Being sustainable when you're trying to save money


Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

Is it possible to be sustainable when you're also trying to be frugal? I try my best (because we can all only do our best) to choose sustainable options, but I'm also on my last month of maternity pay and soon Ben will have to pick up all the bills.

Sustainable choices are often a privilege that come with a price tag. I follow a lot of sustainable living accounts on Instagram. Most have a certain aesthetic. Glass Kilner jars with perfectly embossed labels, bamboo tooth brushes, capsule wardrobes with expensive 'investment' pieces and wooden toys in perfect pastel shades. Don't get me wrong, if I could afford it I'd be there in a shot, but I've just Googled a bamboo toothbrush and the first that comes up is £7.99. And I bought a bamboo washing up loofah once and it was crap and gross and now we're back on the cheap supermarket sponges. It's very easy to feel that you're not doing enough to save the planet. That I'm not giving my daughter the best in life because she is currently lying on a garish, second hand play mat covered in plastic. Loves it by the way. But I do believe that every little helps and I hope this list gives you some ideas on how to be ethical on a budget.

For transparency, now that we're relying just on Ben's salary we have a household disposable income that is just below the national average. We are often unaware of the bank balances behind certain lifestyles and end up aspiring to something that is unachieveable, so I thought it was important to disclose our situation. I'm also lucky that I own a car, a home with the space for a freezer, I have a garden and live in a city with loads of activities and sustainable options on my doorstep.

Household items

Toilet paper We're still using Who Gives A Crap toilet rolls. Yes they may not be as soft on your bum as the well known supermarket brands but that's something I can live with. The toilet paper is made from recycled paper and there's no plastic packaging other than the tape they use to seal the boxes. They donate 50% of their profits to good causes and, if you can believe it, they look cute in the bathroom. Comparitavely it costs 18.8p per 100 sheets compared to the supermarket brand that I used to buy at 15p per 100 sheets. I can see from my account that I only order every 6 months which, if nothing else, means I don't need to think about loo roll every week. I have a referral code if you'd like £5 off your first order. This also gives me £5 off my next order.

Cleaning products I would love to be able to buy sustainable cleaning products. I like to buy Method products when they're on offer but otherwise I find them very expensive. I've also purchased Tesco's own brand eco products but they're not often available when I do my online shop and I can never find them in store. There is a new refill shop that has opened in the city but that involves a drive and having to pay for parking. What I need to do is plan a refill trip when I'm going into the city anyway. I've seen a few people recommend Splosh, a refill subscription service which really limits plastic waste, but comparatively it's very expensive, especially considering the amount of washing I have to do at the moment.

My goal for 2020 is to buy washing powder as it's in cardboard boxes and hand soaps rather than the liquid hand soaps. And pop to the refill shop when I can. I always buy cruelty free which I know the UK supermarket own brands are, which also means they're nice and cheap.

Skincare/self care

Face Wipes I stopped using face wipes last year in preference for a flannel and reusable face wipes from Cheeky Wipes. I have a referral link for Cheeky Wipes which gets you 15% off when you spend over £40 and gives me £5 off my next purchase.

Sanitary products I'm a big fan of my Mooncup and haven't used tampons or towels in about 2.5 years. I was still using panty liners but when my periods come back (having a baby means I haven't had a period for over a year now) I'll be ordering reusable panty liners from Cheeky Wipes.

Make up/skincare I've been buying cruelty free since summer 2016 but I'm now very aware of not purchasing new products until I actually need them, as tempting as that is. I'm also making sure I use everything I already own, even if it's a brand that isn't cruelty free as replacing everything isn't sustainable at all. In terms of keeping my bills down I'm a fan of Superdrug's own brand skincare products but I also buy some of my skincare from Love Lula which stocks lovely organic cruelty free skincare brands.


Nappies Before I had Robin I had decided that I wanted to give reusable nappies a go. We've tested a few brands and our favourite are Bambino Mio. They're the easiest as they're all in one, they fit Robin really nicely and they're super cute. They are quite pricey but I've only ever bought them with a discount code, second hand on eBay or on launch day from Aldi. Sign up to their emails and they will let you know when new designs are being launched in Aldi. You can get them for £8.99 in store rather than the usual price of £15.99.

I don't use reusables all the time. I use them when we're at home during the day and have access to the nappy bucket. People definitely manage to do reusable full time but they're far more disciplined than I.

The initial cost of buying reusable can seem expensive which is why I've built my collection slowly. It's worth it in the long run both in terms of cost saving and saving the planet.

Wet wipes We hardly use any wet wipes with Robin, unless we're out and about. I bought this Cheeky Wipes Kit before she was born and it's definitely been one of our best baby purchases. They wash perfectly and clean up mess so much better than disposables. Again, you can buy kits for when you're out and about but that's a bit much for me.


Supermarket Shopping I hate supermarket shopping. Hate it. And the thought of doing a full shop with a baby brings me out in a sweat. So I do our shop online and go and pick it up. It's been a little trial and error but I've managed to set our Tesco orders so we don't get our fruit and veg packed in plastic bags. You have to leave a packers note for each item but it's worth it so your plastic is kept to a minimum. I find doing a shop online means I only order what I need.

Meal Planning I love to plan our meals anyway, but planning out what I'm going to cook means I can make a food shop last two weeks with minimal top ups. Last week we did one top up shop for some fresh fruit and mushrooms.

I plan meals that I can cook in bulk with fresh ingredients in the first week and freeze portions that we can then eat in the second week. We always have a few freezer meals for those days where I can't be bothered, pizza, veggie burgers and the like. If you've got the luxury of space then a freezer really is your best friend.

Always check your cupboards for ingredients that have been sitting there for a while. I've been introduced to the website Eat Your Books recently. You input all your cookbooks and can then search all your recipes based on ingredients. I found some tins of green lentils in our cupboard and rather than trawl through all my books for a recipe I popped green lentils into this website. Like it or not, Ben is getting lentil Bolognese this week. Your first 5 cookbooks are free but if you want to enter more it's $3 per month which I'm trialling at the moment.

Milk Delivery We get a milk delivery twice a week from Milk & More. I'd sooner use a local independent delivery service but there aren't any in our area. Getting milk delivered is more expensive, but only by about 20p per bottle which I'm willing to pay for glass bottles. I'm about to switch our deliveries to one bottle 3 days a week as I have found it doesn't last as long as shop bought milk. I then always keep a shop bought bottle of milk frozen in our freezer in case of a milk emergency.

Grow Your Own If you've got the luxury of outdoor space then try growing your own fruit and veg. I grow tomatoes, courgettes and chillies every year as they're easy and we use them so much. Growing your own not only saves you money but it's really satisfying knowing you're eating something you've grown yourself. Chillies you can grow on a windowsill too.

Out & About

Days Out I like to get out of the house a couple of times a week with Robin but you can't really 'go out' without spending money. We do a baby yoga class for free on a Monday at a local nursery and we go to baby cinema on a Thursday morning. Our Odeon is just £5 and the car park is free so this is a cheap trip out for us. We also like to pop to the local retail park. We wander round Ikea and Currys and then get a cup of tea and a donut from Ikea for £1.50. Living the dream here.

Take Away Coffee I can't quite break my coffee habit, but do use a reusable cup so I get a discount. I know at Costa you save 25p if you use a reusable. Your cup must have a lid for some reason. I've just purchased this one after leaving my last one in the cinema. Oops. It's made from recycled cups and is leak proof. Although I've not tested that yet.


Clothes I've been trying to avoid fast fashion for a while now and can count on one hand the new pieces of clothing I bought last year. I still love clothes, but I now buy them from Depop or vintage shops and try to stick to the one in one out policy. We actually have less wardrobe space in our new house so this is a necessity. I've bought loads of lovely, barely worn clothes for Robin from eBay. I find baby clothes are overpriced on Depop.

Books In 2020 I really want to keep the number of new books I buy down. I've got an awful lot unread on my shelves and our library service in Norfolk is fantastic. Not only can you get out physical books but you can also access digital magazines, books and audiobooks for free if you're a member.

I think that's everything I'm doing at the moment to save money and be more sustainable. If you'd like more tips and tricks then do sign up to my newsletter where I regularly share my latest findings. Have you got any great sustainable tips that won't break the bank?

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