Save by cutting waste

Consumer Reports News: March 04, 2011 11:22 AM

The way some products are packaged—tubes of toothpaste, jars of mayonnaise—encourages wastefulness. Being thrifty, I consider this sort of thing not just an annoyance but a challenge. Here are a few tricks I’ve picked up over the years to cut waste in my home, many submitted by readers of Consumer Reports and the Money & Shopping blog.

Bananas. Don’t toss overripe bananas. Peel them and put them in a sealed bag in the freezer. You can use them later in banana bread or blend them in smoothies.

Bar soap. Use sudsy water to “glue” the last sliver to a new bar.

Condiments. Remove the mayonnaise coating the sides and contoured bottom of the jar with a pliable, long-handled rubber spatula. For tangy condiments like ketchup, mustard, and barbecue sauce, add a few drops of cider vinegar and swish it around. Also, store the bottles upside down for easier extraction. Many now come with large flat lids.

Cookies. Put broken cookies in a food processor and grind into crumbs. Then keep them in a plastic bag in your freezer. When you have enough, use them to make a crust for cream pie or cheesecake.

Cornflakes. Don’t toss out the broken pieces and crumbs that settle at the bottom of the box. Grind them until fine in a food processor, then use the crumbs to coat fish or chicken before cooking.

Hair gel. Carefully cut the tube from top to bottom with a utility knife. Squeeze both ends and scoop out the gel with a finger.

Honey. If the last of the honey has turned solid, put the bottle in a small pot of boiling water until the thick gunk returns to its original viscosity. You can use the same technique on maple syrup that has started to harden.

Laundry detergent. When the bottle seems empty, use water as the machine fills to swish out the remaining liquid detergent and pour it in with the load.

Pump-top hand lotion. Unscrew the pump top and pour what you can into another (nonpump) bottle. Recap the original bottle and soak it in a basin of very hot—but not boiling—water for a few minutes. When the lotion thins a little, shake and then pour it into the new nonpump bottle. Store the bottle upside down until you use up all the lotion.

Shampoo. Store the bottle upside down to prevent as much product from settling as you can. When no more will come out of the bottle, add a few drops of water and swish it around.

Sugar. If a bag of granulated white sugar becomes rock hard, which usually happens over time from exposure to humidity, pummel it with a rolling pin and then toss the chunks in a food processor. Avoid the problem by pouring bagged sugar into a sealed container as soon as you open it.

Toothpaste. Put a binder clip at the end of the tube to dispense the toothpaste more efficiently. When you can’t squeeze any more out, run the smooth, hard side of your toothbrush handle over the flattened tube.

If you'd like to share your tips for eking the last bit of product out of its packaging or otherwise cutting waste in your home post a comment below.—Tod Marks

This article appeared in Consumer Reports Money Adviser.


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