I'm smack in the middle of putting my household together. This has meant buying a lot of stuff - some of which it actually irks me to buy, and which goes against my normal sensibilities. A good example of this is plastic storage containers. It's not just that they're plastic, but that they're labeled as 'disposable'.
So why did I buy them? Well, for a number of reasons: First, they're really cheap and there are just so many things I need to establish a working household, and need now, I can't afford to pass up a bargain; Second, while they're billed as 'disposable', my experience is that they can be reused often and actually hold up for a long time, even a couple years if well taken care of; Third, and this is the real heart of the matter - since I plan to cook a lot, and mostly from scratch or near-scratch, I need to be able to store things. To cook effectively for one, I need to be able to cook in quantity and save what isn't consumed immediately for later use, especially for lunches. In order to be saved, the food has to be stored in something. Thus, plastic storage containers, and no small number of them are a logical choice, and seem to be a wise use of my limited money. So is it wasteful to purchase these containers?
Thinking about this led to my questioning other aspects of waste - money vs. time; money vs. resources; time vs. resources; space vs. energy; etc. More permanent, non-plastic (or less-plastic) solutions to the problem of food storage that I came up with are mason jars; re-cycled jars from gorcery store products, and commercial glass bowl (like pyrex) with plasticy resealable lids. I do use mason jars for storing dry goods in, as well as for sprouting, and a few other things. I like the commercial pyrex bowls too, but they're expensive, and the lids are still plastic. Admittedly though, I usually don't repurpose the glass jars that come with grocery store products, and simply put them in the recycling bin. Obviously, this is something I need to correct.
Another conundrum occurred to me while thinking about this and dealing with a limited budget: most food stuffs - from potato chips to spices are cheaper when bought in bulk quantities. For a larger group of people, this is a no-brainer. But what about for a single-person household? Should we only buy small quantities, and sacrifice our money and the time it took to earn that money? To me, the logical course is to buy the large quantities, and take steps to mitigate spoilage through repackaging. Unfortunately, this seems to mean learning to live with more plastic.
So what's the biggest waste? My time and money, the resources used for 'disposable packaging', or letting food go to waste?