Goodbye Disposables, Hello More Money!

by Katy on October 15, 2012 · 77 comments

Do you find yourself frustrated with how much trash your family is generating? Feel the same about how much money you’re spending?

I’m here to tell you that you can decrease the amount of garbage you produce while also saving money. How? By saying buh-bye to almost all the disposable products in your life. (Okay, perhaps not every disposable product, as I am a huge fan of toilet paper.)

Here’s how:

Paper Napkins — If your family automatically reaches for paper napkins, it’s time to switch over to cloth. Not only are cloth napkins almost endlessly reusable, but they simply work better than their flimsy paper counterpart. They can be used a number of times before needing to be laundered, and lend decor and formality to any meal. Sure, you can buy them brand new, but I’ve found wonderful like-new napkins at garage sales, thrift shops and even a  free pile or two. And if you’re lucky, your mother might even have a couple dozen to send your way.

Menstrual Products — If you’re of childbearing age and of the female persuasion, you already know that monthly menstrual products are both expensive and overly packaged. However, there are reusable options that are easier to use than you might think. I invested in a silicone menstrual cup four years ago and haven’t looked back since. Yes, it took a cycle to get it figured out, but I estimate that I’ve saved $60 per year, or $240 since I made the switch. For those who prefer a pad, there are many, many reusable cloth pads options as well. Not having to deal with all that menstrual-related garbage and the fear of being caught without supplies? Priceless.

Coffee Filters — Although I’m a fan of tea, my husband is a coffee drinker through and through. But that doesn’t mean that we buy or dispose of filters. Instead we own gold coffee filters for our coffee maker, (came with the machine) as well as a small one for individual cups of coffee. They seem to last at least a decade with daily use, but I was recently able to find a replacement at my local Goodwill. (Yay!) I just love how the coffee grounds pop out for composting, and how we never have to buy and then dispose of the paper filters.

Paper Towels — I stopped using paper towels a few years ago and have yet to regret the decision. In their place I use rags made from stained old T-shirts. But if you’re looking for a less ragtag solution, a pack of microfiber cloths can serve as an awesome substitution. Endlessly re-launderable, these lint-free cloths can work to clean windows, wipe up spills and pretty much anything else you would use a paper towel for. And the best part is that you’ll no longer have to store that huge pallet of paper towels in your pantry any more. (That, and the trees you just saved from being cut down!)

Clothing — This may seem like a strange addition to a list of disposable items, but hear me out. How many times have you tossed or donated an article of clothing just because there was a rip or a stain? Yeah, I thought so. By spending some time on stain removal or with a needle and thread you can bring your clothing back to life. And don’t worry that you need the skills of a 1950’s Home Ec teacher to mend a seam or sew a button back in place. As Bela Karolyi would say, “You can dooo it!”

Gift Wrapping — There’s no reason why you should buy (and then throw away) wrapping paper on special occasions. I am the #1 fan of reusable paper gift bags, yet I don’t think I’ve ever paid for one. How? I’ve received a number of them through the years, but I also save them from being thrown away whenever I’m at a gift giving occasion. Sure, I give more than I receive, yet I always seem to have more than I need. And want to know a great trick for wrapping large gifts? A single color pillow case tied with a pretty ribbon will save you from using up an entire roll of wrapping paper. Just make sure to get it back.

Fabric Grocery Bags — Keep them in your car and make it a habit to bring them into the store with you. I keep an small one in my purse and use it at least four times per week, and since I get a nickel off my purchase whenever I use it, I estimate that it’s saved me over 70 bajillion dollars so far. Just make sure to throw your bags through the wash every now and then, especially if you’re buying meat.

Handkerchiefs — Yes, we switch over to facial tissue when we’re ill, but for those times when you get a runny nose from allergies, going from cold to warm or eating spicy food, hankies are fantastic. Buy them once and create no garbage? What’s not to love?!

Reusable Water Bottles/Coffee Mugs/Takeout Containers —  Don’t be that person whose drinking habits are filling our landfills. Bring your own water from home, hand your own coffee mug to the barista and tuck an empty container into your purse for your restaurant leftovers. Want to know a secret? I’ve noticed that I’ll often get more coffee served in my reusable mug than if they’d used their paper cups.

Plastic Silverware — I brought home a couple handfuls of unattractive stainless steel flatware from a free swap a few years ago, and man, am I happy that I did! My family uses these forks, spoons and knives for our work and school lunches almost every day, yet we don’t have to worry about losing an errant spoon or two. I love that we’re not generating garbage from our meals, and frankly, I prefer the feel of metal in my mouth rather than plastic.

Do you have tips and tricks for avoiding disposable products? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin October 15, 2012 at 8:28 am

Since regular cloth napkins are too big for my kids’ lunchboxes, at the beginning of the school year I bought each of them ten flannel kid-sized lunchbox napkins from etsy. Haven’t lost any yet — I’ll get years of use out of them.

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Katy October 15, 2012 at 8:34 am

That’s great. I send my kids with bandanas in their school lunches.

Katy

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Marianne October 15, 2012 at 8:29 am

Something I learned from Bea over at zero waste home is to bring mesh laundry bags for produce. No more plastic baggies! I also re-use ziplock bags over and over and over for bulk flour, nuts, rice etc. and they fit in my cloth grocery bag so they are always handy. 🙂

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Katy October 15, 2012 at 8:36 am

Thanks for the reminder. I bought a couple four-packs of mesh bags at a dollar store a looong time ago and have been using them ever since. And I don’t know if I would recognize my kitchen without all the Ziploc bags clipped upside down on the kitchen cupboards!

Katy

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Renee CA October 15, 2012 at 2:29 pm

When I buy bulk I note the code on a memo page on my iphone. At the check out I read the codes to the checker, making sure I’m ready so I don’t hold her up. That way I don’t have to use the wire/paper tags to write the codes on (my cloth bags have a ribbon tie, or use ziploc over and over). Next time I buy rice or oats, etc, the code is already in my phone. Small notebook in your purse would work, too.

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Kelly Sangree October 15, 2012 at 8:33 am

You left out one of the biggest money savers for families with babies – cloth diapers! For a start-up cost of between $50 – $300, not only do you never have to run to the store when you’re out of diapers, you save between $1500 – $2000 per kid!

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Katy October 15, 2012 at 8:37 am

Ha, I knew someone would call me out on this one! My kids are teens, so diapering is just not in my mindset anymore.

Katy

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betsyohs October 15, 2012 at 8:36 am

For getting rid of toilet paper: http://www.eco-bidet.us/ I’ve bought about 15 rolls of TP in the last three years – we don’t force our guests to go without. 🙂 As an added bonus, I feel so much cleaner when I wash off than when I just wipe off.

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Katy October 15, 2012 at 8:39 am

Thanks for sharing this link. As a labor and delivery nurse, I know all about using water to cleansing instead of toilet paper. Of course, we just use squirt bottles.

Katy

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EcoCatLady October 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm

I’ve developed a compromise system where TP is reserved for “number 2.” For pee, I just keep a little tin cup near the toilet & do a quick rinse afterwards. I have a small towel reserved for the purpose of drying off. I suppose some people might think it’s gross but most men I’ve known simply use the “3 shakes” method, and this couldn’t possibly be less sanitary than that! I used to go through TONS of TP, but now it’s less than one roll per week. Saved boatloads of money!

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Sharon Heritch October 15, 2012 at 8:45 am

Great list, Katy.

If you have high triglycerides as I do, paper coffee filters are the way to go. I lack any knowlege of biochemistry so I won’t attempt to tell you why, but I was informed by someone who does have the knowlege that coffee will raise your triglyceride levels unless it’s paper filtered.

I just compost the whole thing. 🙂

If anyone can contradict these data, please do so — I’d love to avoid the cost and waste.

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Katy October 15, 2012 at 8:49 am

How very odd.

Katy

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Erica October 15, 2012 at 3:52 pm

It’s true, I found a study on it here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2029499

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Jenny October 15, 2012 at 8:51 am

Thanks for the post on this topic. I’ve gotten rid of most disposable products, but I am still hung up on giving up paper towel and tissues. Perhaps someone here can offer their approach. Paper towel is hard because I use it to clean up my cat’s messes after she throws up. It doesn’t happen often but when it does, it is disgusting. I try to touch the mess as little as possible with my hands and so I use paper towel instead. And then with the tissues– my nose is constantly running every day and so I go through a lot of tissues. I like the idea of switching to hankies but haven’t figured out the logistics for how to make sure I always have a dry one ready for when I need it and what to do with the wet ones after blowing my nose. Any pointers?

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Katy October 15, 2012 at 9:00 am

I just use toilet paper for the occasion “cat yarks.” And I don’t blow my nose enough for the hankies to get “wet.” But I do keep a couple of them in my purse.

Katy

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kelly October 15, 2012 at 9:20 am

For tissues, we use old flannel pjs cut into squares. I stuff them in baby wipes boxes (but you could use tissue boxes as well). We use them just like tissues – one use and then in the hamper. I have a small hamper in my kitchen for the napkins, non-paper towels, and kitchen towels. We chuck the tissues in there and they get washed often enough for us not to run out. The beauty of this system is that you can have a stockpile of cloth tissues on hand for those times you need A LOT of tissues at once.

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kelly October 15, 2012 at 9:33 am

Oh, and for the dog vomit at our house I use rags that go straight into the trash. I tried having a roll of paper towels on hand for this type of thing only but it was too tempting to use them for other things as well.

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Lindsey October 15, 2012 at 11:39 am

I have disposable rags for dog puke and such. I don’t use them much, but have no heartburn about throwing them away once in a while, since if I were not using the material as rags it probably would have ended up in the trash anyway.

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Holly October 15, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I cut newspaper into smaller pieces and use that to scoop up the bulk of the kitty urp. Then I use cloth rags and homemade cleaner to finish the job. If you don’t get a newspaper (I get a free one twice a week), why not use junk mail? If the paper is too stiff, crumple it up first, then scoop up the mess.

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EcoCatLady October 15, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Holly – that is a most excellent suggestion. I generally use a paper towel for the “yuck” part and then cloth for scrubbing the remains out of the carpet – but junk mail would work just as well and it’s free!

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Kori October 15, 2012 at 8:51 pm

For kitty throw up, my dad taught me to use a couple of spackling tools (rigid plastic, shaped like flattened shovel) to scoop up the throw up by sliding them under vomit from either side and meeting in the middle (almost like salad tongs). You can put the throw up in the garbage and rinse off the spackling tools for your next spackle job or the next upchuck, and then use a rag to get whatever liquid remains on the floor, which isn’t nearly as gross at that point. No spackling tools? Cardboard pulled from the recycle bin is rigid and does the trick too 🙂

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Jenny October 16, 2012 at 3:38 am

Wow! Thanks for all the great ideas for living with hankies and cleaning up cat vomit without paper towels! I’m so impressed with the ideas here and inspired to try living without paper towel and tissues. I did some more research and I found this great tutorial for a pouch to hold hankies– one side for clean, one side for used: http://www.cottonbottommama.com/2012/10/hankie-pouch-tutorial.html

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Ellie October 16, 2012 at 11:07 am

Another perspective (as in “mine”, LOL!) in case you find yourself frustrated with your efforts is,

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

You don’t have to do everything 100% all of the time to make a difference.

I’ve switched from paper towels to re-usable clothes for almost everything – just not for everything. I keep a roll of paper towels around for the cat puke and the rare anything else that comes up that “just too gross” for my reusable clothes. The difference in the amount of waste (and expense) is amazing – despite the fact that I’m “imperfect” and still use the paper towels on the cat yuck and the occassional “bad aim” in the bathroom.

As for hankies, I think this was another case of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. I have allergies too, and I blow my nose A LOT. I spent some money and bought a whole bunch of plain, but nice-looking, cloth handkercheifs (which aren’t really that expensive anyway), which I keep neatly folded in attractive little thrifted baskets in different rooms of the house, so that there is always a clean hanky (or five!) nearby for when I sneeze (I sneeze a lot, trust me). I just toss used ones in the nearest laundry hamper or straight into the washing machine, whichever’s closest. Yes, I spent some money, initially, on the hankies, in order to ensure that I’d have enough to always have one handy – but it’s still saved me a ton of money (and waste) in the long run. From a frugal perspective, maybe it was “imperfect” to spend money on a bunch of hankies – but it’s still much cheaper than disposables.

It’s okay to just do the best you can!

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Poor to Rich a Day at a Time October 17, 2012 at 4:52 am

Ellie this is a problem in my house too, My husband and daughter have severe allergies, so they use tons of toilet paper blowing noses. I tried the cloth hankies and no way, I can not keep up with just hubby let alone our daughter too! I would need to buy at least 1,000 for them and THAT is NO joke!

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missy October 15, 2012 at 9:32 am

Kelly, I really like your idea on the one and wash hankies. My dad used hankerchiefs, and I always found them utterly disgusting while doing the laundry.

I wish I could get my husband to stop using paper plates. He will use a paper plate to MAKE A SANDWICH. A sandwich that he packs into our daughter’s lunch, so he’s not even eating the sandwich off of it. It irritates me to no end.

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Annie October 15, 2012 at 2:15 pm

My husband used to do the same thing until I showed him how I lay a cloth napkin on the counter and then use that to wrap the sandwich. Even if it gets a little dirty, most of the napkin will still be plenty usable. (Although for peanut butter I do line the napkin with wax paper, peanut butter has a way of getting everywhere!) If you don’t want to use a napkin you can still make the sandwich on whatever it’s being wrapped in since it will likely be as big as the bread slice.

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missy October 16, 2012 at 6:22 am

Well now I know what I have to do!! Off to get some cloth napkins or bandanas. (Of course, I’m not really going to run out and buy them, so it’ll be a little bit until I find some.)
Glad I don’t have the only silly spouse. 🙂

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Rosa October 15, 2012 at 5:58 pm

does he do the shopping?

There are a few changes I made unilaterally around here, just by not buying anymore or putting what i didn’t want used out of easy arms-reach. Turns out if he has to actually open the cupboard, my husband won’t use whatever it is (this is also why he has a screwdriver in the silverware drawer; otherwise he would just use a butterknife.)

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missy October 16, 2012 at 6:23 am

He picks up those really thin paper plates at Sam’s, where you get an absurd amount.
At least they are paper. I’ve banned styrofoam.

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Erin N. October 16, 2012 at 7:06 am

Missy: I totally relate! My otherwise charming and fabulous husband insists on putting a paper towel under the PB&J sandwich while he is making it. And then he just leaves the paper towel sitting on the counter while he walks off with the sandwich. I have asked him one million times to use a cutting board instead but he just will not do it. Drives.me.crazy.

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missy October 16, 2012 at 10:20 am

That is too funny!
My hubby leaves the paper plate, too. It must be something in their genes. 🙂

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Megyn @Unstuffed October 15, 2012 at 9:37 am

Since Halloween is just around the corner, I wanted to add something about the holiday filled is disposable candy wrappers! I know most families will not accept unwrapped food due to issues of contamination, but there are better options! If you want to hand out food, do giveaways in recyclable materials. For example, we are giving out raisins that come in paper boxes, which can be recycled or composted. If you’re into something different, you can give away things that can be used up like crayons, colored pencils, pencils, erasers. You can even go to the bins at Goodwill and get the 5 toys for $1. Kids would LOVE a new little toy, and you can rest assured you didn’t add to landfill or consumer train.

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EcoCatLady October 15, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Those are great ideas – Halloween is such a challenge for those with waste-free aspirations. I recently saw a bunch of saltwater taffy at the bulk bins of our local Sprouts (thanks for turning me on to that store BTW). They looked like they were wrapped in waxed paper instead of plastic, but I couldn’t tell – anybody know for sure?

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Sister X October 15, 2012 at 10:11 am

Buy from bulk bins! I haven’t yet switched over from plastic bags to reusable cloth, but I do reuse the same plastic bags over and over and over. (Cloth bags are on my Christmas wish list. 🙂
Does anyone have suggestions about what to do for dog pee on carpet? My dog has separation anxiety and ends up peeing sometimes. The only thing I still use paper towels for is to soak up the pee, then it gets scrubbed with vinegar and a rag.

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Renee CA October 15, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I use a folded towel on the spot and step on it. Goes right into the wash. Sometimes I use a pre-rinse cycle with the water level very low.

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Megan October 15, 2012 at 10:50 am

Yup! Cloth Diapers. We love ours! And we will either use them again for another child, or pass them on to my sis. (or both!) I’m sure we will need some supplements, but we’ve saved big bucks, and big environmental effects! And cloth wipes! I’ve been thinking about using them for myself too, but I’m kinda leery of the mess after the boys use them…. I just buy the really cheap toilet paper, lol.

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calicoginger October 15, 2012 at 12:03 pm

I love my cotton hankerchiefs! (but not when I have a terrible cold) Twice now I have needed to replenish my supplies and have picked up vintage ones on eBay – the last set were still in the 1950s box, swiss cotton and exquisitely embriodered. Missy – care is simple – I usually have a bucket of oxy beach solution on the go for stains on whites and in they go after use, then through the next white wash. Even ironing them is a pleasure! Oh and I don’t know about other places but in New Zealand the traditional place to stash them when is use is up the sleeve of your cardigan.

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dusty October 16, 2012 at 4:14 am

this brought back lots of memories for me. My dad used hankerchiefs and my job on the weekend when I was a kid was to iron what he needed for the upcoming week. It took me a couple of hours but he always gave me a couple of bucks, nice memory for me. Also, went to catholic school and the nuns would keep their hankies up the sleeve of their nun’s garment. When I was really little I used to think it was a magic trick, that they had a never ending supply. thanks again for the memories

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Meredith October 16, 2012 at 11:14 am

I bought a couple hundred vintage hankies from ebay when I got married. I used them to wrap penny candy for the guest tokens. There were so many left over, that I’ve carried one every day since then. I just put it in my pocket or in my bra – we don’t have very many occasions to wear long sleeves in south Texas.

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thriftwizard October 15, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Another idea for replacing giftwrap & plastic bags – look into the Japanese art of Furoshiki. Using just a few simple folds & ties, you can transform an ordinary scarf or headsquare, or a piece of leftover fabric, into a sturdy bag or an elegant giftwrap in seconds. Simple, cheap & effective! I buy up all the scarves I can find at charity shops/thrift stores & use those. Mostly people return them to me when they’ve unwrapped the gift, but I don’t mind whether they do or not; it can be a part of the gift. I always hope that the idea, too, will become part of the gift…

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Jenn October 15, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I was going to suggest this too. I usually shop the remnant bin at the fabric store rather than using scarves. I have also cut up pretty thrift store sheets.

When wrapping baby gifts I use a baby blanket, children’s gifts get something I think would work well for imaginative play and friends who sew get prettier/nicer fabric for their wrapping. Then it’s like a double gift.

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EcoCatLady October 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm

A few years ago I went on a mission to stop using plastic bags in my kitchen. I bought a bunch of Pyrex casseroles and dishes with lids at the thrift store and have taken to using them for EVERYTHING. My veggie drawer used to be a mess of plastic, but now if I need to store a half of a cucumber or something I just chop it up and put it in a Pyrex dish, or even a glass jar in a pinch.

Aside from saving money and cutting down on waste, there have been two other major benefits. I almost NEVER end up wasting veggies because they go bad – it’s just so easy to grab & use them when they’re already cut and ready to go. Plus all of the containers can go in the dishwasher – NO MORE WASHING & DRYING PLASTIC BAGS!!!! What a relief!

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Renee CA October 15, 2012 at 2:39 pm

I love using jars. And they’re free! I’ve been know to buy one brand over another of something just because it comes in a great jar.

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Rosa October 15, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Yes!

I use canning jars for everything, freezing, fridge, microwaving, everything. I buy in canning-compatible jars preferentially. I am nearly 40 and I *just* got to the point this year where I am giving jars away instead of always needing more.

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nicoleandmaggie October 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm

We’re talking about cloth diapers on our blog tomorrow. 🙂

We use a combination of cloth and disposable for most things (except toilet paper!) It doesn’t have to be all one or the other. We try to use cloth (or pyrex) first, but don’t beat ourselves up for using disposable, especially for yucky things.

I do like DC’s bento box in place of plastic baggies. We use pyrex containers for the adults.

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Jennifer B. October 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm

After a couple of decades of wearing contacts, I finally went back to glasses. No more little plastic containers, no more saline solution, and it doesn’t hurt that frames have gotten so much cuter since I was 13. 🙂 Also gave up Q-tips, which surprisingly was harder for me than the contacts.

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Jenn October 15, 2012 at 4:13 pm

This makes me laugh because I quit contacts a few years ago due to pregnancy induced eye irritation. This year I decided to try them again and gave up because it was a lot more work than glasses and involved buying, storing and throwing out more stuff.

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AFS October 15, 2012 at 5:52 pm

how do you get the water out of your ears after a shower?
I do use the cotton swabs with paper sticks not plastic, they can be composted

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Jennifer B. October 16, 2012 at 10:35 am

I put take a hankie over my little finger, and swipe away, without pushing in too deep.

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Annie October 15, 2012 at 2:06 pm

When our coffee maker went kaput a few years ago we opted to get a French Press so we would no longer need filters. If the glass sleeve breaks you can buy a replacement glass without having to buy a whole new press. (I was able to give the filters we had leftover to my mom to use up and she composts them since they were unbleached.)
As for cleaning, I bought a Rubbermaid mop with a refillable bottle for the cleaning solution and washable mop heads. I love that I can use the kind of cleaner I like, (Murphy’s Oil Soap), instead of only the brand made for that mop which usually comes in overwhelming scents.
I also like to use glass for storage whenever possible. I reuse sauce and jelly jars for lots of things such as dried fruit, nuts, my own spice mixes and small amounts of leftovers. I was lucky enough to find a set of the old Pyrex mixing bowls in four sizes, each a different color, and found the matching set of reusable elastic-banded vinyl covers for them too! My goal is eventually switch all my food storage over to glass since I think it’s healthier in the long run.

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Linda in Mass October 15, 2012 at 2:24 pm

I gave up paper towels a few years ago. However, when my mother comes over for a holiday, she always brings a roll of them. She seems to not be able to live without them. We also use cloth napkins instead of paper. The hankies intrigue me. I may try to switch myself and then move my family to them.

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Rachel October 15, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Linda, my grandmother does the same thing when she visits me! She always says every visit how she can’t live without her papertowels. I don’t keep them in my house so she shows up with rolls of them. I just smile and go about using my cloths. Hopefully the example will sink in one of these visits. 😉

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Rosa October 15, 2012 at 6:09 pm

This is why there are 3 rolls of aluminum foil and a roll of plastic wrap in my pantry, even though I don’t use them.

I had a plan to use up the aluminum foil on a halloween costume but my husband thwarted me, so it will sit there until she comes and adds a 4th roll next year I guess.

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Erica October 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Hankies are the one thing I haven’t been able to do. I made some very soft ones from an old worn out American Apparel shirt and they worked great, for about an hour. Then I needed more.

I have terrible allergies, so my everyday is very much like a normal persons cold I imagine. I can’t even use recycled versions because they end up blistering my face by the end of the day. 🙁

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Michelle H. October 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Flannel receiving blankets make great “snot rags”. They are so soft and feel good on a sick nose. I just throw them in the washer with the rest of the towels. I have kept them whole but after seeing Kelly’s comment about the cut up flannel PJ’s I may quarter the receiving blankets to make them more user friendly.

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kelly October 15, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Just to clarify – I do not bother sewing or serging the edges of the flannel pieces, so there are a few fraying edges on them (not enough to bother me). If you like things nice and neat, you might consider doing one or the other. Just full disclosure here! 😉

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Linda in Indiana October 16, 2012 at 3:59 am

If you don’t want to “sew” your edges of your flannel, you can use pinking shears to cut the pieces apart…that way they won’t fray.

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Karen October 15, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Hi-
I’ve been taking steps to try and reduce landfill waste. I’ve been using reusable fabric bags for many years and use them in grocery stores, Target, wherever I shop. I refuse bags for anything I can carry out on my own. I bring my own container from home to restaurants-I generally cut my meal in half right away and stow it in my bag since most places give you too much anyway. I use a coffee percolator-and don’t use a filter. I compost all kitchen non-meat scraps-and we eat very little meat. When we walk our dog we bring a pooper scooper gadget and bring the remains home and bury it in a hole in our yard. We also bury our cat’s waste-I do use wheat based cat litter since I couldn’t get the shredded newspaper to work that well. Most important for me-I now look at things I might want to buy with “landfill glasses”-sounds weird but it jogs me to remember that whatever I’m getting will wind up there someday so I may as well cut back now.

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AFS October 15, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I love hankies.
I use mine in sickness & in health. As a nurse you must have good reasons for switching to facial tissues when you’re ill. please explain.

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Diane October 15, 2012 at 6:05 pm

You bring back a very distinct memory of my mother in the 1950’s and on ironing my father’s white handkerchiefs after bringing them in from the clothesline!

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Amanda @ The Fun Mommy October 15, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I agree with an above commenter-cloth diapers! Huge savings, and after you finish diapering your baby you can reuse the diapers for cloths around the house. I love that some of my diapers were bought new by a friend of mind, passed to me, passed on to another friend, and then passed back to me. Four kids out of one set of diapers ain’t bad!

Also, in my experience many people have these things laying around their house-especially hankies and cloth napkins. Many friends have given me napkins, and my mother in law often picks them up at yard sales for free. Once people find out you prefer a cloth alternative they may remember something they have laying around.

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Denise October 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm

What to do with clothes was really bothering me, too, as one can only have some many rags, and my kids staing, puncture, rip, and fray all their clothing, especially by the third kid! I found ReTex, a company that you can drop off clothes and shoes in a drop box (like those you can recycle newspapers or books in at many parking lots). It’s a for-profit company and whatever cannot be sold or reused is actually taken to the elements and the textiles are recycled. Great news for holey underwear and socks!

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Pam October 15, 2012 at 11:56 pm

I really loved this post! I try my best to avoid buying any single-use plastics, and I NEVER buy bottled water! It’s the biggest sham in the history of marketing. I either fill my water bottle in a tap or just wait until I get home. It’s okay to be thirsty for a little while! It’s also okay to drink the water from the tap of a public washroom. It’s so funny that people feel squeamish about it- they don’t link the toilets up to the tap, it’s regular clean water like you have at home! Whew, okay, rant over.

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dusty October 16, 2012 at 4:20 am

you are so right!! George Carlin did a whole bit about this, why all of a sudden we are so thirsty that we have to carry water with us. He said the only time we should be doing this is if we are going hiking in the desert. Otherwise, we should be able to find water when we get to our destination. Our tap water here in Florida is pretty nasty so we buy filtered water from a machine locally. My hubby fills up a 5 gallon rubbermaid drinking container and we use that for coffee and drinking. I drink lots of water but the well water here is too nasty.

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Jennifer @ Little Blog in the Big Woods October 16, 2012 at 3:23 am

I already do every thing on the list but #2. I have been thinking of doing it for a couple of years now and just haven’t gotten my courage up!

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Frugal(er) October 16, 2012 at 11:44 am

Jennifer, I bought on a few months back, but the first time I tried to use it, it got stuck! It was pretty horrible, and I don’t think I’ll have the courage to try again any time soon 🙁

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JD October 16, 2012 at 5:31 am

I used cloth diapers when my kids were babies, except I could not find a nursery which would accept them for my youngest; she was the only one who spent time in day care while still in diapers. When at home, though, she was in cloth only. And we used cloth training pants in those days, not “pull-ups”, yet somehow we all survived. I was given diapers from a sibling and an in-law so I hardly had to buy any. I still use paper towels, but I’m steadily reducing the use; we use cloths for cleaning and spills, and I try to use ready-t0-toss rags for nasty liquid messes (such as a pet with “the runs” which didn’t quite make it out the pet door in time), but sometimes I just don’t have any of those on hand. I’ve used cloth napkins for years; most were bought at yard sales, because so many people get them as gifts or as part of a set, and never use them. I reuse regular glass jars to hold dry bulk foods. I use my canning jars over and over for canning, freezing and storage. I reuse the tissue paper that people give me in gifts — I’ve been known to iron it if it is crumpled. I also reuse gift wrap that come off in a nice large unwrinkled piece; I just use in on a smaller present next time. I’ve reused gift bows for years and my family now automatically takes the bow off of a gift carefully and sets it aside for me to put back into my bow box for next time. Same thing with cloth ribbons off of gifts and packages. I use cloth bags for shopping, but sometimes don’t have enough. If the store gives me plastic, I use them to line the small wastecans at home or to wrap smelly trash items (like those rags used to clean up bad stuff) before putting it in the trash. I also use them crumpled up as padding to send gifts in the mail. The paper bags I get, I cut up and wrap to-be-mailed packages, use to hold newsprint or cardboard for recycling, use as totes for potlucks and picnics, wrap gifts in them, cut open and use as drop cloth when I paint, you name it. We don’t get charged extra for using the store’s bags here.

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jennifer October 16, 2012 at 7:22 am

I so agree with everything you wrote – thank you for putting into words what I too do and believe!

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Pat October 16, 2012 at 9:22 am

What does anyone do instead of using paper towels to drain grease off bacon? That is the only reason I still buy it, but I wish I didn’t have to. Any suggestions?

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dusty October 16, 2012 at 9:46 am

you could eat vegan bacon or facon as we call it. Tastes just like the real thing and you don’t have to drain it.

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Lindsey October 16, 2012 at 10:02 am

We use squares of brown paper bags for draining bacon.

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alexandra October 16, 2012 at 10:35 am

I had that same question! I was practing a “paleo” diet for a while and read a lot about the benefits of pasture raised pork. So now, I just don’t drain my bacon. I put it directly on my plate and eat it with a bit of extra bacon grease. I do save the grease in the pan for cooking.

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Renee CA October 16, 2012 at 10:47 am

Newspaper. Or you could drain it across a cake/cookie rack set on a cookie sheet.

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Linda in Mass October 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I put it on a clean, lint free dishcloth to drain.

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Madeline October 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm

LOVE this post! Gave up paper towels a long time ago.I read a hint to buy a pkg of one dozen white washcloths at walmart and use them for everything.They can be washed and bleached if sanitizing is important to you (i rarely see the need for more than a hot water wash..)– I use and use and use the things! I even clean up the kitty vomit with them.. it is messy, but i use one dry to scoop up the wet gunk,rinse it into sink, and use a fresh wet one to clean the floor. Wash in the regular hot towel wash (I do use hot water on towels and cleaning rags only.)

Why would anyone THROW AWAY a rag used to clean up vomit?Do you throw away the rags you use to clean your toilet? It’s just vomit.

We’ve always been a hankie family and I love cloth napkins,they make simple meals special and colorful. A dozen will last forever!

Cloth diapers:Back in 1973 pampers were a brand new, slighty “suspect” and VERY expensive item.Many of us moms stayed at home back then, no extra income to pay for convenience. Shlepped up and down basement stairs to do diapers. Hung them on the line.

Gonna use the flannel pj/hanky tip!!

NOT going to give up my toilet paper.

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emmer October 16, 2012 at 3:26 pm

for tender noses, old hankies are the kindest–cotton or linen. or make your own “puffs” of the hankie world with good quality all cotton batiste. i too have allergies, and sniff even with medication. two hankies alternating keeps them reasonable dry and usable. we have a largish collection but do switch to disposables with a real cold. paper tissues get placed in paper bags and used as fire starter.
and as for kittys hacking up fur balls–compost that stuff! cat food is high protein–read that as nitrogen–it’s free fertilizer!

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