Finding ways to reduce waste at home is an important, and easy, part of living a more frugal and meaningful life … and it can keep your garbage bills down.
Does anyone else cringe when they pay the bill for garbage pick-up? It’s one of my least favorite bills since you don’t get anything fun out of it.
No matter your motivation – saving money, living with intention, or helping the planet – reducing waste is both a great idea and a relatively easy task. There are so many ways to work little, sustainable habits into your routine that your efforts will soon feel effortless.
In an effort to bring you a broader range of ways to reduce waste at home, I collaborated with 12 other bloggers, mostly from the homemaking arena. Reducing waste is about more than just saving money, which is why expanding our focus is so helpful.
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Why even try to reduce waste at home?
Reducing waste will have a positive impact on your personal finances, as well as on the world in general. Production chemicals in the air and water, landfills, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, deforestation, food inequality… there are so many far-reaching consequences to unbridled consumerism.
You can help in your own small way by embracing minimalism through buying less and focusing on reducing the amount of waste your household produces. If everyone worked toward such goals, our planet and our wallets would benefit.
The US Department of Agriculture estimates that 30-40% of the food supply is wasted. That’s an alarming statistic with regards to both finances and sustainability. Some of that waste happens along the supply chain, but household food waste can (and should) be improved greatly.
The best way to reduce food waste is through meal planning.
When you only buy what you need, eat what you planned, and plan for leftovers, there won’t be much food left to throw out.
Of course, it takes time each week to create a meal plan and buy only the groceries needed. Once you get into the habit, though, it becomes second nature.
Creating a list of favorite meals, whether on paper or on Pinterest, makes the process even easier. Check out the Balanced FI Meal Planner Printable Bundle to streamline your meal planning.
It isn’t food waste, it is amazing food for my garden, and in turn my family.
Even better, composting is easy and can be done with a small yard. If you don’t have a garden, you can use the compost on other plants or your lawn.
Cook from the pantry
Alyssa Johns from Harbor Home suggested this great tip.
The best way I have found to reduce waste in my home in the food department is to cook as many meals as possible with the food I have before going out to buy more groceries. You can do this by simply opening your cupboards and refrigerator and writing down as many meals as you can think of with the food you have.
Even if the meals are cheese quesadillas, or yogurt, granola and fruit, or rice and beans. Using up as much as you can before you go shopping will reduce the amount of food you let go to waste. And it will save you money because you will not be over buying food you may already have.
Remember that things like cereal and canned goods will eventually go bad or stale. Taking inventory of the darkest corners of your cupboards will help you use those foods up before they reach that point.
Make your own version
When you’re tempted to get take-out, complete with all those disposable containers, turn to Pinterest instead. You can find copy-cat recipes for many popular restaurant dishes.
Making your own version will:
- reduce container waste at home
- save money by avoiding restaurant costs
- likely be healthier for you too
Mckayla from Everyday She Moms put a parenting spin on this tip:
Make your own squeeze packets! Squeeze packets of applesauce and other veggies are my toddler’s favorite snack – but they can get expensive and wasteful. They’re not always recyclable either.
Instead, I invested in a kit (and a baby blender) to make my own. Now he grabs and goes when he wants one and we just sit down for maybe an hour a week to refill them.
Choose your drinks wisely
When we have so many drink options, it’s easy to forget about the cheapest and healthiest one: water.
I love my coffee as much as the next mom, but I also try really hard to drink at least 80 oz of water every day. Some days that’s a struggle!
After some trial and error, I’ve found that I drink the most water when it’s filtered & ice-cold, and I use a straw. When I was growing up, my mom would keep a gallon of water on the kitchen counter, so it was always room temperature.
Experiment to find out what setup works best to keep you motivated to drink water.
Ditch plastic bottles
According to Habit of Waste, 481.6 BILLION plastic bottles are used worldwide each year. Furthermore, drinking 8 glasses of water a day from plastic bottles costs about $1400.
On top of that, the waste of plastic water bottles (if you’re drinking enough) will quickly get overwhelming in your home. Simplify and help the planet by choosing reusable water bottles.
Jasmyn from Just Jass said:
One of my favorite ways to reduce waste within our home is for everyone to pick a reusable water bottle that they carry around and use all day! Our family drinks a lot of water so instead of going through like 3-4 bottles a day, we all pick a water bottle in the morning and fill it up with the filtered water from our refrigerator.
We refill as needed and at the end of the day, we put our water bottles in the sink to be washed and used again the next day. Not only do we reduce the number of plastic water bottles we were throwing away, but we save money from having to buy so much water!
Make your water healthier
Most Americans have access to healthy water, but that’s definitely not true for everyone. Habit of Waste’s #reThinkTap campaign provides tips for making your tap water healthier if you have concerns.
I have a refrigerator that dispenses filtered water now, and it’s made a huge difference in the taste of our water. Sarah at I Heart Frugal found a more affordable alternative:
My favorite way to reduce waste at home is by using a water filter, instead of buying those pesky plastic water bottles. Our water isn’t great, so we found ourselves buying a lot of plastic water bottles. Although we recycled our plastic bottles, we decided it would be better for the environment to use a water filter instead.
We had a Britta but recently switched to the Target-Brand Up and Up water filter. Yet, they both work well. It has saved us money and reduced waste as we use filtered water for everything from cooking to making coffee in the morning.
I recommend investing in a water filter. We keep ours in the refrigerator but you can also buy one to place directly on your faucet. It is a great way to reduce waste in the home.
Want to save even more?
Reuse & Repurpose
This area is probably the most obvious way to reduce waste at home. Reusing things keeps them out of the landfill, possibly indefinitely.
Luckily, there are many ways to reuse and repurpose, especially if you’re creative.
Theo and Reu had this to say about cloth diapering:
Did you know scientists estimate that disposable diapers will take 500 years to decompose? That means that every. single. disposable diaper ever made is still sitting on the planet somewhere. That’s why I use cloth diapers with my son.
Newer styles are easy to use (it’s not all pins, trust me!), and there are straightforward guides on how to clean them properly between uses. Plus, it saves my family a lot of money!
A modest stash may cost about $500, but that will last through multiple children. Disposables cost about $840 per year.
I also cloth diapered half-heartedly (the laundry can be killer!) but it’s a great way to save money on baby stuff. For a long time, cloth diapers were the only ones my daughter’s sensitive skin could handle, making them healthy and frugal for us.
Repurpose home goods
Everyone’s grandma in the ‘80s and ‘90s saved butter dishes for leftovers. My sisters and I still do this, especially when we’re sending leftovers home with guests.
Sally from Tenderhearted Teacher had a more fun way to reuse those containers:
One of my favorite tips to reduce waste at home is to reuse common household items in new and creative ways. For example, I love to add empty containers, such as yogurt tubs or plastic seasoning jars, to my child’s play area.
I recommend this to other families with young children because these containers are perfect for providing endless opportunities for open-ended play. They can be used for matching, sorting, stacking/building, musical instruments, pretend play, and even fine-motor development. Repurposing these items is a great way to teach your child about reducing waste.
In addition, parents and caregivers save money because they do not need to spend on new toys. There are tons of meaningful play activities you can do at home with your child for no cost at all. But, just because they are free doesn’t mean they don’t have value!
Toys don’t have to be shiny and expensive to make an impact on your child’s development.
After watching my toddler ignore actual toys and spend hours playing with a box or a receipt, I completely believe that random things can be turned into free toys for little ones.
Reuse out-grown clothing
My sister had the first girl in our family and was nice enough to save all her clothes for my girls. I didn’t have to buy clothes for either of my kids until my older daughter caught up to her cousin in sizing. My second daughter is still completely happy to be the third or fourth child to wear this wardrobe.
Robyn at A Dime Saved takes the reuse even further:
I try to save my kid’s clothes to pass them onto the next child or donate them to another family, but I repurpose them when clothes are too stained or dirty to be worn. I cut them up into rags and use them instead of paper towels or napkins.
I find that t-shirts are great for cleaning counters and windows. Not only do I save on paper, but I save money because I buy far fewer paper towels and napkins, and I don’t need to purchase reusable rags either! If you cut them into different sizes, you will have the perfect rag for any situation!
Switch to cloth
Sarah at Wholeheartedly Sarah provided this tip:
About three years ago we switched over to cloth napkins and cleaning towels. This eliminated a huge amount of waste from paper napkins and paper towels. It has helped us save money too because we are not buying paper anymore.
In my own home, we only use paper towels for cleaning up gross pet messes and absorbing bacon grease. A pack of Costco paper towels can last us 2-3 years.
I purchased a 36 pack of Microfiber cleaning towels 8 years ago (yikes!) and they’re still going strong. The secret is to dry them in the dryer instead of line-drying. That helps them build up just a little static and attract more gunk.
Research your purchases
I tend to do this naturally, but Rachel from Glad To Be Mama said it wonderfully:
“My favorite tip for reducing waste at home is researching more expensive products before buying. Researching helps me find the highest quality product at the best price, which helps me save money.
Also, purchasing quality products reduces household waste because there is less chance of the item breaking down shortly after buying and needing to be replaced.”
I’ve talked about things I don’t skimp on before. Important or expensive purchases definitely warrant research before buying.
We all know that recycling is good for the planet, but it’s not always easy to do it. Check with your city or trash removal company to see if they offer recycling pick-up. My area doesn’t, so we use stacking bins to collect recyclables and take them to a drop site locally.
Leeann LaRosa from TheNewskey has a unique take on recycling:
I would have to say my best tip for ways to reduce waste at home is taking your used plastic bags back to any grocery store. This tip not only reduces the amount of material being buried but prevents the waste of resources.
The recycled bags end up as composite lumber. Which is a mix of plastic bags and wood scraps. Products made from recycled grocery bags include playground equipment, outdoor decking, and totes.
Many companies are making their products from recycled plastic. Other plastic options to recycle include produce bags, stretch film that comes with new furniture, plastic newspaper bags, and dry cleaning bags. Anything plastic bag-related!
I had NO idea plastic bags could be turned into so many things! I use grocery bags as small trashcan liners, but I’m definitely going to be recycling the bags we don’t use in the future.
Megan at Let’s Jet, Kids! offered a unique way to recycle: toys!
When the kids want new toys (or Christmas is coming soon), they clean out their current toys to make room for new ones.
We sell or donate the old toys! AND, we often buy second-hand toys off selling apps that are local. This gives them “new” toys to play with, without spending new-toy prices.
Act intentionally to reduce waste at home
Paying attention to what you’re doing is the key to changing your habits. Reducing waste at home is one of those areas that can have a big impact on your family’s budget. Even better, it’s made up of small habits that are easy or cheap to implement.
Choose one or two tips to focus on this month. Implement them, then focus on a few others. Watch your household waste decrease… and enjoy the feeling of contributing to a healthier world.