9 easy ways to save money by reducing your waste

How reducing waste can save you money

When people think about reducing their waste, they’re often focused on the environmental benefits. But did you know improving your recycling habits isn’t just better for the planet – it can also be better for your wallet?

We chatted with Alexandra and Zoe from our Environmental Services team about ways to save money by wasting less – here are their top tips:

1. Shop smart

The best way to save money on your weekly shop is not to buy stuff you end up throwing out. According to the climate action charity WRAP, households waste around one-fifth of the food and drink they buy. That might not sound like much, but it quickly adds up. Let’s say you spend £70 on your weekly food shop. If one-fifth of that goes into the bin (because it’s gone off or leftovers were thrown out), that’s £14 each week – a whopping £700 a year – in the bin. That’s the average cost of food wasted by each household in the UK!

It's easy to prevent this with a little bit of planning. “Doing a quick stock check and making a list of the things you need before you go shopping – and sticking to it – will stop you from buying things you don’t need,” says Zoe. “Use items that are about to reach their Use By date first so they don’t end up in the bin. And remember to bring your own reusable shopping bags to save at least 10p on every plastic bag you would have needed,” she added.

Top tip

Take a photo of your fridge when you go shopping. Then, if you can’t remember which items you already have, just check your photo so you don’t accidentally buy something you already have. Genius!

2. Store things well

There’s nothing worse than buying fruit or veg only to find it’s gone mouldy or mushy before you’ve had a chance to eat it all. But there’s an easy hack to prevent this…

“Clean your fruit or veg, wrap it in a damp cloth and pop it in the fridge,” suggests Alex. “It will last much longer. Carrots, courgettes and parsnips will stay fresh for several weeks – meaning you’re not paying extra to replace veggies that just ended up in the bin.” For delicate vegetables, like salad items, and herbs, wrap these in damp kitchen towel (rather than a cloth) and put them in the fridge to keep them fresh.  

Top tip

If you’re not sure of the best way to store a food item, check out Love Food Hate Waste’s A-Z storage guide.

3. Use up leftovers

Cooking the perfect amount for a meal can be tricky – but hold on before you throw out those leftovers. You don’t need to be a whizz in the kitchen to whip up something delicious with them. Apps can be really helpful if you need to be creative in the kitchen or don’t know what to do with the ingredients you have, says Zoe: “I use Yummly which lets you search for items you have leftover in your fridge and suggests recipes using those items.”

Top tip

When you’re making a meal, try cooking a large batch so that you have extra portions to freeze and eat at another time. You’ll thank yourself later when you don’t have time (or can’t be bothered) to cook a meal from scratch.

4. Compost

You might be surprised that even scraps can be useful – for example, vegetable peelings can be made into stock or soup or even used in the garden. “Food scraps can be worth something in your garden,” says Alex: “Eggshells and coffee grounds can be used to stop slugs. This can save you money on products such as fertiliser or slug pellets.”

You can also make compost from scraps – so you won’t need to buy bags of compost from the garden centre. “Start small with your vegetable scraps and make sure you’ve got a good mix of your browns and greens by adding leaves and twigs from the garden. And make sure you mix it regularly,” Alex adds. “People are often put off by the worry that the compost will smell but if you avoid putting cooked foods and meat in there, it shouldn’t smell.”

Top tip

We have a compost subsidy scheme which offers discounted compost bins to residents. To ask about buying a subsided bin, contact the team directly: customers@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk.

5. Grow your own

Even if you’re completely new to gardening, you can replant vegetable ends or seeds to grow your own veggies. Alex explains: “You can save seeds from most things – like tomatoes or butternut squash – and replant them to try to grow a new plant from them.”
“You can also put the tops of spring onions in shallow water to make them sprout again or replant a garlic bulb in the ground quite easily,” adds Zoe. Check out the BBC's step-by-step guide to regrowing vegetables from scratch.

Top tip

If you have pets, choose the plants you’re growing carefully as some – like garlic – can be toxic to pets.

6. Sell or swap what you don’t need

Do you have any clothes in your wardrobe that are in good condition but you don’t like them anymore? Or have your kids grown (again!) and now their clothes don’t fit properly? Rather than chucking things straight out, having a clear out might be a good way of making a few pennies. Whether you’re getting rid of clothes, books or CDs, there are lots of websites and apps that can help you sell your pre-loved items.

Zoe says: “It’s so easy these days to sell clothes or other things that I’ve loved but don't need anymore. They’re very easy to use so it’s a simple way of making a bit of money from something you don’t want or need anymore.”

You also don’t have to shell out a fortune to buy a new wardrobe. Look for swap shops or apps which help you exchange items with people in your community. Or invite a few friends over for a clothes swap.

“Getting together with friends and swapping toys, school uniform or clothes and shoes is a great way of saving money,” says Alex. “There’s even a website to help you exchange football boots so you don’t need to shell out for a brand-new pair every time your child goes up a shoe size!”

Top tip

Did you know you can also move to reusable nappies – and you can get these second hand too? If you’re hesitant about moving away from disposable nappies, find a cloth nappy library near you so you can try out cloth nappies before you buy any. When you spend over £50 purchasing washable nappies, covers or training pants from any company, or subscribe to a nappy laundry service, we'll give you £25!

7. Cash in your old phone

When it’s time to upgrade your phone, people often think there’s nowhere to put the old device except in the bin. But did you know as much as 80% of an old mobile phone can normally be recycled? That’s because, even if the phone can’t be fixed or refurbished to be sold to someone else, the materials it’s made of – such as plastic, silver, copper, nickel and even gold or platinum – can be reused to make another phone or appliance.

Zoe explains: “The best bit is that some companies will buy your old phone off you. Depending on the condition of the phone, some companies might offer you around £30 to buy your old handset.”

Top tip

Consider buying a refurbished phone when you next need a new device. That’s better for the environment and can help you save hundreds of pounds compared to buying new.

8. Re-purpose old items

Often, an everyday item you don’t need anymore can be turned into something useful – again, saving you from shelling out on new things. And you don’t always need lots of creativity, time or skill to transform them. Alex explains: “Sometimes people think reusing things in a way that doesn’t produce much waste involves a lot of effort or skill. But this isn’t always the case – there are lots of really easy ways to live a better lifestyle.”

A few simple ways of reusing everyday items to get you going are:

  • wash out old jars or takeaway containers so you don’t need to buy new storage pots
  • cut up your old birthday and Christmas cards and, voila, you have gift tags
  • hold onto wrapping paper and ribbons from any gifts you receive and re-use them when wrapping a gift for someone else
  • to take it one step further: some eco-minded toilet roll companies wrap their loo rolls in decorative paper, rather than plastic, which can be used as wrapping for smaller gifts
  • if you’re pruning a tree, use the branches you’ve cut to stake your tomatoes, beans or other plants that need a bit of support.; old lolly sticks make great plant markers too
  • use soap (rather than liquid hand or body wash) to minimise your plastic use; when you’ve nearly finished the soap bar, don’t throw away the ends: you can collect them and boil them up to make a new bar (or pop them in a little soap bag if you don’t have much time)

9. Share with your neighbours

It’s so annoying when you spend money on a new item for a job you’ll only do once, only to have it then sitting gathering dust in a drawer or cupboard. This is where your neighbours can come in handy. Do you really need to buy that drill or hammer? Could you borrow it from someone in your community instead?

Alex says: “There are some great websites and apps that help you borrow things from your neighbours so you don’t have to buy them. There are even some apps where people are giving away pre-loved stuff for free!”

Tell us your stories

We hope you find these tips useful. What else do you do to save money and reduce waste?

Let us know on our Facebook page.