Replacing Regular Purchases With One-Time Purchases

Going to the grocery store is an exercise in frustration. Why? Almost everything you buy there is consumable.

You buy it. You eat it or use it. Next week, you have to go back to the store and buy more. It’s an endless funnel of money straight out of your pocket.

My solution to this problem was to start looking at the things I was purchasing regularly at the store and asking myself whether or not I could make some one-time purchases to eliminate that item from my grocery list. Naturally, this is a task easier said than done, but over time, I’ve found several replacements that have worked well for me.

Here are six replacements for regular grocery and department store purchases that will cause you to strike several items off of your list for the foreseeable future.

Replace paper towels with small cloths. Rather than using paper towels for lots of little household messes, try switching over to a variety of small cloths. I find that having a drawer with a handful of washcloths (for small spills) and microfiber cloths (for washing windows and dusting) replaces almost every use case I have for paper towels.

The routine is pretty simple. Just pick up a bunch of cloths – old washcloths at a Goodwill store is a good place to start – and fill a kitchen drawer with them. Whenever you have a spill or something else you’d use a paper towel for, grab one of those cloths. Then, toss it in the washer with a load of towels. Since the cloths are small, it really doesn’t add to the load.

Replace batteries with rechargeables. This has a stiff up-front cost, but once you’ve done it, this is a big money saver. You simply need a fistful of rechargeable AA and AAA batteries (depending on your needs) and a charger. As your batteries fail, swap in the rechargeables.

Again, it’s a simple routine. We have a bunch of eneloop rechargeable batteries. Whenever a device dies, we just grab some of the charged eneloops out of a drawer, then put the dead eneloops into the charger. When the dead batteries are charged, we drop them in the drawer. This little routine replaces the need to buy AA and AAA batteries for a very long time.

Replace incandescent light bulbs with LEDs. LED light bulbs last for as long as twenty incandescent bulbs. We’ve been using quite a few LED bulbs in our home since 2010 or so and we have yet to replace one. Better yet, they use very little electricity – somewhere around 15% of the energy use of an incandescent. The total cost of ownership of an LED bulb (cost of the bulb plus the energy use) blows away the equivalent time of an incandescent bulb (cost of twenty bulbs plus the energy use).

LED bulbs do have a significant up-front cost, but once the bulbs are in that socket, they stay there for a very long time, using very little energy. The energy savings really adds up, plus you’re no longer buying light bulbs on a regular basis.

Replace disposable diapers with cloth diapers. Several years ago, when we had babies at home, we switched to cloth diapering. Once we had a routine in place for handling the diapers, our paper diaper purchases almost entirely vanished (we still kept a few paper ones around for emergencies).

It’s all about the routine when it comes to cloth diapering. Once you have a strong routine in place, it’s not difficult at all to move to cloth diapering and, when you do, the cycle of buying paper diapers slows down drastically.

Replace coffee filters with a permanent one. Coffee filters are often a regular part of the daily routine for coffee drinkers. A packet of filters is cheap, but before you know it, you need another one, then another one. The task that a coffee filter does, though, can easily be replaced by a permanent filter like this one.

All you have to do is use the filter like normal, then toss it in the dishwasher or rinse it thoroughly in the sink. Over the long haul, this completely replaces the need to buy coffee filters.

Replace bottled water with a plastic filtered bottle. I’ve seen many people leave the store with large packs of water bottles when a simple filtered water bottle will eliminate all of those purchases. A filtered bottle, like this one, can replace hundreds of water bottles between filter replacements. Just buy a few, keep them in the fridge, and clean and refill them when finished.

If you live in a place with good bottled water (as we do), you don’t even need a filtered bottle. We just keep a few bottles of water in the fridge so that they’re really cold when we want to drink one. This completely eliminates the need to buy bottled water at the store.

If you can permanently replace elements of your grocery list, then your weekly grocery bill goes down, saving you both money and time over the long run.

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