MoneySaving household hacks to avoid waste

From cutting open toothpaste to get the last drop out, to saving wrapping paper from opened gifts... many of us have certain quirky things we do as MoneySavers. We might not always admit to them, but however small (or strange), they all add up to save cash – and help the environment by reducing waste. So we've come up with a whole host of MoneySaving household hacks...

Some may seem obvious if you already do them yourself, but as everyone does things a bit differently at home, you'll likely find several surprising tricks you've not thought of before. Also see 12 ways to stop wasting food and drink – and let us know what we've missed in the MSE Forum.

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Getting out the fiddly last bit in a jar, tube etc

One of the most obvious ways people waste stuff is by chucking it in the bin when it's still usable. So to start, if you've an almost-finished item, here's how to eke out every last bit:

1. Tubes of toothpaste, tomato puree and more

Believe it or not, you can actually buy special toothpaste squeezers (really – there's a pic of one on the right). But Forumites reckon a perfectly good MoneySaving alternative is to use a bulldog clip (or clothes peg) to help squeeze the tube.

Alternatively, use a jar or tin to roll along the tube and push the contents to the end, or if you have a wallpaper seam roller or one of these bag clips lying around, MoneySavers say they can be the perfect tool for squeezing the last of the toothpaste out. Of course, you can simply cut the tube open.

2. Jam or honey

If you've got some old jam or honey that's crystallised, put the jar in warm water, or in the oven for a few minutes (to save energy, you can do this as the oven's cooling after cooking). It'll warm up and liquify the dregs.

3. Cooking sauce, tinned tomatoes

Add a bit of water, swish around to get the last bits out, then add the lot to your cooking.

4. Salad dressing

Add a little vinegar to the bottle – the liquid will help loosen the rest of the dressing, and as dressing often has vinegar in it anyway, it's nicer than simply watering it down.

5. Consider getting a special 'jar scraper'

You may already own a spatula, which can be handy for tasks such as scraping cake mixture from bowls. But MoneySavers say you can also buy special small versions, designed to help you get the last scrapings from a jar.

6. Nail polish

Adding a drop of nail varnish remover can help refresh old bottles of polish – it works by thinning out nail varnish which has dried up.

7. Moisturiser

Even when you think the tube or bottle is empty, cut the end off and you'll likely find a lot of product left inside. If there's enough for more than one day, simply slide the end back on to the tube to avoid it drying out.

8. Foundation and mascara

Place the (sealed) container in warm water for a few seconds – it'll loosen it up.

9. Lipstick

Use a lip brush to get the last of the stick out, once it's gone below the rim.

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Bathroom & kitchen hacks

Once you've started cutting out waste, you'll find there are plenty of other simple things you can do. Try the following in the bathroom or kitchen:

10. Save old toothbrushes

To clean taps and in between tiles.

11. Put the plug in the bath while showering

Then scoop out the water for houseplants or your garden.

12. Use bath/shower water to flush the toilet

While this could save you money if you're on a water meter, one MoneySaver says they do it mainly for environmental reasons. You can either pour water directly into the toilet bowl (the pressure of the water should push everything through) or pour it into the cistern to use when you flush.

13. Fill a watering can while waiting for tap water to heat up

Some MoneySavers also save used water from boiling eggs, for example.

14. Reuse kitchen sponges in the bathroom

When a kitchen sponge has got a bit grotty, and you want to throw it out, instead reuse it as a bathroom-cleaning sponge. You can pop it in the washing machine first.

15. Wash and reuse 'disposable' sandwich bags

They can often be reused for much longer than you'd think.

16. Put a dish of cold water in the oven (while it's cooling after cooking) to use for the washing up

One MoneySaver reports that this often means the water's warmed up nicely, just in time for when you want to wash up after dinner.

17. Save plastic bread bags to use instead of buying sandwich bags

Empty bread bags can't always be recycled at home (you can usually recycle them at larger stores of major supermarkets), but they can be reused at home in place of sandwich bags.

18. Use newspaper to line your kitchen compost bin 

It's compostable and can be used instead of buying special compostable bags.

19. Cut the fingers off holey rubber gloves and stick 'em on top of garden canes

You can buy special 'cane toppers' to prevent eye-related accidents when you're out in the garden. But one MoneySaver recommends using the fingers from old rubber gloves instead as they're brightly coloured. Others suggest gluing milk bottle tops to the canes.

20. Wash and reuse plastic/foil containers (for example, takeaway boxes, ice cream tubs)

Use them instead of buying new tupperware – for lunchboxes, freezing extra meals and so on.

21. Put 'disposable' kitchen cloths and sponges in the washing machine

Rather than throwing them out – they can often be refreshed and used again.

22. Cut dishwasher tablets in half

Numerous Forumites say they do this, though you might want to check you're happy with the results (in other words, your dishes are clean enough) before you start doing it regularly.

23. Cut up face wipes, kitchen towels and washing up sponges

Forumites cut these into half (or quarters) and say they still do the job just fine, as well as making each pack last longer.

24. Flatten new loo rolls slightly

Stopping it from rolling so quickly can help prevent kids (and some adults...) from pulling off more toilet paper than needed.

25. Reuse the water from your hot water bottle

You could use it to water plants, though one MoneySaver says they reheat and reuse the water. Of course, you should always follow safety advice (it's generally recommended you don't store your bottle with water inside, as this can cause the rubber to perish more quickly).

26. Use old cereal bags to separate food that's going in the freezer (such as burgers)

Forumites say the waxy bag inside cereal boxes can be great for separating items in the freezer.

27. Use the water from cooking veg to make your instant gravy

If you're cooking a Sunday roast or similar, MoneySavers say you can save water (and make a tastier gravy) by using the leftover water from boiling your veg to dissolve instant gravy granules, instead of boiling extra water for the job.

28. Empty and reuse hoover bags

Many Forumites admit to doing this, and say bags can be reused a number of times before they start to fall apart.

29. Save the vinegar from pickled onions and gherkins for chips and more

Some Forumites pour it into an old vinegar bottle to make it easier to serve.

30. Make breadcrumbs out of stale bread

Tear the bread into pieces and then pop it into a food processor and pulse. If you don't have a processor, you could use a rolling pin to smash the stale bread into crumbs. The breadcrumbs can be stored in the freezer.

31. Use empty tissue boxes as drawer dividers (or 'plastic bag dispensers')

Cut the top off, and empty tissue boxes can be used to create compartments in your drawers – handy for organising ties, socks, underwear and so on. Alternatively, one Forumite suggests leaving the top on and putting plastic bags inside – you can then pull each bag out of the hole in the box when you need it.

32. Use a wind-up lantern instead of a candle to create 'mood lighting' for your bath

You can save on electricity (and candles) if you turn off the lights and use a wind-up lamp in the bathroom when you want to create a relaxing atmosphere. Forumites say it's a handy tip if you already own one of these lamps, for example, for power cuts or camping.

33. Decant cheap own-brands into containers (or branded packaging)

This is a handy trick, whether you want to fool fussy family members who say they prefer branded products (but can't really tell the difference) or you're just trying to impress guests. It works with everything from shampoo to cornflakes. Obviously be extra careful of any allergies or intolerances though.

Other general household hacks

Here are a few more miscellaneous waste-and-money-savers:

34. Homemade firelighters

Empty the fluff from your tumble dryer, put it inside old toilet rolls and use them as firelighters for wood burners, BBQ and so on.

35. Use old socks or cut-up clothes as dusters

Just give them a wash first. One Forumite's father uses his old underpants for cleaning the inside of the car.

36. Cut buttons off old clothes before you throw (or recycle) them

If you're having a clear-out, and your old clothes aren't in good enough nick to donate or sell, it can be worth removing the buttons before you get rid. You can keep them as spares in case you lose buttons from clothes you still wear.

37. Reuse envelopes you get in the post for shopping lists

Also good for notes and to-do lists.

38. Open gifts carefully and reuse wrapping paper

Do it right and they'll never know. MSE Rhiannon's been using the same wrapping paper for years.

39. Use wallpaper as wrapping paper

If you have some left over, Forumites say this can be a handy way to use it up. One MoneySaver says they even buy it specifically for this purpose, as it can work out cheaper.

40. Save the ribbons that come on some clothes, blankets and more to use on gifts

Many clothes come with hanging loops, which people often cut off and discard. But if you're into fancy gift-wrapping, simply save the ribbons for tying around presents. The same goes for other items, such as blankets or pyjama sets, which often have ribbons tied around them for display purposes.

41. Reuse nice gift tags

MSE Kelvin recommends simply removing the string/ribbon (if there is one) and gluing the written side to some thick white paper. You can then cut around it, and write a new message. To reattach a ribbon, you can push a pen through the blocked hole and re-thread it.

42. Turn old Christmas cards into gift tags

MoneySavers also suggest using old Christmas cards as gift tags – simply cut a suitable piece of card from the picture side, and write your message on the blank side.

43. Use junk mail/old paper as scrap paper

Perfect for shopping lists and more.

44. Use old candle wax to create a 'wax melt' or (carefully) melt it down to create a new candle

The simplest option if you have leftover scented candle wax (and an oil burner or 'wax melt warmer'), is to place the leftover wax on top of the warmer with an unscented tealight below. Alternatively, you could buy new wicks and create a whole new candle. Forumites recommend carefully melting down the leftover candle wax in a glass bowl (or empty tin) over hot water. You can use anything from fairy cake trays to old teacups as a mould.

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