I previously published a post titled Something For Nothing, where I listed several of the things I do to conserve or make a little bit of money, to help us, and others, in our retirement. This one shows another facet, with some ideas some of you might want to think about, and maybe try, for a couple of reasons.
Less garbage = more money!
Reduce, reuse, recycle — and reap rewards. Really!
Hoarding gets a bad rap from many. Some are joking, but many are serious. Some of my behaviour could raise eyebrows among the non-frugal. I even prefer to use the word frugal, instead of cheap or miserly.
I save or scavenge things like egg cartons, coffee cans, plastic containers, cardboard boxes and large envelopes. The difference between me and a true hoarder is that I use them, instead of letting them pile up — and they save me “a significant amount of money.” In fact, such tactics save money in several different, interrelated ways.
- The less waste you generate, the fewer garbage bags you have to buy, and the lower your disposal bills might be.
- Buying in bulk to reduce packaging waste means you get a lower cost-per-unit price.
- Putting leftovers into a pickle jar or bread bag reduces the need for foil, plastic wrap or food-storage containers.
Repurposing used to be common. Outgrown clothes were cut down for younger siblings or reborn as quilt patches. Old buildings were torn down to provide lumber for new projects. My mother poured homemade jam into peanut-butter jars (which used to be made of glass) and sealed them with wax.
These tactics work
In a post on the Silent Springs blog, Vincent Smith suggests that “more thoughtful living” could greatly reduce waste. Why do we throw away an old shirt but buy cleaning rags? Whether your motive is saving money or saving the planet, slashing waste is a giant step in the right direction. We do things like buying in bulk to eliminate individual packaging, packing a lunch to cut down on fast-food waste, and bringing our own water and coffee containers. You don’t need to contribute to that trash can outside Starbucks, overflowing with single-use paper cups.
I do many of these things myself and can attest to their cost-effectiveness. A roll of aluminum foil can last us a couple of years. A used piece is often not “dirty.” Wipe it with a damp cloth, to clean and flatten it, and fold it, ready to hold the next sandwich, or piece of pizza. Produce and bread bags get re-used until they shred.
We repurpose empty jars for storage, buying things like spaghetti sauce in Mason-mouthed glass jars, which later hold things like bulk cornmeal. Wide-mouth plastic jars which held cheap crackers when we bought them, now hold bread crumbs and potato flakes, for cooking. Not that we attend them anymore, but I have found Tupperware in the free-box at yard sales. A pile of reusable shopping bags lives in a plastic shopping basket in the car trunk.
We buy in bulk when we can, and choose large sizes the rest of the time. We make our own jam (sometimes using foraged fruit). I’ve mentioned about buying condiments like ketchup and mustard in gallon cans or jugs, and repeatedly refilling the small squeeze bottles, for a fraction of the cost.
Adding less to the problem
Not that I’m a green saint, mind you. For example, we drink a lot of Pepsi, and buy individual yogurts, both for the wife, who has a small eating limit, and for the son to pack in his work lunch. However, we do recycle the cartons and the plastic containers.
The municipal recycling committee recently complained about the cost of sending around a truck to pick up “air.” I stomp flat, any plastic bottles or other containers. As three adults, we often put out less than a Blue Box full of recycling. The two adults, and two small children next door put out three, or even four boxes every week!
Recycling is not mandatory here in Kitchener, but I can feel it coming. All allowable organic matter goes into our composters, but the Committee is also bitching that residents are not putting out enough in the City-issued Green Bins, to cover the cost of the disposal contract, so I guess I’m not the only cheapo in the city. Compost includes tea-bags, coffee grounds and filters, citrus rinds and banana peels.
Bananas contain magnesium. It’s good for you, and good for plants too. The tea and coffee contain tannic acid, which also feeds plants, and breaks down the paper to produce good, rich loam to be used in the gardens. We buy unpeeled shrimp (when we can afford a bit), for considerably less than pre-peeled. The wife peels them and the casings also go into compost. As the Indians taught the Pilgrims, seafood makes rich plant food.
We use cloth bags where we can, because local cities allow stores to charge five cents each, for plastic bags. We used to use those in the cupboard-door-mounted garbage container, but recently purchased a new model, and the wife prefers to use the ones specifically intended for it. I save bags from trips to stores and vendors who do not charge, and use them for kitty litter waste, or carrying newspapers to the crazy cat lady for flooring in her kennels.
Clean ones are flattened and folded and given to our bookstore lady, to cut down on the number of new ones she must purchase. Soiled or torn ones are accumulated and put out with the blue box, so that someone else can melt them down and re-use the plastic to produce new products. One of our shopping bags has a little sign on it that says, “I used to be a milk jug.”
While I don’t kid myself about saving the planet single-handedly, there is a fair amount of satisfaction in not adding to the problem any more than we must. Also, it’s nice not to have to shell out cash for things like more aluminum foil, or sandwich bags, and reduced retirement income goes a little further.