‘Maybe it’s an age thing’: Raised to re-use, re-purpose and recycle

Aug 18, 2022
This blogger gives her best recycling and re-purposing tips. Source: Getty

I hate waste.

Is it just me or do others feel the same way?

Maybe it’s an age thing, the way we were raised. When I was a kid we were taught not to waste a thing, one of the best things I learned. The word recycle was never used, it was just what we did back then without the trendy name.

I am grateful my parents taught me to be self-sufficient in this way as well as making things for my children and now grandchildren. My mother taught me to sew, knit and crochet, and both parents taught us many outdoor chores including cleaning the chickens we raised.

They didn’t consider gender differences at home, it was about teaching kids skills. It gave us a sense of independence and self-confidence. This all contributed to helping raise my children when money was tight, particularly after a divorce and now they know how to survive too.

It was a challenge at times but I kept a notebook of all my expenses. Today, I manage finances using MS Excel spreadsheets but still can’t help converting left-over paper into stapled notepads.

I’ve put together some tips on how to avoid waste and save a few dollars:

Product in tubes and jars

With all my tube products, I do my best to access every ounce of the contents.

It never ceases to amaze me how much product is left in the tube and wasted.

When I can’t squeeze any more out I cut the top third of the tube off and use it as the lid over the remaining two-thirds of the tube. It prevents the leftover contents from drying out. With my tinted moisturiser, I have enough product left for at least another four to eight weeks, the same with my toothpaste.

It’s more the principle of the matter, not just saving dollars. For the manufacturer, it means we buy from them earlier than we should, more money in their pockets. For consumers, a lot of good products are unnecessarily wasted.

Glass jars, I have trouble throwing them away so have a box of clean empty jars that I call on at different times. My caution to myself is to avoid over-hoarding.

I also use leftover plastic produce containers as paint trays.


Home cooking was the cost-effective norm, with nothing wasted and no take-away. When my children were young I would purchase bags of 12 oranges. I allowed one orange per day for each child mid-week. I then had two oranges remaining for the weekend so they didn’t miss out.

To this day I still make the best dishes from leftovers, again I think it’s an old-school habit. The experts advise buying seasonal food and vegetables but lately, the prices of fresh food are astounding and I have purchased a few frozen alternatives at a better price. Who would have believed that some greens cost between $9- $11 a kilo!

Some supermarkets have dedicated sections for imperfect fruit and vegetables at a reduced price. The shape may be a little odd but it tastes the same and isn’t wasted.

For soups and casseroles, I cook as if for a number of people using a large pot. It saves on cooking time, gas and electricity, is suitable for freezing and is overall more efficient than preparing single dishes each day.

My freezer is also full of individually wrapped pieces of cake or muffins, fantastic when you have an unexpected visitor.

Of course, who doesn’t use aging leftover soft bananas for baking a banana cake?

I use supermarket bags as bin liners, particularly the ones used for fresh veggies or fruit, most are bio-degradable.

I am considering purchasing a small compost bin to recycle my scraps but living in a unit makes it a challenge, it would need to be small.


If I am not giving a garment away, as a sewer, I may re-use parts of the fabric to upcycle or restyle an existing item and I always keep the old buttons.

I can’t tell you how often I am thrilled to find specific buttons in a time of need.

Water and garden

I do lots of handwashing in a bucket and pour the leftover water onto my plants or garden bed, as I do when I empty my hot water bottle. I don’t like wasting water and avoid long showers. I’m conscious of how low our dam levels drop.

It is fun to exchange different cuttings with my fellow plant lovers. My issue is running out of space. I am at the stage of hanging pots from tree branches and external walls.

These are a few things I do to avoid waste.

I’m sure you readers will know more.

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