Friday, August 19, 2022

50 Ways We Make Our Consumables (And Consumer Products) Last A Very Long Time

If there is anything I have learned from our cash-only challenge so far this month, it's that we spend the majority of our money on food and consumables.  While we may make the occasional clothing or tech purchase, it's a given that consumables top the list when it comes to our spending so it only makes sense to save as much money as possible on these items.  This is how we do it...

  1. We haven't had to buy paper towels in ages because we buy the ones that are scored into half sheets then cut them in half down the center before we hang them up to make quarter-sized sheets.  Needless to say, this saves a lot of paper towels!  (see photo above)
  2. Since I started using a bidet, we haven't bought toilet paper in several months.  A bidet saves A LOT of toilet paper!
  3. I don't decorate seasonally anymore.  I used to have a ton of crap to change the d├ęcor of our house by the season.  We got rid of all of that stuff when we downsized and now our house looks the same year-round (you can save a lot of money when you don't buy useless crap just to impress people!).
  4. We never buy garbage bags, instead I line all of our waste cans with plastic shopping bags from the grocery store (however I am looking at ways to stop using plastic all together).
  5. I never use Swiffer products, Lysol wipes, and things like that as bleach water and a rag works just as well.
  6. The makeup I use is pretty basic and of the cheaper Cover Girl variety and if we aren't leaving the house for the day, I don't put on makeup at all.  I think I went several months during the pandemic without wearing any makeup at all which saved a lot of money (even cheap makeup is pretty expensive these days!).
  7. When I open a new box of dryer sheets, I take them out of the box and cut them in half thus doubling my supply of dryer sheets.
  8. I also use a fraction of the "recommended" amount of liquid laundry soap in each load.  Our clothes aren't really dirty so there is no need to use massive amounts of soap--our clothes come out just as clean while using much less soap.  It's the same when using bleach.
  9. Similarly I use just a little shampoo not a big glob, and only use a tiny bit of conditioner every few days instead of everyday.
  10. I use a small amount of toothpaste (much smaller than the picture of the toothpaste box!) but will happily buy as much floss as necessary since it pays to keep your gums healthy and cavities at bay.
  11. When our bath soap gets down to a sliver I "meld" it on to the new bar instead of throwing it out.
  12. Since I am no longer working, I rarely wear perfume, cologne, use nail polish, etc.
  13. All of our TVs are at least a decade old.  While there are huge sales on bigger and better TVs every week, it doesn't make sense (cents?) to get rid of perfectly good TVs that are big enough for a good viewing experience and still work fine.
  14. We buy the majority of our medical kit stuff from the Dollar Store.  Gauze is the same, no matter if you pay $1 for it at the Dollar Store or $5 for it at Target.  However, if I buy ingestible like eye drops or vitamins at the Dollar Store, I read the package to make sure they come from a reputable country like Korea not China.
  15. I used to use Garnier Nutrisse hair color but now that it is $10 a box, I switched to a $3 Revlon color which produces the same results.
  16. Speaking of hair, hubby cuts my hair a couple times in between professional cuts so I only pay for maybe four haircuts a year (and often use coupons when I do).
  17. I do all of my own beauty services at home too--manicures, pedicures, waxing, facials, etc.
  18. I like to wear my clothes until they are threadbare then throw them away or use them for rags.  For clothes that I don't want but that are still in good condition, I give them away to people that need them.
  19. Speaking of clothes, ALL of my clothes except for sox and underwear come from the Goodwill.  I love wearing already used clothes, it's much cheaper than buying new, and it keeps unwanted clothing out of landfills.
  20. I try to use tech items for a few years then pass them along to others.  Some years ago I bought an $800 laptop which I thought was super expensive at the time but I used it for four years then our daughter used it for four years so I definitely think it was worth the money.
  21. Speaking of tech, I like to buy tried and true items instead of leading edge items (I didn't buy the original Z Fold cell phone because I was sure it would need a lot of bugs worked out.  I am considering picking up the Z Fold 4--on sale of course--because there have been enough iterations to make it a much better device than the first version).
  22. Another way we keep our tech and other items working for a good long time is to make repairs ourselves.  You can find YouTube videos on how to repair nearly everything and you can buy cheap parts on Amazon in order to greatly expand the lifespan of your stuff.  So far I have copied a programmable key fob, repaired a dryer, replaced a keyboard on a laptop, and replaced the battery on a laptop.
  23. I buy things like shoes, backpacks, etc. with longevity in mind.  I buy expensive, high-quality shoes which I then wear for years.  I had a pair of Brooks shoes that I paid $80 for that lasted for ten years which makes their actual cost $8 per year!  My Teva sandals have lasted a similarly long time.
  24. The carpet in our house is more than ten years old and still looks new.  Between a no-shoes-in-the-house policy, semi-annual shampoos, and using plastic runners in high-traffic areas, we don't have to replace the carpet nearly as often as other people.  I am looking at hardwood floors when the carpet does need to be replaced for even better flooring longevity.
  25. I like to keep my eye on the sales websites so I can get deeply discounted prices on things I know we will use eventually like furnace filters (we replace these every six months), batteries (we don't use too many, usually only for our computer mice), bug spray (we do our own spring and fall spraying for beetles and scorpions with Hot Shot), etc.  
  26. I hate food waste so we freeze leftovers to eat at a later date when we don't feel like cooking and want a quick meal.
  27. Since switching from bottled water to refilling five gallon jugs of water, we have saved a lot of money as well as a lot of plastic waste.
  28. Hubby makes his own coffee at home everyday using a $4 drip coffeemaker that we got at the Goodwill--this is much cheaper than using a Keurig (everyone we know uses these) and much much cheaper than hitting up Starbucks everyday.
  29. Whenever we leave the house, we bring our own drinks in insulated Contigo travel mugs.
  30. If we will be out and about for a while, we usually bring a lunch with us as well (usually sandwiches in reusable plastic containers or fried rice/soup in an insulated tumbler).
  31. Instead of using a lot of plastic wrap, we save leftovers, cut onions, etc. in reusable plastic containers.
  32. Instead of using aluminum foil to heat up things in the toaster oven, we reuse foil pie pans we got at the Dollar Store--these can last for months!
  33. Every six months, we take everything out of our freezers and rotate the items to make sure nothing gets forgotten for years in the back of the freezer.
  34. I clean out our refrigerator once a week to ensure nothing gets forgotten in the back of the fridge and is eaten in a timely manner.
  35. We often do batch cooking and freeze the results.  It super easy to make 100 lumpia, a huge batch of chili, cups of smoothies and frozen desserts, etc. and freeze the results to use when we want a quick meal or snack.
  36. I like to cook as many things from scratch as possible--chili, soups, cookies, etc.  This way I know what is in the product (no fillers, chemicals, etc), it's cheaper (my neighbor pays $5 per cookie at a fancy local bakery!), and it usually tastes better too!
  37. Instead of deciding what to have for dinner then going to the store to buy the food to make the meal, I check out the sale ads and build our meals around loss leaders and other sale items.  I hate paying full price for groceries!
  38. I generally buy products like laundry soap, dish soap, Windex, and hand soap in huge bulk containers then just refill the smaller containers that we use daily.
  39. We also buy meat in bulk when it comes on sale (we got 10 pounds of London Broil for $2.74 a pound yesterday--hubby breaks it down and freezes it in individual portions, this should last him for months!), oats in bulk at Sam's Club (I eat oatmeal every morning for breakfast), huge bags of pancake mix when we know we will be having lots of guests visiting, etc. 
  40. One thing I haven't tried yet that I am considering is this idea from Prepper Princess about making your own solar power to run things like computers and TVs on.  We have plenty of sun here and with the way power prices are skyrocketing, this may be a great money-saving idea.
  41. Another idea I got from the PP channel is to just not buy things.  While you can save money by being frugal with your consumables, you can save even more money by not buying these items in the first place!
  42. Gas is a consumable that we try really hard to conserve.  At least two days a week we stay home and don't drive anywhere.  When we do drive somewhere we usually try to group several errands together in order to save gas.
  43. On consumer items that we need but which continue to rise in cost--like cell service, insurance, internet, etc--I regularly call around to different companies in order to get the lowest-priced plans I can find.  Mint Mobile has great prices, we have the lowest price internet plan our local provider offers, etc.
  44. For some consumables, I like to use coupons if at all possible.  I don't often find coupons for the basic items we use--like store brand shampoo for hubby instead of the higher priced name brand shampoo which, even with using a coupon, would cost more than the store brand--occasionally I will find a good coupon to use.  
  45. I also use other methods for saving money on the items we buy like asking for a rain check for a low-priced grocery item that is on sale but not in stock, asking a nearby store to price-match an item that the store across town has on sale, buying an open-box item instead of a new item, etc.
  46. While hubby is a carnivore, I am vegan about 95% of the time.  I think this a healthier way to eat and it is much cheaper to eat beans, whole grains, fruit, and vegetables than lots of meat and dairy. 
  47. Speaking of eating, where you shop can make a lot of difference on prices.  We get a lot of our vegetables, for really cheap, at our local Mexican grocery stores.  You would think rice would be cheaper at Asian supermarkets but we have found it to be cheaper at Sam's Club.  The 99 Cent store has great prices on day-old bread and produce. 
  48. Hubby likes to watch recipe channels on YouTube and is always up for trying to make something new.  A way we save money with this is by sometimes making substitutions.  For example, one Filipino dish (kare kare) says to use oxtail and honeycomb tripe but both kinds of meat are very expensive.  Instead he will buy a cheaper kind of beef like chuck roast and a cheaper kind of tripe and the recipe usually turns out good anyway.
  49. Of course it is a good idea to break any addiction you have to alcohol, smoking, etc, to save money but I find it difficult (impossible?) to shake my addiction to a particular coffee drink at Baskin Robbins.  To save money on this item, I do the survey on the bottom of each receipt to save a dollar of my next drink and do their 'buy eight get one free' punch cards.
  50. Finally, we try to follow the 'reduce, reuse, recycle, or do without' thing.  For each item we need to spend money on, we ask ourselves if there is a way to reduce, reuse, or recycle something to meet our needs or if, in fact, we can just do without the item.


  1. You do a lot of things to make life less expensive but not less enjoyable. I do many of those things, too, not all. We don't drink or smoke but also have our own

  2. This is a great list! One idea for Baskin Robbins - do they offer gift cards? Are they ever on sale/sold at a discount anywhere?

    1. They do have gift cards but I've never seen them discounted. I will keep an eye out for them though!

  3. Great list! We do a lot of these things. I have never used a full dryer sheet since you wrote about cutting them in half them years ago. We also don't decorate seasonally except for Christmas, and that's just bare minimum now. No tree. Just a fireplace garland and a wreath. The dollar store is now $1.25 for everything and some items are cheaper in other stores, so check before you buy.

    1. We haven't had a Christmas tree since we moved here. I think they are around $90 since we live in a desert which I just can't fathom because we used to get trees for $5 by going into the woods and cutting one ourselves!