Friday, May 21, 2010

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse

I've always been a cheap little broad, but I've been taking frugality to new heights lately. If you care about such things, producing less waste and using fewer resources is good for the environment. Even if you don't care about the planet, it's good for your wallet. Here's what I've been up to:

Paper Towels - I don't use paper towels. Well, I've used maybe ten paper towels since January 1st. I bought a few microfiber towels from the 99cent Store and I use those to wipe up spills, clean my son's messy face & hands after meals, do light dusting, clean mirrors. Heh, I almost said "clean windows," but who am I trying to kid - I don't do windows.

Paper Napkins - I don't use paper napkins. My son and I use cloth napkins at every meal. I already had a variety of cloth napkins that were never used, so this is a nice way to save a few pennies and use something I like. I think it's adorable that my son knows to place his napkin on his lap when he is sitting at the table.

Toilet Paper - I don't use toilet paper. Just kidding! I wanted to see if you were really reading this or just skimming through. I WILL NOT do a Google search to see if there is such a thing as reusable toilet paper.

Plastic Pump Bottles - I wash and reuse these for things like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, hand soap, etc. I find that I use far less product when I use a pump bottle versus a squeeze bottle.

Plastic Containers - I wash and reuse just about every plastic container. Cottage cheese, whipped topping, you name it and it's somewhere storing something in my house. My sons crayons are kept in a couple whipped topping containers. Our favorite style of chopsticks are kept in a tall cottage cheese container. I keep tiny finger puppets in plastic baby wipes containers.

Glass Containers - I wash and reuse just about every glass container. Those tiny jars of pimientos? I use them to keep salad dressing when I'm out because I hate soggy salad. I rarely fry anything, but I use glass jars to pour grease into in the event that I've been frying.

Plastic Bags - My favorite! I use plastic grocery bags (and produce bags) for all kinds of things. Plastic grocery bags are trash can liners, used to dispose of gross trash, used to pack my lunch, used as dirty clothes bags when we're traveling. Plastic produce bags are used to tote crudites when we're out. I reuse Ziplock bags that have only had dry ingredients - Goldfish, Cheerios, animal cookies, etc.

Cereal Bags - Okay, stop laughing. Yes, I reuse those thick plastic bags that hold cereal. What do I do with them? I put crackers in them, hold them shut, and roll them with a rolling pin whenever I need crumbs. Seriously, those bags are so tough that I've never had one even so much as get a pinhole.

Pickle Juice - Seriously, stop laughing. Yes, I have stuff that I do with pickle juice too. I always add a couple of tablespoons to potato salad, macaroni salad, and chicken salad. I also use it as a marinade for light meats. My favorite thing to do with it though is to make "homemade" pickles by thinly slicing raw peeled cucumbers and packing them in the juice for about three days. So crisp and fresh! Once I've done all I want with the pickle juice, I wash & reuse the jar of course!

Salsa Jars/Ketchup Bottles - I always add a little water to these when they are "empty" and I keep them in the fridge. I add the watered down product to chili, red pasta sauces, soups, stews, you name it.

Mustard Jars/Bottles - A friend taught me this great tip: Add a little chicken stock to the "empty" jar/bottle of mustard. Use this mixture to deglaze a pan. Reduce and you'll have a great sauce for beef, chicken, or pork. I particularly like this sauce when I make roast beef.

Leftover Baby Food - Dry baby cereal was used in place of breadcrumbs for meatloaf and it made an incredibly moist & delicious meatloaf. The baby cereal "crumbs" are also really high in iron! Leftover fruit purees were added to smoothies. Leftover veggie or meal blends were added to casseroles or soups.

Coffee Grounds & Tea Bags - I reuse them. Yeah, I know, the subsequent pots of coffee and cups of tea aren't as strong as the first ones. Whatever. I reuse them. Of course, I don't do this if we have company over.

Ice Cube Trays - I do a lot with ice cube trays. If I have more lemons than I can use (and I ALWAYS have more lemons than I use, thanks to a very prolific tree), I juice the lemons and freeze the fresh juice in ice cube trays. Once frozen, I store the lemon juice cubes in Ziplock bags in the freezer. I also use ice cube trays to make chicken stock cubes, iced tea cubes, and coffee cubes. I've used them to make wine cubes, but they don't freeze as tightly and start melting really fast as you're transferring them to the Ziplock bags for freezer storage.

Chicken Carcass (bones, joints, skin, whatever isn't eaten) - I make homemade chicken stock with the inedible remains of chicken. If I don't have a whole chicken, I save remains in a plastic bag in the freezer until I have enough to approximate a whole chicken. Toss the carcass in a large crockpot with some onions, carrots, celery, & garlic. Fill with water, cover, cook on LOW for for 8 to 10 hours. Remove solids and strain the rest (I use a colander with a gasp! paper towel!) until the stock is totally clear. Cool and store in fridge. The fat will rise to form a solid sheet that can be discarded or used for other purposes. This stock makes the most tasty soups! I also do this this a few days after Thanksgiving with the turkey carcass so we can have a delicious turkey soup.

Freecycle - I use Freecycle whenever possible. I've picked up a 68-piece set of monogrammed glassware, a Shermag recliner/glider with ottoman, a rider/pusher toy for my son, and a pool float. All for FREE!!!

You all know that I haven't had to purchase any menstrual products since I bought a Diva Cup five months ago. Now that is liberating! I still smirk smugly when I saunter by that aisle in the store.

Are some of these things ridiculous? Perhaps, but I think it's a matter of perspective. I don't work. I haven't earned a salary in two years. I think it's important that I'm a good steward with my husband's salary. I think it's better to spend a less than I can instead of spending more than I should.

King Oscar II of Sweden put it best: "I would rather have my people laugh at my economies than weep for my extravagance."


  1. Me too! I always thought it accurately sums up my feelings on frugality.