Sustainable Living Shopping on a Budget

One of the most frequent comments I hear when I’m on a podcast or deliver a live class is – “how can I shop sustainably when I can hardly afford to put food on the table right now?” I hear you loud and clear! Truly a valid question. I’ve personally gone through multiple economic downturns in my lifetime and it’s often been a struggle to support my preferred sustainable living shopping habits.

This recession feels even heavier than those in the past. When the cost of eggs skyrocketed (along with the cost of food, in general), we all really felt the pinch at the grocery store.

Sustainable living shopping doesn’t have to be eliminated when your budget is tight. You can still do a lot to reduce your carbon footprint and save money at the same time. Not sure how? Let’s take a look at an example of where and how to invest your dollars using a $50 budget.

Please note: I may receive payments for clicks, purchases, and/or registrations made through affiliate links in this post.

Sustainable shopping list based on a budget:

Budget: $50

Reusable water bottle ($10)
Reusable grocery bags ($5)
Bulk grains and legumes ($10)
Organic produce ($20)
Eco-friendly cleaning products ($5)

Reusable water bottle:

Skip the bottled water, juice and soda! Investing in a high-quality reusable water bottle will keep your budget trim while helping the earth. Using reusable bottles reduces the use of single-use plastic water bottles, which are a major contributor to plastic pollution.

A reusable water bottle can last for years and save money in the long run. Plus, water refills from your kitchen are far less expensive than single use water bottles. There are plenty of water sources available for fill-ups on the go, too. Many parks now have water stations and workplace environments have water coolers.

Juice and soda are not pocket-friendly, environmentally friendly, or great for your overall health. Try flavoring your water with herbs and fruits if you need a little sweetness.

Reusable grocery bags:

Don’t have reusable grocery bags? Invest in a few now! By bringing your own reusable bags to the grocery store, you can help reduce the use of single-use plastic bags, which often end up in landfills or oceans. Reusable grocery bags are durable, easy to clean, and can be used for a variety of shopping trips.


While you are in shopping mode, don’t forget there are plenty of freebies available that can help you along the way. Many stores give out reusable grocery bags as incentives to shop their location. Your local extension agency generally has reusable bags and other great freebies for the community, too, like seeds, recipe ideas and more.

Online you can find websites with free baby stuff (including eco-friendly products), free seeds, free grocery bags and water bottles, and much more. Also search for coupons to help you reduce your budget even further.

Organic produce:

Organic produce is often more expensive than conventionally grown produce, but it can also be healthier and better for the environment. Choosing organic options can reduce exposure to harmful pesticides and support more sustainable farming practices.

Better yet, shop your local farmers market instead of your local grocer’s organic section.

Bulk grains and legumes:

Buying bulk grains and legumes is often more affordable than purchasing packaged products, and it can also reduce packaging waste. Many grocery stores and health food stores offer bulk options for common staples like rice, beans, and nuts.

Eco-friendly cleaning products:

Many cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that can harm both the environment and human health. Eco-friendly cleaning products are often made with natural, non-toxic ingredients and can be more sustainable and affordable in the long run.

So, the next time you need to pick up a cleaning product, make the switch to an eco-friendlier version. You may also want to consider just picking up some ingredients to make your own eco-friendly cleaning products.

Start with our tips here:  How to identify green cleaners and products to use to make your own.

By making sustainable choices within a budget, we can reduce our impact on the environment and make a positive difference in our communities. This shopping list is just one example of how we can prioritize sustainability while still staying within a budget.

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Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, when she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s making tea and writing about country living and artisan culture.
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