10 Ways to Waste Less & Want Less

Getting back to waste not, want not is an important goal, but it won’t happen overnight. We have to realize it takes one step at a time and we all change differently.

We have to realize it takes one step at a time and we all change differently. Click To Tweet

Some people have to hit rock bottom to ever change and if they never hit rock bottom, they won’t change. Others make a commitment to a new lifestyle and change overnight. Most people take baby steps towards the overall change they want to make in their life.

Getting to the waste not, want not lifestyle means minimalizing and becoming aware of your daily habits. It means realizing our resources are not endless and getting rid of the unlimited mindset when it comes to the things we have, need and think we want.

Most families can save thousands of dollars every single year by taking the time to look at what they waste and what they really need compared to what they have and want. It doesn’t have to be a drastic, overnight change. Start with these ten easy ways you can start wasting less and wanting less.

Using Everything When Cooking


Do you throw out your celery leaves and broccoli stems? Do you drain canned beans and let the “juice” go down the drain? What about the bones from whole chickens, do those go into the trash?

There are several things you can do with the things you throw out regularly. If you have a garden, most of your waste from fresh fruits and vegetables can be used to create compost. If you don’t, you can use many of these items to create broths for soups, such as the leftovers from celery, broccoli, animal bones and other leftovers. Most of the leftovers from fresh produce can be reused in different ways.

Instead of draining beans and other canned liquids down the drain, keep the mixture in a jar in your fridge. Then, when it’s time to cook rice, quinoa, lentils or make a soup, you can use the liquid to add nutrients and flavor. Bean liquid is packed with good nutrients and works great for cooking rice and quinoa.

Bean liquid is packed with good nutrients and works great for cooking rice and quinoa. Click To Tweet

Some fruits can be used for great flavor in many different dishes, especially citrus fruits. You can grate the peel to get the zest of a lemon, lime or orange and throw away less. This can be used to flavor everything from meat to dessert.

The key with this tip is to start paying attention to what you throw away. While you cannot really do much with the skin of garlic or onion, there are plenty of other leftovers in the kitchen that can be used for compost, soup broth or in other ways.

The book Wildly Affordable Organic: Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet has a ton more tips on how you can use everything in the kitchen and reduce your waste. It’s one of my favorite books when it comes to the kitchen.

Buy Only What You Need

Instead of only making one grocery trip every couple of weeks or even one time a week, go more often and buy only what you need. Of course, if it’s frozen or non-perishable, stock up when there are good deals, but with fresh items, buy only what you need for about 4 to 7 days at a time.

Find out how long things will last and plan accordingly. Here’s a handy little chart you can print from Oh My Veggies.

Knowing that strawberries go bad in just a few days may keep you from buying the large packages and throwing out half of it because they get moldy. When you buy items that go bad fast, you need to have a plan to eat them in the next couple of days. It’s also important to be willing to stop by the store for an item that goes bad fast the day before or the day you plan to use it, even if that’s the only thing you will be purchasing.

People used to grocery shop in a completely different way. Many families would buy what they needed just for the day and would go to the store every day or two. We need to get back to this type of lifestyle with our fresh produce. Plan to grocery shop twice a week and plan for one trip to be just about fresh produce (unless there’s a great deal you want to take advantage of). Then, use as much of each item as you can and watch your waste become less.

Have a Smorgasbord Night Every Week

We all have things in our fridges that will soon become science projects. Whether it’s leftovers from a pasta night or it’s a fruit salad you bought and forgot about, there’s no reason to waste these things.

One simple way to make sure you’re using your leftovers is to have s smorgasbord night. Once a week, go through the fridge and pull out all the leftovers from the week before (unless you froze them for another time in the future). Also, pull out any produce that will be going bad soon and anything else that needs to be eaten before it has to be tossed.

Put it all on the counter and either create a buffet-style dinner for your family or use the items to create a meal. This is a practice from older days, as well, and is actually responsible for many meals we enjoy today. Meals, such as stews, goulashes, bangers and mash and many others came from using leftovers from dinners the night before or from the last couple of days. These meals come from the true Waste Not, Want Not cooks of early 1900s and before.

Stop Using Plastic Bags


While this may not be an option in the future, it can be something you do to eliminate waste now. Many communities have started to eliminate the plastic bags from stores in order to reduce waste. Reusable bags are not only better for the environment, but they are also so much easier to work with when you get home. You can even get insulated or cooler bags for your ice cream and other cold items.

Not only should you switch to reusable grocery bags, but you should also buy the mesh produce bags you can reuse. While some produce is already bagged or packages and you can’t do anything about it, many items can easily be put in a mesh bag instead of the plastic bags from the grocery stores. If we all used these bags, grocery stores would stop providing the plastic bags. This is another way we can vote with our dollars and actually make a difference in this world.

Personally, I find many items stay fresh longer when I use the mesh bags because they actually get some air. While I don’t use them for items I have cut into, such as a green pepper or jalapeno, I do use them for whole items when I can.

If you must use plastic bags, use them multiple times. I will get a handful of plastic bags when I go to the grocery because my wife reuses them for laundry and smaller trash cans. they make it easier for her to separate the laundry before it has been washed, but we have a reusable bag for the washed laundry. Usually, but the time we are done with any plastic grocery bags, they have been used two or three times. They can also be recycled.

Reuse Sandwich, Freezer & Other Zipper Bags

It’s hard to keep things in your fridge without the use of the many zipper-type plastic bags we use these days. While there are some ways to eliminate some of these, they are a part of life and probably won’t be going away anytime soon.

However, that box of 48 (why they sell them in such odd quantities I will never understand) could last you twice or three times as long. Do you throw away the bag after it has been used once? Why not use it again?

Sometimes, you don’t want to reuse the bag because it held ground beef, chicken or some other type of meat. That’s fine, but what about when all you had in the bag was a cut jalapeno or a few grapes? Why not use that bag again for the same type of item?

I reuse bags for bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, carrots, broccoli and many other items all the time. I don’t reuse bags from meat (except bacon if I am putting more bacon in it or it was already cooked) or onions (unless I am putting an onion in the bag). Don’t cross-contaminate your bags, but there is nothing wrong with putting another set of grapes into a bag that just got done holding grapes. You can even wash some of the nicer bags and reuse them, if that makes you feel a bit better.

Reduce What You Buy


Sometimes, we can take a look at our shopping habits and greatly reduce the amount of trash we produce by purchasing less. Did you know, there’s a soap you can use for laundry, dishes, hands and as a household cleaner? It actually has a ton more uses, but those are the main ones.

Dr. Bronner’s Pure Liquid Castile Soap is not only safer than most of the chemical soaps we use, but it will also reduce your waste. It comes very concentrated, so you have to add water, but one bottle can be used for multiple things around the house. Imagine if you could replace your body wash, hand soap, laundry detergent and household cleaners with one produce. Instead of throwing away 5 bottles, you can throw away just one.

Imagine if you could replace your body wash, hand soap, laundry detergent and household cleaners with one produce. Click To Tweet

This is just one example of how you can reduce what you buy. You can also eliminate or greatly reduce the amount of Tupperware you buy with glass jars. They make great Tupperware and they last much longer. Ball Pint and Quart jars seal better than most plastic Tupperware and unless you break them, you may never have to throw them away. Sure, after a while, you may need to replace the lids, but you can go years without having to replace the lids and decades without worrying about the jars.

You don’t even need to buy glass jars to use at Tupperware, however. Many things, such as coconut oil, peanut butter, salsa and olives come in glass jars. Why toss these when they can be used to store food or for many other things around the house?

We are so quick to go spend our hard-earned money on things we simply don’t need because we are unaware. When we become aware of the things we can reuse, we can reduce the number of things we buy, which not only helps you to waste less, but it also helps you to want less. You’ll start looking at things you’re considering tossing and thinking about what they can be repurposed for instead of what you need to replace the item.

Don’t Throw Away Clothing, Bedding or Towels

When you decide you want new towels, do you simply toss the old ones? These can be used for cleaning rags or to create other items to use around the house. There are a number of ways you can repurpose anything made of fabric. Here are some great ideas from Pinterest for upcycling old clothing.

Switch to Bamboo Paper Towels

Do you ever get sick of buying paper towels and wonder why you have to spend $6 to $10 every time you go to the grocery for these things? Over the course of a year, you probably spend between $250 and $1,000 just on paper towels. Not only is that a waste of money, but it’s also trash you are creating.

Bamboo paper towels are great because they can be reused after going through the laundry. They are machine washable and can be used as regular paper towels, napkins, mop pads and for so many other uses. One roll of Bamboo towels can actually last six months and they aren’t that expensive. If you needed four rolls a year, you’d spend less than $25, which means you’re wasting less money and far less paper towels.

Choose Compostable Items

Compostable or biodegradable items can be tossed and they don’t hurt the environment. Did you know that 27.4 billion disposable diapers are tossed every year in the United States? It takes up to 550 years for a disposable diaper to decompose, which means your baby’s diapers will be around long after you’re gone, they are gone and their grandchildren are gone.

Diapers are just one example of an item like this, however. Plastic water bottles, plastic toothbrushes and many other items can take decades, if not centuries to decompose. That means, we are basically creating a world of trash, but we can stop by choosing compostable items.

Bamboo Toothbrushes, Bamboo toilet paper, Eco-Friendly Diapers, Earth-Friendly dog poop bags and many other items can really help to reduce the waste you create. When these items are used, not only are they better for you, but they are also better for the environment. Did you know that plastic toothbrush you are using is putting chemicals into your body? With a Bamboo toothbrush made with BPA free bristles, you won’t have to worry about this and it’s biodegradable.

Even if you don’t choose to go 100% compostable, you can choose paper products made from recyclable materials, which are usually more compostable than the alternative. Sure that Charmin toilet paper might feel good, but it’s laced with chemicals and takes forever to decompose compared to bamboo toilet paper and other biodegradable options.

Reduce your Mail


The average American receives more than 30 pounds of junk mail every single year, according to an article from Rethink Recycling. You can stop receiving this mail by getting off lists and putting an end to it. Not only will this reduce your amount of trash, but it will also save you the time of dealing with junk mail. Find out how you can reduce your mail with this guide to Junk Mail from Rethink Recycling.

There are several great ways to start wasting less and wanting less. When you start thinking about reusing and reducing, you’ll start wanting less and ironically, you’ll be more fulfilled. Use these ten ways to waste less and want less to get started. You don’t have to implement all ten to start making an impact.

Start today with just one of the ways to waste less and want less, then add in another later on. Take it at your own pace and watch as you will waste less food, less packaging, less household things, less money and less time. You’ll be shocked at how these simple ways of wasting less can have you wanting less and living a more fulfilled life.

What do you do to reduce your waste? Leave your answer in the comments section below.

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