of a sale.

Benefits of Renting

No Additional Costs

People like to say that renting a property is just like throwing money away. But whilst buying a home can be an investment, there are plenty of other costs involved.

If you buy a home with a mortgage, you’re spending a huge amount of money on interest payments over the course of that mortgage.

And that’s before you even get started on maintenance costs, insurance, the fees associated with buying and your utilities. By renting you avoid all of these additional costs.

The Current Economic Climate is Less Relevant

The economic climate has much less impact on your rental than it would on a bought home. Whilst rental prices may rise and fall, chances are they generally stay in line with wage patterns.

However, buy a home with a large mortgage and you’re more susceptible to changes in the economy and the housing market. 23% of Americans owe more on their mortgages than their home is actually worth.

This is called negative equity and unless house prices increase dramatically or these people hold on to their homes for a long time, they’ll struggle to sell their homes any kind of profit.

You Won’t Be Stuck Paying a Rate you Can’t Afford

Sometimes landlords choose to raise the rent. If this happens and you can’t afford the new figure, you have the opportunity to give your notice, pack up and find somewhere new.

When you have a mortgage, payments can rise with interest rates. But if your mortgage suddenly becomes unaffordable, you don’t have the same flexibility to reduce costs. You may end up having to organise a costly move to downsize or even lose your home if you fail to make mortgage payments.

Renting Frees Up Money for Other Investments

You may find that renting is actually a cheaper option for the moment. But that doesn’t mean you can’t invest in your future. The money you save renting rather than buying can be used to make investments in areas other than property.

Time to Ask Yourself Some Questions

Whether you choose to rent or buy will depend largely on your current circumstances. Ask yourself a few questions.

  • Do you like the flexibility of renting? Or would you like to settle down in one place to raise a family?
  • Do you have a big enough deposit to buy a home? And are current interest rates favourable?
  • How much are monthly rental costs? How do they compare to the costs of buying a home, maintaining it and paying a mortgage?

Predicting how much profit you stand to make from buying a home is impossible. It’s always something of a gamble. What you can do is work out the current affordability of both renting and buying and decide which option fits best with your life.


Sienna’s bio:

Sienna Walker is a self-growth and lifelong-learning enthusiast who enjoys seeking out new and unique ways of saving and earning money. She is also an active blogger and might often be found online, sharing her tips with others and participating in online discussions.



5 Signs Your Current Lifestyle Will Lead to Your Financial Demise

Your lifestyle is very closely tied to your finances, as it often indicates how much you spend. Living frugally or spending with abandon are two very different lifestyle experiences, and the results of each will clearly show in your bank balance.

Here are five signs that mean you are heading for a cliff edge in terms of your financial situation.

1. You’re not saving 5%

Advice from experts suggests that you should be putting aside at least 10% of your income each month, if not 15%. But if you aren’t even managing to put 5% in your savings, then you are definitely living beyond your means. It’s even worse if you haven’t been able to put any savings aside at all.

If you feel like you can’t save that much each month, then you may need to cut back on your spending. Maybe that means not going out to dinner, limiting yourself to non-luxury items when shopping for groceries, or cutting back on some of your subscriptions. If you’re already living as frugally as possible and still not making savings, then the truth of the matter is that you’re simply not earning enough. Downsizing your home and looking for another source of income could be the solution in this case.

2. You don’t have an emergency fund

Everyone should have an emergency fund – again, experts recommend that you have around nine months’ worth of living expenses set aside, the minimum amount of money you would need to live during that time if you didn’t have any income at all. Why? Because life happens. You might find yourself unable to work, or suddenly lose your job – even if you have been an exemplary employee so far. You could crash your car and have your insurance fail to pay out, or lose your home in an accident which is not covered by your policy.

Vet bills, medical bills, legal fees, a broken-down car or boiler – these are all expenses which can come up from time to time and really knock you for six. You need to be prepared for these situations. If you aren’t, then you could have a nasty surprise waiting around the corner which could leave you bankrupt or in heavy debt.

3. You’re paying overdraft fees (or credit card fees)

It came to the end of the month, and you didn’t have quite enough to get you through to the next payday. Now you’ve got overdraft charges on your account – or you might even have credit card fees to pay until you pay them off. This is a bad situation, as it is the beginning of a spiral into debt. In both situations, you are being charged extra money because of the fact that you didn’t have enough to begin with.

When this happens, you should see it as a huge red flag and stop spending right away. Don’t be tempted to put more things on a credit card.

An interesting technique you can use is to stop paying with your card at all, and instead use a cash envelope system. Withdraw your money for the week or the month, and divide it into envelopes for specific purposes: groceries, shopping, going out, and so on. When the envelope is empty, you just have to stop spending in that category – simple as that.

4. You don’t have a budget

Not having a budget in place might seem fine when you have enough money to make ends meet easily. However, it’s a problematic situation to be in when one of those emergency situations strikes. Suddenly, you are spending far more than you can afford, and you have to suddenly put on the brakes to try and learn how to budget for the first time.

Set a budget now, and learn how to stick to it, as well as what constitutes a realistic budget based on your spending habits. This will help you a lot when changes in your situation occur.

5. You spend out of fear

Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is something that can drive us to spend money on crazy things. Do you really need that new piece of Victorian furniture, or are you just scared that you’ll never get another chance like that again? Don’t let fear dictate your spending. Don’t overspend on going out just to keep up with your friends, or buy a house you can’t afford the payments on because you want people to be impressed. It’s a road to nowhere.

By recognizing these signs and making changes now, you might be able to turn things around. Don’t let the worst happen – get in control of your lifestyle now, and stop your finances from suffering.

About Alana: Alana Downer is a personal finance expert and an avid blogger, who often shares her money tips and tricks online. Alana is also a part of the team behind Learn to Trade – a useful resource for all those who wish to start trading and investing. Should you have comments or questions, feel free to contact Alana on her Twitter.