There’s no denying it; supermarkets are the most efficient way to shop. Soul-less undoubtedly! But they win on the cost-effective and efficiency stakes.
With the large majority of mass-produced goods being heavily wrapped in plastic, supermarkets are out of the picture for our shopping needs. Instead it’s farm shops, market stalls, fishmongers, butchers and other local specialist retailers that we’ve come to rely on, buying little and often from those that really do need our custom. It takes more time (and is infinitely more pleasurable), but the great news is that it doesn’t always have to cost more.
How do you go plastic-free while keeping the costs down?
It might take a little more planning to buy what you want, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are 10 easy steps that could even save you money.
- Wash with soap – Almost all your bathroom bottles can be replaced with soaps; including shower gels, handwash, shampoo and conditioner. There’s a huge range of soaps available, many of which have no plastic packaging. What’s more, I find they’re often cheaper and last longer. I love the handmade range from Emma’s soaps, often buying a bulk bag of ‘sud standard’ offcuts for an even greater saving.
- Fill it up again –If soaps aren’t your thing, keep your bathroom bottles and take them to your local refill store or plastic-free shop each month for a top-up. (I use Fetch’em from the Cupboard and For Earth’s Sake in Surrey.) Refills can be hugely cost-effective. In fact, I filled up my shampoo bottle for around £1.50 last time around. (I’ve noticed several hairdressers now offer the same service – typically of more high-end hair products – in salons.)
- Cut out the wipes –Wipes may be convenient, but most of the time, whether it’s for cleaning the house, removing make-up or more – a flannel will work just as well. Buy a bulk pack of flannels (from as little as £3.50 for 10 at Ikea) or some reusable cotton pads like these, throw them in the wash when you’re done and you’ll never have to buy wipes again.
- Clean with vinegar –Over the past couple of years, I’ve been struck by the realisation that I’ve been utterly ‘had’ by the marketing campaigns that have led me to believe that I need 1,001 different products to clean every area of the house, when – for the large part – vinegar, bicarb and a cloth will do. Stock up on some white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda for a fraction of the price of Dettol or Cif. Make your own cleaning spray with vinegar, water and a few drops of lavender oil or citrus peel (to avoid the house smelling like a chippie). It’s amazing how well things scrub up.
- Never buy water again –Once you’re into the habit of filling a water bottle before you go out, you’ll never have to buy water again. A good water bottle will last for ages – unless your children leave it on their football pitch! Father Christmas bought the kids one of these look alike Chilly-style water bottles last year and they’re still going strong.
- Bubble it up – Don’t buy fizzy drinks, but bubble them up at home at high speed with a soda stream.Truthfully, I’m not a fan of the specialist soda stream cordial range, but there are many glass bottles of cordial on the market and we’ve made our own from time to time. The kids love brewing up their own concoctions of fizzy drinks, ranging from mixing up sparking elderflower cordial to their own take on homemade lemonade. The gas cylinder can be refilled, so it’s a great choice for minimising waste.
- Cook it up– Admittedly some things are cheaper to buy than make from scratch, but there are a good few exceptions. We’ll make a large batch of muffins, ‘energy’ bars, salted caramel popcorn or a tray bake at the weekend and that will get us through a week’s worth of packed lunches and be a considerable saving on shop-bought equivalents.
- Cut down on meat–Eating vegetables is better for our bodies, the environment and for the bank. As meat so often comes heavily wrapped in plastic, it’s a great opportunity to reduce the meat we eat, making different choices for family meals. We’ve been surprised how receptive the kids have been to black bean fajitas in place of chicken, quorn mince for Bolognese, and how many meals we can make from a couple of packs of eggs.
- Don’t cling on – When there are so many alternatives to cling film, why buy it at all? Pop your leftovers in Tupperware, in a bowl with a plate or saucepan lid resting on top or use reusable beeswax cloth wraps. If you want to your money to go even further, you can make your own wax wraps from some fabric scraps and beeswax.
- The big freeze– Buy and cook in bulk for more economical family means and freeze the excess. It’s a great way to get ahead when you’ve got a busy week, saving cash and precious time.
I hope these ideas are useful. How do you keep costs down while cutting down on plastic?