Updated on 01.17.11

Savings Under the Kitchen Sink

Trent Hamm

Yep, under the kitchen sink.

Like a lot of people, the cupboard under our kitchen sink is chock full of all sorts of household items. A few days ago, I was searching for a replacement water filter, as we have an under-the-sink water filtration system and the filter was due to be replaced. While I was digging around under there, I kept pulling out all sorts of different things and, when I finally found the filter (and replaced it), I looked around to see that I had covered a significant piece of the kitchen floor with stuff.

As I started packing away these items back under the sink, I realized that virtually all of them had something to do with saving money. The items under there were all either bargain purchases, reused items, or something else that showed off a particular money-saving tactic. Thus, I thought I’d share what you might find under the sink.

Used bags from the store Yes, we’re canvas bag collectors, but at times, we still accumulate paper and plastic bags from various stores. Rather than just tossing these into the trash, we keep them under the sink. Then, when we need a small bag for some purpose (like emptying the trash in the bathroom or in the office), we just grab one of these instead of using a full trash bag that we actually paid for.

Aluminum cans and bottles Under the sink, we keep a small trash can that stores our empty aluminum cans and plastic bottles. We live in an area that doesn’t have a recycling program; instead, the state has a five cent deposit on such cans and bottles, which you can get back if you return them to a grocery store or a recycling center. We typically donate ours, often to the community festival fundraisers in our area.

An old wire shelving unit We picked this up at a yard sale for a dime several years ago. It’s simply a wire shelf, coated in plastic, that works perfectly as a shelving unit near the back to increase the capacity for storing things like cleaning supplies (yes, we have a childproof latch on this cabinet).

Ancient, hole-filled dish rags and dish towels I have these in a small container in a key spot – right at the bottom of the bend of our sink drain. This way, if we ever have a sink leak, the water will at first drip onto the rags and it won’t run all over the place (at least not at first). Each time I’m under there, I just stick a finger onto the small bundle of rags to see if they’re moist and, if they are, I know I have some plumbing work ahead of me. Having this little bundle of rags that would otherwise be thrown out is a great simple prevention against leaks destroying our wood cabinets and the stuff we store inside.

Old mismatched plastic cups We have a few of these under there as well, repurposed as instrument holders. For example, one cup holds a pair of rubber gloves, which turns something difficult to store into something easy to store. Another example: one of them has a …

Couple of old toothbrushes, which we use for cleaning grout and hard-to-reach spots. When a toothbrush is getting too worn out for oral use, we just clean it really well and toss it in a cup for later use for cleaning.

Water filters … in bulk Rather than buying individual filters for our water filtration system, I bought a dozen of them in bulk straight from the manufacturer, saving about 75% per filter. The filters are good for ten years and we replace a filter every six months, so this bulk purchase basically adds up to buying three filters at the price I would get them locally, then getting nine free. Bulk buys on things like this are almost always a good idea, as you can often find tremendous deals if you’re willing to buy lots of the item at once.

Once you start thinking frugally, you can find opportunities for reuse and savings in even the most mundane places.

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  1. Money Beagle says:

    One additional thing that works is to, as you did, pull everything out and take inventory of it. Chances are you’re going to forget all about one or two of the items and end up wasting money or resources on something else when you could have used what’s under your sink (or wherever you keep useful supplies like this)

  2. Andi says:

    Word to the wise – make sure what you store under the sink will not be ruined in the event of a leak . . .

  3. PF says:

    I was searching under the sink for a new sponge this morning, and when I went to stand up I held on to what I thought was a decorative handle at the front of the sink. Turns out it is a draw that opens like a car’s glove compartment. Low and behold, sponges, ivory bar soap, a few quarters, and a toothbrush! Who knows what else my mother in-law has hidden around the house?

  4. KC says:

    If you have a garbage disposal definitely put those rags or some type of water catching item under there. Disposals go out about every 10 years and they only way you know is it leaks. You are much more likely to have a garbage disposal die than you will plumbing problems. The leak is slow and not noticeable until you have a lot of water underneath your sink. I was lucky I had an old soap dish under there that caught a lot of the water and alerted me to the problem.

  5. Nancy says:


    could you share what type of water filter you use? Perhaps how you decided on your specific type would be a good topic for a post…

  6. Amanda says:

    I was cleaning out under my bathroom sink this morning so very fitting topic!

    Also, good idea to weekly clean the drains with baking soda and vinegar then follow with boiling water.

    Trent, question about making your own windshield washing fluid. It’s been -10 here this week. Will the water really not freeze and ruin my car? I’d rather pay $3 for a jug of store bought than pay $100 on a stupid repair…

    The recipe I read says 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar, 2-3 squirts window cleaner. What does the last part mean? What kind of window cleaner, windex style? Then, is it 2-3 squirts from the sprayer?


  7. Riki says:

    Amanda – I’m pretty sure Trent’s recipe will freeze. I always go with commercial winshield fluid. It is NOT expensive, so why risk it?

  8. Gretchen says:

    How could that not freeze at 10 below?

    I also remember something from car talk years ago about not using windex on your windshield.

  9. MoneyStar says:

    My flatmate and I will take a look tomorrow :)

  10. LoriBeth says:

    Great tip I read somewhere re: the old toothbrushes, use a bit of colored tape (painter’s tape/duct tape) on the handle. That way you won’t ever get those confused with the real toothbrushes, or you can specify what jobs they are for. I have one for kitchen use and one for cleaning the turtle aquarium plants. Yeah, yuck if they get switched!

  11. K.C. says:

    When I look under the kitchen sink I realize all of the work I have put into it over the last 25 years, including replacing the sink, re-plumbing to remove a broken garbage disposal (didn’t want to pay to replace it), replaced water lines (twice), and rebuilt or replaced faucets several times. All in all, I imagine I’ve saved hundreds in labor by doing the work myself. It doesn’t leak, either:).

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