We live a simpler life, create much less waste and are loads happier because of it. Here’s our success story of how we began to shop smarter, take back our time and spend 40% less of our income on food and household items.
In August 2013, I made a decision to purchase everything possible without packaging or at least with minimal and recyclable packaging. Until this point, we were shopping regularly from Vitacost for foods, supplements, health products; Amazon for electronics and groceries at our doorstep; Spud for vegetable and fruit delivery; Costco; a butcher shop; 4 different co-ops and grocery stores; farmers markets; and various thrift stores. That’s a lot of stores, time, gas and shopping. No wonder we were miserable. The obvious first step seemed to be to stop shopping so much, but how? This is how we we did it.
Shopping Was Making Us Miserable
It seemed like we were constantly processing orders and putting away groceries. Our kids were finally at an age where they could help with the shopping, which helped me, but they began to hate shopping and protested like mad. Shopping wasn’t fun and bringing the bags into the house just compounded the pain. Shopping runs inevitably produced angry and frustrated exchanges. Not only was shopping torture for everyone involved, we had to drive to the stores which only increased our displeasure.
Packaged Foods Costs in Time
Once the shopping was over, it was then time to put stuff away. I hate this part the most. It regularly took roughly 30 minutes to put our families groceries away. Putting away groceries 3-5 times a week could take a minimum of 50 minutes to a maximum of around 3 hours every week just to process food and supplies. Shopping, even for the basics, was stealing my time and energy.
Packaged Foods Are Needy
Groceries are now put away, but you aren’t done. Packaged foods need handling and management like repacking into different containers, freshness, hunting for items, and rearranging their storage. Packages become cluttered in cabinets, food is overlooked, it grows stale or is ignored because of visual noise or irregular container sizes. Some foods will be rejected as failed experiments. Processed foods are sometimes covered in multiple kinds of packaging that requires more trash and recycle bins runs. Once the food is eaten, the packaging must be disposed of in landfill or recycling. There is a lot of time and handling that goes into the food in our kitchens.
Packaged Foods Are Really Expensive
I wrote about how we went about downsizing and how we reduced our food monthly food bill by 40% when we stopped buying packaged foods versus using our own containers and bags to markets. And in this article, I share dollar amounts of where we spend less by avoiding packaging, making homemade versions and choosing options that create less waste.
Bring Your Own Containers and Avoid Packaging
Doing without food isn’t possible and having everything delivered is not feasible. But there is another way. Stores that offer food in bulk bins allowing shoppers to bring their own jars, provide their customers a valuable service not only allowing them to spend less but by also saving them time and energy.
Shop smarter and less often by using your own containers with zero or minimal waste in mind solves many of a shoppers time, money and waste problems.
- Glass storage containers means awareness of food levels
- More storage created when fewer processed foods are taking up space
- Less visual noise
- Lower food costs (I now spend 40% less on food)
- Less food waste
- Few stores to shop
- Food unpacks quickly
- Less runs to the bins with trash and recycling
- Smaller bins can bring lower utility costs
Take the Trash Out Next Week
We no longer make multiple daily trips to our Recycling or Trash bins after committing to purchasing with minimal and zero packaging. These days, we run our recycling out once a week. The trash container is barely used but goes out every 2 weeks whether it needs it or not. Composting happens daily or at least every other day. Compost is put in the city yard waste bin or in our own composter. Shopping smarter means we don’t get to take the garbage out that much anymore…darn.
Recycling/ Composting and Landfill Bins
Be Selfish And Save the World
When I think about how many bags, plastic or paper, I have not used in 8+ years because we bring our own bags, I’m very aware how one simple commitment by one person, really can make a difference. Beyond the ‘Bring your own Bag’ scheme, we shop smarter in other ways like bringing our own containers (BYOC), coffee cups, jars, straws and to-go containers. The way we now shop has a direct impact on industry and the environment and that’s pretty cool. Selfishly though, if minimal waste, BYOC shopping had absolutely no effect, I would still do it because of how much less time and money we spend on shopping.
Time that we once spent shopping and processing purchases is now ours again. Shopping controlled too much of our time and was literally ruining our lives. These days it’s much different, grocery shopping is quick and painless. My daughter and I will even shop for pleasure these days, something that would have never done in our days of excessive shopping. We are much happier having that time back to spend together, and we usually spend it in ways that don’t involve shopping!
xo – Bar