If you are trying to get your finances in order, you really need to ask yourself if you’re being wasteful. For example, are you constantly throwing out food, clothes, and/or beauty items? Now take a moment to calculate how much that’s costing you. Even if you waste just a dollar a day, that’s $365 for the year. At the risk of sounding like your grandmother, I have to say that, in this economy, you really shouldn’t be wasting anything.
So if you want to develop better habits and become more intentional about avoiding waste, here are some tips on how to make good use of what you already have.
1. Half of an apple (or any other piece of fruit)
After you use half of an apple for your healthy smoothie, the easiest and most efficient thing you can do with the other half is to eat it immediately. If you leave it sitting in your fruit bowl for later, chances are you will forget about it and it will go bad. So slice it up, put some peanut butter on top and eat it as a snack.
2. Overripe fruit
If your fruit is too ripe to eat as is, consider adding it into an existing recipe. For example, an overripe banana can be turned into a loaf of banana bread, muffins, or you can even make a crumble. The end result doesn’t have to be Pinterest worthy, just find a recipe that matches your baking skills. If you have more fruit than you can stand to bake with (I currently have an insane amount of plums in my house), consider making a simple and sweet jam. Again, it doesn’t have to be complicated, I even follow a simple two-ingredient jam recipe, similar to this one.
3. “Sad-looking” potatoes and carrots
If your potatoes aren’t sprouting and the carrots aren’t overly soft, they are fine to use, but you need to use them up quickly. The good news is, there are a huge range of meal options where you can use these two vegetables. You can roast them, bake them, steam them or turn them into vegetable soup, just to name a few. Just use your favorite spices, and you can pair these popular side dishes with practically anything.
4. Stale cookies and crackers
Here is a confession – I like stale cookies with milk, and I have been known to mix them in with fresh cookies for my cheesecake base. Similarly, I don’t mind using stale crackers (albeit they are not moldy) to replace my bread crumbs. Although you can crisp up stale crackers in the microwave or in the oven, my favorite method is to grind and sprinkle my leftover crackers over a casserole and then bake the entire thing.
5. That tea that you don’t like
If you bought a box of tea, made a cup, then decided you didn’t like it, pass it on because your neighbor or a friend might really appreciate it. Leave it at your neighbor’s doorstep with a note and potentially save them from making an unnecessary trip to the grocery store. Chances are you may even get something in return – something you actually use. People love bartering and saying ‘Thank you,’ plus this kind of action not only reduces waste but also creates a sense of community.
6. Your old Tupperware
Although minimalist gurus claim that having too much Tupperware is the devil, I do like to have some extra, older containers on hand. I use my nicer containers for meal planning and packing lunches, but I also use the slightly older ones for storing ingredients that could otherwise get infested with moths and ants. Older containers are also great for doorstep delivery to your friends and family, and I bring them with me if I know that I’ll have the chance to visit a farmer’s market or a friend’s vegetable garden.
7. Torn sweatpants
You don’t have to be a master at sewing to repair your torn sweats. All you need is a needle and thread, preferably the same, or a similar color to, the actual fabric. If they are torn along the seam, go over the original stitching, and no one will be able to tell that these were mended – unless you’re doing yoga right in front of them. If the tear is in the front or in the back, you can still mend them and wear them around the house, or you can even add a patch if you’re into that kind of look.
8. A stained cotton tee
Sure, you don’t want to wear it in public, but hold on to your stained cotton t-shirts. Cotton is pleasant to wear and this could be your last clean tee to sleep in, before laundry day. If you are into tye-dye projects, your stained t-shirt can easily be “refashioned” into a completely new piece. It could also be your go-to shirt if you are planning to repaint your home or do any other DIY remodeling since anything you wear will inevitably get ruined.
9. Leftover product at the bottom of a container
I have a long history of opening conditioners and body lotions with scissors, but every once in awhile I come across packaging that is just too thick for scissors and requires a knife. As for safety, I cut the container open in my kitchen, and use a chopping board. I make sure that the container is completely dry, and I make the cut near the bottom so I can get the product out more easily. Again, I am really, really careful while I do this, and I never use my knife when I am upset, tired, or tipsy.
Beauty samples for someone else’s skin type
I have no problem going through my stash of random beauty cream samples because I keep at least one in my bag and one next to the sink. With COVID around, I wash my hands a lot and moisturize them after every wash. What I’ve discovered is that eye creams, face creams, and most other face products work just fine on my hands. I can finish several tiny samples in a day, and if I have a bigger sample, I’ll use it on my feet – they don’t care.
If you are looking for more ways to reduce waste and develop better habits, keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list. Think about your specific situation and lifestyle and try to find at least three more items or categories where you think you’re being wasteful. Challenge yourself to do better and let us know how it goes!
Annika Fordell is a freelancer based in Europe. She writes about money, mental health, relationships, and motherhood.
Image via Pexel