Skip Disposable when Reusable will do

Disposable and single-use items bring a lot of convenience to our lives. We can skip washing something and throw it away instead. There is no doubt that these items make some things easier for a busy household but they also generate a lot of trash. Two years ago I set a resolution to reduce my use of single-use disposable items. I was particularly interested in reducing my use of zip-top plastic bags. I wanted to see if I could change these habits to save some money and reduce the amount of trash I generate.

I started by looking for an alternative to zip-top bags. I bought some small washable fabric bags that have velcro at the top to use for dry goods like crackers or nuts for my lunch. I also bought some extra glass and plastic storage containers that I can wash and reuse. When I have a piece of an onion or half a cucumber to store, I put them in a container now rather than putting them in a plastic bag.

My new bags were $3 apiece and I have five of them, so they cost me a total of $15. My container set with a variety of sizes cost about $20. So, I invested $35 in this resolution. When I did the math, I was spending about $4 per month, or $48 per year, on plastic zip top bags. So, in that first year, I saved enough money to offset my investment in reusable containers. The good news is that I am still using all of the same reusable items two years in to my resolution, so my savings are adding up now and I feel good about the fact that I throw less plastic into the trash.

I do find that I need to use disposable plastic bags sometimes. For example, when I need to store something like meat in the freezer I will use a plastic freezer bag. This resolution taught me that it was not really that difficult for me to give up some of the convenience items I have always used. Has your family switched from a single-use product to a reusable one? How did it go? Share with us in the comments or on our social media.

Take care,


Christine Hradek

Christine Hradek is a State Nutrition Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She coordinates ISU’s programs which help families with low income make healthy choices with limited food budgets. Christine loves helping families learn to prepare healthy foods, have fun in the kitchen and save money. In her spare time, Christine enjoys cooking, entertaining and cheering on her favorite college football teams with her family and friends.

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Kitchen gifts that will help save money

I am not much for lining my countertops with one-use gadgets such as bun warmers, ice cream cone makers, rotisseries, hot dog cookers, rice cookers, single serving coffee makers, etc. But, I do think that some small appliances can help make cooking at home faster, easier, or cheaper. Here are a few ideas for your gift list:

  • Slow cookers allow you to cook soups, stews, and broth without having to watch them all day. They are great for cooking less tender, less expensive cuts of meat and don’t take much energy to run.
  • Blenders are great for making smoothies out of fruit that is a little extra ripe. You can also use a blender to grate hard cheese, make bread crumbs, or make baby food.
  • Sets of food containers are helpful for storing family or individual servings when you make big batches of soup, chili, etc. If you have someone who eats alone or has difficulty cooking, buying food containers and filling them with meals is a great idea.

-pointers from Peggy

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