Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reduce, Recycle, Reuse - Part III

I almost didn't post this. . .it was the post that I had ready to go on the day that my brother passed away.  Ultimately I decided that holding it back won't bring him back, so here you go.

This is the third installment of my reduce, recycle, and reuse posts.  You can find the other two posts on May 21 and June 26. 

Cloth Napkins - Do you want to eschew paper napkins, but don't want to lay out the expense of purchasing cloth napkins?  Check out the clearance offerings in the domestics area of department stores to score some fabulous deals.  You can also cut up an old flat bedsheet to make more napkins than you'll probably ever need.  If you don't have any old bedsheets, check the aforementioned clearance section for very inexpensive offerings.  Understand that you'll have to hem the edges of each napkin if you make them out of old bedsheets.  My dishtowels seem to reproduce faster than rabbits and I have a bunch that I've never even used.  I don't see why you couldn't use small dishtowels instead of napkins.  They're roughly the right size, they're absorbent, and they wash & dry well.

Plastic Containers - I've already detailed how I reuse plastic containers, but I have a couple more to add.  I've started to repurpose plastic juice jugs and plastic mayo jars.  The 2-quart juice jugs are handy for storing homemade broth or stock.  The more narrow variety of jug are appropriate for freezing, but I don't prefer to freeze in such large quantities because the defrosting takes forever.  This seems like a no-brainer and I can't believe that I've never thought of it before, but you can also use these containers when you make juice from frozen concentrate.  I've been repurposing plastic mayo jars to store scraps (primarily only poultry skin and beef fat) that we feed to the dog.  I also have used them to store homemade broth or stock if I'm going to use it in the next day or so; otherwise I store it in the freezer in a different container.  I make small quantities of iced tea and the 32- ounce jars are perfect for storing my favorite warm weather beverage.

Steam Mop - This does call for an investment up front, but it does save money and reduce waste in the long run if you typically use Swiffer products.  I have a Shark steam mop and I do like it quite a bit though it took some time to get used to it's horrible hissing sound.  The model I have came with several heads with different shapes and the corresponding microfiber pads which are machine washable.  The steam mop utilizes plain ol' water, super-heated, to clean.  No chemicals, no fumes, no disposable pads.  I was skeptical about it's cleaning ability, but I actually think my floors are cleaner looking & feeling since I've been using it.  Note that it doesn't seem to do much for grout though.  Does anyone have a product recommendation for cleaning grout?

Vegetables - Make a stir-fry if you have a bunch of vegetables that are reaching the end, but are still somewhat crisp.  Make a pot of vegetable soup if the veggies are getting limp, but still edible.  Toss any inedible veggies in your compost pile.

Veggie Water - I don't quite know what to call this, but it's the water left over when you've steamed vegetables.  I always use it if I need water in the meal that I'm cooking.  Waste not, want not, and all that.  I know this might sound gross, but I really like broccoli and I like to drink the water that's left when I steam it. 

Fruit - Make smoothies with any fruit that is beginning to get too soft and overripe.  Peaches, grapes, berries, bananas, apricots, strawberries, just about any fruit can be used to make a smoothie.  Add to blender with some milk or yogurt.  I usually like to toss in some frozen banana too because it gives nice body to the smoothie.

Bananas - I've heard that mushy bananas can be used to make banana bread, but I absolutely never bake.  I came across a "recipe" that calls for frozen bananas and milk.  It claims you can process frozen bananas with a little milk and the result tastes like soft serve.  I haven't tried it yet, but I do have a couple of peeled & sliced bananas in the freezer so I'll be trying it soon enough.

Garden Thinnings - I've heard that you can transplant thinnings to increase your yield, but I've never had good luck with transplanting very young plants.  Maybe you'll have better luck?  If you've planted greens, such as lettuce or spinach, you can eat the thinnings and they are a remarkably tender treat in a salad.

Grass Clippings/Tree Trimmings - Leaving your grass clippings on the lawn is actually good for the grass, but most people don't like to leave it for aesthetic reasons.  What to do with grass clippings and small bits of tree or hedge trimmings?  Add to your compost pile, of course!  Do be aware, though, of how much nitrogen ("green" or wet material) you're adding since you don't want it to totally overtake the carbon ("brown" or dried material) compost ingredients.  Remember that a healthy heap has both.

Quick word on composting:  Most compost piles to do not have an ideal ratio of ingredients.  Don't sweat it too much and go ahead & add kitchen scraps.  Just do not add any animal-based kitchen scraps (skin, fat, gristle, etc.) or dairy to your heap!

I hope this series of posts is useful and interesting to you.  Stay tuned as there will, no doubt, eventually be a Part IV in this series of posts.

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