These essentials have helped me waste less. Remember to question every purchase – do you really need it? If you can get by without buying anything, even better. You’ll support the blog if you purchase through the affiliate links, thank you! Hope this list saves you time.
ON THE GO
My #1 re-usable item, used to keep cold water. This mug keeps liquids cold for 6 hours – a lifesaver in muggy Ho Chi Minh. Leftover ice from restaurants and cafes gets tosssed in. This has saved me from buying hundreds of bottled waters. It’s spill proof, so I can toss it any bag or direction. It weighs 1.5lbs filled up, a small inconvenience for having cold, clean water on the go. Its vacuum insulation comes with a 5-year warranty. I hope to use “Smokey Blue” for more than 5 years.
An easy – and stylish – way to avoid wasting tissues and paper napkins. I bought 2 at Refill Station in Ho Chi Minh. I always carry one in my backpack or back pocket. These can last for 2-3 years (depending on how messy you are!) and then be composted. If you’re a DIY type, you can make them yourself.
My portable base station for reusable items – water mug, handkerchiefs, mesh bags – not to mention my laptop, so it’s got to be light yet durable, waterproof (especially in South East Asia), and professional enough for business meetings. Right now I’m using a SuperDry Mono Tarp backpack, which has just enough space for my essentials. Two of the zipper teeth tore off within 1 year, but I got them fixed by a seamster.
I admit: these took a few days to buy. Am I really going to pay $40 for 3 storage bags? When ziplocks would do? But when I thought long-term about my health, and plan to use for years, I decided to make the investment. They are lightweight and take up less space in the fridge. I originally planned to use Stashers to store and microwave greens – yup, I’m all about less effort in the kitchen! A few reviews said the bags are difficult to clean, so I have avoided using them to cook… so far. The seal – while tight – doesn’t seem super sturdy at the ends so I carefully open to prevent ripping.
I use these to cover food. My set of 3 includes one bigger wrap for bread/sandwiches. They store odd shaped foods well without taking up space; the material is sturdy enough to fold and crease. I chose Eney over the better-known Beeswrap brand because the Eney set came with a wax replenisher, which extends the wrap life for 1 year.
Growing up my mom used saran wrap to store and microwave food, and for years I did too. Old habits die hard. When I learned about the risks of polyethylene (PET) and heat, I had to find a healthier – and reusable – replacement. So far these silicone lids have done just the trick. With their dome shape, the silicone rarely touches food and its built in holes let out steam. These are easy to clean, and I plan to use for many years.
Use whatever reusable bags you have at home – plastic bags, totes, old backpacks, it’s all good! When I started this journey, I felt reusing plastic bags sent the wrong message – that using plastic is okay. But the environmental footprint of manufacturing cotton is huge. I would have to use a cotton tote over 7,000 times to have the same cumulative environmental impact (in terms of water and energy use) as 1 plastic bag. I’d also have to use the cotton tote 52 times to have the same climate change impact as 1 plastic bag. So reuse whatever you have, and don’t feel guilty about it. Last year my friend Marc gave me this tote, which was gifted to him by a friend, and I plan to use it infinitum until it dies.
If I ever run out of bags, I’ve been eye-ing Chico Bags, which fit on your keychain but hold up to 25lbs of groceries (450 times their weight). I also like that the bags are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, and that the company is a certified B corporation.
I fill my backpack with 3-4 of these before I go grocery shopping. In Saigon many supermarkets make you tie up your bags to prevent shoplifting. They also want you to use 1 plastic bag per type of produce. I get around this by using mesh bags with a drawstring, which clerks can quickly tie up and attach a price sticker. The mesh also allows the checkout cashier to see what’s inside. I sometimes bring one cotton bag in case I need to buy bulk dry goods, like nuts. At first grocery stores might resist using these mesh bags, but they’ll get used to it. I got these at Refill Station.
I bought this set of bamboo utensils, but have yet to use it once! I do like the linen container, which protects the utensils from getting dirty.
I try to avoid delivery and takeout to not only avoid the packaging waste, but to enjoy eating out in Saigon more! I almost bought this Zebra stainless steel set but realized I don’t have a use for it right now. What I like about this product is that you can bring 1, 2, or 3 food containers (the old versions forced you to carry 3) and that the food containers are well sealed.