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Are You Throwing Money Away?

The contents of your trash may show how you could be wasting money and Earth's resources

Let's talk some trash. Or rather, let's listen to what the contents of your trash can and recycling bin are telling you about how you're probably wasting both your money and the Earth's resources.

See also: Don't waste old pantyhose.

Try spending a few minutes doing what I call a "trash can autopsy" and discover the bad spending habits you need to break:

Tomatoes packaged in styrofoam and plastic.

— Handke-Neu/Corbis

1. Packaging

Too much packaging in your trash can be a sign that you need a smart-shopping intervention. This could be anything from fast food and carryout containers, plastic drink bottles and single-serving items. Packaging costs money, which consumers pay for in the end. Buying in bulk, shopping at food co-ops and avoiding elaborately packaged products usually are cheaper and save natural resources. Larger containers are typically a better value than smaller, but just to be sure, always check the "per unit price" label on the shelf when comparing items. Shopping at membership warehouse stores can also make sense for some families, particularly if you keep these tips in mind. If you see a lot of brand names in your garbage, you might be able to save on a generic version, which may cost less and you may like better.

If you're finding a lot of burger bags and pizza boxes in your trash, you're not alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the typical American family now spends about 45 percent of its food budget on meals prepared outside the home. Cutting back on restaurant and carryout meals by preparing batch recipes at home and freezing the leftovers can save you as much as 80 percent compared with the restaurant price.
If you buy bottled water, you're getting soaked financially and hurting the environment as well. About 1.5 million barrels of oil are used every year to produce plastic water bottles for the U.S. market. If you drink only bottled water, you'll spend more than $1,000 annually to get your recommended daily amount of water, as opposed to about 49 cents for a year's supply of just-as-healthy tap water. As far as disposing of the empty bottles, try some of these nifty repurposing ideas.

Next: Don't waste those scraps. >>

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