The 3 R's Can Save You Money!
REDUCE, RE-USE AND RECYCLE means more than putting out the recycling box. If you can reduce, there's less non-recyclable waste, and less resources expended in the process of recycling. Same goes for re-using, as well as the fact that by re-using instead of buying something new, you are saving the resources that would have gone into that new product. And recycling, well, that should be considered the second-to-last resort in the terms of putting an item in your recycling box. It's great that some wastes are being recycled rather than going to landfill, but the recycling process itself uses a lot of energy and resources. Try to avoid landfill waste for sure, and keep as much as possible out of the recycling box too. Here are a few ideas on how to do this.
RE-USE / RECYCLE (These are in many ways the same thing):
- Buy in bulk! It sounds scary but it isn't. Bulk buying doesn't necessarily mean having 100 lbs of something hanging around the house. Although if there is a product you use a lot of, certainly you should look into buying it in the largest package possible, to cut down on packaging and (usually) at a cheaper overall cost to you. But also, a lot of items are available in the bulk section of your grocery store and you can buy only as much as you want but without the extra packaging. I buy spices in the bulk section, they cost me a fraction of buying those expensive glass bottles or tins, and I just refill the bottles in my spicerack. Same goes for cocoa, raisins, margarine (you can buy this in great big reusable tubs, perfect for freezing stuff in), and LOTS of other stuff. For diehard reducers - write the contents in magic marker on the plastic bag you bring the stuff home in and save the bag to take back to the store and use next time you need that item.
- Look for less packaging! This seems obvious but it's never the first thing on your mind at the grocery store. Think about it, though. So many things are packed individually 'for your convenience', but I mean REALLY! Is it necessary? And all that extra packaging costs money, and that cost is passed along to you. Juice boxes is one of my favourite pet peeves; for what you pay for those three little boxes, you could buy frozen concentrated juice which yields at least twice as much juice. Buy some plastic drink boxes, a thermos, or re-use small plastic pop bottles - and feel good about yourself for reducing your waste output!
- Reduce your own packaging when it comes to packing lunches. Look for plastic sandwich boxes and such at yard sales, pack snacks in rinsed out margarine tubs, buy or make a reusable fabric lunch bag or lunch box.
You'll save money by not buying sandwich bags and lunch bags, and help the earth too! Kids these days are very environmentally conscious and will usually be eager to participate in these earth friendly lunches. If for some reason you cannot follow these methods (say, on the day of a school trip), be sure to use paper products only when possible - wax paper to wrap sandwiches in, brown paper bag for the lunch itself. These items at least are compostable.
- This one sounds more complicated than it is. If you can reduce the amount of ingredients you use in cooking and learn how to make more variety using less ingredients, you will be using less packaging and saving money. Now by this I mean, rather than having 20 different types of pasta all lined up in pretty jars, instead buy only 1 or 2 different types and see how they work in your favourite recipe. Learn how to make a wide variety of dishes using basic nutritious ingredients.
Okay, I ran out of inspiration here...maybe I'll come back and write some more on this another time.
- Before putting anything in the recycling box or garbage, ask yourself if there is anything AT ALL that you can use the item for.
- As described in the above reducing ideas, refill existing containers with products purchased in minimal packaging or in bulk.
- Almost any container with a lid is useful for SOMEthing. I freeze a lot of stuff in old margarine tubs and ice cream buckets, I have a shelf of empty pasta sauce jars filled with different kinds of dry beans and pasta. I love the large coffee tins with the plastic lids and use them for lots of things but I have to admit I have quite a stockpile without a use. Anyone have any suggestions?
- Some containers without lids are handy, too. I used to buy individual applesauces for the kids' lunches (in the bad old wasteful days!), and saved all the little cups. They're great for a million different things. The kids use them to hold water when they're painting, I give out snacks in them (raisins, etc.), I use them for scoops in the big coffee can, flour bin, etc. Same for empty yogourt cups, anything like that.
- It's almost too obvious to say, but hey, there's nothing wrong with second-hand clothes. Our three daughters don't mind hand-me-downs, and we rarely buy brand-new. There's always Goodwill, or a helpful friend.