Friday, 6 September 2013

40 Tips for September, the Month of Zero Waste.

Don't Slip up on the Road to Frugaldom

As you know, we launched our 'Septimus Frugalus Challenge' on the 1st September and we are having a full month of waste not, want not in an effort to encourage a few others to join us in our quest for a frugal lifestyle. It's not just about zero waste on food, it's about zero waste on money.

So far, we have had over 50 willing volunteers opt-in to take part in reducing their household budgets and minimising their waste in an attempt to save. (It's not too late to join us.)

Here are a few of the more basic hints, tips and suggestions shared in the frugal forums:
  1. Cooking and baking from scratch helps avoid waste packaging.
  2. Take your own bags when shopping.
  3. Keep meals simple to use up what's in stock and make meals from leftovers.
  4. Get creative - make meals from garden produce, no matter what the combination.
  5. Preserve whatever fruit and veg you can, be it jam making, pickling, drying or freezing.
  6. Make a list, like a food inventory, for meal planning and shopping.
  7. Make a stew with whatever is lurking in your fridge, add some dumplings to bulk it out into a family meal if you need to make it stretch further.
  8. Compost whatever can be composted if it can't be eaten or fed to livestock.
  9. Portion control, measuring ingredients to ensure there's no waste.
  10. Trade your surplus among friends and neighbours - this can be anything from food to furniture to save it from being binned.
  11. Hair can be composted, if you are saving money by doing the haircuts at home, compost the clippings.
  12. Use a wire brush or re-useable steel wool instead of buying sandpaper for sanding old woodwork.
  13. Use a cloth for mopping up spills, rather than disposable wipes or kitchen roll.
  14. Avoid the use of disposable anything if it's practical, for that matter.
  15. Save old clothing, sheets, towels etc. for turning into other things - many frugalers enjoy quilting, dressmaking and crafting. If you aren't one of them, donate the clothing to charity, the recycle collection points or someone you know who can use the fabric in some way, shape or form.
  16. Leftover bread can be toasted or made into bread and butter pudding or crumbed and frozen for dressing things like fish cakes, scotch eggs, potato croquettes etc.
  17. Leftover cake (never in this house) can be crumbed for using as a topping over fruit crumbles or else sliced and used as the bottom layer of a trifle.
  18. Chipped, bashed or bruised fruit can be stewed, brewed, made into jam or used in fruit puddings.
  19. Many vegetables can be baked into cakes. Surplus at this time of year may be courgettes or root veg such as carrots or beetroot. Our courgette cake ideas are here.
  20. Get creative with broken 'stuff', even if it means posting a picture online to ask fellow frugalers for ideas about how to recycle or upcycle the item. A thin plank and a length of wood can soon become a shelf, a few broken tiles can become a mosaic, some laddered tights or holey leggings can become onion hangers or draught excluders, a couple of empty tubs can become storage containers, an odd assortment of paints can create a whole new colour etc.
  21. A freezer rummage can often find forgotten meat or fish products lurking at the bottom - so long as these were fresh when frozen and don't look or smell bad, why not cook up your own pet food and then refreeze in tin-sized portions? I bulk mine out using rice and vegetables - notes regarding how I make this can be found here.
  22. Nile Mince - batch cook mince to stretch into several meals to help use up leftovers and get more meals for your money
  23. Stretching chicken - some call it rubber chicken, as one bird can feed a family for a full week or longer if you freeze the resulting meals and make stock for soup.
  24. Soup for every day of the year - it is one of the easiest things to make and can be made from
    almost anything savoury. You can even boil up your scrubbed veg peelings and peapods to make a vegetable stock. If they are no good for stock, boil them and feed them to your garden livestock.
  25. Recycle all your envelopes and packaging, even when sending to official addresses. I simply cover over the label with a scrap of paper and add a new stamp. (Inland Revenue offices have never complained, so why would anyone else?)
  26. If you need to buy them, recycle your plastic drinks & milk bottles into mini-cloches, plant pots, tubs, funnels, pencil holders, storage containers, bird feeders, even greenhouses! The milk cartons can be cut to make great measuring scoops.
  27. Plastic trays can be used for many things, including seed trays, freezer trays, bird baths etc.
  28. Greetings cards, calendars, wrapping paper etc. that can't be reused can be turned into postcards, gift tags, book marks, card embellishments, labels, decoupage or artwork of many other descriptions. My pictures hanging on my sitting room wall are made from the end off my wall paper - how much more colour co-ordinated than that can you get?
  29. Old woollen wear can be unravelled and reknitted or crocheted. It can be turned into blankets, used in crafting or, at worst, used as stuffing for all those draught excluders you're making this winter.
  30. Polystyrene packaging peanuts are great insulators as well as great for protecting breakables through the post. Save them for making bean bags or for making your very own hot pot, slow cooker or cool box.
  31. Cut open tubes of toothpaste or cream etc. to get at the last of it and be amazed by how much you still have to use. Worse, be shocked at how much you almost threw away in the first place.
  32. Make yourself up a 'crafty kit' for saving useful things like buttons, hooks, elastic and anything else that can be salvaged from what would otherwise have gone in the bin. I tend to throw all these sorts of things into a drawer then sort them out into margarine tubs.
  33. Fleece! We all love the stuff - whether it's an old blanket, dressing gown or old fleece top. Whatever it is, it's great for making into curtain liners or thermal blinds for windows during winter months.
  34. Toilet roll and kitchen roll inner tubes can be turned into seed pots or stuffed to make kindling for the fire or stove, if you have one. They also make great inners for homemade Christmas crackers, can be turned into 3-D artwork or saved for building into any manner of game, if you have the space. Did anyone else used to add one to their hamster cage as a tunnel?
  35. Seeds from tomatoes and peppers etc. can be kept, dried and sown to grow into more tomatoes and peppers. It doesn't always work but I've had some good successes in the past.
  36. Don't bin that old quilt! Cut it open, remove the filling and give it a freshen up to keep as stuffing. If you can't use it, give it to someone who can. If you want to wash it first, tie it inside a pillow slip and pop it into a cool cycle of the washing machine.
  37. Burning candles? Save all the ends to melt down into firelighters for anyone you know who can use them, or else use for new candles. Likewise with the ends of soap - save these and make them into new bars of soap or for grating and storing as an ingredient for your homemade laundry cleaner.
  38. Eggshells can be washed and dried, baked in the bottom of the oven while it's cooling after cooking dinner, then the shells can be crushed and used in the garden around plants to help deter slugs and snails.
  39. Be a bin raider - raid your own bins to make sure everything in there really needs to be there or if you can get creative and use it for something else.
  40. The most obvious choice for most people - make full use of local recycling opportunities - many supermarkets collect old batteries, companies pay for old mobile phones or electrical components, broken down white goods may contain working parts that can be reused or carry some scrap value... think before you bin anything, no matter how insignificant the item may seem to you. A penny saved is a penny earned, so the less waste, the better.

This list is by no means exhaustive, it is just a few of the more obvious practices you can employ around your home. Teaching children not to drop litter is probably one of the top tips I can recommend, but it dismays me to see how adults think nothing of flicking rubbish out car windows or dumping full bags of rubbish that may well be worth something to someone in need.

We are fast approaching the time of year where many parents tackle the annual clear out of 'stuff' no longer perceived as being needed or wanted simply in preparation for the next big invasion of Christmas gifts... no offence meant, but I can see nothing Christian-like in such actions and sincerely hope that all the frugaldom readers will think twice about how they can rehome any surplus or better still, teaching kids that toys don't expire after a year no matter what others might say.

Mantra for frugalers:

'Just because I don't need/want/use it doesn't mean someone else won't need/want/use it.'



  1. I shall be joining the challenge. I have had a big declutter, not to put in new toys, but becaseu it is rediculous what my children have accumilated, not from me I may add, but from other relatives, we have donated, and taken toys to charity shops with good causes, I am trying to live a simpler life in all areas. I am determined to get back into overpaying my mortgage, so anythign i can save is a bonus

    Sharon x

    1. Hi Sharon, I'll look forward to seeing you in when you join the challenge. Good luck with the mortgage over payments. :)

  2. What a great challenge idea! I'm thinking of accepting the zero-waste lifestyle, to try it out at least, so thanks a lot for the tips, they will definitely come in handy!


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