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Reducing Waste

How much garbage do you collect and toss every week? How much of it is food? We live in a ‘throw-away’ society these days.

Don’t feel like eating leftovers? Let them sit in the refrigerator mocking you and adding to your stress until you throw them out.

Don’t feel like buying in bulk and processing it yourself into smaller portions? Buy them in smaller quantities and just toss all that extra packaging the manufacturers put it in.

Clothes out of fashion before they’re worn out and don’t feel like being seen at the second-hand store long enough to donate? Just toss them.

Honestly, you’re probably not this bad. But a lot of America is. The society around you affects your thought processes and we easily fall prey to comparisons. Due to this, you might think you’re doing better about your waste level than you actually are.

Instead, try comparing yourself to generations past.

My grandmothers marveled at how their Native American ancestors never wasted any part of an animal brought down in a hunt. The bones were used in tools and jewelry. The skins were turned into clothes. Even the intestines were washed out and used as casings for sausages, made with the meats and fats that most people nowadays don’t want anything to do with.

And yet, while my grandmothers compared themselves to others doing better in this area than they were, my grandmothers were far less wasteful than I am.

How much garbage do you toss every week? Reducing waste is important to a prepper mindset, and it may only take a few adjustments that will make your life simpler.

The first time I ever bought pre-grated cheese, my grandmother laughed. She thought that was the funniest thing she’d ever seen. Not that I’d bought it, but that it existed. Then she wasn’t too happy about the bag it came in, which she considered extra waste.

Every time I bought jam in a throw-away jar, Grandma would shake her head. She always made her own and reused all her jars. Most of that jam was from fruit she had picked herself, which didn’t come with even more packaging that needed thrown away.

It wasn’t just all the extra packaging from store bought products that she avoided. Leftover food never languished in her fridge. Always she reprocessed it into a different dish the next day. That way you didn’t get food fatigue by eating the same thing over, and it didn’t take up room sitting there and rotting into waste. Potatoes became fritters or hash. Meat became fajitas or casserole. Any vegetable or pasta became soup or stew.

When I was younger, I foolishly thought this created more work for her and complicated everything. The truth was quite the opposite.

Take paper towels. She always cut up her worn-out clothes and towels to make rags. She used them for everything I used paper towels for. I thought she was making more laundry for herself.

So instead, I took extra time on trips to the grocery store, spent extra money I didn’t have because they were cheap enough I thought it wouldn’t matter, and would make extra trips to the store if I ran out. This is without mentioning the garbage it produced in the plastic wrapper, and the cardboard tube.

My grandma? She simply threw in a few dirty rags every time she was doing laundry anyway. No extra time spent there. When she was folding her laundry, she didn’t bother folding those. She threw them in a basket with clean, unfolded rags. Again, no extra time, money, or effort spent on something that produced little to no waste.

Which of our lifestyles was easier? You decide.

The next question is, how is this relevant to a prepper lifestyle?

Much of prepping is becoming self-reliant. Are we self-reliant if we have to continually run to the grocery store for cleaning supplies? Or if we throw out our food because we let it rot? Or if we lean heavily on prepackaged products that create a lot of waste?

As for that waste, are we truly self-reliant if we depend on others to pick it up for us when we leave it on the curb in front of our house?

If the grid went down, which of us do you think would fare better, me or my grandmother? Ask that same question in context of yourself.

Also, like so many other facets of the prepper community, this isn’t something that anyone can change overnight.

Pick one thing. It doesn’t have to be paper towels or dinner leftovers. Examine your way of life, and pick one thing that produces a lot of waste. Now, find a way to adjust so there’s less waste.

It could be you do it entirely differently. It could be you find ways to use the waste that was being produced. Whatever works so you can call this endeavor a success. It could even be something as simple as taking the breadcrusts you normally cut off your kid’s sandwich, and dehydrating them in the oven to make into croutons.

Once you have that small success, it will empower you to move forward. You’ll find something else, and then something else, that you can iterate and optimize to produce even less waste. Then you will also find that you’ve gained the benefit of exercising your mind to think of solutions and successful techniques.

That’s a skill that can translate over into all kinds of areas in your life. That goes a long way toward helping toward attaining a prepper mindset.

If you like this line of thinking, learn more from other articles in my blog found at There you can also sign up for a newsletter that will let you know every time a new post comes out. As a special ‘thanks’ for signing up, you’ll receive a copy of my great-grandmother’s favorite cake recipe, which requires an ingredient most people throw out as waste. After all, reducing waste is one thing all preppers need to learn. Sign up today!