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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Wasting nothing -- fire starters

We have a fire ring on our patio that we use frequently in summer for cook-outs and making s'mores. These are fun and frugal family activities we enjoy every summer.

I know you're wondering, "why is she showing us garbage?"

We have an ample supply of wood, with deadfall from the wooded part of our lot. But our wood is often a tad damp, and needs a bit of help getting a fire lit.

We've used a variety of homemade fire starters over the years. But I think this one fills the role of "waste nothing", best.

When I drain meat or fried foods, I do so on a piece of brown paper bag. When I'm done with that fat-saturated piece of paper, I put it in a particular plastic bag in the freezer, my bag of fire starters. Then, any time we need to start the charcoal grill or the fire ring for cooking out, I have a greasy piece of paper ready to do the job.

I'm not using any "new" materials, nor am I using any materials which may have "other" value to them (like reselling egg cartons, saving items for craft projects, or candle wax, from used candles, that I want to use to make small floating candles). I'm just using what was previously tossed in the garbage.

Now, it surprises me that I would have thrown that draining paper into the garbage, in the past.

If I could just come up with a homemade match to light the fire starter.


  1. I bet they work great. Where do you get your brown paper bags? They are almost nonexistent as an option in the stores here and in our county any bag you get from the store costs five cents. Another question. Where do you sell egg cartons? I usually give mine to people who raise chickens. Is that what you mean?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      The egg cartons can be sold on ebay (teachers/preschools use them for crafts), or I can trade them with a neighbor who sells eggs from home, for some eggs.

      Several towns in our area have a plastic bag ban, but the paper is still allowed, and 2 of the stores that I go to don't charge for bags, or give a rebate if you use your own. Several years ago, if you brought your own bag, many stores gave you a 3 to 5 cents credit. None of my stores do that any more. I have a pretty good supply of brown paper bags, from years past.

    2. My Aldi sells paper bags for 6 cents--since we have to use paper bags to store our paper recycling for pick-up, I bite the bullet and buy them. My savings at Aldi more than makes up for the cost.

      You can focus the rays of the sun to start a fire with a magnifying glass--unfortunately, you probably start your bonfires in the evening and that trick wouldn't work (one of those interesting facts that I'm not ready for my kids to discover quite yet ... ).

    3. Hi Kris,
      Now that's a good way to look at the cost of your shopping bags -- just a small cost in order to get the bigger savings from Aldi.

      Oh wow! You brought back memories of some neighborhood boys who nearly burned down a couple of houses one summer with a magnifying glass and a pile of dried leaves!

      Maybe I need to work at using flint and steel, in place of a match!

  2. Great idea! And as a bonus, maybe your fire smells like bacon? :D I do the egg carton method as they aren't sold back here. In fact, I don't think the farmer's market people are supposed to reuse them at all, though they will put MY eggs in MY previously-used carton if I leave my name sticker on it. (We've had to buy eggs the past few month since giving our chicken flock away, but have pullets who should begin laying soon so our saved cartons will be mosty used for that).

    Anyway, I had made dipped beeswax candles with my older girls for fun while homeschooling, and we had a half gallon jar mostly full of beeswax left in the jar and only able to be removed by remelting. So, 2 years later, cleaning out the garage cabinet, I found that, remelted, and used dryer lint, egg cartons, and some of the wax to make two egg cartons' worth of fire starters for when we camp. (Rest of the wax was used to make some jar candles using leftover wicking from the candle project).

    1. Hi Cat,
      Some states allow home-based egg businesses to reuse cartons, but the label indicating the previous egg business has to be covered or marked out on the reused carton.

      That will be great when your pullets are old enough to lay. How many years of laying do you usually get from a hen?

      Your fire starters for camping sound like a great way to use things that would have just been thrown away, otherwise.

    2. It varies by hen. The first two years are generally the most productive, but one of the girls we gave away last fall was 4 years old and still laying. Not nearly as often, but her eggs were HUGE, bigger than you would ever see in a store-bought carton of extra large. I think some of that depends on whether or not one uses any extra lighting in the winter, because if they get that natural break, they lay longer (albeit less eggs per year). If they lay pretty much year-round, they "run out" sooner.

    3. Hi Cat,
      That is really interesting, abut the hens and natural daylight vs. artificial lighting in winter.

  3. Hi, Lili--

    My husband and I laughed at (well, really WITH) this post! We camp a lot, and years ago, when digging through our camping trash looking for paper to help start our next campfire, we found some paper towels soaked in chorizo grease from a previous meal. We wondered in passing if they were "too damp" to be good fire starters, and then, as the fire started right up we realized, "It's GREASE! DUH!" Best fire starters ever! We joked about starting a business making them (and enjoying eating ALL that chorizo!) LOL

    When we make chorizo at home and DON'T have a fire to start with them, we always feel so wasteful! :)


    1. Hi Sara,
      Great minds think alike! In winter, when we're using our fireplace, we toss the greasy papers into the fireplace. They do light up fast and furious! Especially when I've got pile of grease-soaked papers in there.

      Your camping sounds much nicer than what I've ever done, if your cooking chorizo!


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