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Portion control

Posted by on Thursday 12 January 2012 in frugal | 18 comments

I was in a bit of a sleep daze when I had a shower yesterday and accidentally lathered, rinsed and repeated. I’m not a girl who usually repeats, no matter what the side of the bottle says, but it reminded me of an old article that I re-read recently.

The article was about portion control – not food portion control for dietary reasons but other things for frugal reasons. The article starts at the point where the author, JD, realised he could try putting two teaspoons of cocoa into his cup rather than the recommended three and seeing if it made a noticeable difference. It didn’t – or not enough that he cared – and would save him about 29c a day. It made him start looking at other things to spot the difference between the manufacturer recommended amount and what was actually needed – because obviously the manufacturers have a vested interest in people using more than they need. He advocates that people start reducing quantities of various things (like shampoo, toothpaste & washing powder) until they notice a difference – it’s not about compromising on standards, just not using unnecessarily big portions of things when a smaller amount will get the job done just the same.

I’m going to try experimenting with some things – especially things that are now said to be concentrated (squash/cordial & washing up liquid are two things that spring to mind) because I think old pre-concentrated habits can easily lead me to use too much. I think I’ll also drop the amount of shampoo I use – less for each wash and definitely no more sleepy repeats ;) – and face cleanser/moisturiser to see if that makes a difference. And in the kitchen, I’m going to play with using powder bouillon (rather than set size stock cubes) and stock dilution levels to see if it makes much of a difference once we’ve added all our other flavours and spices on top.

Have you noticed you can use less of something than manufacturers suggest? Have you tried reducing the amount of something – good results/bad results? Have you noticed having to change the amounts used as products get better/worse? Do you use too large quantities of things out of habit?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this!


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. datacreata

    How true! Recently bought someone Instant Horlicks which recommended 6 tsp’s per mug. It was, as you can imagine, way too much and even though they had a sweet tooth, was even too sweet for them. We now drink our hot milk with just 1 tsp of honey and a dash of cinnamon – much nicer.

  2. Jo

    Washing powder and liquid are the ones that spring to my mind first. I use less than half the recommended dose and for very stained clothes, half the dose. shampoo is another that I find easy to cut back on. My hair has got noticeably drier over the last few years but as it is very fine, needs “fluffed up” each day. I can get away with using one small drip of a good quality shampoo (bought on very special offer, of course) so a 200ml bottle lasts me almost 5 months. I’m a little heavier on the conditioner but I do use it because I need it for quality.

    I also cut back on the use of cleaners wherever I can. I rather like using vinegar and water. I also find that I can get away with a drip of washing up liquid (not too much suds to rinse) for some cleaning jobs or even just plain water.

    Our greatgrandparents survived without all the modern cleaning materials and detergents so we ought to be able to cut back both for economy and to be a bit greener.

    I’ll be interested to hear what suggestions others make : )

  3. Attila

    Before I started making clothes washing gloop, I cut down the amount of washing powder and the results were better. I water down hand washing soap and I find I can wash better with that without turning on the tap until I want to rinse.

  4. Maria

    Washing powder/washing up liquid/ whatever, definitely. I use one persil tablet per clothes load rather than two – actually prefer how the clothes come out this way, they seem less stiff/starched somehow.
    Oh, plus wash at 30C or 40C – 40C is plenty for dirtier clothes. It’s not about portion control but temperature control – less hot water = less consumption, and less CO2 emissions.

  5. Clare

    We use washable nappies and were told to use one third the amount of powder recommended on the box. Otherwise, it reacts with the ammonia in the wee and makes them crunchy and a bit stinky.

    LOL at your accidental repeat. I do that quite often these days… but I make up for it by forgetting to wash my hair at all.

    Toothpaste is a habit I changed — as a teenager I switched to (expensive) fennel toothpaste that I had to buy myself. I started to use a pea-sized blob, rather than the liberal worm that I’d grown up with. Nothing bad happened, and my tubes last ages.

    • PipneyJane

      Oh, and to reply to Linda: if you’re prone to recurrent thrush, excess Vit C excreted in your urine isn’t wasted. It acidfies your urine, which in turn makes the environment “down below” less hospitable – Candida Albicans likes to grow in alkaline environments and doesn’t tolerate acid. On the other hand, the “good” bacteria down there thrives in acidic environments, so you’re rebalancing your body in their favour.

      • Linda

        Hi PipneyJane, Interesting theory there. I would not have though that acidic urine would have much impact on the usual environment for pathogenic Candida and would be more likely to cause pain c.f. cystitis.
        Is there a clinical study to support the theory?

        • PipneyJane

          I honestly don’t know. It may be a nurses’ “old wives’ tale” that I picked up back in the mid-1980’s when I was a student nurse. (I looked after a teenage girl with a very bad recurring bout of Candida that didn’t respond to the usual anti-fungals. The doctor resorted to treating it with a topical preparation that smelt like vinegar. “Burow’s Solution”, I think, but I may be wrong.)

          What I can tell you, is that I road-tested this theory myself back in 1997 after suffering 6 months of recurrent thrush. After begging my GP for something – anything – to cure it and getting referred back to the OTC meds, I started taking daily vitamin C as an adjunct to yet another round of treatment. Within a month, no more thrush. But when I stopped taking the vitamin C, it recurred. (Incidentally, GP’s response was to ask “Are you diabetic?”. Answer, “No. And I don’t have any symptoms of it”. Blood glucose tests consistently normal.)

          Re cystitis: I have a distinct memory of urinary acidifiers being an out-of-favour treatment option (distinct as in I can still visualise the handout pages). The idea was that they’d make the urine so acidic that the bacteria couldn’t grow. However, that must have been so unpleasant/painful for the patients that they were rarely prescribed.

  6. Linda

    Manufacturer’s always seem to recommend more than is actually required!!!
    Berocca (effervescent B vitamin tablet) will turn your urine bright yellow –money down the drain, literally. Half a tablet is plenty for a pick-me-up and it’s more about the glass of water than the actual vitamins–lol. Vit C is also one that’s sold in 1000mg doses sometimes but you can’t absorb much more than 50mg from a dose so again water-soluble waste to the sewer!

  7. PipneyJane

    The shampoo twice thing dates from the time when people only washed their hair once a week, when you would need two washes to get your hair clean. The first wash cleared the build up of oils from your hair; the second, washed your scalp. (I’ve road tested this theory. Went canal boating for a week and couldn’t wash my hair, which I normally wash daily. The first wash didn’t get anywhere near my scalp.)

    I use handsoap dispensers (recycled) to manage my portion control: 3 squirts of shampoo; 6 squirts of hair conditioner for my long hair; 1 squirt per leg of body lotion, etc. When I first started doing this, I discovered it made my shampoo last twice as long. (I also write the date opened on the bottles of product plus the number of weeks/months the last bottle lasted. That way, I can see how long things last and have a target to beat for next time.) It also makes it easier to water things down, if you are so inclined. (I used to thin down my hair conditioner with water but the supermarkets have cottoned on to this trick and now make their own-brand conditioners thinner.)

    I’ve extended my use of soap dispensers to include washing up liquid, which I mix half-n-half with vinegar to combat our very hard water. That takes 3 squirts. For laundry detergent, I use an old, cracked, half-cup measuring cup to measure it out. A very dirty wash or a really big load will get the whole measure; the rest just get a proportion of the cup.

  8. Naomi

    1. Sugar in just about any cake or biscuit recipe – I sometimes as much as halve the amount with no flavour compromise, actually they usually have better flavour as you can taste the other ingredients then. 2. Shampoo, toothpaste, soap all that stuff. I don’t use conditioner at all. 3. Washing powder for sure, about a tablespoon with the same of baking powder and half a cup of white vinegar in the rinse gets better results I think. And I never hot wash – ever! Cold is fine, you just need to deal to stains in advance.

  9. Su the Bully

    Either JD is drinking an awful lot of cocoa, or it’s terribly expensive!

  10. louisa

    Thanks for all your great tips and suggestions – lots of things for me to try reducing. I’ve always been quite miserly with washing powder and the like but I think it’s worth experimenting a little.

    A couple of specific comments:

    Hi datacreate: oh that does sound nice! I think I’m going to try that next time I want a warm evening drink :)

    Hi Maria: indeed – it’s a rare day that I wash anything above 40C. But – just a note – I did read that if you only wash at 40C or below, you should do a maintenance wash – with nothing in – at 90C once every month to get rid of any moulds/gunk that aren’t cleared out at 40C.

    Hi PipneyJane: I’m with Linda – love the soap-dispenser idea – being able to control it rather than just an “about right” size blob.

    Su the Bully: I thought that too! Kerching!

  11. HaleBopp

    We have had the absolute joy of having a dishwasher for the past 4 years and consequently I have developed skills in loading it to high heaven whilst still managing to get everything clean on HALF a dishwasher tablet. The machine still works like new, we have to clean the various ‘innards’ of it form time to time as general maintenance but that’s par for the course with these things. I can’t be doing with those dishwasher tablets by a BIG BRAND name that have a ball in the middle, darn things won’t break in half :-)

    Love the soap dispenser idea too. I have been using up odds and ends of shampoos/shower gels instead of hand soap and can genuinely say my hands are softer and less dry which is a bonus, as well as being frugal.

    Sometimes when making muffins (typically breakfast/blueberry ones) instead of using the required amount of sugar, I add extra banana. I think if you are going to have something sweet why not be sweet tasting with actual nutritional value too. When it comes to full on indulgent chocolate baking I wouldn’t do this though!

    Hay x

  12. Eloise

    Hi All
    Here’s a great thrift tip I picked up in Oz when living there. There seem to be quite a few thrifty ecologic people there, (maybe it’s their pioneering spirit?) Many of the washing machines there look like they came out of the ark but have a soap/water recycling function which basically means the whites are washed first then all the sudsy water is reserved while the whites rinse then the residues can be used to wash the colours, then darks. I suppose it could be adapted in the UK by wringing and removing the whites out prior to rinse cycle and reserving the suds for the dark items which go through the whole wash, then just use rinse cycle to finish the whites. Going to give it a try

  13. Debbie

    Eloise, the reason the Aussie washers have the water save function is … to save water… lol
    Being such a dry continent, many people actually use the water for their gardens – rather than to wash a second load of dirty clothes. If you use an appropriate washing detergent you can happily water the garden and no ill effects for the plants. Sometimes the water is reused to wash pet bedding/cleaning cloths etc, but not usually clothes.
    There may be the odd person or two who actually reuses the water for a second load of clothes, but I do not know any. Mind you, it is a practical idea so long as the first load was not too soiled.

  14. Zoe @ecothrifty

    Great article, I always make my kids use a tiny bit of toothpaste and I use less cocoa / chocolate/ expensive ingredients than recipes call for, bumping them up with the cheaper ingredients. When occasionally I buy jars of sauce for a meal e.g. curry I only use half the jar (for my family of 2 adults, 2 young children), write the date on it and use the other half the next week…

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