When you hear the term zero waste you undoubtedly think its purpose is to save the environment, but did you know it actually saves you money too? It’s true. Zero waste saves. Time, money and the world. Period.
In the 1980’s and 90’s we saw packaged foods explode onto the market, making millennials the first real guinea pigs to consume products with lengthy ingredient labels and questionably long shelf-lives. But think about it, with all that colorful packaging and extra additives, it’s obvious why these convenience foods cost more. For example you can make a dozen muffins from some simple ingredients for way less than if you were to buy a box of 4 pre-made individually wrapped muffins from the freezer section. It seems downright crazy, and begs the question do we really not have 30 minutes in our week to make some damn muffins?
Why are we buying into this ‘convenience fee’! And even if we don’t have the time, often bakeries will sell their ‘day olds’ for cheap and in a cardboard box which is better than the plastic clamshell they’d be coming in otherwise. This is just one example of how outrageously this packaged market tries to dupe us. But in the words of Twisted Sister, we’re not going to take it anymore.
A recent Forbes article mentioned how millennials are shaping the food industry and that the demand for fresh, organic and local foods are on the rise because of this powerful purchasing group. Perhaps a few decades of consuming foods that lacked real flavors and freshness has forced us to go back to our roots, the way our parents and grandparents prepared meals. Our bodies are craving real, nutritious foods, which rarely come from inside a package.
A Mindful Approach to Saving
When you start shopping with zero waste in mind, a shift happens in your brain. You no longer carelessly reach for your favorite box or bagged item at the store, but rather start to consciously think of each purchase in the moment. In the beginning you’ll find yourself pacing the produce section picking up a plastic wrapped cucumber, setting it down. Looking at the un-wrapped ones and thinking ‘but is it organic? What should I do?’ and decide instead on a bunch of freshly watered carrots dripping into your cart because you’ve refused the plastic bag. Moving on to the dairy section you notice that there’s now a glass option for coffee cream; it’s the same price as the small carton you usually get, has more in it, and even better, they offer a $2.00 return policy on all glass bottles. Score! As you make your way through the isles you begin to question each and every purchase and how it fits (or doesn’t fit) into this new lifestyle.
Bulk is the New Convenience
If you haven’t already, seek out your nearest bulk shop and take a tour. You’ll be surprised to know just how many everyday items you can get in bulk; it’s rarely just a flour and dried goods shop. What you’ll find is the price for something you’d get at the store plummets when you’re buying it sans-packaging. A great example is quick oats which you can typically fill a mason jar for less than a dollar which will last you a week of breakfasts on the go. Add some maple syrup to sweeten and you’re all set for a fraction of the price of buying a box of individually packaged oatmeal. Bulk shops also often carry products like peanut butter, honey, coffee, herbal teas and sometimes even soaps and usually encourage you to bring your own containers for weighing. Yes, your jars will clank embarrassingly in your bag on your way in, but who cares? You’ll be saving money and that’s worth a little jingle anyway, right?
3 Things to Remember When Saving Money with Zero Waste
- A few minutes of preparation goes a long way. Going on a road trip? Think about what you would typically buy when stopping for gas and hankering for a snack. Then take a few minutes to pack. It’s always good to bring a large stainless steel water bottle to keep it cool, coffee in a thermos and a to-go mug for refills, a jar of nuts, pretzels and some fruit etc. Anything that will stop you from buying overpriced packaged foods on the go.
- Your cravings too shall pass. In the beginning your eyes will be opened to just how many times you crave something and were used to satisfying that craving immediately. Think vending machines, drive-thru, fast food restaurants et al. Becoming zero waste opens your eyes to just how much waste is produced with these fleeting hankerings and how much money you’re saving by letting that craving pass. Reach for your trail mix or lemon water to help stave off the feeling. Your next meal is just around the corner anyway. Say it with me now…
- Be mindful of what you’re buying in bulk. Not all bulk items automatically equal cost savings. Nobody wants to spend $20.00 on honey roasted chickpeas when that’s something you typically wouldn’t buy packaged anyway. (not knocking ‘em they’re super delicious as a luxury snack, just sayin’). But instead look for items you were already buying and try replacing them with loose bulk options, or better yet, if you have a Sunday to yourself and feel like baking? Do that.
Choose to be a Zero Waste Consumer
If you’re still not convinced, try it for one week and compare your grocery list from the previous one. You’ll see just how quickly this shift can happen when you start to become aware of everything your consuming and the trash it’s producing. Your wallet and the Planet will both thank you.