There is a huge misconception out there that going zero waste, or even trying to reduce your plastic dependence at all, is a sure-fire way to go broke fast. I know that many zero waste items, such as fancy reusable coffee cups, and stainless steel food containers can indeed be a strain on your wallet. However, I have actually saved tremendous amounts of money by seriously cutting back on my plastic use. This is a list of the products I’ve bought, that have actually saved me tons of money. Many of them are a bit of an investment at first, but still so much less than having to re-buy the same things every couple of months.
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The safety razor is my favorite item on this list and has saved me the most money out of anything else on this list. If you buy a safety razor, it will be the last razor you buy for your entire life! I have had mine for two years now and it has saved me a ton of money. Plus it’s the closest shave I’ve ever gotten! It’s a bit of an investment at first, with most safety razors costing between $30 and $60CAD but it’s the last one you will ever buy. Plus the blades are super cheap. Just a couple bucks for a pack of ten and each blade lasts up to three months! They work great for all genders because hey, we are all just humans with hair right? So avoid the dreaded pink tax and get yourself a safety razor!
Basically any kind of reusable device that helps you deal with your period is a huge life saver for anyone with a vagina. Speaking of the pink tax, have any of you noticed how horrendously overpriced menstrual products are? Did you know that according to a recent study, the average woman will spend roughly $1773.33 on tampons alone? Add that to the amount of pads a woman buys and the amount of underwear she will buy due to her old ones getting stained and you’ve got yourself roughly $5000.
So what if I told you you could literally save thousands of dollars by simply buying a menstrual cup, a couple of reusable pads to use as liners, or period panties? You don’t even have to buy all three! Just choose what you think will work best for you and you’re all set.
Menstrual Cups are pretty self explanatory but if you’re unfamiliar with them, they are natural silicone ‘cups’ that you use in place of tampons. They’re fantastic because you can still swim and do sports without leaking, and they last upwards of three years! They’re super easy to wash and not too difficult to learn how to use.
Reusable pads are another great option for keeping your period cleaner and cheaper. Did I mention that there are toxic chemicals in most disposable tampons and pads? Why are we even putting them on our most sensitive body parts anyway? Anyways, I have a couple of reusable pads that I absolutely love. Not only are they made of natural fabrics, but I don’t need to buy new ones every single month.
I haven’t tried period panties yet but I’m hoping to get a few pairs soon. They’re supposed to be super absorbent and extra leak proof. So many new period panty companies are starting up now because more and more women are starting to use them. Not only is it better for the environment, but they’re much more comfortable than using crinkly disposable plastic pads and you don’t need to replace them each month either!
My friend Natalie bought me some laundry dryer balls a while back and I love them. Dryer balls are balls made of wool that you can add essential oils to in order to make your laundry smell good. Plus, they actually bounce around in your drying machine and help to separate your clothes, therefore making your laundry dry much faster. This means not only are you not putting toxic chemicals all over your clothes and into waterways, but you’re saving water too! Not only that but it also means you never have to buy dryer sheets again because the dryer balls are endlessly reusable.
I don’t have a ton of cloth napkins yet but I’m hoping to get more. If you don’t want to buy them, they’re also really easy to make. Cloth napkins are endlessly reusable and if they get ripped you can either mend them or turn them into rags to use around the house. Plus they’re so much more beautiful than just paper napkins. When you use a cloth napkin you are not only saving trees but also plastic as most paper napkins are wrapped in it.
Beeswax food wraps are one of my favorite zero waste things in the world. Not only does using them mean you won’t be using plastic wrap, but beeswax is naturally antibacterial and will keep your food fresh for much longer. Beeswax wrap is made with cotton fabric, beeswax and sometimes tree resin and jojoba oil. It can be a bit of investment at first but you won’t be wasting money every month on plastic wrap. Plus if your wraps start losing some wax, you can just melt more beeswax onto them! If it’s still too much for you, you can always make your own.
I don’t actually have any of these yet but they’re on my wish list. Silicone food storage bags can be washed and reused endlessly. Plus silicone is natural and does not contain the harmful chemicals that plastic bags do (I’m looking at you Ziploc). If you get some of these, you won’t need to constantly be stocking up on disposable plastic baggies. All that money really does add up!
Ok, I’m not going to lie, reusable produce bags haven’t saved me any money since their plastic alternative is always given out for free. However I have saved money by buying reusable grocery bags. This is because there are a ton of options for which ones to buy and they don’t all cost an arm and a leg. It’s also because in Canada, where I’m from, and at some places in the USA and Mexico, I get charged money every time I use a plastic bag. So by using a reusable grocery bag that will last forever (if I mend any rips over the years) I will be saving a lot of money. Every penny really does add up.
If you live in a city with clean tap water then you probably don’t need this. I’m currently living in Mexico City and don’t have easy access to clean drinking water. Many families here will buy huge packages of plastic water bottles. Some will buy filters, or big jugs of clean water that they can take back and get the jugs reused. Arturo and I wanted something that was easy and that saved us from buying our weight in plastic water bottles each month. Luckily we came across the Japanese, Clean Sui Water Filter. It fits right on your tap and filters our water perfectly. If you’re unsure about it just check out this review. It was even easy enough for us to install it on our own!
I really did save the best for last. Mason jars are my go to for everything. You really don’t need the latest and greatest reusable bamboo coffee mug for your daily cup of Joe. It’s not super necessary (or cost-effective) to buy the fanciest stainless steel food storage containers out there. You don’t even really need that stainless steel water bottle. Truth be told, you might not even need the beeswax wraps or silicone food bags I mentioned above. As long as you have a mason jar, you’re all set. You can buy mason jars just about anywhere or even just reuse your old tomato sauce and salsa jars! You can even find them for super cheap at thrift stores. For some reason, finding the big packages of mason jars has proven rather difficult here in Mexico. So if you need to buy them online, there’s a link for you below.
Even if you’re not convinced that the things on this list will save you money, you can still make a lot of these items yourself. There are thousands of DIY tutorials out there for making your own beeswax wraps, bowl covers, napkins, period panties, grocery bags, etc. I will be making a post soon that links to a lot of these DIY tutorials and sharing some I have even used myself. If you’re curious about making any of these things on your own you can check out this video I made about DIY beeswax wraps, or this article on making my own zero-waste toiletries.
April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies for Sustainable Travel. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.
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