Consume Less Consumables

My supply after a Costco run

Hello everyone.

For this week’s Doing More with Our Money post, let’s talk about consumables. Specifically, household consumables we all use regularly, like toilet paper, tooth paste, laundry detergent, etc.

Last year I went to South East Asia for 29 days. The itinerary covered multiple destinations in 4 countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). We were constantly on the move, so it was important to pack light. At the same time, I needed to bring several consumables, such as toothpaste, soap, skin moisturizer, sunscreen, and mouth wash.

I could have used what the hotels provided or buy more there, but I’m a bit particular about the products I use. Also many of them were not easily available in the countries I was visiting and I wanted to spend my time site seeing and eating everything in sight instead of shopping.

Two weeks into the trip, I was excited about an upcoming boat tour down the Mekong River in Laos. As I was preparing my travel bag, it occurred to me I had been using much less consumable items than I normally would have at home.

I was unconsciously rationing to make sure I had enough for the full trip. How is it that I could get by using so little there, and use so much more at home? I was on the other side of the world thinking about how we can be Doing More with Our Money just by consuming less consumables!

The Mekong River in Laos

Looking back at what I consumed on the trip, I certainly didn’t skimp on the soap – I used more as the high temperature led to more showers. I definitely didn’t use less sunscreen – have you seen my pasty white skin?!

Pretty well everything else was tightly rationed though – I applied less tooth paste to my brush, took smaller sips of mouth wash, applied moisturizer sparingly, etc.

With most washrooms in SE Asia not supplying toilet paper, I made sure to tightly ration it – 1 square! lol. If everyone used that rate of consumption, their Covid-19 TP stockpile could last them the rest of their lives!

When the trip ended and I returned home (after 22 hours of airports and planes) I immediately hopped into the shower. It was glorious. There’s nothing like your own shower after travelling for a month, until you get into your own bed of course!

During that shower, there was no skimping on anything. I used more soap, shampoo, face wash – I used more of everything than I normally would have before the trip!

But now I was conscious of it.

It’s natural to revert back to our regular routine when we have a plentiful supply of consumables. But I got by just fine using less on my trip, so why not do the same at home?

That was my post-trip challenge – use less consumables. I started with the stuff I had brought on my trip.

First off, toothpaste!

Blurry screen shot from a 1980’s Colgate Commercial

Remember all those toothpaste commercials that showed the tooth brush overloaded with paste? That was the tooth paste company’s marketers influencing us to use that much.

We actually only need a pea-sized amount of toothpaste. Even Colgate’s own website confirms this!1

A pea-sized amount of toothpaste

If you’ve been filling your brush with paste, cutting down to the recommend amount can reduce your toothpaste use (and costs!) significantly!

Even though I was vaguely aware of this, I was guilty of regularly using more paste than I needed, so I made a conscious effort to use less. Same with toilet paper and moisturizer. Obviously, I still used what I needed (especially TP!), but I wasn’t using more.

I then expanded out to other items like dish soap, laundry detergent, saran wrap, and even condiments!

After reading the directions on my laundry detergent for the first time ever, I had apparently been using much more than I needed! Did you know that using too much laundry detergent can actually be bad for your clothes and washing machine?

According to a several sources, including this article , “… using too much detergent can actually create more problems, including stain or residue on clothes, odor left behind in the washing machine from trapped excess residue, loads not having a chance to drain properly, resulting in wetter clothes, increased wear and tear on the washing machine’s pump and motor from the suds acting like a brake, and greater energy required to wash clothes since the machine automatically adds extra rinses and pauses to break down excess suds.”

Do you know how much laundry detergent you should be using, or was I the only one that just sort of chucked some in with the load? I encourage you to double check your detergent’s usage instructions.

Dish washing soap is the same. I regularly find that the bottle design leads to a gentle squeeze releasing a lot more soap than needed. I suspect there is a reason the bottles do that – it’s likely so we use and buy more! Now I am very careful not to use more dish soap than needed.

Don’t forget about other consumables, even condiments. How often do you plop much more ketchup onto your plate than you end up using?! Why not start with a smaller amount, and if you need more, add it later?

Clearly too much ketchup for that amount of fries

I challenge you to walk around your place and jot down as many consumables as you can find. Then spend a bit of time determining your strategy to use less. If it seems like too much hassle, just start with one. After you get into a routine with that one, try another.

Oh BTW, I’m certainly not suggesting you use less of things you really do need or want. i.e. Don’t skimp on your car’s motor oil, or floss less to save a few dollars! If you really enjoy extra hot sauce on your meal, keep drowning your food in it! The focus here is in reducing costs through consuming less of what we can. After you get into a routine of it, you will wonder why you haven’t been doing it all your life – I certainly have.

How many cases of beer have I saved by consuming less consumables? I have no idea. It’s a tough one to quantify, but I do know I’m saving. While it’s only a few dollars here and there, it adds up over time, not to mention the environmental benefits. Plus, every action we undertake like this further reinforces the Doing More with Our Money mindset!

Thanks for reading!

As always, please feel free to email or post comments with any questions or suggestions about this blog.




6 Replies to “Consume Less Consumables”

  1. Great blog, Mike! I went through a phase in my life in which I was a bit obsessed with growing my hair all the way to my tail bone (don’t ask, it was a girl thing). I used up half a bottle of conditioner for every wash, barely adding in any water, thinking I was super-nourishing it, And guess what, my hair actually got dryer and less shiny as a result! Turns out, many conditioners work best with a good ratio of water mixed in, and using more is actually bad for the hair.

    And here’s a tip for the girls into buying expensive hair products–get a cheap one on sale every now and then. Every brand got a “honeymoon” period before the hair gets used to it, and the constant shock of the new thing is what produce nice shiny air. Throw in a cheaper brand here and there. It’s good for your hair AND your wallet!

  2. Hi Mike,
    This is a great reminder. I also wanted to call out that if you have a water softener in your home, you can use even LESS laundry detergent and shampoo because of how soft water reacts with it.

  3. Great things to ponder, and you are absolutely right about the travel rationing!!
    Great blog!!

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