Other than our mortgage and utilities, the majority of our regular spending goes to consumables. It’s amazing to think how much it costs to keep our bodies fed, clean, and healthy. Penny pincher that I am, I try to squeeze every last bit out of our consumable items before I throw them away. Each little bit may cost only a few cents, but those little bits add up. By habitually using some frugal tricks to make consumables stretch, we can save a greater portion of our money. Here are a few ways to make those consumables last just a little bit longer:
First, use less than recommended. Not only do I wash my hair every other day (a habit that actually was recommended to me by a hairstylist), I only lather and rinse once each time. Who has time to repeat, anyway? My hair looks and feels as clean as that of most people who lather and rinse twice every day, using four times as much shampoo as I do. Using less than recommended works for more than just shampoo, too. I know I could use less food (smaller portions) than I do! Some people swear by using less laundry or dish detergent, though I still use the full recommended amount, partly because I have an extra large washing machine, so I still wind up cleaning more with less.
One way to use less is to dilute cleaning solutions, juices, and other liquid consumables with water. Water is also a great substance for getting out the last bit of liquid soap or shampoo (instant suds) and for refreshing any cleaning or baby wipes that have dried out. I have often added a few teaspoons of water to a tub of wipes to make them as good as new. If you have the opposite problem with wipes — running out of wipes before the solution that saturates them — add paper towels to the container and get a few more uses out of the solution.
Using leftovers doesn’t just apply to cleaning solutions. The most obvious leftovers to be used are food leftovers, and even though my husband takes leftovers to work for lunch, I’m still amazed at how much we throw out. If too little food remains on your plate to make another meal, save what’s there and turn it into a snack. Also be sure to keep track of what leftovers you have so that you use them before they go bad. (That’s something we need to work on in our house)
“Reduce, reuse, recycle” has become the mantra of environmentalists, but they don’t often mention that reuse leads to reduction. Whenever you can, use consumable items more than once, and the packages will last longer.
Speaking of packages, there are many things you can do with packaging itself to squeeze out a bit more when their contents seem depleted. Turn bottles with lids on top upside-down for several hours to bring contents to the opening, cut open plastic lotion bottles and use your fingers to wipe out the lotion stuck to the sides (I’ve gotten five or six more uses out of some containers this way), and squeeze the toothpaste tube from the back (sorry, middle-squeezers) When I get to the end of the tube, I even fold in the sides, just above the cap, and push down on them to get out two or three more brushes after my husband has given up and left the tube for dead.
Sometimes, you can use tools to get at a package’s final contents. Try a cotton swab or Popsicle stick to get out the last bit of lipstick, lip balm, eye makeup, solid stain remover, or even deodorant. Add a little nail polish remover to nail polish that’s getting gummy, and it’ll be as smooth as ever. When a child’s medicine dropper no longer reaches the bottom of the bottle, pour out what’s left of the medicine into a small cup with a wider mouth, and you should be able to use it all.
Other ways to squeeze out every last bit of your consumables include writing/printing on both sides of a sheet of paper (be sure there’s nothing confidential on the opposite side if you pass something along to someone else), moving depleting batteries from toys or gadgets that use a lot of energy to others that require less (not recommended by the manufacturers, but I’ve seen it work well), and applying heat to the tips of dry pens to get the ink running again.
Some of these ideas may sound like a waste of time to you, but in reality, they take very little time or effort, especially once they’re habitual. They can make a noticeable difference not only in the amount you spend on consumables over a year, but also in the amount of waste you generate. Sounds like another, older, slogan can apply here: “Waste not, want not.”
Image courtesy of justinhenry