The products and services mentioned below were selected independent of sales and advertising. However, Don't Waste Your Money may receive a small commission from the purchase of any products or services through an affiliate link to the retailer's website.
Like many people these days, my family is increasingly conscious of what we toss out and whether it will end up in a landfill. We do our best to recycle the items we can, like plastic bottles and cardboard packaging. We even participate in the Hefty ReNew Program for hard-to-recycle stuff like plastic bags. (You can check here to see if this free program is available near you.)
But the truth is, there’s a lot more we could be doing — especially when it comes to not buying those landfill-destined items to begin with. Whether it’s coffee pods or endless rolls of paper towels, many of these culprits come from our kitchen.
So, recently I’ve begun to seek out kitchen products with a little more staying power. The good news? In every case, they will end up saving me money in the long run. Here are 10 options for a more eco-friendly and cost-efficient kitchen:
Plastic bags (like the Ziploc variety) are super-handy when you’re packing up a lunch box, but they take 1,000 years to decompose in a landfill. And they can be pricey, at about $5 for a 90-bag box.
Silicone reusable bags like these from Durbl are durable, dishwasher-safe and resistant to heat and cold, so you can use them again and again. I love to stash the pre-diced veggies I buy at Trader Joe’s inside these bags and stick them in the freezer. After I’ve taken the veggies out, I put the bag straight into the dishwasher.
Even Ziploc seems to sense that these reusable bags are the future of food storage, as it has come out with its own version, Ziploc Endurables.
These seem expensive at almost $50 for a set of five in different sizes, but it won’t take long for you to recoup the money you spend on buying the disposable kind — and you’ll also get peace of mind because you’re helping the planet.
If you’ve ever stored half of a tomato in a plastic bag (or wrapped it in aluminum foil), you’ve no doubt seen it turn mushy in a day or so. Food Huggers are reusable silicone “lids” that you can attach to the sliced end of produce to create an airtight seal. This allows them to last for several days. And less wasted food means more money saved.
They come in different sizes so you can use them for cucumbers, lemons, onions and other fruits and veggies. And if you’re an avocado lover, don’t fret: There’s a special one for you (though you will have to buy it separately).
Buying the select-a-size version of paper towels is a great way to cut down on waste. Even better? Switching to reusable Swedish dishcloths, which also soak up spills but don’t need to be tossed right away. In fact, they can last three to six months. You can rinse them in the sink, then put them in the dishwasher or washing machine once a week.
According to Statista, the average family spent about $114.41 in 2022 on paper towels, napkins and toilet paper, which makes the savings opportunity here (spending less than $15 every three to six months instead) pretty significant. And Swedish dishcloths are biodegradable, so when you do toss them, you know they’ll break down without polluting the environment.
Aluminum foil (like Reynold’s Wrap) and plastic wrap (like Saran Wrap) are not biodegradable. And while they’re not super expensive, buying them can add up. Reynolds Wrap costs about $3 for 30 square feet, and Saran Wrap costs about $3 per 100 square feet. If you’re using them to cover all the sandwiches, hot dishes or leftovers in your kitchen, they can strain your budget.
But beeswax wraps — which are made of organic cotton and beeswax — can potentially be used over and over for up to a year. They’re biodegradable, waterproof and anti-microbial, too. After each use, just rinse it with cool water and a mild soap. Then air-dry the wrap by draping it over a dish rack.
It’s a common rule among frugal shoppers: The less frequently you visit the supermarket, the less food you’ll end up wasting — and the more money you’ll save. But this rule is hard to follow when it comes to buying produce. If you buy a bag of lettuce on Monday, there’s a good chance it won’t be still fresh enough for dinner on Thursday.
But a solution to this problem might come in the form of a cotton crisper bag. For produce that thrives in moisture, like carrots, spinach, celery, kale or lettuce, a plastic bag can suffocate them and lead to spoilage. But if you dampen this cotton crisper bag and place these produce items inside, they can “breathe” — and consequently, stay fresh for up to two times longer than usual.
Using a Keurig coffee maker is just so convenient! I love making just one cup at a time and can’t imagine going back to my previous coffee machine.
Although the science hasn’t yet been settled, some studies show that using K-cups to make coffee can actually be better for the environment, too — because pods produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than brewing the traditional way, and the machines may use less coffee and water. But there’s nothing eco-friendly about all those plastic cups ending up in the garbage. And while the cost differs widely from brand to brand, buying coffee in K-cup form is generally more expensive than buying bags of ground coffee. What to do?
Consider buying this reusable, stainless steel coffee pod. Then buy your ground coffee in the less-expensive bag form and reuse the single pod each time you brew a cup. This will be easier on your budget and the environment. Right now, you can get the $12.99 cup for $11.04 from Amazon if you click a 15% coupon on the product page.
Sponges are a great dishwashing tool, but after just a few days, they become bacteria bombs. That’s why they need to be tossed out every few weeks. And that means a new package of sponges is showing up on your grocery list at regular intervals.
A budget-friendlier choice also happens to be better for the environment: Use a scrub brush with a detachable bristle head that can be run through the dishwasher. This one from Target is about the same price you’d pay for one 6-pack of Scotch-Brites, and it doesn’t have to be replaced as often.
While paper napkins aren’t a major expense (about $2 for 100), we do go through a lot of them.
Why not switch to cloth napkins? They may seem a little fancy for everyday use, but they don’t have to be. If you begin using them and tossing them in the laundry after meals, you’ll soon get into the habit — and wonder how you ever threw money away on disposable ones.
Sure, plastic straws aren’t that expensive. But if you pop one in your daily smoothie, the cost can add up.
And from an environmental standpoint, they’re problematic. According to Ocean Conservancy, they’re among the 10 most commonly collected items in the organization’s annual International Coastal Cleanup. It’s estimated that 500 million straws are used in the United States each day — and a lot of their plastic ends up in the stomachs of seabirds and turtles. This seems like a pretty easy problem to solve since there are so many great alternatives.
These stainless steel straws are dishwasher-safe, and they come with a brush for cleaning the inside. And right now, they’re on sale for 65% off. What an easy, inexpensive way to help reduce litter!
A lot of convenience-oriented mops have disposable pads you toss out when you’re done cleaning the floor. Then you have to buy the pricey refills. So, for every 10 cleanings, you’re spending another $20.
The genius of this mop from OXO is that it doesn’t rely on disposable pads. Instead, you attach a reusable microfiber pad to clean the floor and then toss it into the washing machine when you’re done. Depending on how often you scrub your floor, eliminating that regular refill purchase could lead to some big savings.
Happy eco-friendly shopping!
This story originally appeared on Don't Waste Your Money.