Sometimes, shopping trips can feel like deja vu. Are we really out of dish soap already? Where did all the paper towels disappear to, anyway?
Here’s a shopping secret: More and more products now come in reusable versions. Buy once, and you’re set for months or years.
Not only is it better for your budget to buy reusable items, but you’ll feel less guilt when you’re not filling up landfills with that umpteenth plastic straw or K-cup.
Following are reusable items that will save you money over and over again and also help save the planet.
1. Grocery and shopping bags
Paper or plastic? How about cloth or nylon instead? My city, Seattle, prohibits retail stores from giving out single-use plastic bags, and requires stores to charge at least 5 cents for grocery-size paper bags.
Sure, it’s only a nickel, but I prefer to keep my money for myself, so I bring my own reusable bags to the store.
My husband loves these fruit-shaped ones on Amazon. They fold up so tiny he can shove several in his car’s glove compartment.
2. Reusable spray bottles
Spray bottles have a million uses. I stash several that are filled with plain water around my house. One is under the bathroom sink, and just a few squirts help tame my daughter’s hair. Another one, under the kitchen sink, helps remind our three lovable cats to get off the table.
And what about homemade cleaners? “9 Expensive Cleaning Supplies You Can Easily Make for Pennies” lays out simple recipes for everything from foaming bathroom cleaner to fabric softener.
You’ll need spray bottles to store all this good stuff, but they don’t need to be fancy. I like this three-pack on Amazon. Each bottle features different primary-color detailing so you can tell them apart.
3. Reusable straws
Plastic straws are getting tougher to find. Giant coffee chain Starbucks has already said it will stop using disposable straws by 2020. If you use straws at home, look into reusable ones.
4. Reusable water bottles
Not only do reusable water bottles keep single-use plastic bottles out of landfills, they will save you money in the long run if you stop buying bottled water.
Need a reusable bottle you can grab quickly with one hand? Nike’s Hyperfuel bottle has an anti-leak valve but is squeezable and quick to grab on the go.
Need it tightly capped when you’re not drinking, with no risk of a spill? Contigo is the brand you need. Target has a wide selection, but here’s a favorite: This stainless-steel bottle has an autoseal button to prevent spills, and is vacuum-insulated to keep drinks cold.
5. Thermos/insulated bottles
My sister taught me the genius of insulated coffee mugs. An education professor, she’s constantly zooming between schools to observe student teachers in action. And yet her coffee is as hot when the final bell rings as when it was poured in the morning.
Her choice was Contigo. On my favorite model, the company’s autoseal technology requires you to press a button built into the handle to sip, but then locks the cup. I’m always knocking it onto the floor, and now not a single drop spills.
Want a thicker, shorter container to carry soup or other hot foods? Pick up a Thermos Food Jar. Its lid does double duty as a bowl.
6. Reusable coffee filters and K-cups
In most of our lives, coffee is a constant. And many people rely on throwaway cups, single-use coffee filters, or those disposable K-cup pods used in Keurig and similar machines.
Paper coffee filters are pretty environmentally friendly. But why keep buying more? This organic hemp and cotton filter for drip coffeemakers is reusable.
Disposable K-cups are landfill cloggers. Refillable cups are a good option, but be warned: I’ve tried to cheap out and ended up with refillable K-cup filters that break after just a few uses. If you go this route, get the solid version from Keurig. It’s less than $10, and you shouldn’t have to deal with breakage.
7. Food storage containers
Disposable food-storage containers have their place. I buy my compostable containers at Costco or a restaurant-supply store. But for more permanent food storage, I’m a Pyrex loyalist. My favorite is the 7-cup round glass bowl with fitted lid. I’m picky about patterns: I don’t like the ones with words on them, but love this navy-blue floral design that looks like elegant drop earrings. Your mileage may vary.
8. Cleaning rags
How many rolls of paper towels do you go through every month? Whatever the number, you can shrink it by loading up on Zwipes microfiber cloths.
Keep a bucket under your sink and pull out a rag whenever you need to wipe up anything from a coffee spill to cat-litter dust. They can be cleaned in your washing machine and used hundreds of times.
9. Cloth napkins
I tend to reserve cloth napkins for Thanksgiving and Christmas, when I pull out grandma’s monogrammed napkins, and then curse myself for spilling gravy on them, requiring a dry-cleaner trip.
A more eco-friendly move would be to invest in some cloth napkins that are sturdy enough to be tossed in your washing machine. You will likely also save money in the long run if you’re using them regularly instead of paper napkins or paper towels.
Crate & Barrel’s 100% cotton napkins come in a rainbow of colors, from aqua to ivory, and are machine-washable. Want a more rustic, country look? Target offers a set of four in a neat pattern that resembles wood — the better to hide that inevitable gravy stain.
10. Travel-friendly toiletry bottles
Taking a trip? The Transportation Security Administration requires that liquids packed in carry-on luggage be in containers that are 3.4 ounces or less, and that all containers fit in a quart-sized bag.
Invest in a variety of small bottles and then refill them from your own shampoo or sunscreen stash.
I like these leakproof refillable bottles on Amazon that come in different colors so you’ll know which product is which. And Target even sells a clear zippered bag with three refillable bottles, one jar, one spray bottle and a funnel to fill them all.
11. Hand and dish soap containers
Most parents can confirm: Kids are much better at washing their hands when they can use fun foaming soap. But quit buying it over and over again. It’s cheaper and more earth-friendly to invest in a giant amount, and keep refilling the same pump bottle.
This simple three-pack on Amazon, for example, will let you stash a plastic bottle in the kitchen and still have two more left over for bathroom use.
12. Lunch bag or box
Gone are the days of metal Starsky & Hutch lunchboxes that worked well to clonk a playground bully upside the head. Soft-sided lunchboxes and bags rule the school these days. They’re reusable, easy to clean and lightweight.
Pottery Barn Kids offers a variety of cute reusable lunch bags and boxes decorated with everything from dinosaurs to Disney princesses as well as plainer designs. You can get the bags personalized or monogrammed, too.
Adults who don’t want Belle or a brontosaurus on their lunch should look into the Japanese tradition of bento boxes, an often reusable lunch box that comes with removable sections. The BentoHeaven brand makes elegant traditionally styled boxes, but Bentgo stackable boxes are a neat modern option.
What’s your favorite reusable product? Tell us in the comments section, or on the Money Talks News Facebook page.
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