Saving Money vs. Reducing Packaging

I’ve been having an internal battle with my goal to be frugal and my goal to avoid excessive packaging. I made my own produce bags. I carry canvas bags to stores with me, and not just grocery stores. I don’t buy a lot of packaged food and try to keep the packaging for the rest of my products to a minimum. But it’s not always easy. I’m currently faced with an opportunity to save a lot of money, at the risk of buying more packaging. What to do? Where do I draw the line?

Buy Big or Buy Cheap

I usually buy my personal care items like saline solution at Costco where I can get two 16-ounce bottles for $15. This seemed like a great deal, and a way to save a little packaging, until I discovered Renu coupons. MoneySavingMom posted that I could buy 2 ounce bottles of Renu at Target for $1.54, or 54 cents after the coupon. In some cases, it could even be free.

That put me into a quandary. Do I save $8 by buying more of the small bottles, but that also use more packaging, or do I spend more to reduce the packaging? The travel distance is the same, so no money/planet savings there.

I decided to focus on it from a convenience and packaging standpoint. Yes, $8 is a lot, but I’d need 16 small bottles to make up the same quantity as those two large bottle. The bulk of the plastic is in the base and the nozzle. Those big bottles have a slightly larger nozzle than the 2-ounce bottles, but I’m still using at least 12 times more packaging just in the nozzle if I buy a lot of the small ones. Each small bottle is in a box, as are the two big bottles. But 16 small boxes is way more packaging than one large box. No matter how I calculate it, I can’t choose $8 over the planet.

Buy Packaged or Fresh Food

Some of the mega coupon moms manage to buy mostly fresh food, but I usually see a lot of packaged food in there. It’s not always unhealthy, but it is always packaged. Stores don’t generally offer coupons for apples. I can’t eat most of that packaged food anyway, but even if I have a coupon for a gluten-free item, I’m more likely to make it myself from scratch, again because of the packaging issue. I’m not perfect when it comes to buying packaged food, but I try to make choices with minimal packaging.

For example, rather than buying 4 jars of pasta sauce with a coupon, I buy two cans of crushed tomatoes and make my own sauce. Once I have a garden, I won’t even need to buy the crushed tomatoes. I can make it all fresh. Rather than buying 3 cans of beans with a coupon, I buy a pound of dried beans and make my own beans.

Yes, it costs me more to buy fresh, but it’s worth it to me.

Free Diapers or Cloth Diapers

I don’t have a baby yet, but when I do, I plan to use cloth diapers. I will have to spend a decent sum of money to get those diapers. If you have to pay for disposable diapers, then cloth is cheaper. However, hardcore CVSers know how to get free diapers. Even if I could get free disposables, I wouldn’t. We currently dispose of 27.4 billion diapers a year in the US alone. Those diapers do not biodegrade. Our landfills are filled with them. I can’t in good conscience add to that, even if they’re free.

We each have to make our own decisions about what’s more important. For some people, saving money is the most important factor. I respect that choice, and I understand that for some families it truly is the only choice. My husband and I have decided to make the other choice. What about you? What are you environmental conundrums? Where do you choose frugality over the environment and vice versa?

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