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My Money, My Choices

Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a personal finance writer, television host and radio broadcaster. Every Wednesday, she arms Metro readers with tips to keep spending in check.

Gail Vaz-Oxlade: If you're seeking savings, check your trash

From wasted food to one-use products, your garbage pail is a great place to discover where you could save money.

Prepackaged food, takeout and one-use plastic products will beef up monthly spending.

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Prepackaged food, takeout and one-use plastic products will beef up monthly spending.

Can’t find money to save? Hey, maybe it’s time to take a gander at your garbage. North Americans throw away gobs of stuff every year.

You need look no further than those ads for Ziploc containers to see some startling stats on just how much money we waste. Time to dive into your garbage to find the clues for where you could be saving.

One-use products: If you’re using plastic cutlery, disposable cleaning wipes or plastic bags, you’re not only doing your environment a disservice, you’re wasting potential savings. Yes, single-use products may be convenient, but reusable options are cheaper.

Takeout containers: Eating takeout costs 10 times what it costs to prep your food at home. Plan your meals so you have something quick and easy for those busy nights. Cook big and freeze two portions for those nights when you just can’t be bothered to cook.

Wasted food: Here’s one that I think shows a decided lack of imagination. I get that your veggies and fruit may be moving close to their best-before date, but that doesn’t mean they need to go into the garbage. You can put all kinds of veggies in a stew or a pot of chili, freeze it and have it ready for the night you just don’t feel like cooking. (Hey, now you’re saving on takeout too!)

Commercial cleaning products: They’re easy to use. They’re efficient. But if you’re paying gobs of money for brand-name detergent and household cleaners, you could make your own and save. This is becoming a trend as consumers recognize that homemade cleaners (vinegar and baking soda) are not only cheaper, they can be better for your health. Don’t want to pass on the great smell? Go with an essential oil in your favourite flavour and you’ll still have money to save.

Single-use water bottles: Still? Really? Because your tap water sucks? Or because you’re too lazy to fill a bottle and keep it in the fridge? Get yourself a filter system like a Brita and you’ll save a ton of money rather than buying cases and cases of bottled water. And if your tap water tastes fine, then let good enough be good enough.

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