When I first started out owning a home I just assumed I need all the stuff. Over the years I have come to realize there are a lot of things that we use a society that we really don’t need to. And by not buying and using these products we can not only use more natural products in our home, we can produce less waste as well.
This is a list of things I no longer buy, some we simply do without and others I’ve bought items that will last longer and be more environmentally friendly in their place instead.
As like most of life, this is a work in progress. Ultimately I’d like to be a good steward of what we have.
If you have other items that aren’t on this list that you don’t buy I’d love to hear about it!
Things to Stop Buying That Help You Save Money & The Environment
KITCHEN & FOOD
I grew up using napkins at every meal, I’ll just admit this right off the bat: I’m a klutz and a messy eater. I’m not like my husband where I can just bypass the need for something to wipe my hands and/or face with each meal so the kids and I use baby wash cloths instead. We got a couple of packages and they’ve lasted us for years and are still going strong. We have some plain white ones and some patterned, I’d suggest going for the patterned ones to help cover up future stains. Eventually I’d like to have some nice, fancier, patterned cloth napkins but I have not found a good enough price on them to justify the cost. (If you know of a place though, let me know!)
plastic sandwich bags
We have reusable containers instead of sandwich bags. My favorites are actually a set of four EasyLunchboxes that we bought years ago (though these days I am eyeing up some Bento Boxes). I find them great for packing snacks or a lunch when we are on the go, the dividers are great and it makes it so much easier than passing three different containers to each kid. We do still buy plastic freezer bags and use them for a few things, but I like to be thrifty a bit more environmentally friendly and wash them and reuse them until they have holes.
I prefer reusable plastic straws, they are usually bigger than the disposable and make drinking smoothies a lot easier. They aren’t super fun to clean but I rinse them as soon as I can and use a metal skewer to get all the way in there. I know stainless steel straws are all the rage but I personally don’t enjoy the taste or feel of stainless steel, but if that works for you, go for it! That being said, I just recently found out that there are such things now as silicone reusable straws and I might look into getting some of those down the road!
I used to have a bit of a microwave popcorn addiction but one year I asked for a microwave popcorn bowl for Christmas and it’s all I’ve used since! Admittedly, I use it nearly every day, popcorn is my favorite snack. Plus, popping my own popcorn and then adding my oil afterwards (I use sunflower oil) makes it so much healthier than that chemically stuff they put in microwave popcorn bags.
I make my own (and control the amount of salt in it).
We’ve been making our own using this recipe for years already, it’s great because we can make them with gluten-free oats. Or, another recipe we make more often in place of granola bars are energy bites. That being said, there are times where we do buy granola bars but it’s not the norm for us.
I have a delicious hot cocoa recipe that I found online once upon a time when I fell in love with Starbucks’ hot chocolate but couldn’t afford to buy one very often. Now that I am dairy free I’ve been able to continue making it with dairy free milk (yay!). Truthfully though, the kids prefer the cheap store bought hot chocolate powder, I’m still working on converting them.
pasta sauce & pizza sauce
I’ve been tweaking recipes for both pasta sauce and pizza sauce in the last couple of years. I haven’t had to buy pizza sauce for nearly two years and in the fall I finally nailed down a delicious (and spicy) pasta sauce recipe. I don’t like to make everything from scratch but it is nice to be able to control the ingredients in some things, plus, when your brown-ish thumb seems to be able to grow tomatoes that thrive you take advantage of that!
plastic grocery bags
If at all possible I try to avoid using/accepting plastic grocery bags. My purse is big enough to throw small purchases into and I usually try to have a foldable, cloth grocery bag in my purse for times when I need it. Some how we still do collect a few plastic grocery bags though and I use those for garbage bags so at least we are not just throwing them away.
This one kind of got forced upon us a few years ago when my husband was diagnosed with Celiac disease and most fast food places around us didn’t have gluten free options. We have friends who eat fast food on a regular basis and it’s a good reminder of how much we are saving and how much better it is for our bodies.
Why by something you can access for free?! My favorite solution is this glass, straw-less water bottle, I’ve had mine for over 5 years, other water bottles have come and gone (aka broke) but this one has remained. My husband prefers this version instead of the flip lid I have.
Sidenote: This section is going to sound like it was sponsored by Norwex, it’s not. I just seriously love their stuff. I’ve actually thought about selling their products because I’m constantly raving about them but instead I’ll just continue sounding like a spokesperson for the company.
I skip buying window cleaner all together and just use my Norwex window cloth instead. It only uses water and takes all the streaks out, easy peasy. I love using them on my bathroom mirror.
all purpose cleaners and sprays
I just use a mixture of water and vinegar and sometimes I throw in a couple of drops of essential oils. On my counters I use my Norwex enviro cloth, I love that I only need to add water and everything sticks to them so they clean so well.
We had a Swiffer when we were first married, I like the idea so much better than a mop but buying the Swiffer pads all the time (and the cleaner) was annoying and costly (not to mention the awful chemicals that are in the cleaner and have been proven to kill animals that have licked the floor afterwards). So, the Swiffer was out and in came the Norwex mop. The Norwex mop has two pads – one for sweeping (dry pad) and one for mopping (wet pad), they can both just be thrown into the washing machine when they are dirty and then reused again!
I have been using wool dryer balls for a few years now. I like that they don’t have a bunch of harmful chemicals or weird ingredients like dryer sheets (I’ve heard dryer sheets are just perfumed animal fat, not sure if that’s true but whatever is in there can’t be anything very natural, that’s for sure!), plus I can add a couple of drops of my favorite essential oils on the dryer balls for a bit of a scent (my personal favorite for this is this citrusy oil). Dryer balls definitely don’t get as much static out as dryer sheets but it seems like a small price to pay. In the summer I like to hang my clothes up but that just doesn’t happen in the winter (they would just become ice blocks outside).
One problem I have come across with my dyer balls, and maybe it’s because they are getting old?, is that they don’t really reduce the static well, which has been a little annoying in our extremely dry winters. I recently came across these cute cactus dryer balls and wonder if they would be any better.
I just don’t buy or use it, easy enough.
Norwex to the rescue once again, I use their optic scarf, you usually don’t need any kind of liquid, just use the dry scarf. When Ephraim’s glasses get really nasty (as a three year old boys glasses are prone to do) I just run the glasses under water and then use the optic scarf. I carry this in my purse so I always have it on the go, I even have some friends that are constantly asking to borrow it.
Cleaning bathrooms are my least favorite thing to clean and I generally leave my tubs for longer than I should. But I recently got the Norwex bathroom scrub mitt and cleaning paste and it has changed my cleaning! They work so well at getting hard water build up and any grime off. I now do a quick rub down with the bathroom scrub mitt after I am done showering to keep up with it and it has made cleaning the tub so much easier.
BEAUTY & WELLNESS
I use the Norwex body cloth on my face every day. All you do is add a little water to the cloth and wash with that, no soap needed. I actually use it in the shower too, it works great as an exfoliator, which actually brings me to my next item . . .
I have used a mix of vinegar and water for conditioner for years.
Shortly after starting my vinegar conditioner I started making my own deodorant. One batch lasts me about six months and I love knowing there are no cancer causing chemicals in there!
I made myself a DIY dry shampoo four years ago and am still using the same batch, if that doesn’t convince you I don’t know what will.
I go back and forth between using a coconut/grapeseed oil to replace shaving cream, or, here’s a cool thing: If you use the Norwex body cloth as an exfoliator in the shower you can shave your legs with no shaving cream or shaving cream replacement needed. Seriously. I know it sounds crazy but it so works! My skin is fairly sensitive and I definitely would be coming away with razor burn if I normally didn’t use anything for shaving cream but for whatever reason this totally works. The cloths aren’t that expensive and I get embarrassingly giddy when I think about all the money (not to mention the environment). I do still use oil for shaving cream at times because I like the feel of the oil on my legs after but I definitely don’t need it.
we don’t buy Kleenex. It started out of laziness and it has continued out of laziness. Ha, we just toilet paper, it does the job for a fraction of the price.
I made my own whipped face cream a year or two ago and am still using the same batch. I really love knowing all the ingredients and went into it and the fact there are no added chemicals.
hairspray, mousse, gel, etc
I just don’t use any of these.
Do you remember the “You cut your own hair, that’s cheap.” commercial from a few years back? Well, I don’t think my hair looks like that but I do cut my own hair. I think I’ve gone for two hair cuts in the last 5+ years and I’ve been disappointed both times so I will stick to cutting it myself. Plus, I have side bangs and those need to be trimmed on a regular basis, there is no way I have time to go get them cut every other week.
In the summer while the weather is warm here I just open a window. In the winter things can get a little stale so I prefer to use a diffuser and essential oils. I have a cheap diffuser that has been going strong for four years and especially when it comes to just diffusing for smells I try to use fairly cheap essential oils. My favorite oils for scent are usually citrus in nature: lemon, grapefruit and orange.
The stats don’t lie, people waste a ton of money in gym memberships each year. We have a little bit of equipment at home and that has saved us a lot in gym memberships over the years. There are a ton of different workout videos you can follow on YouTube as well, though personally, the workout method I have found to be the least mentally taxing and gave me good and the quickest results I have ever gotten from working out was the Stronglifts 5×5 method, which has a free app you can download (and contrary to how it may sound, no, it does not need to leave you as a buff woman, I may have to write a full post about this in the future).
full-price greeting cards
Did you know some greeting cards can be $5-$9? Just for a card!! Uh, yeah, that’s not happening. I have a few different options: either the kids or I will make a card, or I’ll pick one up at a dollar store or I’ll buy a pack of blank inside cards that I just always have on hand.
We very rarely buy movies, for the most part we borrow them from the library (either the physical copy or through their online app). The odd time we will buy a movie 99% of the time it is an older movie from the $5 bin at Walmart, usually it’s a Christmas movie of some sort.
cable, Netflix, etc
Honestly, we have an on-and-off-again relationship with Netflix, what works best for us is to cancel it for the summer when we want to spend time outside and then have it for the winter. We haven’t had cable in years and I don’t even remember what that is like. In my opinion there are a lot of better things to do than watch TV.
Okay, books are definitely my biggest spending temptation. Saying I don’t buy books would be a lie but 99% of the time the books I buy have been second hand. We also borrow a lot of books from the library and if I am going to buy a new book I will often purchase the Kindle version (even though I prefer reading paper books).
I may have missed a few things, I am sure there are things we are simply doing without that I’ve forgotten about!
There are a few more things I’d like to find good alternatives for, like a good alternative to paper towel for de-greasing food, I just don’t see rags working so well for that, but it’s a work in progress. If I think of any more things we don’t buy I’ll add them to the list.