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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

When Frugality and Green Living Intersect

I went on a little treasure hunt of sorts yesterday. As I was cleaning up the kitchen in the morning, I marveled at all of the single-use items that are made sturdily enough to squeeze out a second, third, fourth or more use. Manufacturers expect these items to be used once then thrown away. I like to make a game of reusing as many packaging items as I can. Beyond quirky fun, it just makes good sense. Less overall is produced, less goes into the landfill -- we save a small amount of money and we do a bit of good toward a cleaner planet.

And so, I was inspired to look around the house for the different single-purpose items that have become multi-use in our household. Come along on my treasure hunt!

While I would never reuse bathroom tissue, I would reuse the tube that is at the center of the roll to corral electric cords.

And while I'd never suggest reusing facial tissues, I do use the box as a plastic bag dispenser. 

Speaking of plastic bags, this is what got me started on my treasure hunt. I wash and reuse those thin plastic grocery bags, hanging them on the laundry rack to dry. I use these bags to cover bowls and dishes, wrap loaves of homemade bread, and then, finally, when I'm truly done with them, as garbage bags in the waste bins around the house.

We get many uses out of each sheet of foil. There was a time when buying a new box of aluminum foil would have meant I couldn't buy a food item that week for my family. I began washing and reusing foil until it simply fell apart. The sheet here has seen it's share of lasagnas, turkeys, and hams. Foil is one of the easier kitchen disposables to actually wash with soap and water.

I wrap heads of cabbage and lettuce from the grocery store in a paper towel inside of a plastic bag to prevent trapped moisture, leading to mold and decay. When I bring a new head of greens into the kitchen fridge for use, I add the barely used paper towel to my stack for cleaning up greasy pans and draining pan-fried foods. I'm grocery shopping once every three weeks to a month right now. So, I buy enough heads of greens to last three to four weeks, storing them wrapped in a paper towel and plastic bag in the garage fridge until they're needed.

Also for draining fried foods, I save paper packaging that flour, sugar, and cornmeal are bagged in. I keep the flattened bags in a cupboard near the stove, handy for tearing off the amount of bag that I need when cooking.

We get multiple uses from birthday candles. I wash and save them for the next special occasion.

Glass bottles from commercial single serving juice make great water and drink bottles filled at home.

Plastic food containers with screw top lids are perfect for dry storage.

I reuse gently used plastic cling wrap for wrapping other foods or covering a bowl.

Parchment paper used for baking dry foods, like cookies or breads, can be reused a few times until it becomes brittle.

Washing freezer bags for reuse is a common practice.

We also reuse bags that foods come packaged in, such as candy, cracker, tortilla, cereal, and powdered sugar bags. With a rubber band, twist tie, or bread clip, we use these food bags just like sandwich bags. And yes, we save and reuse rubber bands, twist ties, and bread bag clips, keeping them in a small dish in the cupboard near my cooking area.

We save and wash plastic flatware that comes with take-out or samples. Then when we take a picnic lunch to the park or beach, we have some non-breakable forks, knives, and spoons. Of course, we bring them back home with us to wash and reuse again and again. Those tiny sample spoons and forks are the perfect size for condiments and pickles when picnicking.

I save good-condition pieces of used gift wrap for future wrapping and craft projects. The red truck and Christmas tree wrap is calling out to my crafty side.

You know those used spiral-bound notebooks from school or courses? Often times, back sides of pages don't get used. I use these notebook leftovers for making lists and plans. I don't throw away a notebook until I have filled every side of every page.

I can afford a new box of aluminum foil, new plastic baggies, and a new personal water bottle. However, I feel it just makes common sense to reuse the single-use containers, packaging, and items that I already have, when it is possible and sanitary to do so. As I said before, it saves us a little bit of change and I know it's the right thing to do.


  1. All great ideas, most of which we do, also. But I have a sense that we're not quite as disciplined as you and your family are about reusing things. A couple of questions. Do you ever worry that as the foil becomes more wrinkled as it is used, that you aren't able to get all of the crevices clean? Since it may be coming in contact with food, I worry about that sometimes. Also, what was the deal with the red truck this year at Christmas? I saw that design on multiple products in multiple stores? Does it represent something that I don't know about?

    1. Good morning! L&L, the red truck with a pine tree in the back has no special meaning. I think that stores such as Hobby Lobby noticed and popularized the image (I'm sure they aren't the only store that did so). It's been trending for a few years now. I think people like the green and red colors and it's sort of a rustic Christmas look.

      Lili, is there a special way you fold your plastic bags before you put them in your old tissue boxes? That's a great idea. We also do many of the things you mentioned. Like L&L, we probably aren't quite as diligent as you are. My mom did many of these things and I think it's second nature to me. I dislike waste and I think that's my main motivation.

    2. Hi Live and Learn,
      Ho, I haven't worried about the foil and cleanliness. I use a hot, soapy cloth on sheets of foil set on the bottom of an oversized sink, cleaning both sides before rinsing in hot water. If one was very concerned with bacteria, they could pour a couple of cups of boiling water over each side of the foil after washing. However, if someone in my house were immuno-compromised, then we'd not likely reuse much of anything that was single-purpose.
      Like Kris said, I think the red truck was just sort of a Christmas in the Country theme.

      Have a great day, Live and Learn!

    3. Hi Kris,
      I just shove the bags into the box. The box stays pretty full so it's easy to grab a new one out, without having to "load" the box in any sort of way.
      I dislike wastefulness, too. And I think that's a good part of my motivation.

      Wishing you a wonderful day, Kris!

  2. I agree with EVERYTHING you do as we will do most of what you do. I see we also can do a better job being more frugal.

    We hang washed out bags on the frame of our garage door because it is one stall and we stand on the stoop and just clip it on with a clothespin to drip dry. I also save aluminum foil and wipe it clean to reuse. As for cleanliness, that is something to remember when reusing. If it is in contact with something more difficult to clean, then it gets tossed but something cleanable I will wipe it with soap and water. The tissue box is a great idea for holding bags as a dispenser. I made one of those cylinder type fabric bag holders with elastic at the top and the bottom which hangs in our garage. We also inherited two of the kind that screw into the wall that you can shove bags in and then pull out as needed.


    1. Hi Alice,
      With harder to clean items, like plastic cling wrap, I won't reuse it if it's touched meat or has gotten greasy, as that is so hard to clean off plastic. We went through a period where we washed sheets of plastic wrap, too, then hung to dry. Now, I reuse only the gently used cling wrap, such as if I wrapped a loaf of special bread in it for the freezer, then it's good for wrapping foods like slices of pizza for the freezer.
      I've seen those fabric bag dispensers -- they're cute.
      Have a lovely day, Alice!

  3. Great ideas! Saves money AND the environment!



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