Save Money and Reduce Waste by Opting Out of Convenience Packaging

Save Money and Reduce Waste by Opting Out of Convenience Packaging
There are lots of foods that are packaged individually for our convenience – chips, crackers, cookies, even some fruit. Although these are convenient for packing the kids’ lunches in the mornings, they actually cost more than if you purchased a family-sized package and divided it up into individual servings.
Let’s take a look at Amazon for some quick price comparisons. First, we’ll select a 40 pack box of Frito-Lay chips which costs roughly $17*. The total amount of food contained in the prepackaged box is 40 oz. That’s a cost of $.43 per oz. Now let’s look at the larger quantity costs. A typical bag of Cheetos contains about 8.5 oz and runs around $3 ($.35 per oz) and a typical bag of Lay’s potato chips contains about 12.5 oz and runs almost $4 ($.32 per oz). For 40 oz of chips in bags, you would need to buy 4.5 bags of Cheetos for about $13.50 or 3.5 bags of Lay’s potato chips for about $14.   
Total Cost
Cost per ounce
Prepackaged Lay’s Chips
40, 1 oz bags (40 oz)
4.5 (8.5 oz bags) = (38.25 oz)
$13.50 ($3 per bag x 4.5 bags)
Lay’s Potato Chips
3.5 (12.5 oz bags) =     (43.75 oz)
$14.00 ($4 per bag x 3.4 bags)
There are many of us who would look at that chart and say, gosh, that’s not that much of a difference. But, let’s look at a different aspect – the difference in the amount of trash we’ve produced between the two options. For the 40 pack box, we have one cardboard box plus 40 individual non-recyclable packages. For the larger bags of potato chips, we have 4-5 packages. The total amount of waste is less for the larger packages than for the individually packaged items. Repeating this over the course of a year would generate a huge amount of waste if we’re always using the prepackaged variation.
This example only shows the costs of one item – chips. What if you purchased prepackaged items for nearly everything – chips, cookies, crackers, fruit? Now, you’ve doubled, tripled or quadrupled the amount of waste generated across a year’s worth of lunches.
The last thing to consider is this. Has it really saved you any time? Back when I was packing my kids’ lunches, I would start off the week with packaging up individual servings of different food items into reusable containers. That way, each of my kids could select which items went into their lunch boxes. The reality is, it probably only took me 10-15 minutes, and I usually elicited help from one or both of my kids to get the job done.
As we’re looking forward to the start of the school year in August or September, it’s great to start thinking of these things now. Purchase reusable containers in a variety of types and sizes and let the kids help with the task of dividing up the larger packages for use in school lunches.
*I chose one of the largest sizes as presumably the cost per individual package will be the lowest. Buying smaller sizes of prepackaged foods will likely be more expensive per item, so this gives us the closest cost comparison between individual packages and larger quantity packages.

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