Cost of Living Crisis: Shopping Tips to Save Money and Plastic Waste

herbs and spices in a zero waste shop

Money-saving shopping tips that could help the planet too

The ‘Cost of Living crisis’ has really started to take hold in the UK, with energy bills now at a record high on top of other rises seemingly across the board – council tax bills, fuel prices and food.

It got us thinking about whether more sustainable shopping habits could save money as well as CLEAR Community’s main aim – reducing waste!

How much plastic waste does the UK generate?

There are 27 million households in the UK, each generating 20kg of plastic waste every year – this adds up to 540 million kgs of plastic waste a year! It’s a huge amount, you can read our article on plastic pollution to find out what happens to this waste and how much ends up in the ocean etc. A lot of the plastic our food comes in from supermarket shopping e.g. soft plastic that bread, fruit, pasta and rice comes in isn’t easily recyclable – here’s a fascinating article about Tesco’s soft plastic recycling scheme.

Imagine if every household could cut the amount of plastic waste in half – down to 10kg. It’s do-able, and as well as having a major impact on our planet, it could have a positive impact on purses and pockets too. We’ve tried to work out how much money could be saved by going green….


Can you save money on your food shopping bills by going green?

We’ve estimated that households could save nearly £500 a year by changing some shopping habits and trying some more sustainable shopping ways. Some of our tips might add to the time it takes you to shop, and might not be as convenient as your current shop – we get it, many of us are time-poor as well as worrying about money. But hopefully our tips will at least get you thinking about where you shop and how much plastic waste is generated – even if you can’t action them all straight away….

Top 6 shopping tips that could cut shopping bills as well as reducing waste:

  • Refilling household essentials like herbs, rice and flour at your local zero waste store could save you over £100* a year. There are around 150 ‘zero waste’ stores in the UK now, where you take your own containers (anything goes – plastic tupperware boxes to glass jars!) and fill up on pretty much anything – flour, pasta, shampoo, hand wash, oil, herbs and spices. Our research found that quite often the price per 100g was cheaper compared to the local supermarket. We know this won’t be the case everywhere – but if you haven’t already, we recommend you go and visit your local refill store and make a note of prices.


  • Buying loose fruit and vegetables from a fruit and veg shop/stall instead of the supermarket could also save you over £80* a year. Again, it’s worth popping in to your local shop and making a note of prices – some more exotic items might be the same price as the supermarket but in-season fruit and veg can cost a lot less and usually comes with no plastic! We found that strawberries, raspberries and grapes were half the price of a supermarket.


  • Stopping buying water in plastic bottles weekly and just refilling a reusable bottle with tap water could save you £50* a year. This one is a bit of a non-brainer and you’ve probably already quite your mineral water habit by now, but if you still end up buying the odd one every now and again just try and remember to take your reusable bottle with you in your bag/car.


  • Cutting back on your weekly takeaway coffee and making it at home to carry in a reusable coffee cup could save around £128* per year. Again, a bit of a non-brainer that you’ve probably already cut but most takeaway coffee cups aren’t easily recycled so just create more waste. Making your own coffee at home and taking it out in a flask or reusable coffee cup could save you a lot of money as well as the positive impact on the planet.


  • When you can afford it, and if you don’t have a zero waste store nearby, bulk buying items at a supermarket can work out cheaper, saving you nearly £50* per year. In an ideal world, nobody would buy pasta and rice in plastic but we know that needs must – and if you’re going to do it, the less you do it by buying in bulk – the better!


  • If you switch to refilling items like bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar, these can be used as great, natural cleaning alternatives – saving at least £30* on plastic bottles of cleaning sprays. The lovely Mrs Hinch inspired a whole new generation of people who want their homes smelling and looking great using a range of cleaning products and fragrances. How many plastic bottles of cleaning products do you buy a year? Just buying 8 a year at £2 each would cost £42… why not save this money and invest in more natural products like bicarb, lemons/lemon juice and white vinegar? You’d be helping the planet in a couple of ways (plastic waste; and the water system!) and your house would look just as fresh.

loose blueberries

Other shopping tips could save plastic waste as well as money?

When you switch to a plastic-free mindset, you might think of other ways that could save you money as well as saving on plastic waste e.g.:

  • Going meat-free and fish-free – both of these items usually come wrapped in some form of plastic that isn’t easily recyclable, and they probably make up the biggest proportion of your food bills if you eat them a few times a week
  • Trying a butcher and/or fishmonger – having just said that you could try going meat/fish-free to save money, if you can’t face doing this – why not have a look in your local butcher and/or fishmonger? You can usually take in your own dishes/tupperware to save on plastic – plus it might be cheaper, and the quality might be better.
  • Try your local bakers – getting your regular bread product might work out cheaper than the supermarket – and they’re often packaged in paper, or just take your own bag in – saving on lots of soft plastic


Are there are other green shopping ideas you can think of that could save on money too? We’d love to hear from you on our social channels: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

If you enjoyed reading this, please share it with your friends and family via social media. To find out more about our work clearing up waste in Indonesia – visit our other blogs and sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page – thank you!



herbs and spices in a zero waste shop

The small print*


1 – Zero waste stores vs supermarkets. Costs were compared on April 5th, comparing Siop Sero in Cardiff with its nearest supermarket, Morrisons. Some supermarket items were own brand, others were mid-range brands.


Zero waste


per 100g



per 100g

(in kg or 100g) Saving when buying 10 times a year
Porridge oats £0.12 £0.20 £0.80 £8.00 Buying in 1kgs
Penne £0.20 £0.26 £0.60 £6.00 Buying in kgs
wholemeal flour £0.11 £0.20 £0.90 £9.00 Buying in kgs
herbs/spices e.g. chilli powder £0.20 £2.11 £1.91 £19.10 Buying in 100g
Non bio liquid £0.35 £0.40 £0.50 £5.00 Buying in kgs
bicarbonate of soda £0.36 £0.69 £0.33 £3.30 Buying in 100g
chickpeas £0.22 £0.24 £0.20 £2.00 Buying in kgs
arborio rice £0.29 £0.35 £0.60 £6.00 Buying in kgs
brown basmati rice £0.25 £0.40 £1.50 £15.00 Buying in kgs
coarse sea salt £0.14 £0.34 £2.00 £20.00 Buying in kgs
cleaning spray £0.26 £0.40 £1.40 £14.00 Buying in kgs


2 – in Cardiff market on April 6th, bags of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and grapes £1 each. On the same day these are all £1.99 each in Morrisons. If you bought 20 of each over a year, the saving would be £79.20 (£159.20 Morrisons; £80 market). Realistically the savings could be larger if you added other fruit and veg too.


3 – If someone buys one bottle of water a week, at an average cost of £1 per bottle, that would be £52. A reusable water bottle could be bought for £2. 


4 – If someone buys one take-away coffee a week, at an average cost of £2.50 that would be £130. A reusable coffee cup/flask could be bought for £2


5 – here’s a sample of 6 supermarket bulk buy options, with savings of nearly £10. Easily adding another 20 items to the list could bring the annual savings to £43. (An average saving per item of £1.66 x 26 items = £43.16). Prices found on Morrisons website 6th April 2022.


smaller pack larger pack pack sizes
Morrisons long grain rice £1 £1.20 500g/1kg
Fairy liquid £1.30 £2 433/780 ml
Morrisons corn flakes £1 £1.45 500/750
Morrisons extra virgin olive oil £1.70 £3.79 250ml/1L
Morrisons non bio powder £2 £4 780g/2.6kg
Morrisons plain flour £0.39 £0.65 500g/1.5kg
Buying 10 small, or 5 large a year £74 £65.45


6 – On the Morrisons website (6th April 2022) prices are: Flash cleaning spray £2, Morrisons oven cleaning spray £2, Flash floor cleaning liquid £2. Buying 8 of these a year would total £42. Buying a decent supply of bicarb, white vinegar and lemons would cost around £10.