How To Not Get Wasted This Holiday

Let’s talk waste.

The Never Ending Waste

For many, the “life cycle” of a Christmas gift might look like this.  You find the right gift and buy the product on Amazon.  Whatever the product, it’s likely wrapped in plastic bubble/box/wrap from the manufacturer. The product then gets boxed and shipped to you by Amazon, probably with more bubble wrap, plastic airbags, or crumpled paper in the box.

Then you take it out, either throw out or recycle the box/paper etc, and then re-wrap it in different wrapping paper.  Paper that has snowmen and reindeer on it.  Maybe some glitter.  Throw on a bow.  Lots of plastic tape.  Then the gift recipient unwraps it two days later, throws that stuff out, which is likely not recyclable, and says thanks.



Some Traditions Need To Be Killed

I get it, we have traditions.  And “presentation” is important to people, both in their $5.00 triple-mocha-lattes and in gift giving.  But I’m pretty sure we can do better here.

gift bag

The Humble Gift Bag

You can’t change how Amazon ships things to you in most cases, but you can at least buy one of those reusable gift bags when you’re giving a gift instead of wrapping paper.  And then kindly ask the gift recipient to actually reuse it.  There’s nothing wrong with re-gifting a bag, it’s not the same as re-gifting a gift.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

Here’s the thing, once people start getting gifts in reusable bags then they’ll have a stash of them, and their problems are solved.  If everyone did this, in theory, we could just use the same reusable bags that would go on wonderful gift-giving journeys from year to year, person to person, house to house.

I presume the Wrapping Paper Lobby would be opposed to this and see it as a dystopia.  I’m not even sure a Wrapping Paper Lobby exists, but I’m too afraid to Google it for fear that it does….

Then of course there’s the bottom line.  It’s about saving money.  I couldn’t find a more recent number, but according to this article Americans spent 3.2 billion on wrapping paper in 2014.  One can only presume it’s higher now.  Mind. Blown.

You’re smarter than the average Joe, so show it.  Either use a re-usable bag, or better yet, don’t wrap it at all.  Your wallet and the planet will thank you.


Are You Gonna Eat That Who-Hash?

Then there’s food.  Oh if there’s a topic that triggers me to go on rant it’s food waste.  According to the National Resources Defense Council, Americans waste about 204 million pounds of turkey – just on Thanksgiving Day alone!!  At an average of 30 pounds a turkey thats 6 million turkeys!

Most studies report that Americans throw out about 40% of their food regularly, and that percentage goes up a lot during the period between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Getting…. close…. to…. rant…

Oh and what does this waste cost the average family of four per year? 



Waste Us No More!
#They’veDevelopedTheUseOfTools #We’reScrewed

Don’t Be An Intolerant Foodie

For the life of me and all that is holy I can’t understand why anyone would throw out good food.  Or even mediocre food.  Spoilage is the only legitimate reason that I can think of, and you can prevent a lot of that by not making 16 metric tons of string bean casserole for the family dinner.

I try to get in the mind of someone who throws away holiday food from say, a Christmas gathering.  Maybe it goes like this:

“Gee, no one touched Aunt Betty’s chili and now she’s gone.  I think I’ll just throw that out.  Because, ya know…. Me.” 

What you’re saying here is YOU DON’T VALUE EITHER AUNT BETTY’S TIME, OR THE FOOD ITSELF.  You’ve just devalued a person and a nourishing thing.  You’ve also just cost yourself money in having to buy a couple of meals that you had right in front of you for free.  Why would you do this?

“But I don’t like Aunt Betty’s chili” 

Ok, let’s address that.  When you say you don’t like it, do you mean it tastes horrible and is inedible with maggots crawling in it, or is it just that it’s not as good as the chili at your favorite restaurant?  In other words, are you being a self-righteous food-diva here?  Does everything have to be exactly to your preference, oh precious one?  Do you care that she took the time to make it and bring it?

Cliche or not, there are indeed starving kids in Africa and in many other places in the world including right here in America, and it’s just a careless, thoughtless, and indignant thing to do.  Besides being horrible for your wallet.

Suck it up buttercup.  Eat the damn chili or I will.  I swear I’ll come over and eat it.

So there you go, my no nonsense money-saving tips for the holidays.  Stop wasting tons of money on paper, ribbons, cardboard, and tape whose sole use is to cover an object for a short period of time.  And for all that is good with civilization and humanity stop throwing away food that is edible.

21 Responses

  1. Mrs. Groovy says:

    Our next door neighbor throws these incredible foodie parties. Then she begs people to take stuff home because she throws everything out afterwards. One reason I can think of for this behavior is that she has a weight problem. But I really believe it’s more likely that she doesn’t eat leftovers.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      That’s really sad. I mean, me and my cycling buddies routinely go on 60 or 70 mile rides on weekends and then eat like vultures. If she does this on a weekend we could come over and polish everything off after one of our rides. Easy-peasy. Plus beer.

      Thanks for stopping by Mrs. Groovy!

  2. Rebecca says:

    In my family we have a couple of boxes and wrapping bags that we have been giving back and forth to each other for going on 15 years. It is actually a point of competition to see who gets the “LL Bean” box and Santa and reindeer bag. We’ve also been using the same bows for about the same amount of time. We just put them back in a couple of shoe boxes each year and use them again. They only go out of service if a small child or pet gets to them. I imagine that we will just stop using bows when the last of them gives up the ghost.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      Wow, 15 years – that’s awesome! We might have one or two in my family that have made it over 10 years, but hey do start getting ratty after a while. That’s so great that your family has been reducing waste all these years, and you’re kind of making a game out of it too which is fun.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. jumpstartfromscratch says:

    My side of the family and my wife’s side of the family have a cultural difference. We hardly ever wrapped presents, and they always wrapped presents. I haven’t been able to make any progress on this family tradition. She expects me to wrap. I do try to keep a stash of boxes and bags in the basement though.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      Well, keeping the stash sounds like the best compromise in your case. Keep working on them though. When you become FI maybe you can say “I’m financially independent because I didn’t waste money on wrapping presents!”

      • jumpstartfromscratch says:

        Fortunately my wife is pretty frugal in other aspects.
        The other expense in wrapping is store bought cards.

  4. From the title I thought this was going to provide some tips on how I could survive our Christmas eve party.

    But you’ve touched on one of my biggest beefs with the holidays – all the waste associated with the packaging of all the stuff we buy and then repackage with more stuff that going to end up in the landfill. 20 years ago I would complain when my mother-in-law would wrap presents in old pillowcases. Somehow the drool stains didn’t add to the magic of the season, but now I appreciate her wisdom.

    Food waste is also a significant contributor to climate change.

    We have a dozen chickens and they will eat almost anything, so we have a convenient way to recycle old food into new food. Anyone trying to offload Aunt Betty’s chili let me know, we’ll take it.

    • Accidental Fire says:

      My title was a bit click-baity wasn’t it 🙂

      Ha, love it. Nothing says love like an old pillowcase with drool. And yes, we can learn a lot from chickens and dogs. They see food, they eat it. All of it. Ironically you’ll never see a dog asking for a doggie bag….

  5. Nothing gets me more steamed than people throwing away food. My brain short-circuits and the response is just RAGE.

    We’ve got a bunch of boxes at home that my parents resuse every year for gifts. That doesn’t solve the wrapping paper dilemma but I’m working on it. I’ve been known to use newspaper or take-out menus that I get in the mail to wrap presents for family members. I’m high class like that!

    • Accidental Fire says:

      Takeout menus is a great idea! I can see the person thinking “did she get me kung pao chicken….?”

      I can say this – if anyone ever throws out your rum cake I will personally smack them upside the head!

  6. Arrgo says:

    My parents got divorced when I was young and my father was never big on Christmas. Once I was an adult, we would sarcastically kid around about all the crazy things people do for Christmas including spending $5 on a card that just gets thrown in the trash. So we’d find a nice piece of brown cardboard from a box etc, then cut it to the size you wanted.(Usually much bigger than a regular card) I’d even spend a little time going through boxes to find the perfect box to make my card! Get a pen or sharpie marker and write your message on it. It didnt even need to be neat or anything. It was the thought that counts and we got a laugh out of it. Plus we screwed the corporation out of the $10 they were going to overcharge us for the cards 🙂

    • Accidental Fire says:

      But those “cards” are the best ones! As you said, it’s the thought. Who cares what some algorithm from a Hallmark computer says, on that piece of cardboard you can actually write something personal!

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. mamafishsaves says:

    We use reusable gift bags as much as possible and try to just limit the number of presents overall. We even got my sister-in-law to find a holiday gift for our son this year on a local giveaway group! She got him some awesome play kitchen utensils, gave them to him in a reusable grocery bag with a ribbon, and he has been playing with his “new” toys every day. Win!

    Food waste is infuriating, but only something we got a handle on in our house fully in the last year. This year we even went and bought 3 marked down organic turkeys at Costco. They last up to a year in the freezer. We cooked the first one a few weeks ago and were able to make 11 dinners for our whole family out of the meat. Even with all the ingredients/sides, it came out to less than $5 a meal with 2 traditional turkey dinners, turkey soup, and turkey pot pies. (We didn’t eat turkey for that many days in a row, some of the meals went into the freezer for after baby #2 comes.) It was great to see what a fully stripped turkey could mean for our food budget and that the leftover turkeys wouldn’t go to waste.

    • Sounds to me like you’re winning across the board! I had no idea a turkey could last a year in a freezer, now I’m intrigued.

      It’s so great to hear stories like yours of folks who are beating waste. It’s restoring my faith in humanity!

      Thanks for the great comment!

  8. Cary says:

    Just found your blog, and am so happy you are in the FI blogging game. Turnip Fire? That sh*t is funny!

    I host a small “let’s talk about money” group with friends in DC (with talk about TSPs, Vanguard, saving a bit more, how early retirement works, hidden costs, the usual stuff). I was leery starting the group because of how little people like to talk about money, but everyone was comfortable with the flat-out money discussions. The most touchy discussion topic was about food habits and food waste. People were extremely defensive how much food is currently rotting in their fridge or their aspirational (as in: I’ve never liked kale, but this is the week I’m going to eat kale grocery shopping. Turns out that people are undaunted by planning for their unborn childrens’ education, but it’s beyond their ability to plan meals for the next week.

    On the bright side, the homework for that meeting was for everyone to clean out their fridge, and it warms my little heart to see that some of them are still keeping a clean fridge.

    But so not to throw all the blame on ‘other people,’ I was deeply ashamed when, a few weeks ago, I had to throw out half a can of garbanzos. Still doing penance for that.

    Thanks for writing this post!

    • Accidental Fire says:

      Hey we all make mistakes sometimes. I eat carrots a lot, but a few months back I bought too many and some of them started going bad. I was trying to eat as many as I could but just couldn’t pull it off, so I had to toss some carrots. But if that’s a rarity and not the normal for us, then we can be proud that we’re not part of the problem.

      There are quite a few of us PF bloggers in the DC area including of course J. Money from Budgets Are Sexy, so let me know of your next get together. We also have a group on Twitter called @dcmoneynerds

      And thanks for the Turnip FIRE compliment! I’m trying to get traction with them but they are not as popular as my other posts. Maybe I have a warped sense of humor 😉

      • Cary says:

        I’ll definitely let you know of my group’s next get together, and I’ll check out the Twitter group, too. I love me some nerds. Happy New Year!

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