One of the best resources you have for saving money and at the same time saving the environment is in your trash can. That’s right, a lot of the stuff we throw away can easily be reused for something worthwhile. Lately, I’ve been making a conscious effort to examine the things I throw away and see if any of them can be reused. Here are fifteen techniques I’ve found that minimize my waste and also save a bit of money.
I save covers from issues of The New Yorker (I get a gift subscription every year) to use as gift wrapping. They’re gorgeous and they’re free, so why not? Taping multiple covers together can make really beautiful and interesting gift wrapping, and a single cover can wrap small gifts. I also save newspaper pages for just this purpose. This saves big-time on wrapping paper.
I keep used dryer sheets and put them in with clothes in storage. This saves them from smelling musty when I pull them out later, which can save me another laundry load.
I take rubber bands from the Sunday paper and the mesh wrapping from fruit to make kitchen scrubbers. Seriously, I just ball up the mesh wrapping, tie some rubber bands around it, and start scrubbing with it. It works about as well as a Brillo pad or the green side of a sponge.
I take orange and lemon peels and use them for air fresheners. I leave them out on a saucer to make the house smell fresher. Why use Glade?
I take empty Kleenex boxes and use them for under-the-sink storage, especially plastic bags. You can jam a lot of empty plastic grocery bags into a single Kleenex box, plus the “pop up” nature of the box makes it easy to just pull out one bag at a time.
I keep leftover chopped up vegetables in a bowl and mix them all up for ploughman’s stew in a night or two. If I cut up vegetables and find myself with some left over, I save the leftover chopped up veggies in a bowl, then in a night or two, I brown some ground beef (half a pound or a pound), add two cups of water and a can of tomato soup, and dump in the leftover vegetables. Almost all vegetables work in this and it makes a delicious stew.
I save a smaller bottle of many common household things (laundry detergent, dishwashing detergent, shampoo), then buy the liquid inside in bulk and just fill up the small bottle from the big one. This way, I’m only tossing out the occasional large bottle instead of frequent small ones, putting less plastic in landfills and saving money by buying in bulk.
I keep everything wooden for kindling. We go camping regularly, so anything wooden (especially fruit crates and the like) is saved for fire kindling. I just put the wooden stuff near our camping supplies – and if I have a few moments, I go ahead and break it down into small pieces so it’s easier to use when we camp.
I use the water for boiling vegetables and use it to water house plants. This provides the majority of water for our house plants in one swoop.
I cut up old tee shirts and use them as kitchen rags. They do a great job for floor scrubbing, counter scrubbing, and other such simple uses.
I take egg shells, grind them up a bit, and dump them in the garden. Many flowers (especially roses) love the stuff, plus it keeps out a lot of pests. Even if you don’t have a garden of your own, putting egg shells in any area where plants are growing is better than just tossing them out with the garbage.
I use junk mail envelopes as grocery lists (and other quick list and note papers). I take an envelope and attach it to the refrigerator with a magnet. Throughout the week, I jot down what I need on the back, thus giving the envelope a second use. This is a great way to deal with junk mail envelopes and get more use out of them.
I use sturdy containers (like oatmeal cans) for storage. These hold pens, note cards, and lots of other stuff; just label ‘em with a big marker and put them on a shelf where you would keep them.
I use old socks for dusting and window cleaning. I just pull them over my hand and then just wipe down everything I need to; most of the time, I don’t even need to use Pledge or anything with this technique.