Minding The Details: Calculating The Lifespan of the Products You Buy


MInding Details

Back in 2010, I won my first Sam’s membership and a $50 gift card to Sam’s in a blog giveaway. I bought the mother lode of of dishwasher tablets, aluminum foil, garbage bags, and Ziploc Freezer Bags.

I still have not used all of those Ziploc bags. In fact, just yesterday I ran down to the basement and grabbed a box of gallon sized bags, noting I still have more left down there almost 6 years after I bought them.

One of my frugal strategies is to make things last as long as possible. When it comes to a disposable item like a Ziploc bag that costs me every time I use it, I try to use a reuseable as much as possible or get as much life out of the disposable as I can.

In the case of the Ziplocs, I use them to freeze meat, veggie stock, frozen beans, bread crumbs, and the occasional gifted garden surplus. Because we don’t have a garden and don’t each much meat at all, we go through them very slowly. I do reuse the Ziplocs that have not held meat, so those veggie stock, bread crumb, and bean bags get washed, dried, and reused. It does drive my husband a little crazy, as he does not see the point of the effort. “But look!”, I say, “We’ve had the same oversize box of gallon-sized Ziplocs since 2010!”

2016-01-30 21.45.59

This week, I bought parchment paper at Sam’s. I love parchment paper because it keeps my cookies from burning. I’m aware of Silicone baking mats, but I’ve been leery of buying them until they have been out for longer, mostly because they are made from more than silicone, and I’m waiting to see if they turn out to be the new Teflon or BPA. (This is not an evidence-based opinion, but a pure it’s-happened-before paranoia.)

My cookie sheets are 16 inches long, and I use 3 sheets when I make a batch of cookies. My Sam’s parchment paper has 164 feet of paper, or 1968 inches. 1968 inches divided by 48 inches of paper each time I make cookies makes 41 uses out of this roll.

Now, I make a batch of cookies about 2 times per month. 41 divided by 2 equals 20.5 months of use from this roll.

How can I extend this longer?

Simple, I can reuse my parchment paper more than once, as long as what I use it for is not super sticky or greasy. If I use each sheet 3 times, I can extend the life of this roll of parchment paper to 61.5 months, or Five Years.

I paid $4.97 for this roll. If I extend the life to 5 years then that is only paying $0.99/year for my baking needs.

Now, I know what you are thinking. What is the point? It’s just a piece of paper. It only costs 4 cents every time you pull a new sheet off the roll. The same goes for other things too. Are we using the minimum required for the job when we wash our hair, do laundry, or wash the pots and pans in the sink, or are we using two to three times what is necessary?

What do you use in a single day? Use 6 Ziploc bags in a lunch, 3 paper lunch bags, a sheet of parchment paper, 2 sheets of aluminum foil, 10 sheets of paper towels, 7 sheets of baby wipes (I used to reach for one to wipe the kids’ hands and faces), 2 sheets of Clorox wipes, 3 sheets of Saran Wrap to cover dinner’s leftovers, 3 supersized squirts of shampoo in the shower, 2 larger-than-manufacturer-recommended dollops of Tide in the washing machine- that’s $46.80 a month, or $561.60 per year.

It’s definitely important to look at the big money-wasters in your budget, like cable, a too-expensive car, and entertainment expenses, but the small things do add up too. For us, just changing our habits around disposable items adds up to enough for an extra mortgage payment every year or one credit hour of grad school tuition.

How do you avoid throwing pennies away?

Join the newsletter

Subscribe to get my latest content by email. As a thank you, I'll give you my grocery-saving tip sheet:

10 Steps To Save $100 or More Per Week.

Powered by ConvertKit

One thought on “Minding The Details: Calculating The Lifespan of the Products You Buy

  • I’m definitely not that frugal when I read about washing out ziplock bags. I’ll reuse one if I’m putting in more of something after I pull out the last one. Like cookies. But other than that, they go in the rubbish bin. But you’re right. When you do the math and see how much these little expenses add up over time just by treating everything as done after it has been used…

Have something insightful to add?