How to Save Money Living Zero Waste

Money, money, money, MONEY!

You may have seen it, an influx of zero waste products from bamboo toothbrushes, reusable period panties, to a metal ice cube tray. From the get go I want to establish that this is a GOOD thing! Why use a plastic pot scrubber when you can use one that is made out of walnut shells that decomposes when you are finished with it (yes, that is a real product!)? Let’s get plastic out of the landfill, and instead use items that have low-impact on our earth through the entirety of the manufacturing process.

What worries me is the assumption that to become zero waste you need to ditch all the plastic in your home right away and invest in all of these products. The answer is not to villainize plastic to the point of ditching items that are usable and could still be useful. When that happens we are contributing to the plastic problem by ditching good quality products to sit in a landfill never to decompose when it could be used.

Also, if you read my blog post, “Buy Nothing 2020,” you saw a video link I shared by the Story of Stuff. If you haven’t yet watched it, please do! It talks about our obsession as a culture to consume, and how the creation of more or different stuff is not the answer. Of course there are those items in our lives that we must consume, and it makes sense to create them more sustainably. A great example of this is the toothbrush. There are also a lot of necessary reusable items that cost a lot up front comparatively, for example: cloth diapers, period panties or a menstrual cup. But the long-term value of these items makes up for the cost, and you’ll end up spending less over time.

So…how much do I spend to become zero waste? How much is this going to cost me? Okay, okay, I’ll get to the point of this post. It is true that eventually replacing plastic items or disposables with reusable items will cost money, and a lot of these items can cost more than their disposable/plastic equivalent.

BUT! There are ways to live a zero waste lifestyle AND save money! Say whaaa???? Although this is not an exhaustive list, here are 5 tips to help save money while living zero waste:

Become an end-user with the items in your home. This can save you a lot of money, and is the more waste less option. If you have a cupboard full of plastic Tupperware – keep it, use it, and only replace it if it someday becomes unusable. There’s no need to throw out useable items simply to own a plastic-free alternative.

Other examples include:

  • Use up your stash of disposables like plastic food baggies, saran wrap, or plastic razors. A lot of disposables can be washed and reused one or two additional times. Although it can be exciting to kick this plastic waste to the curb, it’s less wasteful to get the best life out of them rather than tossing them before their end-of-life.
  • Save the containers your food comes in (yogurt, sour cream, jam jars), wash them & reuse. They can be used as storage containers or shopping for bulk items.
  • Have old mason jars sitting around? Consider them as a reusable water “bottle,” soap dispenser, flower vase, or candle holder.
  • Save your toothbrush and use it to clean.
  • Get in the habit of looking around your house prior to making a purchase. Want a container to hold your new kitchen rags? Shop at home! Often we have items in cupboards or basements that are being unused. Or again, use a mason jar.
  • Want to discontinue using coffee pods? Consider a reusable pod instead of ditching the coffee maker for a different one.
  • Looking to start composting? Consider using an already existing bowl in your cupboard instead of buying a compost container.

As simple as it sounds, if you are in need, see if you can borrow from friend, family or neighbour. Or make it interesting by making a swap. Either way, money saved.

Make your own deodorant! Making something from scratch or creatively repurposing items you already have at home is a great way to save money and lessen your waste. Although some projects may require some skill or may take a lot of your time, there are simple projects too that can save you money and are simple and easy, such as repurposing an old t-shirt as a produce bag (see video tutorial here).

Other examples include:

  • Learn to mend holes in older clothing rather than buying new.
  • Cut up unusable fabric (clothes, sheets, tea towels, etc.) into rags to be used instead of paper towel, swiffer sheets, disposable dusting wipes, facial tissue, or baby wipes.
  • Make from scratch: moisturizer, shampoo, dry shampoo, hand soap, or lip balm.
  • Make your own jam, condiments, soup stock, or start canning.
  • Crochet (or find someone else who knows how) your own reusable make-up removers/face scrubs. See tutorial here.
  • Make more at home meals. Zero Waste Chef is an amazing resource for cooking/baking/creating at home that has no packaging and minimizes your waste.
  • Save your toilet paper rolls, peanut butter jars, boxes or tin cans to use as kids crafts.

One of my favourite hobbies: thrift shopping. Oh how I will miss you this year during my “Buy Nothing 2020!” With the recent increase in popularity of thrift shopping came good quality products at a lower cost. Consider finding what you are looking for used before buying new.

Have you considered doing a “Buy Nothing” challenge? This could be for any length of time you choose and can target areas that may be superfluous in your life. Perhaps you want to consider not eating out, buying makeup or clothing accessories. Whatever it may be if you cut down the costs in these areas of your budget, then implementing some more expensive zero waste changes (like bathroom products) into your life may not feel as costly.

This Moroccan Stew is such a yummy meatless meal and all the ingredients (except the canned chickpeas) were package-free!

My family and I are not vegetarians, but in an effort to reduce our grocery spending AND reduce our packaging, I am attempting to make more meals without the meat. I do find this difficult as my son loves meat, and not so much the veggies, so finding recipes that he will enjoy is a challenge – but I am going to keep trying!


2 thoughts on “How to Save Money Living Zero Waste

  1. We are doing some of these things… not lots, but quite a few. My only thing is the reusing old clothes for cleaning vs Norwex… I too love my Norwex, and what i love is the cleaning with JUST water b/c of the properties in Norwex cloths. I do use some other natural cleaners alongside my Norwex… but that is my only “say what?” for this zero waste living. We have gone to beeswax wraps (so long Saran!), use silicone for a lot of things (baking, ice cubes), we make our own yogurt (yay InstantPot!) which saves on useless containers… #allorsomething


    1. That’s great Kristi-Anna! I did delete that section at the bottom with Norwex prior to reading your comment, so please don’t think it was because of that! I have some of their products too and it is great you can use them with just water. The cost is just the only downside when compared to at-home rags, but if you budget for them, that’s awesome, because they are a fantastic product! 🙂


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