Plastic Free July on a budget

Picture of two reusable cloth bags and my metal water bottle

Tools in the war against plastic waste

Who else is up for Plastic Free July?

Like many, I’ve been shocked by the distressing coverage about environmental damage from plastic. I’d like to do something, however small, to reducing the amount of plastic polluting our planet.

So today I signed up to take part in the Plastic Free July campaign. I’m keen to spend the month trying to use less plastic, and throw away less plastic. Hopefully I’ll learn new habits that I continue afterwards too.

Remember if you want to take part, you don’t have to banish plastic completely! Even avoiding some plastic can help.

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Pinterest sized image of two reusable bags and my refillable metal water bottle for my post about Plastic Free July on a budget

Cutting plastic and cutting costs

Luckily, many things that help save the planet can also save money too. I’ve written before about how to use less plastic and cut costs.

For example, avoiding the top four single use plastics helps cut my bills:

  • plastic bags
  • water bottles
  • takeaway coffee cups
  • plastic straws

I already carry cloth bags, to avoid paying for plastic bags. I take a refillable water bottle out and about, so I don’t have to buy plastic water bottles or takeaway coffee. And as I rarely buy drinks out, I rarely get given straws. In fact I never realised how many straws we must use, until I went to a homewares brand showcase a couple of weeks ago, with a huge variety of both reusable and biodegradable straws!

Plus as we rarely fork out for soft drinks or takeaways, we rarely end up with plastic soft drink bottles or takeaway containers.

Picture of a red and yellow pepper in a yellow bowl for my post on Plastic Free July on a budget

First attempt at plastic-free food shopping…

Cutting plastic and adding costs

However, after taking the Plastic Free July ‘Pesky Plastics’ quiz, I’m concerned that switching to some plastic-free alternatives could be more expensive.

Just looking at our breakfast, I started realising the scale of the problem. Milk in plastic bottles, bread wrapped in plastic, cereal in plastic bags inside the cardboard boxes, fruit in plastic bags or containers.

Nipping to our local Co-op after the school run, it felt like the only things I could get without plastic wrap were loose peppers, satsumas in a cardboard box, tins, eggs, baguettes and porridge oats.

Meanwhile all our bathroom products, whether to clean ourselves or clean the house, seem to come in plastic bottles – toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, pretty much every beauty product apart from tins of Vaseline, laundry liquid and all those cleaning sprays. Gulp.

To avoid plastic, looks like I will have to make some major changes to where I shop and what I buy!

I suspect that shopping for food at the market, local butchers and fish van will all cost more than my plastic-wrapped yellow-stickered bargains. The nearest place to bulk buy dry goods like pasta and rice, or refill cleaning products, will involve extra travel costs. I suspect that buying solid shampoo and conditioner bars, for example, will mean adding the cost of postage and packing.

Tricky areas to tackle plastic free

I reckon some of the areas I will find hardest to cut out plastic involve food packaging, bin bags and cling film.

So I asked an expert for advice – Zoe Morrison, a fellow blogger who has also published an ebook* called Eco Thrifty Living: Save Money, Save the Environment and Live the Life You Want! 

Here are Zoe’s top tips:

1. Look for unpackaged food in fruit and veg boxes, markets, grocery shops and at the supermarket. The supermarkets are under pressure to reduce the prices on unpackaged foods after the recent airing of War on Waste where they raised that issue of unpackaged food being more expensive. There is nothing to stop you adding to it, by emailing them, and asking them to change on social media. More on Eco Thrifty Living about this problem here.
2. Ditch the clingfilm! It is so easy to say goodbye to this stuff. All you need to do is either decant the food into a container with a lid or use a plate as a lid over a bowl (if you just want to cover it for a short while). There are also lots of alternatives to clingfilm that you can buy including beeswax wraps and silicone suction lids. Personally I prefer not using a clingfilm-like alternative because boxes with lids are much easier to stack in the fridge. More on Eco Thrifty Living about alternatives to clingfilm here.
3. Avoid bin bags by separating out your dry waste from your food and other wet waste. Put your dry waste in bins without any bags and put your food waste/ wet waste in plastic bins which you can wash out when they are emptied. To make it easier to empty out something like a compost caddy put an empty egg box or a cut up and spread out a toilet roll tube at the bottom. You might still find you need to put your rubbish out in a bag, but instead of having bags in every bin in the house, you could just have a bag in one main bin.

Aims for the first week of Plastic Free July

So to start Plastic Free July, here’s what I intend doing this week:

  • Sign up for deliveries of milk and orange juice in glass bottles from Milk & More. There’s even a discount code for 20% off new orders: MILK20 (Small print here and it isn’t an affiliate link)
  • Try buying loose fruit, veg and bread from Morrisons and the market
  • Head to Morrisons, the local butcher and the fish van with my own containers for meat and fish
  • Press all my boxes into action, so I can avoid cling film
  • Track down the nearest shop where I can bulk buy dry goods and get refills of cleaning products
  • Investigate shampoo and conditioner in solid bars rather than bottles. We already buy bar soap.
  • Separate out my rubbish, as Zoe suggests, into food waste and dry waste.
  • Separate out plastic waste from stuff we already have in the house, to see how much we throw away. Hopefully the amount should decrease during July!

Along the way, I’m also interested in finding out where we save money – and where going plastic-free adds extra expense.

Now – over to you. Are you taking part in Plastic Free July? Any top tips on cutting single use plastic without breaking the bank? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!

*indicates an affiliate link, so anything you buy through it will help support the blog, as I will get a small commission at no cost to you. Many thanks!

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  1. 1st July 2019 / 9:41 pm

    Yes, I’ve signed up for this too.

    I’m taking baby steps and monitoring my plastic usage for the first half of the month with a view to making serious changes in the second half.

    Like you I already use my own shopping bags, I don’t use straws much but I now have a set of stainless steel ones and have just got a bamboo one. I do drink coffee while I’m out and about, but I either sit in with a proper mug or use my own reusable takeaway one.

    My biggest change recently has been to stop buying large bottles of sparkling water and drinking tap water instead.

    • Faith
      2nd July 2019 / 8:16 am

      Yay! Glad you’ve signed up for Plastic Free July too. My first attempt at plastic free supermarket shopping last night was an eye opener. Suspect I’m going to be doing even more cooking from scratch!
      Good luck with the water switch.

  2. Deborah Gregory
    1st July 2019 / 10:21 pm

    We had a shop when I was a child and sold fruit and veg in either string or paper bags. I suspect there was less waste because people bought daily and what they needed. Planning meals and only getting what you actually need will no doubt cost you less unless you are a master of using less overs and have kids who will eat anything with whatever’s left in the fridge.
    Our local health food store, not a big name one, now sells many items loose so you take your own containers and buy what you need They are very good at giving advice.
    Think about toothbrushes too. Lots of plastic in them Bamboo apparently is the way forward though I’m not convinced yet it’s sustainable especially if we all swap.. still not had any good answer to that one but I’ll keep researching.
    I’m not convinced about these refills for cleaning products. The plastic in the bags is not currently recycled by our local council so it will end up in landfill where the plastic bottle will get recycled.
    It’s worth looking for terracycle to recycle products like pens, pet food packets, toothpaste containers crisp packets etc.. our local fire station for example takes crisp packets and the money raised goes to Mountain rescue. Might be worth asking schools if they would like to use a little of their land to recycle a product each? Better to recycle than go into landfill! At the end of the day some things cannot be avoided yet.
    I’m seriously thinking about returning plastic containers that aren’t currently recyclable to the manufacturers. I’m sure they’ve known far longer than we have what the problems with plastic are. They shouldn’t make anything that can’t be reused ever. There is really no excuse with modern technology.

    • Faith
      2nd July 2019 / 8:19 am

      Thanks for the top tips Deborah! Do agree better to recycle than landfill. Will be interesting to see how far I can get avoiding buying plastic, rather than looking for alternatives that recycle. Sadly our local health food shop doesn’t offer refills/loose products, but I’m sure I heard about somewhere further afield from Shoestring Jane. Will have to track it down.

    • Cath
      2nd July 2019 / 8:37 am


      I have done a number of things to help reduce plastic in the house.

      1. Use reusable mugs and bottles for when we are out and about.

      2. Use a soda stream for fizzy water

      3. Use compstable brown sandwich bags for lunches instead of foil or cling film

      3. Try and buy as much loose veg and fruit as possible

      4. Home bake bread and snacks to reduce the need for plastic wrap bread and biscuits

      5. Use Ocean Saver pods which has reduced the need for new cleaning bottles products just keep using the old ones

      6. Found a shop where I can refill shampoo, conditioner etc and also refill on pasta, rice and lots of dry goods using old containers.

      7. Use reusable coffee capsules for the coffee machine

      8. Found Smol for dishwasher and laundry tablets which come in fully recyclable plastic and delivered to the door

      9. Switch to the milkman for milk, juice and even lemonade in glass returnable bottles.

      10. Switch the cat food from pouches to tins.

      Small steps and there is still lots of changes to make!!

  3. Sam from Swimming
    2nd July 2019 / 8:45 am

    Brilliant, good luck Faith!

    My commitment this month is to find a way to re-use the plastic I can’t avoid (sorry I just eat too much yoghurt!). I already re-use my natural yoghurt pots – they come ready with lids! So far I’ve found they make great individual propagators to bring on seeds, brilliant for freezing food- everything from meat to soup and just everything you might want a pot for. Struggling more with the packaging aspect, there’s only so many plastic bags I need! They’re handy for wrapping bread etc for the freezer but any more thoughts I’d be grateful for!

  4. Chris
    2nd July 2019 / 3:34 pm

    Not exactly no plastic but if you go to the recycle now website it gives you what you can recycle and where including bread bags and plastic bags. I am going to try going to a bulk plastic free 2 or 3 times a year and buying in bulk. I always stock up in the winter anyway as getting hubby out in the bad weather is feasible as he is to proone to falls. I have made draw string bags to use out of off cuts I already had. Now to try the bulk shop about a 1/2 hour away.

  5. 30th May 2021 / 2:28 pm

    I was shocked that every day, eight million pieces of waste (most of it plastic) enter our oceans. Now I am really motivated to reduce single-use plastic and find ways to be more ethical and zero waste. And Plastic Free July campaign is a great way to star a sustainable living.

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